One of our goals this youth basketball season is to help more young players win the long-game of basketball development. There is so much that goes into that mission. An enjoyment of the game itself, opportunities to learn new things, connect with people, and so much more.
But there is often conflict that arises when you focus on winning for the long-term. In today’s youth environment, it is so easy for us to lose our minds focusing on the now. We lack perspective and our lack of perspective often hinders our kids for the future. How we view things today means so much more for the future than we can imagine.
So one of my goals throughout the season is to give you a vision for what matters in the future. Then to connect that vision to the now. Naturally, no one will apply it perfectly, but I think some windows into the future will help give some clarity to our priorities for today.
Focus #1 – Every player is a guard.
There is no getting around it: no matter who you are or how big you end up to me, you must develop guard skills. Look at the highest levels of play. No matter how big players are, if they want to take the next step in basketball, they must develop guard-like skills.
As a college coach, every single one of my players trains like a guard. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they all do the same things or play the same way, but it does mean that from a skill development standpoint, they all work on the same things. It also means they have the opportunity to develop new skills and use those new skills in actual games.
The ability to play like a guard is foundational to basketball. The footwork and ball-handling and shooting and movement involved are essential to the long-term development of any player. Experiencing the game and working on the game from this vantage point is the only hope for your kids.
But what does this mean for today? Or for this particular season?
First, you must remember that the younger the player, the less we should emphasize particular positions or roles.
This doesn’t mean they have not emphasized at all, but the younger the player, the broader they must be. After all, we don’t know the future. The biggest kid in 6th grade may end up to be the smallest in 12th (I have seen that firsthand). So we must give each player the opportunity to develop skills that translate into a well-rounded overall game. This means we must be very careful not to force them into a particular (and very limited) position or role today. To do so is to hinder them greatly for the future.
Second, this means more mistakes.
There is no getting around this. This is often the most difficult thing for us as parents or coaches. We can hinder mistakes by limiting roles or clarifying specific positions. Doing so in 5th grade may help you win on a Saturday. But I can promise you, it kills your kids’ basketball futures.
Again, balancing this is difficult, but if you are going to err one way, I certainly advise erring in the direction of freedom. Broader limits. No fear of mistakes. This is the direction we want our coaches to go, but parents must understand how vital this is. You must also understand we are emphasizing this for every kid, not just your own.
I can’t go too long on this, but it is impossible to overstate how weak and limited I think most High School players are. They lack creativity and energy and a well-rounded game. Then they wonder why they aren’t getting recruited. They have played for so long and for so many teams. Etc. But while they have played a lot of ball, it has often been with too many restrictions from Grades 1-12. So they aren’t who they really ought to be.
This may lead to more losing now. Personally, I doubt my lifetime youth coaching record is very good. But I don’t even know what that record is, because that’s not how I measure success. It’s about the long-game. That’s the game we want to win. So it is best to treat each player like a guard, so they can develop for the future.
That’s plenty for today. Understand, the application isn’t neat and easy, but it is a primary focus for the well-being of each young player in the program. All the best as that season gets underway.