Q&A: Samuel McCahill, coach at the Westside YMCA Kinder Hoops

Samuel McCahill coaches the Westside YMCA Kinder Hoops program for 4-5-year-olds, girls and boys—and is also the Y's district programming director. All YMCA youth basketball programs are taking registration through July 1.

Whose idea was Kinder Hoops?

It was actually something we started the first season I got here, two years ago. The branch manager and I wanted a way to reach out to the kids who were left out of the regular basketball program, which is for 6-13-year-olds—the ones not quite old enough to be able to shoot on a regular rim. Instead of the full eight-10 weeks, Kinder Hoops meets in the summer for one hour once a week for four weeks. Each time we focus on one skill—very basic dribbling, passing, shooting. And the last week we bring it all together and try to do a game.

How's it different from ordinary youth basketball?

There's a smaller ball, a lowered rim. But in all honesty the main difference is that the focus is on it being parent-taught. I go over the basic skills and then the parent helps the child. Our goal is parental involvement, in a child's sports, and really in their lives.

Do you have to play yourself to bring your kid?

No, ma'am. I'm going to teach you everything you need to learn to teach your child this.

Has the program been popular?

We've seen growth. I first started with seven kids, this past season there were 25. And I think Kinder Sports across the YMCA board in general have gotten more popular. We also do Kinder Kicks—soccer for the same age group—in the fall and spring at the Davis Y in Farragut.

Do you have to belong to the Y?

We have a member rate and a non-member rate.

If you're working poor or have other difficulties, will the Y work with you?

We do have financial assistance available, and a fee structure based on income. With us being the Y, we don't want anybody to feel like they can't be a part of this. If they want this, we want them here.

Is Kinder Hoops a pre-packaged program?

I can't say we invented it, because many different organizations do something similar. But we have made this idea uniquely our own. The one here is focused around several Y principles, the main one being youth development. We want the kids to not only learn how to play basketball, but to have time with parents. And we focus a lot on small encouragements, small gains. If a child comes in and is not great at dribbling at first, and can dribble four or five times by the end, that's a win. I'm not looking to create the next NBA star. We're looking at balance, accomplishment, and the simple joy of learning something with your mom or dad.

Do any kids catch on really quick?

I'd say one or two every program. If they do, I try to convince the parents,. "Let's get them on a team." And a couple of those who are really getting it, they can help teach their peers.

What's your background with basketball?

I played all the way until high school, then chose to pursue soccer. Coaching has always been in my blood, so I have coached several youth teams here at the Y and in a couple of church leagues. And I'm proud that I'm getting to teach basketball through the organization that invented it—the YMCA.

Register in person at the Westside YMCA; for more information call McCahill at 690-9622 or e-mail him at wssports@ymcaknoxville.org. The first class of Kinder Hoops is August 5.