Developmental Priorities: NEXT STEPS
Grades 7-12 – Ages 13-18
We always start here. No matter how hard a player starts to work in this stage of his development, he or she must have ample opportunity to connect to the game on an emotional level. To play because he wants to, not because he has to.
If players in this age range want to take the next step, they will have to learn how to work on their game. But they must still foster the love. They must still have opportunities to play the game for its own sake. Competitive settings will wear kids down if they don’t have other opportunities to connect to the child-like fun of the game is less competitive, free-flowing settings.
At this stage of the game, kids must learn how to compete. This means playing to win. This may seem late to many, but it’s not. From an emotional standpoint, kids at this age should be more prepared emotionally to handle winning and losing and all the accountability that goes with it. Many don’t make it this far, because we try to push them to this too soon. They burnout. Wise coaches wait.
Competing should still be fun, but kids need to learn how to compete, because not everyone knows how to win. They need to learn that it is not all about them and their development. They need to learn how to compete together.
This goes hand-in-hand with learning how to win. As kids move through this period of development, they need to learn how they can best contribute to a winning team. This doesn’t mean they don’t have opportunities to grow. They still should. But when game time comes, they should know how they best fit. They should grow in self-awareness and game-awareness and team-awareness. You should teach them in such a way that they know where they fit.
Players at this age of development should have or develop greater clarify for their basketball future. They should still dream, but also be introduced to some realistic goals. Your goal should be to help them stay in the game as long as they can. But this means different things for different people.
The longer a young player plays, the better it is for anyone he has an impact on in the future. You learn best by doing the thing. So keep them in the game. Keep giving them opportunities to expand and grow and contribute. Do this for all your players. The best will continue to thrive and be better prepared for the future. Those who aren’t the best? Well, their story isn’t done yet. How it ends might always surprise you.