In today’s youth basketball world, there are so many options to choose from. You have your child’s school team with all of their classmates, local leagues like NJB and several clubs that seem to emerge every year. So the question becomes: How do I make the right decision for MY kid? Every kid is different. They have their own personalities, maturity, desires, challenges, insecurities...the list goes on. There is no ONE best option for every kid. So in light of the challenge that many of you are faced with right now, I put together FOUR Factors that can help guide your decision and alleviate some of the stress..hopefully.
- Coach: We all know the this is the most impactful position on any sports team, especially youth sports given kids are much more impressionable. The single most important man/woman that will shape the experience for your athlete. Few things to consider:
- Are they positive mentors to your kid? Studies show a sports coach in most cases can be the most influential person in your kids lives next to their parents.
- Do they know how to coach?? To coach is to teach. We can’t confuse a basketball resume (e.g. I played Div. 1 basketball 20 years ago or 2 years ago for that matter) with the ability to coach. To coach is to TEACH. Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time (arguments??) but it didn’t translate to him being able to TEACH others how to become great, just ask the Wizards front office.
- Are they credible? Did they play basketball at a high level? Can they play now? Have they coached at a high level or had success at any level? How do you measure success? Things to consider.
- Teammates: Who are they playing with? There is more practice time than game time most of the time (if not then I have another list for you :)). Who your child plays with in practices and workouts will hugely impact their experience and growth as an athlete.
- Can they play basketball well? Having healthy competition in practice will always push your athlete to work harder and play with purpose, producing more results.
- Are they committed to the sport or just playing for a social after school activity?
- Do they love the game as much as your child?
- Are they hungry to get better? This attitude is contagious and produces results.
- Competition: Who are they playing against? They say competition brings the best out of player. Not only does this competition exist internally on your team, but who you play against plays a big role.
- Are they playing against comparable talent? “Bad competition makes you bitter, healthy competition makes you BETTER.” Being on either end of a lopsided game is not fun nor is it helping your kid develop.
- Are they playing against different kids? Playing against different kids will present new challenges and ensure that your kid is able to learn how to play against different sizes, speeds, styles, etc. Being battle tested against different types of players is a valuable thing. This is not the most important question but can be considered if the top 2 don’t already make a decision clear.
- Development: This is not an obvious one, but I had to throw it there. Before your kids get to high school, the MAIN focus should DEVELOPMENT. We believe in 3 elements of every athlete: the MIND, BODY and SKILL. The first points above can heavily influence this (especially the coach) but if you’re involved in a program that offers more than just basketball skills, you're investing in the development of your kid’s growth as a healthy, happy, productive human being, not only a high caliber athlete but a high character student and one day adult.
- MIND: They say 80% of the game is mental...or is it 90%?? Not sure what you heard growing up but it definitely was above 50%. If this is the case you must ask how is the development of your kid’s mind being developed on the team they may join. MIND includes the intangibles but impacts tangible stats as well: attitude, mindset, behavior, character traits like work ethic, basketball IQ...you get the picture.
- BODY: without a healthy body, your kid can’t play the game they love for very long and definitely not at a high level. Having the opportunity to develop the body in a safe yet effective way is very important, not just for their youth athletic careers but in life as long term.
- SKILL: The game of basketball is not an easy sport to play and be good at. Being able to defend, rebound, pass, rebound, handle the ball, finish at the rim and shoot is not easy...oh yeah, I forgot to mention that you need to be able to do all of the above with the left and right hand. Each of those require training and instruction on how, when, why, where...this is where basketball IQ comes in. Unless your kid will be 7’ tall, there’s not an automatic path to “success” in this sport. Even if you’re 7’, you may go far, maybe even the NBA, but ultimately you will not go far or play long if you don’t have a high degree of all the above. Please refer to the top NBA busts for several examples.
Stay Hungry. Stay Esface.
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