What's Wrong With Youth Basketball Leagues

There are so many youth basketball leagues that are win-loss leagues which focus on the end result of whether the kids win or lose the games and that's it. They play zones, have unequal playing time, and create a stressful environment with coaches yelling at the kids and placing the unwanted pressure of winning & losing on them.

This needs to stop!

You want to know what happens with these kids & teams in 5 to 6 years:
  1. Kids Quit the Sport.

    The number 1 reason kids quit sports is because it's not fun anymore. So why are we making it so stressful for them?

    Don Kelbick informed us about a recent study by AAHPER revealed that over 80% of kids who play in organized youth sports no longer play that sport after the age of 13. THAT'S TERRIBLE!!!! Back in the day, kids did not start playing organized sports until they were 13.

    Why does this happen?

    Kids respond poorly to stress at a young age.

    Kids prefer to have fun & play freely!! Placing an emphasis on winning, having unequal playing time and yelling at the kids create stress which is why so many kids turn to the Wii & playstation. This is part of the reason why we have an UNHEALTHY nation.

    Why do you think AND1 basketball has become so popular?

    The stress levels are low and the kids are allowed to have FUN. I used to be opposed to AND1 basketball until I learned why kids were turning to it.

  2. The other teams that focused on the fundamentals & practiced game-like situations are better!!

    They didn't get caught up in the wins and losses. Rather, they focused on creating fun, relaxed atmosphere while teaching the fundamentals. Since they have solid foundation on making lay ups, dribbling, passing, shooting, and playing man to man defense, they now can handle the other teams that spent less time on the fundamentals and focused on the insignificant stuff that won't work at the higher levels.

    It's also VERY IMPORTANT to apply the basketball fundamentals & skills in competitive game-like situations. If you never put them in situations that make them use the new skill in a game-like environment, it'll be very difficult for them to apply it to the games. All of the sudden, defenders are there and the newly-learned skills go out the window because they had few repetitions practicing the fundamentals with a defender guarding them.

    Practice the skill WITHOUT the defense to LEARN the skill.

    Practice the skill WITH the defense to APPLY the skill.

    Also, if the high school coach of these same kids decides to run zones, traps, and presses, they are that much more effective because the players have a solid foundation versus a group of kids that just worked on presses, traps, and any other tactic that took advantage of a flaw in the youth basketball system.

  3. Kids that could have been great never got the playing time to develop.

    A 6'0 mature 13 year old may be good now, but the 5'9 skinny, uncoordinated kid that is going to be 6'9 may be the best in the future. The timid, smaller player with great decision-making skills loses playing time to the more aggressive, bigger player.

    If these players don't get playing how time, how are they supposed to get better? If they don't play, they might QUIT!!

I'm not saying that you don't want your kids to win. The kids should still play to win. I'm just saying that YOUR focus should be on developing the players, so it gives them the best opportunity to win when they get older.

Here is an example of a development league progression:
* Updated on 11/8/2016

8 to 10 Year Olds (3rd & 4th Grade):
10 to 12 Year Olds (5th & 6th Grade):
  • Start to introduce 5 on 5. (Still use 3 on 3 and other small sided games to teach basketball concepts in every practice.)
  • No trapping defenses, zone defenses, or full court zone presses.
  • Half court man to man defense in 1st half. Full court man to man defense in 2nd half.
  • Equal playing time for players that give their best effort and follow team rules. Players that violate rules may get reduced playing time.
  • No 3-pointers (or move in 3-point line - 15 feet to 18 feet)
  • Height of Rim - 9 to 10 Feet
  • Intermediate Ball - 27.75 - 28.5" (9") - International Size 6

12 to 14 Year Olds (7th & 8th Grade): If you would like to find out more about a successful league, that encourages development of our youth the right way, I highly advise you to visit Martin Spencer's site on Mini-Basketball. It's great!


All of the leagues should be required to place a heavy emphasis on:
  • Teaching skills and concepts.

  • Placing players in competitive, game-like situations to practice the skills. You can also use fun, youth basketball drills.

  • Creating a relaxed, fun environment. Higher stress levels slow the learning process and cause kids to quit sports.

  • Treating competition like fun scrimmages. Too many coaches get caught up with what's happening on the scoreboard rather than teaching their players how to play.

Do you have any questions or suggestions for this article? Let us know by leaving your comments...

