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My Son Didn’t Start Today

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My son is 9. His name is Nate. He LOVES sports.
In football this year, he led the team in touchdowns . . . . and tackles. In baseball, he was the starting short stop, and hit the ball further than anyone in the whole league. In soccer, nobody on his team scored more goals last Spring. He’s an athletic kid.
Nate has played 4 seasons of basketball, 1 season of baseball, 1 season of soccer, and 3 seasons of flag football. And because he’s the biggest kid on the team (every single season, not one teammate has been taller on any of those 9 teams), he’s usually been one of the best kids.
It doesn’t hurt that he was at a high school football game the fifth day he was alive; I was a Head Football Coach at the high school level at the time, 2006. He’s grown up around the fields and gyms as I’ve been a high school Athletic Director for 6 of his 9 years.
They’ve had two basketball practices this year, today was their first game. I’ve been to both practices. I told my wife after the first one, “well this is going to be an interesting season for Nate. He’s not the best player on the team this year.” I’ve got a very realistic view of my kid’s talent. I know that most of his success so far has been because of his size.
The first year he played basketball, his team would win 14-4 or 18-12, and Nate would score 10 or 14 points. The coach LOVED him. But look how easy it was for him to score! He was a giant!!
The biggest kids are usually going to score the most points! I get that. Guess which one is Nate?! This was his first year playing basketball. 2013
The next year, his coach told him to shoot a whole lot more than I thought he should. I would tell him to pass the ball more, so other kids would have a chance, and he would say “Dad, my coach told me not to, cause the other kids can’t make them like me.”
So I was worried about how he would react to the first time he wasn’t “the man” on this team, the first time he wasn’t a starter. I wondered when that would be.
For the first time ever my son didn’t start today.
Today when I watched the coach sit the whole team down on the bench, and then call out 5 of the 9 and 10 year olds to take the court, my son wasn’t picked. Nate was one of the three left on the bench. My heart kind of sunk. For my kid.
I was worried about this day, when he wasn’t the best kid, or at least one of the top ones on the team. I was worried for my kid. How would he react? I’ve been working with unrealistic parents for 15 years as a high school football coach. I definitely DO NOT want to be THAT dad! So, I wasn’t worried about me, I was worried about my son.
And you know what?
He NEVER even mentioned not being a starter, not one time today did he even hint at it. I even tried to get him to. “What was your favorite part of the game?” “What was your least favorite?” “What was the best thing?” “What was the worst thing?”
His favorite part: “We won!”
Least favorite: “The one basket I missed.” (He did score 2 points)
The best thing: “We won!”
Worst thing: “That the game was over.”
Parents: your kids will be fine if they don’t start! As long as you’re fine!!!
If you’re teaching your kids all along the way that the TEAM > I, then when he doesn’t start, it won’t be a big deal.
If you’re teaching your kid to shake the coach’s hand, and say thank you after every single practice and game, he will have a healthy respect for his coach; it won’t matter when he doesn’t start.
If you teach your kid that every single person has a role to play on a team, starting at a young age, then it won’t be a big deal when he doesn’t start.
If you teach your kid to “just play hard and have fun,” then it won’t be a big deal when he doesn’t start.

If you use teachable moments while watching the NFL to teach your child that you don’t always get what you want, it won’t be a big deal when he doesn’t start.
I was more proud of my son today then I ever have been. He was the only one on the bench standing and cheering for his teammates.
And this afternoon, while there was a commercial break during the NFL game, I asked him why he likes to cheer so much for his team when he isn’t in the game. This little 9 year old looked up at me and said “Dad, I like to treat others the way I want to be treated.”
For the first time my son didn’t start today, and I couldn’t have been more proud!

Author Chris Fore is a veteran football coach and athletic director from Southern California. He has a Masters degree in Athletic Administration, is a Certified Athletic Administrator, and is on the California Coaches Association Board.

Success vs. Geno Auriemma

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UCONN’s Geno Auriemma’s career record is 970–134. Coaches with the most victories against him: Notre Dame’s Muffett McGraw (11-33);Villanova’s Harry Perretta (11-36); PROVIDENCE’S BOB FOLEY (10–16); Pat Summitt of Tennessee(9-13).

