Friday, August 1, 2008

What sixth-grade basketball and the NBA have in common

Having just finished with the California State AAU tournament recently with my 12-year-old son, a couple of things became clear.

First, for all the great competition, I felt for some of the kids as the coaching was so inferior to the coaching at the high school level. Luckily, my kid's team is coached by a terrific high school coach.

Still, at that level, it's clear what a difference solid coaching can make to a team and a player's development and understanding of the game.

I really believe that winning shouldn't be the main thing at his level. Instead, it should be about learning, improving their skills, and getting down the fundamentals.

As an example, during my youngest son's recent CYO season, his team spent time all year on an organized press break. It's an important concept for sure and the instruction was valuable.

But as I watched their practices from the sidelines, I began thinking that time spent doing two-ball figure-eights or other ball-handling drills instead of the press break might be more beneficial in the long run.

After all, they would be much better ball-handlers (and might be able to beat the press). In this case, the press-break went away after the 12-game CYO season, but the ball-handling improvement from drills would stay with them forever.

My second observation was that an AAU coach -- even at the sixth-grade level -- has to deal with many of the same complaints that NBA coaches hear -- minutes, roles, timeouts, etc. Except it's not agents and fans who are complaining, it's parents.

At one game, one Mom complained (loudly) about the coach not calling enough timeouts. Another parent was upset her kid didn't play down the stretch. And one Dad thought his son wasn't being used in the right way (low-post vs wing).

As a parent, I know it's easy for a Mom or Dad's love for their children to blind them. It's tough to be objective. Typically, a parent with a child in sports (1) genuinely believes their son or daughter will play at the highest level of the sport (e.g., NBA, NFL, MLB); (2) is too hard on their kid; or (3) is apathetic. Based on my experience, most parents fall into at least one of these buckets.

Of course, I've had the pleasure of meeting parents who have a healthy perspective on the role sports plays in their child's life. Their positive and unconditional support and love is renewing and always reminds me to keep things in perspective.