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Mike Kayes says:
3/10/2009 at 6:26:55 AM

Re: Your Equal playing time rule. This is an excerpt from our manual - "Coaching Youth Basketball With Faith and Fundamentals"

Mike Kayes - Stewards of the Game

The most powerful reward or motivational tool a coach has is the control over playing time. Stewards of the Game believes strongly that playing time should be a function of level of effort during practice, first and foremost. Next comes overall attitude, respect, and commitment to team play. The third determinant of playing time is ability.

An important life lesson we are trying to teach is that success demands hard work. If a player is getting more playing time than you are because he is working harder then you can either accept it or decide to work harder yourself. If playing time is going to be equal there is a disincentive to work harder. In our experience, there are usually one or two players who work the hardest and one or two players who are chronically late for practice, miss altogether, or who aren’t really in to it. Equal playing time, while trying to strengthen the weak, is more successful in weakening the strong.

Another important life lesson relates to learning to be an unselfish team player. When on the bench, players have two attitudinal choices – they can think about themselves or they can think about their teammates. In other words they can complain about not being in the game and secretly wish their teammates will fail, or they can encourage and cheer for their teammates. In essence, we define “team” in this manner – In every thought and every action, a team must encourage strengths and compensate weaknesses, while deriving personal satisfaction, first and foremost, from the success of other teammates. Moreover, there may be no greater opportunity to show Christian humility and sportsmanship then by learning to feel as happy about a teammate’s success as your own.

If another player is playing more than you are because he is better then work hard to improve. We are giving youth an unrealistic message when we completely discount ability as an input into making playing time decisions. In the real world, ability matters a lot. Nevertheless, ability should be the third determinant of playing time, not the first.

A prerequisite for any team to be successful is that every individual willingly accepts his role and strives to contribute in that role to the best of his ability. Some players will be scorers, some rebounders, some defenders and so on. Others may play support roles, which require them to give their best effort in practice to help their teammates or to offer encouragement from the bench during games. Accepting roles is a critical element of every healthy family, winning basketball team or successful business. By encouraging this process we can reinforce the life lessons of teamwork, trust and helping others.

Additionally, there are game situations that present better opportunities to succeed for certain players. The goal, again, is to help each player become the best he is capable of becoming. If all a player can do is throw a great full court baseball pass then he should be given that opportunity on the last play of the game whether it is his “time” to play or not. Similarly, the tallest player might be substituted to guard the in-bounds passer on the last play.

I have witnessed first hand how a team leader can emerge when a player accepts the responsibility to help his teammates improve. One great way this is done is by letting the players on the court be responsible for defensive match-ups. Players also get the chance to build and experience teamwork. For example, a player might want to guard his friend who is the leading scorer on the other team, but realizes that a teammate is a better defender, so he lets his teammate guard him. Lastly, making adjustments after substitutions promotes quick thinking and team communication. It is challenging, but a great growth opportunity for the players to learn to deal with and overcome adversity – another important life lesson of Stewards of the Game.

  1 person liked this. 1 reply  

David says:
11/27/2015 at 7:12:22 AM

I am a kid(12) and I was looking around the Internet for basketball articles about my age. I disagree completely with the keeping score. I want to win. I strive to win. Every time I ever played a sport, my goal was to win. Back when I was 5 playing YMCA, the officials wouldn't keep score, but all us kindergarteners were keeping score the entire game. As soon as the game ended we would ask who won to the kid who always kept track. If I played basketball without keeping score I'd just rather play driveway basketball with my friends. Kids want to be like NBA players, so they want to keep score. The only reason in the world I'd quit basketball would be if they got rid of all the stress. What's the point of paying a league to play basketball if you don't keep score, then you don't have a goal or anything to strive towards.

  1 person liked this. 2 replies  

David says:
11/27/2015 at 7:17:33 AM

Oh, and by the way there in no way at my age(6th grade) you should play on a 9 foot rim. And also they talked about the 5'9" skinny kid, I 4'7" and I'm 12, I also am the best player in my league. I'm better than the taller kids because I have been exposed to pressure(from myself) because of wanting to win.

  1 person liked this. 1 reply  

Not David says:
12/9/2015 at 2:21:49 PM

Aaaand this is why 12-year-olds aren't asked for advice.

