Sportball: A noncompetitive approach to coaching

Sportball, kids sports, Scottsdale, Arizona
Collin Sharkey (4) and James Riley (3), of Scottsdale, try racquets. Photo by Tac Coluccio.

A small but innovative Scottsdale gym offers a new approach to sports coaching for kids, from beginners to seasoned athletes.

“There are a lot of children who go right into competitive sports, and they’re good to go, but then there are children who need that foundation and the basic fundamentals,” says Derek Morrison, program director for Sportball. “We want to make sure that the kids can go to elementary school and out to recess to play with their friends and understand the rules [of games] and be confident in their abilities.”

Sportball’s Canada-based parent company opened more than 20 years ago with an approach to coaching that utilizes noncompetitive activities to promote cooperation and athleticism in kids 12 or younger. Over the past two decades, the company has expanded to 500 franchised locations in Canada, the U.S. and Singapore.

“The corporate office has a research-and-development team,” Morrison says. “They go out and make sure we’re using the most developmentally appropriate techniques so that we know what we do really works.”

Sometimes the approach is as simple as engaging the child’s imagination. For example, staff might tell preschoolers to kick a ball like “they’re blasting a rocket off to space,” Morrison says.

Children participating in Sportball’s “Just the Game” program play just for the fun of it. Classes can be focused on specific sports that interest a child or multisport programs “where we do a different sport each week,” Morrison says. “Kids just come in comfortable clothes and running shoes and we provide all the equipment.

The Scottsdale location has an eight-in-one gym floor that can quickly convert to accommodate different sports. Sportball also offers customized training programs to improve athletic performance, in-home coaching, parent-child classes for ages 16 months to 3 years and adapted games for children with special needs, such as autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.

Sportball offers half- and full-day sessions, summer camps, birthday parties and even private backyard sessions. The company partners with Valley school districts, private schools and municipal recreational programs to provide physical-education classes. Even homeschoolers have tapped Sportball to teach P.E. Sportball coaches enjoy seeing children reach their goals.

“It’s amazing, and we’re just really fortunate to get to be there at that moment when a child dribbles a basketball for the first time,” Morrison says. “Or when they have that ‘Aha!’ moment when they finally get that skill they’ve been working toward.”

Sportball is at 13802 N. Scottsdale Road, #115, in Scottsdale. 480-245-6818 or