Enjoyment comes first…and last.
In order to develop youth basketball players, fun cannot be optional. We must make it fun to get better and to make the goal of getting better to have more fun. Enjoyment is essential to developing our youth.
It’s not healthy to treat a youth basketball game or practice as if it were the pros. It’s not. In the end, it really doesn’t matter how good your child gets if he loses the fun. Without fun he or she will not last long enough to become the best player he can be. Fun is the means to getting better and the goal of getting better. Always. Forever.
Development is more important than winning…and you often have to choose between the two.
We have a good group of coaches here at Crispin Basketball who can surely devise strategies to win more games on the weekend. But that is not our goal. Our goal is to help kids play the game better and enjoy the game more. We are focused on long-term development. And long-term development is often at ends with weekend victories. Our choice is simple. Long-term wins.
The best example is our emphasis on man-to-man full court defense. I can promise you that this is not the best way to win on the weekends, but it is absolutely essential to learning for the long-haul. Zone defenses think for your players. Man-to-man forces players to react to various and countless different situations on the court. It forces players to make more defensive decisions. This leads to greater learning, but also to greater mistakes. But as I address next, this is exactly the point.
Learning requires failure…so failure is your friend.
One of the biggest issues in youth sports today is a lack of opportunities for kids to fail. When you are coaching to win, you must minimize failure. When you are coaching to teach (or to let the game teach), you must embrace failure. Indeed, you must welcome failure. It’s the only real way to learn.
If your kids are afraid to fail, they cannot learn. And oddly enough, they usually get worse, not better. Around here, failure is our friend. It’s the means to becoming the best we can be.
Skill-development comes first, but not in isolation from the game.
Well-developed basketball players can play in various kinds of basketball situations. On one hand, they can play with spontaneity. On the other hand, they can play with structure. The players who can only play in one kind of situation stifle their own growth. So we aim for both.
Developing a great ball-handler requires much more than a bunch of isolated dribbling and passing drills. Ball-handling involves passing and moving and catching and dribbling and deciding against all sorts of defenses and pressure. Learning such skills is a messy business, but it is precisely what young kids need in order to truly grow.
A well-run practice gives 10x’s more learning opportunities than a single game.
We believe that the real value in any club is how must your child learns and grows in practice. Game-learning is good, but it’s often very minimal. The time goes quickly and the minutes are shared. But a well-run 75 minute practice offers more learning opportunities than any single game.
A well-run practice prepares you for the game by overloading your systems with various game environments. Coaches can control the practice environment in a way that they cannot control the game environment. By managing our practices carefully, we teach more during that short time than all the games combined.
Developing your teammate skills is just as important as developing your basketball skills.
As a college coach, I evaluate players not solely by what they do on the court, but by how they act when they are off the court, especially on the bench. How do they respond to their coach? How well do they encourage and cheer for their teammates? How well do they control their body language? How positive are they with their words?
These are not secondary concerns for me. These are primary concerns. And when push comes to shove, I am not sure how any child can learn these vitals lessons on a team where everything goes their way and they play as much as they want. You cannot learn to be a teammate by being given everything you want or by winning every game. Or by playing every minute you possibly can. That is not how it works.
Personal basketball development is about more than your child’s skills on the court. The bench is also a great teacher. Our teams will usually carry 10 players for multiple reasons (including physical). But one of the primary reasons is to help players learn one of the most important lessons of the game: it’s not all about you.
Every child will play, but I suspect no child will play as much as he or she wants. Including my own. This is by design and offers your child the opportunity to develop the vital teammate skills that are much more important than you may think.
The best thing we can do for our kids is to better educate their parents.
I might as well say this plainly: the basic relationship between parents and youth sports has quickly spiraled out of control. More often than not, the atmosphere at weekend youth basketball tournaments (or even weekday youth basketball games) is completely embarrassing.
Youth coaches are constantly being questioned by parents who rarely know the game very well. These same coaches are constantly barking out instructions during the game or even yelling at young players. Parents are non-stop from the sidelines. Referees grow in short supply. All over what? An elementary or middle-school youth basketball game?
Youth players put enough pressure on themselves to perform, so when parents grow negative on coaches or referees or on the children themselves, enjoyment of the game is quickly lost. And when enjoyment is lost, development is hampered. Parental perspective is so much more important than you might think.
I can promise you that every single bit of legitimate research into youth sports ends up with the same conclusion: let the kids play. The best thing for your child’s long-term development is to just relax. Keep the pressure off and your mouth incredibly quiet. Think long-term. Control your emotions and be supportive win, lose, or draw. Put your child in an environment where they are encouraged to learn and have fun. It’s so simple, but often so difficult to do today.
We want to be different. We will be different. So we will hold ourselves and you to a higher standard. We will all commit to certain codes of conduct that we must maintain if we want our children to continuing competing with Crispin Basketball. We will also offer various resources to help one another view our child’s youth experience more clearly.
At the end of the day, we want to teach your children all we possibly can in order to help them play the game better and enjoy the game more. But when all is said and done, we cannot do as much as you can to put things in perspective. So we will also invest into you.
The second best thing we can do for our kids is to educate their coaches.
One final area of focus for our club is the development of better coaches. Coaches are often the key to a child’s basketball development and joy. So our aim is to help coaches at various levels develop their overall philosophy and coaching gifts by coaching various levels of play.
We have a good group of coaches to begin with, but our coaches will be educated and evaluated throughout their seasons. Each coach will read certain books on youth development and receive feedback throughout the season on their practices and games. We want our coaches to have ownership over their teams and to give them opportunities to make mistakes like everyone else in order to promote their own personal growth.
Our coaches are not simply doing their own thing. They are learning our philosophy and doing their best to put it into practice on a day-to-day basis with our oversight. They are here to grow as coaches and to serve your kids, so I expect everyone to respect their efforts.