When Your Child Is Ready to Quit, Tell Them This

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Frustrated by the tough schedule and lack of playing time, I asked my parents if I could quit basketball. What they said made ALL the difference in who I am today.
By Emma Walker
When I was a freshman in high school, my basketball team was small. In fact, it was so small that we didn’t have a freshmen or JV team. My coach was tough. He had high expectations and conducted physically and mentally demanding practices. I suited varsity, but only got in the last minute or two (if we were winning by enough). Essentially, I only had the opportunity to play in practice. However, I battled, knowing that next year could be my year.
The beginning of my sophomore year was different. It was a huge disappointment for me. I still found myself sitting on the bench, going in the last minute or so when my team was up big. The basketball season is a grind, and I don’t care what anybody says, winter sports (basketball and wresting) are the most challenging. The weather is cold, it gets dark at 4:30, it’s long, there are 3-4 games a week at times… it’s exhausting. The weak will not survive, and at that time, I was weak. I begged my parents to let me quit.
They didn’t say no, but they gave me a condition. I could quit, IF I approached my coach and asked him about my role, and what I could do to get better.
Approach Coach P? To me, this was an absolute nightmare. I didn’t sleep that night. The entire school day, I didn’t hear a single word my teachers said, because I was so focused on how and when I would approach him. I decided in math class that I would do it after practice that night.
Practice flew by. It always seems like when you are dreading something, time races to the moment. I took my practice shoes off, put on my sweats, and walked across the gym to what felt like my execution.
Coach was sitting in his office, already creating a scouting report for the next game. I asked if I could talk to him, and as soon as I sat down, I started sobbing. I was thinking, “OHMYGOD OHMYGOD EMMA STOP CRYING,” but I couldn’t. My disappointment and self-doubt all exploded into a disastrous ball of emotion. So here I was, bawling in front of the man I feared most in this cold dark world… and I mean bawling, and do you know what he did? Coach gave me a huge hug.
He let me talk (at least through my sobs), and then he let me listen. He was honest. He told me that I wasn’t ready. I was too weak to be on the floor when it mattered the most, I didn’t work hard enough in the offseason, but he told me that I had potential, and asked me to stick with it.
I am honestly crying as I write this, thinking about how grateful I am for that moment with him, and for the guidance from my parents. I finished the season, despite a lack of playing time, and worked hard that summer. The next year, I played in every single game. I was awarded Honorable Mention All-Conference, and our team made it to the substate regional final, where I had 15 rebounds against IKM-Manning.
The following year, I was a senior captain and starter. After the best athletic season I have ever participated in , my team made it to the first state tournament since the 1960s. I was again an All-Conference selection, and was invited to play at the Iowa All-Star Basketball game in Cedar Rapids. My senior year laid the foundation for a 2010 team that would win its first state title.
What would have happened if my parents sent Coach P an email demanding to know why I wasn’t playing? What would have happened if they let me quit without having a conversation with him? My parents have taught me more things than I could ever count, but one of the most important things was to fight my own battles, and never give up.
They could have badmouthed my coach in the stands, wrote terrible things about him on social media, or encouraged me to quit. I know this because as a coach, I get a lot of this every single season. I have even had parents take a picture of me, and post it on facebook with some very nasty comments. I have also had to ask my parents to escort me out of one of my games, because I had parents waiting to confront me in the lobby. However, my parents didn’t make this about themselves; they made it about the relationship between my coach and me.
To this day, Coach P has been one of the most impacting people in my life. Finding the courage to approach him, and having the ability to trust his honesty led me down one of the greatest paths in high school. Now as a high school coach myself, basketball continues to be one of the biggest pieces of my life.
I urge all parents to encourage your children to fight their own battles. Have your kids come talk to me, but also make sure they are open to my honesty. I am not going to tell your child she deserves to play if she doesn’t. Coach P did not lie to me. He told me I wasn’t good enough to play yet, and I accepted that. In fact, I felt that he respected me enough to be honest with me. It motivated me, and I worked harder, until it paid off.
Emma Walker is a twenty-six year-old high school English/Language Arts teacher at Atlantic High School in Atlantic, Iowa. She is also the Head Varsity Volleyball Coach, and Assistant JV Basketball Coach for the Atlantic Trojans.