  1 reply  

AT says:
3/11/2016 at 12:52:14 PM

I'm 43. I played multiple varsity HS sports (soccer, basketball, and football) and small college football. I've coached more than a dozen seasons of rec sports (football, soccer, basketball) both boys and girls ages 7-15. I've coached in rec leagues that didn't keep score and those that were extremely intense and competitive. I've coached HS girls basketball and AAU girls basketball for a total of 6 seasons.

Aaaand I completely agree with David.

Next time try some actual arguments instead of deriding a kid's opinion about what he prefers in the sports arena.

The truth is that back in the "old days" very few kids played organized sports. Instead they played pickup sports, and the serious and capable athletes moved on to play varsity and college sports. Today organized sports have largely replaced pickup games for a variety of reasons. The kids dropping out are simply the ones who aren't serious enough or talented enough to keep going at a higher level.

  2 replies  

mark says:
5/13/2016 at 2:28:45 PM

It is difficult to hold the players reasponsable for them getting to practice on time they do not drive the parents do. The effort is all that is important it should always be team first. I have been coaching youth baskerball for 26 years and the rewards off the court as opposed to on it ar remarkable sure everyone wants to win but you can not all the time. I try to set the players up for sucsess and talk about that and not winning and losing. At times you do have to get their attention and let them know that you are the coach coaching is a dictatorship not a democoracy. As the coach you always need to coach team first and athlete second always what is best for the team.


Bryan says:
10/1/2016 at 12:45:04 AM

AT - I could not disagree with you more on your comment that the kids dropping out are simply not "serious enough or capable enough" to continue to a higher level. It is this type of thinking that is the problem in youth sports today. Kids quit at an early age when they are no longer having fun. They're not old enough to "take the game seriously" They either like the game and want to continue to work at it or they don't enjoy it and quit. The talented and hardest working kids will naturally rise to the top as they mature and reach their full potential. As youth coaches our job is to make the game fun, teach the fundamentals and give the kids a foundation so that each and every kid has a chance to reach their full potential. You have absolutely no way of telling at age 12 (like David) who has the drive or potential to be a great athlete in any sport.


Alex says:
2/1/2016 at 5:21:42 PM

I agree with David. I am 17 and about to become a coach. Kids need competition because it is healthy and if you want to have your skills developed, go to a developmental clinic because it is the way of the world that nowadays rec leagues are competitive. Ask any kid and they'll think it is awesome


Big Cajun Man says:
3/10/2009 at 8:06:54 AM

This is not just a Basketball issue, I have seen these exact same questions in Minor Hockey programs and I see it in our organizations development and competitive programs.

This year our areas team presidents thought a good idea would be to introduce "equal play" rules for the competitive U14 program (previously we did this in U12 and below). I agree with the previous comment, that this can be a terrible "negative" motivator for kids, and wish the presidents had instead instituted a "No Zone" rule for U14 instead (girls program they are just not strong enough to be outside shooters yet).

Interesting discussion, but remember this is not a basketball only issue.



Joe Haefner says:
3/10/2009 at 8:23:17 AM

Mike & Big Cajun Man,

I agree with your statements. However, notice that I said "FAIRLY equal playing time" for the 12 to 14 year old league. I guess this is up for interpretation. I believe at this age the kids should start to take more responsibility for their work ethic and attitude. If my numbers were at about 8 to 10 players, I made sure that everybody played at least a third of the game.

I also tried to schedule an extra 10 minute quarter where the clock was turned off, so the players who did not get as much playing time as the others got to play.

And Cajun Man, I agree that this is not just a basketball issue.


Those are excellent and very well written. Thank you for sharing. I have a few questions for you and points to consider:

- In your opinion, what age level do you think these concepts apply? It seems like 5-10 year olds might have a little trouble grasping and learning these concepts. They just want to play and have fun. Do you think 5-10 year olds are ready for "roles".

- How much playing time do you give based on ability? How do you give late bloomers a chance to develop? I have personally seen MANY kids that just needed some experience and time on the court to really blossom.

I think your point is very valid and the life lessons you mention are very important. I completely agree that kids needs to learn about responsibility and roles in their life. In my mind, the big question is when do you teach those lessons? And how do you get all kids opportunities to develop into good basketball players? Let me know what you think.

And what about the players that have bad family lives? What if not playing them will make them quit basketball and any chance we have of helping them is gone? What about the players that arrive late and it is the parent's fault?

These are some tough situations we all face as coaches and I don't know if there is a clear right or wrong way to approach them.

