It is the time of year when competitive travel youth basketball gets into full swing. Players as young as 8 years old will travel all over the country playing one game after another. Parents will spend thousands of dollars on tournament fees, uniforms, and travel expenses to allow their child the opportunity for greater competition. This past Saturday my 3 boys were playing in 3 different tournaments in 3 different cities. I now have a nice collection of colorful paper bracelets for which I paid $10 each to watch them play.
Before I became a college coach I ran a baskeball academy and travel youth basketball teams, so I understand how it all works. Youth travel basketball alone is a million dollar industry in which very few actually get rich. Most do it for the same reasons I did, because they have kids involved and/or love the game. What concerns me is what we are teaching the next generation of players. They play tournaments almost every weekend, with 3 games in a day and another game win or lose. I question whether coaches are teaching the skills of the game and helping players learn the value of every possession.
Coaches have to spend time in practice so they can teach and develop a player's talent. Some of my toughest moments came in practice and that is when I have learned the most about myself as a player and competitor. Don't get me wrong, the opportunities our youth have these days are great and there are lots of good coaches out there. But we have to make sure that all these games and competitive opportunities are turning them into better players, and better teammates as well. My advice to all the coaches out there: Don't sacrifice practice time for game time. Your players and their future coaches will thank you for it later.