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They are a tricky bunch. Creative in countless ways, especially on the basketball court. Consumed with social media, quick fixes and impatience. Generation Z aka The Millennials, is a group that needs to be understood in order to lead. A task many coaches fail to do because they do not take the time. The time to hear them out, step into their shoes and identify with their struggle.
The coaches I played for at a high level were at least 45 or older.
Let me put into perspective what a 25 year age difference looks like. In the past 25 years, we have invented the Digital Camera, Web Browser, Tivo and Iphone. We have had the Gulf War, 9/11, War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War. We have had 4 presidents, 3 stock market crashes, 2 major floods in New Orleans alone and 1 Donald Trump. Our coaches have no idea what it was like growing up in our era and vice versa.
Our childhood was synonymous with video games, computers and the digital age. My coaches were raised in the 60’s, 70’s 80’s; I’m not going to even try to explain what that time period was like.
I do know when it comes to basketball, you guys had quite a list of players to watch. You had the 11-time NBA Champion, The Logo, Dr. J, Pistol Pete, Magic and Bird. We grew up on the 2nd half of MJ, The Diesel, King James, AI and the Black Mamba. Terrific in their own right, but different. A new brand of basketball where everyone is a guard, and the game turned into an offensive showcase rather than the physical war it once was.
Not saying any era was better than the other, but each comes with a it’s own set of values and principles. Generation Z is being written off for theirs, but let us analyze them before jumping to a conclusion.
The Knock on The Millennials
Lack a strong work ethic. Impatient. Don’t listen to authority. Disregard tradition. Want to know why before taking action. Selfish. Terrible listeners. Stubborn. The list goes on and on, but these are some of the negative characteristics of Generation Z.
Tell me if this dialogue sounds familiar:
Coach: I need you to fade to the corner as the guard drives. Player: I shoot better from the wing. Coach: I don’t care where you shoot better from, go to the corner. Player: Why would I go to the corner if I am more of a threat from here? Coach: Dammit! Because I said so!
I get it, they are frustrating.
Especially when coaches grew up much more obedient than the players they are instructing now. Youth basketball players question nearly everything, and quite frankly I don’t blame the coaches for losing their temper every now and then. Maybe there is an alternative.
As a Point Guard, it was my job to understand my teammates psychologically so I knew how to reach them in the game. I needed to know what made them play harder, what would make them withdrawal, how to speak to them after a mistake and how to keep them engaged. I learned all of this by observing in practice, the dorms, eating and celebrating together. I knew my teammates like they were my family… because they were.
*Coaches do not go to parties with your players. I repeat, do not go to parties with your players. It is a recipe for disaster, ask Larry Eustachy from Iowa State if you don’t believe me.*
That shouldn’t stop you from knowing them. Each of your players has a unique personality, a different shame coping mechanism and a contrasting response to your coaching philosophy. The more time you invest into building a relationship away from the court, the less “why” responses you will hear.
This generation doesn’t just trust the coach because you are the authoritative figure. They trust the person who shows they care about them. Be the coach, mentor and leader that cares about them as much you want them to care about you.
Product of Environment
I will never forget having a conversation with a teammate of mine after leaving practice. He said to me, “Coach has no idea about where I come from. There were times where I went to bed hungry. Days without hot water to take a shower. He doesn’t care about any of that, as long as I stay quiet and say yes sir or no sir.”
My coach and that player (along with a few others) never had a relationship. Constantly bumping heads, and you know what the saddest part was? He was the most talented player on the team and one of the smartest I had ever played with. He didn’t reach his potential as a player and we didn’t reach our potential as a team because of a lack of communication.
That is unacceptable.
Listen coach, many players need guidance and in the game of basketball that need is magnified. Many of us come from dysfunctional homes, single-parent households or without any leadership at all. We have been put on a pedestal because of our talent in a sport, but nobody took the time to develop our character. This generation is full of creative and innovative minds that can transform industries. Can you imagine what it could do on a basketball court?
Both the players and the coaches need to find a common ground, but the coach has to make that initial step. Environment plays a huge role in the development of people and these players character. Only one out of my three Division 1 coaches cared about the lives of his players outside of basketball. George Nessman at San Jose State University. One of those coaches who you can have a lifelong relationship with, that made you a better man not just a better basketball player.
A Common Thread
Every Hall of Famer steps up to the podium and thanks his coach. With tears in his eyes he says something along the lines of, “Thank you coach for being a father figure”, or “Thank you coach for saving my life.” They don’t talk about how much they appreciate their coach for for showing them how to properly run a zone offense. The impact coaches have on their players occurs far away from the gym.
It starts with the conversations you have about life. Wanting to know about their families, hobbies, passions, school work and aspirations outside of basketball. The knowledge you spew onto them that have nothing to do with the defense you plan to run that season. The stories you share with them to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes you did. The discipline you give them for off the court issues that shapes their character. The guidance you give when they run into a tough situations.
We have watched players embrace coaches like John Thompson, Tom Izzo and Bob Huggins. That hug is not because he corrected his players shooting form. It is because he took that player under his wing, demanded the world from him and changed his life not his game.
Closing Thoughts
A recent article on Buzzfeed listed the 28 things millennials have killed, including Golf, Football, Soap, Relationships, Napkins and everything inbetween. Sounds like a pessimistic view to me. Glass half full mindsets might describe them as innovators, trailblazers or trendsetters. The same can go for the game of basketball.
Generation Z is not easy to coach. As a youth basketball coach now, I have the perspective of both sides. Players want to be cared about, understood and lead. Coaches want to be respected and trusted. Both desires are met away from the game, nowhere near the court.

Playing one sport year-round isn’t smart, even for kids who want to go pro

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By Fred Bowen

Intense training often leads to burnout or injuries, studies show.

It’s summertime. That means long, hot days, no school — and summer camps.

Lots of kids spend at least some of the summer at camps. There are overnight camps, theater camps and, of course, sports camps.

Some kids spend the whole year playing one sport, such as soccer, baseball or basketball. And what do they do during the summer? They go to a camp and keep playing that sport.

So what’s wrong with that?

There’s a lot wrong with specializing at a young age. It’s much better for kids to play a variety of sports and use the summer to sample new ones.Tennis is a sport you might try this summer if you usually play soccer or baseball.