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Donna says:
3/10/2009 at 8:54:38 AM

My daughter and son have been playing 3 on 3 tourneys for years now. It has helped so much. The 3 girls that play on her team can really pass the ball, know where her teammates are, see the open girl, rebound great, game and ball awareness. I would recommend 3 on 3 to any young child.

Of course, make it fun!!!!

I also have problems during softball season with ''''equal playing'''' time. I am a firm believer in equal playing time. If a child does not get playing time they can not develop. It is not our right as youth coaches to make the decision who will be the players in high school. I have trouble with parents who think their child needs to play all the time because they are better. It is so frustrating because what it is teaching their child is "me me me".

Thank you for your great articles!!!

  1 reply  

chad turner says:
11/14/2016 at 2:23:14 PM

@ Donna......the mentality that "equal playing time" is a given is just what is wrong nowadays. THAT IS WHAT HOUSE LEAGUE IS FOR


Coach Baker says:
3/10/2009 at 9:09:31 AM

I coach my team as all equel when it comes to games i use a merit system u practice and play hard u play more, I do stress perfection and i let every player have there chance it makes the weaker players mature quicker, they dont want to look bad so they all perform at a higher level and it makes it fun last weekend we won are first championship of are young season 7 more to come we play in nationally ranked tournaments ive seen great improvement in a short time u have to keep your program short fun nd simple you can loose interest easy with youth u have to keep your drills and practices fun but stress play hard. Coach Baker Lightning travel team wis


David Goodrich says:
3/10/2009 at 9:39:14 AM

In my years of coaching, THE most important aspect of success in ensuring kids have a positive experience is matching the age of the children to the height of the rim.

Since we moved to the west coast, I cannot tell you how disappointing it is to see so many winter leagues, summer leagues, summer camps etc teaching all the kids on 10 foot rims. It is next to impossible for any child under 10 to learn proper shooting form, let alone score by simply heaving the ball, on a 10 foot rim. I would even go so far as to say any child under 12 should be on a lower rim (even if it is only 9'5").

We decided to "match" the ages to the rim (6 under=7', 7-8=8' 9-11=9'). I cannot tell you how exciting it is for parents and kids to see scores for "under 6s" in the upper 30s (ie-39-35 as opposed to 8-6) as EVERY child can shoot on the rim.

We even redrill the variable height baskets to accommodate younger kids (ie-height range from 6.5 to 9 feet).


Ron says:
3/10/2009 at 10:27:45 AM

Joe, thanks for your emphasis on the issue of age, I would like to think that my inputs to you a few years back were a catalyst to you creating the "youth" section in your newsletter. Far too much emphasis is placed on winning in youth sports, this year i coached a 5th grade girls team(10 and 11 year olds), i had 10 girls on the team, 5 of them had never played before and may not play again, since 6th grade middle school will have to "try out" to make the team. I emphasized fun and learning for the girls and created two equal squads and rotated them every half quarter, the girls all got equal playing time, had fun and learned the game, and as a team placed 3rd out of 14 teams(not to shabby). bottom line is, the stars are gonna be stars no matter how much time they get, the late bloomers will never develop sitting on the bench, and with only 2 hours of practice time a week, i think playing time is a must!!! there are two types of coaches, ones that teach and ones that need to win, more emphasis needs to be put on placing the coaches in the right roles, not the kids!


Martin Spencer Mini-Basketball England Education Officer says:
3/10/2009 at 12:47:58 PM

In Engalnd one of our most important books on Mini-Basketball was written by Dr Martin Lee in 1998. At this time Martin was Director of the Institute for the Study of Children in Sport. The book is called Coaching Children in Mini-Basketball; An introductory course in coaching principles. The book was commissioned by FIBA Mini-Basketball which at that time was a separate committee. There is now an overall Youth Committee. Mini-Basketball is the general term for basketball for children under 12.

The book is in fact a course with units of information and some exercises to do to prepare new Mini-Basketball coaches.The units help the coach to:
Be clear about what they are trying to achieve, what children need and want, and to match their needs with coaching goals.
Understand the things that make children different from adults-their physical & psychological growth and developmental patterns-how they learn skills and how this knowledge improves coaching.
Understand what competition cam mean for children and how it can be organised. Understand what things cause stress and reduce enjoyment for young athletes
Create a happy and productive coaching environment for young players.
Involve parents more effectively.