A study published in the journal Sports Health found that “for most sports, there is no evidence that intense training and specialization before [age 13 or 14] are necessary to achieve elite status. Risks of early sports specialization include higher rates of injury . . . and quitting sports at a young age.”

How big is the risk of injury if you specialize in one sport? A Loyola University Chicago study of 1,200 youth athletes found that kids who specialized in one sport were 70 percent to 93 percent more likely to be injured than multi-sport athletes.That’s a lot.

Kids who specialize in one sport also get burned out. An Ohio State University study found that kids who played a single sport were more likely to quit their sport and be physically inactive as adults.

But don’t you have to specialize in one sport when you’re a kid to have a chance to play in college or be a pro?


Sorry, but I have to talk about another study. This one was a survey of college athletes by the American Society of Sports Medicine. The study found that 88 percent of college athletes played more than one sport when they were kids.

Look at this year’s National Football League draft. Twenty-six of the 31 first-round picks, including Jared Goff, the player drafted ahead of all the others, had been multi-sport athletes in high school, according to Tracking Football.

It wasn’t just the first round: 224 of the 256 draft picks had played more than one sport in high school. More than a third of the drafted players were three-sport athletes.

So if you are a year-round baseball kid, try soccer this summer. It will get you into great shape and help you move your feet in the infield. Or if you’re a soccer kid, try hoops or lacrosse, or tennis or rock climbing.

Have some fun, and try something new. It’s summertime.


Three Reasons Coaches Aren’t Respected Like The Old Days

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There is a phrase in the article that really got me thinking, and prompted me to write this article.  He says “What’s so baffling is why athletes no longer fear their coaches.”

Three Reasons Coaches Aren’t Respected Like The Old Days

  1.  Parents

One time, when I was about 14 years old, I threw my bat after striking out.  My mom marched right down from her uncomfortable wooden bleacher seat, and pulled me out of the dugout, and ripped me a new one.  Then she told the coach I couldn’t play the rest of the game.  Do you think he questioned her?!  Nope!  My butt rode the pine for the last 3 innings.  She ripped in to me right there in front of my teammates, my coaches, the opposing team, their coaches, the umpires, the birds, and everyone else!   That was 1989.  My friends STILL talk about that.  Where are those parents today?

Do you think I ever threw my bat again?  Absolutely not! 

It ALL starts at home, period.  I grew up playing youth sports in the 1980s, high school sports in the early 90s (born in 1976).  I learned very early on from my parents that the coach was always right.  This isn’t true today.  Today, coaches just are not respected like they were for many decades.

It goes hand in hand with the respect that all leadership positions have these days.  It’s not just coaching.  Look at how college presidents are respected now days?  Students storm their offices to demand change, and won’t leave until they see change.  Again, this starts at home.

I was disgusted to see a large brawl in the stands of a youth football game this past season.  PARENTS fighting in the stands.  It is almost common place now to see this type of phone camera footage.  It doesn’t shock us anymore.  So, when parents in the stands are fighting, what are the kids going to do?

I’ve been questioned many times by parents about my decision regarding playing time for their kids over my 15 years of coaching high school football.  That trend has most definitely gotten worse from year 1 to year 15.  The decision-making of coaches is questioned today like never before.  With parents questioning coaches, kids lose respect of those coaches.

  1.  Administrators

15 years ago, 20 years ago, if a parent had an issue with a coach, they would go to the coach.  Now they don’t go to the coach.  They don’t go to the Athletic Director.  They go straight to the Principal.  They go straight to the school board.  One reason that coaches are not respected like the good old days is because some administrators are not willing to stand by their coaches.

Some administrators offices have a revolving door for parents.

Administrators are wavering of their support for coaches to keep their jobs in some situations.  They are being swayed by parents so that they remain popular.  Some administrators would rather fire a coach who has done a great job of teaching kids, and running their program then deal with parents who are not happy with their kid’s playing time.  Athletic Directors and Principals are making quick decisions to cut a coach loose to keep parents satisfied.

Pacifying parents like this is a short term solution to a long term problem.  Without a proper and respected chain of command, when parents have the principal on speed dial, coaches are not respected.  Look no further than a Teacher of the Year candidate from San Diego who was fired this offseason.

  1.  Political Correctness

Several years ago when I was a Head Coach, I had a player miss practice.  The result of missing a practice during Training Camp was having to make that practice up through physical conditioning.  This was in the handbook that players and parents had received before summer football practice began.  It was written policy.  Parents signed off on our expectations, players signed off on our expectations.  A player wasn’t allowed to start in a game until they made up their missed practice.

This player was making up his absence by doing a series of up downs, pushups, situps and sprints.  This was supervised by our coaching staff.  I was called a “bully.”  I was called a bully for holding this student-athlete accountable for missing practice.  I was called a bully for making the kid do these exercises.  I wasn’t even the one supervising him doing this workout.  I was helping students with their gear, fixing helmet buckles, and chinstraps.  But this family member came right up to me, in front of 15 of my players, and started yelling at me for bullying this kid. Unbelievable!

The way many parents view coaches these days.

Coaches are not allowed to hold their student-athletes accountable anymore.  Raising our voices to get the attention of an athlete is called bullying.  Motivating with persuasion to give your best is called bullying.  Coaches are called into the administration building for simply doing their job to create the best team that they can.  Coaches are confronted in grocery stores by parents over their coaching strategies, and told not to talk to their son at all.  How can you coach a kid without talking to them?

In 1954, legendary coach “Bear” Bryant held a training camp in a rural area away from the campus of Texas A and M in an effort to “toughen up the boys.”  The camp started with about 100 players.  It ended with about 35.  It’s a famous story about the “Junction Boys,” even turned in to a movie.  One year later they did not lose a game.  Coach Bryant is one of the best football coaches in our nation’s history.  If he held that camp today, Bear Bryant would be arrested, and sent to jail for a long time.  I’m not agreeing with many of the tactics used by Bryant, like not allowing water.  He did some absurd things.  My point here is that political correctness has created a “soft” environment, and is  third main reason that coaches are not respected like the good old days.

Dear Coach, I want to quit.

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Hello Coach Leath,
My dad says I can’t quit my team, but I don’t want to play football anymore. All I do is sit on the bench during the games. What should I do?
Your Friend,
Chris, 11

Dear Chris,
Congratulations on making the football team. Believe it or not, the first year I tried out for football I did not make the team. I remember how sad I was when the coach read off the names of the kids who would be playing that year. I tried out the next year and sat on the bench during most of the games, only playing a few plays. But I knew I would not play in the games. The other players were bigger and better than I was, so why would coach put me in?
So, instead of complaining about playing time, I decided to make practice my games. Every Tuesday and Thursday I would prepare for practice as if I was going to be playing a game. I went all out on the scout team, knowing that the harder I was to block in practice, the better my team would do in the game. When they did well in the game, I took pride in knowing I helped them prepare.
Practice was hard, Chris. I got knocked down, a lot. I was scared, but I tried not to let the other players know how scared I was. Some of the players hit really hard and the noise alone made me want to quit.
After a few weeks I got better and was less afraid. I made some friends on the team and started to have fun. I still got knocked down, and I wasn’t very good, but I realized what a privilege it was to be on the team. I promised myself I would finish the season and then decide if I wanted to play again.
Also, I thought I was letting my dad down by not starting. When I told him I was embarrassed because I sat the bench, he told me he was proud that I made the team, and that he loved to watch me go all out in practice. That helped a lot knowing that my dad just loved to watch me practice.
The next year, you know what? I was one of the best players on the team. I was voted team captain and rarely came out of the game. I am not saying this will happen for you, but I am telling you that in order to be good at something, you have to be okay with being bad at it first. Then you get better. Always aim to get better, no matter what you do in life.
I want to encourage you to finish the season. You don’t have to play next year, but you should follow through with your commitment and try to have as much fun while you are there. Please don’t quit.

Stay Curious,

Coach Leath


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By Jay Bilas
I have been watching more high school and junior basketball than ever, and I am worried about what I see. The canary in the United States’ basketball coal mine has not yet died, but it is starting to teeter on its perch.
No reasonable basketball person can refute the fact that the fundamental skills of American players are slipping, and so is the American game. I believe a primary reason is an increased emphasis on coaching the game, and a decreased emphasis on teaching our kids how to play the game.
Pete Newell, the legendary coach and teacher, has often said that basketball is “over-coached and under-taught”. He is absolutely right, and that is finally catching up with us, as is the rest of the basketball world.