Martin's section on compeition suggests that to meet the needs of children we devise competitons where:
All of them may experience a degree of success at their own level.
They can test their skill against their own standards.
They can be part of a team
They can learn to compare themselves against other players and teams without feeling that they are failures- i.e. they take a positive experience with them.
Recognise all players for their efforts and improvement they have made.
Children should not lose and then have to leave the competition early-
keep them involved in the action.
All children play equally.
All children should make a contribution and no team members should feel left out. Teams should be evenly balanced.
Work carefully to select teams that play against each other are equally balanced.

How is this done?
Well FIBA Mini-Basketball rules suggest that each child in a team of 10 plays 2 of the 4 quarters. The coaches work together to balance the teams on court. A Festival style is recommended where lots of games are played with no ranking of teams. if you need to give an award make it a fairplay award.
It is true to say that throughout Europe there are still many tournaments played in 'world cup' style with pools and the adults love awarding trophies.

After a tournament in Slavakia, the organiser who also liked to give life lessons to children, awarded a cake to each team. The team that came 6th had the smallest and the winners had a huge cake..all brought out with a relish by the catering staff. However it was great to see the children cutting up and handing the cake equally to everybody!!!
Job Done!


Mike L says:
3/10/2009 at 7:08:08 PM

Ridiculous to park a kid on the bench at age 12, unless it's for the coach's ego. With 9 players, everybody who comes to practice regularly with a positive attitude plays two quarters, even if they're not skilled; we don't expect them to specialize in basketball yet. Participation is the priority. If you've got more than 10 kids, make trades with neighboring teams or schools, or recruit some newbies and split into two clubs.

  1 reply  

Nicole says:
7/10/2016 at 4:37:38 PM

Correct - split the club up based on skill. We have Elite, A and B teams in our program to place them accordingly.


Russell Edwards says:
3/11/2009 at 11:07:07 AM

the equal or fair play time should be a rule for school and youth programs. i couldnt agree more, my daughter is an 8th grader and this year she was in with the top 8 as far as skills but wasnt in the starting 5 ( no big deal ) but those 8 all had the same skill level. there were games that only the starting 5 played the whole game and they never subed once. most games they would sub the top 8 and never let the bottom 4 play. there were rare games where the would put the bottom 4 in all together at the last two min. of a game. the starting five that played would make ten times the mistakes as the other girls that would be put in but as soon as they would even stumble once they would get pulled. i cant help to wonder if it wasnt the fact that the starters dads keep team stat and the time clock, and had a membership to the same country club as the coach. if they are going to have 12 kids on a team the should all play in every game if your only going to play 5 then only have 5 on your team. but the coach and athletic directer were so proud we didnt loose a game this season. when thay won the championship and the 5 girls that played were celibrating, and ask my dayghter why she wasnt, she told them because she didnt do anything and didnt feel like she was apart of the victory.fortinatly shes not giving up and continues to work hard and train for next year.

but instead of everybody just thinking its a good idea for equal play time what can we do to have some rules mandated for that?

  1 reply  

Nicole says:
7/10/2016 at 4:39:25 PM

Our school system does abide by the equal time rule. However, if you are PAYING to be in a league - then you should not be forced to have such a rule. Place your child in an appropriate league for your child.


Diane says:
3/11/2009 at 2:43:17 PM

I coach a 5/6 grade girls' travel team. Our organization does also have a "house league" for girls who want to play but do not want to be as committed as travel demands. The travel team players are required to play in the house league. I am curious to hear what other coaches think of the equal play time and less emphasis on winning for a travel team. Our travel team plays in a county league and plays many tournaments in the league and region. The league rules require all players on the team to play in each game (no time requirement). They also allow full court press for the 1/2 half of the game and zone defenses are allowed. Our team plays only man to man but I have to spend a small amount of my practice time placing a zone in so the offense understands how to play against it. I agree wholeheartedly that the emphasis at this age should be on fundamentals. I would like to present an agrument to the league for next year and would love to get others view points especially about full court press and zone defenses in youth games.

  1 reply  

John says:
3/2/2019 at 10:16:32 AM

Old thread, but the issue's been around forever(think bad news bears). My thought is if you play a travel sport, you should not be allowed to play that rec sport. Leave the rec league for kids who just want to play and learn the game. This goes for all sports. School teams I somewhat get it. Most schools take everyone up to 8th grade. My Son is 6'1 at 13. He can hit a home runs in baseball(now it's one-hop the new teener fence, but he'll get out this year) and will block you on the basketball court. He likes rec ball. He does not pay the travel vig, nor does he have the right last name. Today, rec ball is infested with travel kids who "want more reps"(or whose parents/coaches want them to get more reps). They play all key positions for most of the game. Then they go play weekend travel ball. Yes this is inarguably why the community sports are dying a slow death. The insistence on bringing the games to a higher level.