Generally, “coaching” consists of team preparation, the devising of game plans and schemes to defeat opponents. When you are coaching, you are dealing with strategies, different offenses and defenses, and putting in plays to take advantage of the skills, strengths and weaknesses of your players. The measure of a coach is the quality of the development of his system, and has been distilled into winning.
“Teaching” consists of instruction and training of individuals in the fundamental skills of the game, and in teaching players how to play, instead of how to run plays. The measure of a teacher is not in winning, but in the fundamental soundness and skill level of the players taught. A player with excellent fundamentals and skills can play successfully in any system.
Generally, American players are less skilled than their European counterparts. The United States produces the best “athletes” in the game, but not necessarily the best “basketball players”.
Here are the reasons why American coaches, at all levels, have gotten away from teaching, and have gravitated more to coaching.
Immediate Gratification of Coaches: Coaches, especially at the grassroots and high school levels, seem more interested than ever in winning rather than developing well-skilled and fundamentally sound players. They are impatient, and too focused on winning games instead of developing players.
It takes time to teach and instill discipline. While it may seem more important to spend the majority of time in practice working on the execution of halfcourt offense, or putting in new set plays, it is far more important to develop the skills of your players. Coaches do not have enough time with their players anymore, which means that floor time cannot be wasted.
High school coaches get less floor time than ever to teach, and less and less access to their players. Players now play an excessive amount of games over the summer in AAU competition, which means that they play many games and have far fewer practices.
While young kids are busy traversing the country to play in AAU competitions, they are spending hour upon hour running up and down the court in a helter-skelter atmosphere where, 95 percent of the time, they do not have the ball in their hands. What this does is cement bad habits — and habits, good or bad, are what players revert to under stress.
If these same players were in focused practice environments instead of in so many games, they would spend the majority of time with the ball in their hands, working on their skills and footwork.
Increased Specialization: Basketball in this country has become over-specialized, and players have become “systematized”.
Kids are identified by size and body type into positions way too early on in their devopment and are “coached” differently. As young kids, players are told, “you are a point guard,” “you are a power forward,” “you are a center.” Then the guards and big guys are separated, sent to opposite ends of the floor, and coached to work upon different skills that are specific to position.
In Europe, players are encouraged to work on the same skills, whether small guard or big forward.
The result of this specialization is that our players are boxed into positions, and therefore limited. Why should kids be labeled and limited into being “point guards” or “shooting guards” and coached to be only that? A point guard is coached to be a primary ballhandler, while a shooting guard is coached to be a scorer and therefore limited in making the “transition” to the point. Similarly, big guys in America are used as screeners, rebounders and low-post robots. Very few programs in America, college, high school or lower level, produce versatile and skilled big men who can dribble, pass and shoot.
We cannot expect the players to combat this trend. Players want to play and will do whatever the coaches tell them to do because, ultimately, the players want to play out on the floor, and coaches control playing time. Doing what the coach tells you to do is a necessary element of gaining playing time at any level. And we cannot expect players to simply work on individual skills on their own. We would not expect kids to educate themselves outside of a classroom environment, we certainly cannot expect it in sport.
European programs approach teaching differently. Players are not limited in how much they can practice, and therefore spend from 60 to 90 minutes in the morning working on footwork, shooting and ballskills. The same players then practice another 60 to 90 minutes in the afternoon on more team-oriented concepts. There is no separation of big guys and guards, every player works on the same skills. As a result, European players are generally more well-rounded and more fundamentally sound. And they are more coveted by coaches at all levels.
Shoe Companies and AAU Basketball: Contrary to popular belief, the shoe companies and AAU programs are not full of bad people looking to exploit kids. As in any endeavor, there are good people and bad people in those organizations. However, it is clear that the goals of the shoe companies and AAU programs are at odds with the proper teaching and development of fundamentally sound players.
Whether well intentioned or not, shoe companies are in the business of selling shoes, not growing the game. While the major shoe companies have “grassroots” programs, they are more interested in growing their influence than in growing the game. The best evidence of that is in the national camps run by Nike and adidas every summer. These camps are designed to showcase players against the best competition, not improve their skills. Instead of running stations in the morning or early afternoon, where the players would spend time at each different basket in the gym working on individual skills, they play games all day.
The coaches and scouts evaluating these players would much rather watch the kids in one game per day and get the chance to evaluate skill levels through station work. And the kids would be better off as well. But teaching is not the goal.
The same goes for AAU programs. Far too many AAU coaches are more interested in playing and winning games, rather than teaching young players the skills necessary to be successful players. While young kids are travelling the country playing games, they are not able to practice or work on their games. It is really that simple.
Skills ‘Players’ Need to Have
Fundamentally sound players need to be able to handle the ball, shoot the ball, pass the ball, and use their feet. Unless a player has these basic skills mastered, he will be limited and therefore easy to guard and difficult to play with.
Here are the basic skills needed by every player on the court:
Ballhandling: If a player cannot handle the ball with either hand, he will get attacked and overwhelmed by the defense because he cannot go anywhere off the dribble. To be a competent ballhandler, a player needs to be able to control the ball with either hand, and know the proper use of the dribble given the situation. Once a player knows when and how to dribble, how to set up his man to make a dribble move, and has the basic skills and footwork, he becomes much harder to guard, and much more valuable to any team.
The best way to become a better ballhandler is to handle the ball more often. Repetition is the key to success as a ballhandler, whether it is doing game speed drills in dribbling around cones or executing the footwork and handling of a spin move, rocker step or reverse pivot. Ballhandlers must also learn to handle the ball playing against a defender. That is the only way to learn how to protect the ball, use the body, and learn to set the defender up for counters. If you want to make players better handlers of the ball, make them handle the ball. And make the big guys handle it in the same situations you ask guards to handle it.
Shooting If you cannot shoot the ball, you will always be able to get an open shot, because nobody guards a substandard shooter. Like ballhandling, the best way to become a better shooter is to shoot the ball over and over again at game speed. The motto for shooters in practice should be “game shots, game spots, at game speed”. Shooting “game” shots over and over creates muscle memory, and provides confidence to the shooter.
The first thing shooters must learn to do is to look at the basket when they catch the ball. Defenders must believe that you are a threat to shoot the ball, and nobody will by that if you don’t look at the basket, and no good defender will go for a shotfake. In looking at the rim, a player will be able to see what is going on under it as well. To be a good shooter, a player has to use his feet effectively to create space and get open, and must be ready to shoot as the ball arrives. Good shooters go straight up and down without drifting, and therefore don’t have to shoot at a moving target. They have their shooting hand under the ball, and the elbow under their shooting hand. The motion should be up and not out in order to shoot a soft ball with good trajectory and velocity.
Whatever shot a player wants to perfect, the proper repetition of that particular shot is the key. No player can get that proper repetition by simply playing in games, but must be made to do it in practice.
Passing: No skill in American basketball that is more neglected than passing. Good coaches will tell you that the quality of the pass determines the quality of the shot. That is absolutely correct. In order to score, the defense has to be moved, and the pass is the most effective way to move a defense.
Players need to be taught how to properly throw two-hand chest passes, overhead passes, bounce passes with either hand, and to pass with exactness and imagination. The first rule of passing is that, if you have a clear path to an open player, pass him the ball. You do not pass-fake to open people, you pass the ball to them. Passing should not be a last resort, after you have exhausted all possibilities to obtain your own shot. Rather, you should pass the ball to get your team the best quality shot. Watch any game, on any level, and see for yourself how many times passes are made only when all other avenues have been closed. It happens a lot.
If a player cannot pass, he cannot play, and the ball dies in his hands.
Footwork: Basketball is played with the feet, and every phase of the game is dependent upon good footwork. In any game, a player plays 90 percent or more of the game without the ball. Learning how to play with your feet, offensively and defensively, is of vital importance for basketball players at any level, and an area in which youngsters need the most attention and instruction. Without attention to detail of the footwork necessary to execute basic moves in the game, and to create space, the player is severely limited.
The United States has the best athletes, the best coaches and the most basketball resources in the world. We need to spend less time coaching, and more time teaching, especially at lower levels of the game. We need to encourage coaches to teach, not just to coach, and for players to practice, not just to play. There is no reason why our best athletes cannot be our best players. If we do a better job of teaching, the level of play in the United States will skyrocket, and the game will be better for it.