Anthony says:
3/12/2009 at 3:32:34 AM

My 11 year old son recently played in a CYO basketball game in which his team was trailing by more than 20 points with less than three minutes to go. The head coach called time out and instructed the kids to begin intentionally fouling. They needed to foul at least 4 times just to put the other team in the one-on-one situation. In addition, under CYO rules, the clock did not stop with each foul, because the other team was ahead by so much. Thus, even if this had been a college game, there would have been no “strategic” advantage to fouling.

The CYO rules are based on the National Federation of High School Rules and specifically prohibit intentional fouling to stop the clock, with the penalty being two foul shots and loss of possession. The league has also adopted the High School Coach’s Code of Ethics, which specifically prohibit coaches from attempting to circumvent the rules. However, the referees do not always call intentional fouls, particularly if the player pretends to go for the ball, while actually intending to strike the other player.

Unfortunately for my son, he was guarding the player on the other team with the ball and pursuant to his head coach’s instructions he intentionally fouled that player three times in less than thirty seconds. As the head coach’s instructions to my son were contrary to everything my wife and I had attempted to teach him about good sportsmanship since he first became interested in basketball, watching him engage in such behavior literally made me feel ill inside.

With respect to my son’s own feelings as to what transpired during that game, I asked him on the way home what he thought about being asked to foul people on purpose. His first response was one word: “bad.” I then asked him why he thought it was “bad.” He told me he thought it was “bad” because he “did not want the referees to think that he was a bad kid and make calls against him in other games.” I also asked my son why he went ahead and fouled, if he thought it was “bad.” He said that he “did not want to let the team down, or have his teammates yell at him for not following the coach’s instructions.”

I had never heard of 10 and 11 year old children being instructed to intentionally foul under any circumstances, let alone when trailing by more than 20 points. On the day of the game, the head coach told me it was not an intentional foul if the player makes an attempt for the ball. However, the head coach did not instruct my son to actually go for the ball, but to intentionally foul, and to foul “hard.”

About a week after the game, my wife and I invited the head coach to our home, to ask him whether he had any “strategic” reason, or other justification, for his decision to have the kids intentionally foul. He conceded that there was no “strategic” reason for his decision. However, he attempted to justify his action by stating that he believed that the other team was attempting to run up the score earlier in the game, although he also conceded that the other team was attempting to run out the clock toward the end of the game.

My wife and I then asked the head coach if he would promise not to instruct our son to intentionally foul other children in the future. He would not make such a commitment to us. To the contrary, he said be believed intentional fouling had become a part of the game and that he now intends to begin teaching the kids how to intentionally foul during practice, so the intentional fouling will not be detected by the refs. However, some of these kids can barely catch and dribble, and others are not strong enough to shoot a free throw without jumping over the foul line.

My wife and I have decided that we do not want our son to play basketball under these circumstances. Accordingly, we have told our son that he can no longer play for that coach, meaning our son can no longer play on his school team. As our son is a fairly skilled player, we have made arrangements for him to play on another team, that is not affiliated with his school. We believe we have made the right decision for our son. However, we would like to obtain the opinion of other parents and youth coaches with respect to the following questions:


  1 reply  

Nicole says:
7/10/2016 at 4:42:56 PM

YES - they should be allowed to intentionally foul to attempt to get possession back for a missed free throw. Especially if it is a tight game. That is the objective - we all know this.

Our kids do it all the time. Intentional fouls are not FLAGRANT fouls by any means. In most instances they look like they are playing a game of tag or they end up hugging kid so as not to knock a kid over.

It is not done with malice. However - it can drag out a game. So it is the refs call to throw a technical foul. They can do so and it will make the message loud and clear that intentional fouls are going to cost you.


Ron says:
3/12/2009 at 9:08:26 AM

Let's make a clear distinction here between the basic learning leagues and the competitive leagues, your basic league which advertises the player will get a certain amount of playing time but usually doesn't because of the coaches ego's about winning or letting their kids be the star are the real problem, whether it be basketball or any sport, the leagues need to strongly enforce the policies, i realize that these are usually volunteer positions but there has to be some policy enforcement. As far as competitive teams, as long as the players/parents realize what they're signing up for and the teams are kept at 6-8 players, i have no real issue with equal playing time. But there must be a team/league available to all the kids to learn and to grow, remember in YOUTH sports it has to be "all about the kids"!!!


Jeff Haefner says:
3/12/2009 at 9:33:07 AM


I'll give you my opinion on your questions:


Personally, I think it's a waste to practice time to teach that in practice. There are better things to teach 10 and 11 year olds. But I can understand why coaches teach it and their desire to win. Been there. In reality, it should not take long to teach a player how to foul. It's just takes a few minutes to show the technique. As long as they spend a few minutes on it, I don't see it as a big deal.


In certain situations, that is how the game is played. I don't have a problem with kids intentionally fouling in a close game to get the ball back. But it has to be done the RIGHT way. It should NOT be malicious and you need to be careful to foul at a time when they player will not get hurt. If you do foul in games, you do need to teach players how to do it the right away. And instruct players when do it.

If the coach had a "brain fart" and didn't realize they had fouls to give, I could see why he wanted players to foul. And if he was inexperienced, maybe he didn't realize it was impossible to make a come back.

I would not crucify a coach just for this action, especially if they are inexperienced. I would base my opinion on other things. Does the coach teach good teamwork? Does the coach teach fundamentals? Does the coach teach life lessons? Does the coach set a good example in other areas? Does the coach make things fun for the players?

There is no such thing as a perfect coach. And we have all made mistakes, especially in the heat of a game. I would base my decision on the coach as a whole.


Not on a fast break lay up. But after inbounding the ball, I don't mind a clean foul. That is how the game is played. Is a good thing? No. I just think there are more important things to worry about. Just my opinion.


Joe Haefner says:
3/12/2009 at 10:59:32 AM

Hi Diane,

We have a lengthy debate on full court pressing & zones at the youth level. Use this link to visit the page: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/defense/age.html


Anthony says:
3/12/2009 at 11:53:49 AM

Thank you for your response on the subject of intentional fouling. I understand that intentionally fouling has become a “part of the game” at the college level and even at some high schools. However, here we are talking about 10 and 11 year old kids in a CYO league, some of who can barely catch a ball or pass.

My son’s head coach has been coaching CYO for many years. In practice, he also teaches the kids to push off to get open, and tells them to continue pushing off until they are called for it “at least twice.” He has also instructed the kids that if someone pushes you, you should push back.

I played organized basketball for many years, including three years of Varsity Basketball in high school in a major urban area. My high school coach was a former college all-American and played briefly in the ABA. Two of my basketball coaches have been inducted into our local area “hall of fame,” and had more than 50 years of coaching experience between them. Not one of my basketball coaches ever instructed me to intentionally foul. (I did have a high school baseball coach who instructed us to throw at the heads of opposing batters, which although “part of the game,” I would not do, because I believed it was wrong).

My 11 year old son has also played on two very competitive AAU teams during the past year. One of those teams won two league championships in our area, a tri-state AAU tournament, and placed second in our state tournament last year. Neither of those coaches teach their 10 and 11 year old players to intentionally foul. In addition, I recently posted this same question on the “message board” on the sports page at CBS.com. Although the respondents were avid basketball fans from all over the United States, the majority of them agreed that 10 or 11 was too young to be instructing kids to intentionally foul, some citing examples of kids being put in danger of being hurt, or noting the potential for developing bad habits later in life.

I have also been an attorney for almost 25 years. In our state, the case law indicates that parents, coaches and schools can be held liable for intentional injuries caused by student basketball players. This is particularly true if a parent or coach instructs the child to intentionally make contact with another child.

Finally, and perhaps most important to me, the Coaches Code of Ethics in the National Federation of High School Basketball Rules specifically states “the Coach shall not seek an advantage by circumvention of the spirit or letter of the rules.” Rule 4-19-3 defines an intentional foul as “contact . . . when not making a legitimate attempt to play the ball . . . specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting.”

In my opinion, any attempt to instruct a player to “pretend” to go for the ball, when actually going for the arm or body of the opponent, is an attempt to circumvent Rule 4-19-3, and therefore in violation of the Coaches Code of Ethics, by definition. Of course, it is for that reason that most coaches do not yell out “foul” to their players, but call time out or use some other signal to initiate intentional fouling, so as to keep their true intentions hidden from the referee.