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By Allen Stein

As both a coach and a father, I want to offer my 16 Rules for Basketball Parents:

  1. Parents… you must embrace the fact that this is your child’s journey – not yours. Do not live vicariously through them. Put your focus on being a supportive and encouraging parent.
  2. Parents… it’s true. Coaches do play favorites. They favor players who give the team the best chance to win, who have great attitudes, who work hard every day, who embrace their role (regardless of what that role is) and who support the program’s culture.  If you think a coach doesn’t ‘like’ your child; your child is more than likely deficient in one (or more) of these areas.
  3. Parents… as far as playing time goes, coaches want to win. They want to win badly. If your child will help them win… they will play. If not… they won’t.  Period.
  4. Parents… more often than not, your child’s coach is in a better position to evaluate and determine appropriate playing time because they see everything. They see workouts, practices, meetings, film breakdown and games (where as most parents get an incomplete picture because they only see games).
  5. Parents… more often than not, through both experience and professional development, coaches usually have a better basketball IQ and general understanding of the game then parents do (so questioning a coach’s X’s & O’s or their ability to judge talent is inappropriate).
  6. Parents… stop coaching your child from the sideline. The only ‘voice’ a player should receive instructions from is the ‘voice’ of their coaching staff.  Cheer for them all you want, but do not coach them. That isn’t your job.
  7. Parents… you love your child more than anything in the world. You always want what is best for them(which is understandable and respectable).  However, a coach’s obligation is to do what is best for the TEAM.  In many instances, what you want for your child and what is best of the team is not congruent.
  8. Parents… you should never push to discuss playing time, strategy or another player with your child’s coach. Ever. Those 3 domains are sacred ground.
  9. Parents… politicking will never get your child more playing time. I promise you, this statement hasnever been said by a coach in the history of high school basketball, “I really need to start playing Jeffrey more because his mom thinks he isn’t playing enough.”
  10. Parents… you should encourage your child to communicate any issues, questions or concerns they have (or you have) directly with their coach by having them schedule a meeting. It is my belief, as a parent, you have the right to attend that meeting, simply as an observant, but the discussion should be between your child and the coach.
  11. Parents… do not undermine your child’s coach in the car ride home or at the dinner table. Subtle, passive aggressive comments like ‘Your coach doesn’t know what he’s doing’ or ‘I can’t believe you don’t play more’ do not comfort your child (although I am sure that is your intention) – it enables them to have a bad attitude and to make excuses… both of which are unacceptable.
  12. Parents… if your child isn’t getting the playing time they feel they deserve or if they lose a tough game… use that experience as a powerful teaching tool. Teach them how to own it. Teach them what they can do in the future to possibly get a different outcome.
  13. Parents… stop berating the referees. It sets a bad example and it makes you look foolish. The referees are doing the best they can. More often than not, a referee has a better position and a much better understanding of the rules to make the correct call then a parent does. And I promise you this statement has never been said either, “Can we stop the game? I’m sorry everyone. The loud-mouth mom in the stands is right, her son did get fouled on that last play.”
  14. Parents… it is highly unlikely that your child will play professionally.  In fact, statistically, only a very small percentage of you will have children that play in college. So let them enjoy the journey. Their playing days will be over before you know it. Use basketball as a vehicle to teach the life lessons they will need when they grow up.
  15. Parents… don’t push your child too hard.  It’s OK to encourage. It’s OK to suggest. It’s OK to hold your child to a very high standard of excellence… but don’t force them to ‘get up extra shots’ or get in extra workouts.  That has to come from them, not you.  If they choose to do those things on their own, be supportive. If they choose not to, if they choose to only do the bare minimum, they will eventually learn a potent life lesson (not make the team, not get much playing time, etc.).
  16. Parents… one of the best things you can do is develop a quality relationship with your child’s coach. Listen to this for some sound advice:

5 Things Every Point Guard Should Know

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Playing the point guard position in basketball comes with a lot of responsibilities. The position comes with an added role of leadership and being able to get the team organized on the offensive and defensive end, as well as being a skilled player. A lot of point guards are considered the coach on the floor or the general of the team. If you look at the elite point guards likeChris Paul and Rajon Rondo you will see that they lead their team and look to make every player around them better.

Since being a basketball point guard requires so much of the player, it can become a very challenging position. That is why I have created a list of things that every point guard should know about playing this position. So whether you have just started playing point guard, or have been playing it for a while and are looking for ways to be a better player, this article is for you.

1) Take Care of the Ball

As a point guard you must be able to take care of the basketball. If you are throwing the ball around the gym and turning it over frequently your team is going to struggle, and you will most likely end up on the bench. So you need to make sure that you are making good basketball passes and staying out of situations that have a high turnover probability. Stay out of spots on the floor where you can get trapped and where there is a lot of congestion, and don’t force the action. A good point guard is able to see the floor and stay out of situations where there are a lot of hands and people. Just being able to recognize these types of places on the floor will help you limit your turnovers drastically.

2) Be a Leader on the Floor

Some players are more naturally outspoken than others and it is easier for them to be leaders. With the point guard position though you are going to need to get out of your comfort zone and be a leader, whether you are natural leader or not. It is your job to be able to get the team organized on offense and defense. You are an extension of the coach on the floor and you need to know the offense and the game plan better than anyone else out there on the floor. This will require more time on your part studying the plays, learning the defense, etc. but if you want to be a great point guard than this is necessary.

3) Make your Teammates Better

You will have the basketball in your hands more than anyone else on the floor and you will be running the offense. One of your jobs from this position is being able to help your teammates get great scoring opportunities. Great point guards are able to set their teammates up for good shots in places where they are comfortable with the ball. So whether it is driving the paint to kick out to a down ready shooter for an open shot, or running a play to get the ball into the post player, you need to make sure that you are helping your teammates out.

If you see that one of the better scorers on your team is struggling to get going then you need to be able to run a play that gets them a high quality shot. You must be able to keep your finger on the pulse of your team and know your teammates.

4) Pressure the Ball

As a point guard bringing the ball up the floor you know how annoying it is to get pressured and not be able to get into the offense as easily as you would like. Well the same thing goes for the ball handler on the other team. If you can provide good ball pressure (especially in high school and college basketball where there is a 5 second closely guarded call) you can add a lot of value to your team. The other team’s point guard will be so nervous about the pressure that they won’t be able to get their team into the offense.

Pressuring the ball does not mean reaching, gambling, and getting out of defensive position (unless that is your team’s game plan). You must be able to keep your man in front of you, because if not they will just get into the paint and carve up your defense. Be able to pressure, while also being able to contain the ball.

5) Play at Different Speeds

A player with the ball that plays at the same speed the whole time is easy to guard, but a player that mixes up their speeds and is unpredictable becomes a lot harder to guard. It is not always about being lightning quick with the ball, but you do need to be able to go from slow to fast and fast to slow while handling the basketball. This will keep the defender guessing and off balance when they try to pressure you on defense, or when they are trying to keep you out of the paint.

The harder you are to guard off the dribble the more value you bring to your team. If you are able to get into the paint to kick the ball out for a shot, or dump it off for a layup, etc. you add a lot to your team on the offensive end. You need to be able to get into the paint though within the offense, not by using 10 dribbles to try and break your man down.