In my opinion, it is no excuse to say that “everyone does it,” as that excuse does not work in any other part of our society. Accordingly, in our family, we will continue to teach our son that intentionally fouling or pushing other players to obtain an advantage is against the rules. Rather than circumventing the rules, we will teach him to play clean, aggressive basketball, in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the rules. See also Rules 10-6-1 and 10-6-2 [“A player shall not . . . push . . . A player shall not use his/her hands on an opponent in any way that inhibits the freedom of movement of the opponent or acts as an aid to a player in stopping or starting.”]

In conclusion, my son and I have enjoyed your articles in the past and have used some of your drills and techniques while playing together. As a relatively frequent visitor to your cite, I must also note that you have repeatedly stated that coaches should not use zone, pressing or trapping defenses at the beginning levels, because it takes advantage of the inability of inexperienced players and demonstrates an over-emphasis on winning. In my opinion, it would appear somewhat inconsistent to be opposed to “legal” tactics such as “zone defense” and “pressing,” but to support intentional fouling by 10 and 11 year olds, which is clearly against the rules, even though some referees allow it to occur.

Again, regardless of what everyone else is doing, in our family we teach our children that playing by the rules is more important than winning. As a result, we are very comfortable with our decision not to allow our son to play for a coach who, after be given more than a week to reflect on the issue, decides that he would rather lose a player that forfeit his “right” to instruct players to intentionally foul and push off in a 5th grade game.

  1 reply  

Nicole says:
7/10/2016 at 4:48:58 PM

I have to LAUGH at this: See also Rules 10-6-1 and 10-6-2 [“A player shall not . . . push . . . A player shall not use his/her hands on an opponent in any way that inhibits the freedom of movement of the opponent or acts as an aid to a player in stopping or starting.

JUST WAIT - you will see how this is so not enforced at all - as early as 6th grade.

Our kids are hand checked and ridden the entire length of the court as they try to push the ball up . . .

Good luck.


Jeff Haefner says:
3/12/2009 at 12:22:38 PM


I don't think the issue here is really whether "intentional fouls" is right or wrong. It doesn't matter who is right or wrong. The only thing that matters is the development of your son and other players.

Bottom line. Is the coach good or not? Forget the intentional foul for a moment. Is the coach developing your child for the better? Is the coach preparing your son for the real world and making a positive impact? Or is there a coach/team that will CLEARLY do a better job?

Some times the grass just looks greener on the other side of the fence. I don't know the situation, so maybe it is for your son.

Unless you start coaching your son, you will never find a coach that does everything you agree with. However, sometimes you run into things that are completely unacceptable. It your job to figure that out and I give you props for getting other opinions.

I simply suggest evaluating the whole basketball experience. Maybe you have done that but I couldn't tell from the post above. It just sounded like you are only worried about whether the intentional foul is right or wrong.

I don't think the fouling rules are relevant to the big picture of things. Technically, you are probably right. But what's best for the kid? That's all that's important.

BTW, I never said that I support intentional fouls. I just said there are more important things to worry about. Intentional fouls are such a small piece of the game and I just want what is best for the kids. Sometimes you have to pick your battles to be effective, and that battle is not high on my radar. There are much bigger problems out there. That's why I didn't make a big deal of it.

I wish you the best of luck and hope that every thing turns out positive for everyone involved. As always, if you have other questions, let us know. I will give my honest and blunt opinion.


Jeff Haefner says:
3/12/2009 at 1:21:12 PM

Also, just to be clear. I am wholeheartedly against malicious “intentional fouls.” The intent is never to injure. And as a coach, I never ask young kids to intentionally foul. And I certainly wouldn't teach young kids how to foul during practice. I can barely find enough time to teach fundamentals, let alone fouling.


Anthony says:
3/12/2009 at 1:32:49 PM


Thanks again for your response. For what it is worth, our son is the leading scorer and most skilled player on his team and one of the four or five most skilled players in his league. However, as we realize that 99.99% of youth basketball players do not make it to the NBA, we are more concerned with developing our son’s ethics than his jump shot. Thus, from a developmental point of view, we believe that learning to play by the rules is more important than winning.

Just as we would not expect one of our son’s teachers to instruct him how to cheat on a test, we do not expect his coaches to teach him how to violate the rules of the game. In fact, it is the failure of tens of thousands of lenders, borrowers, brokers, appraisers, accountants and lawyers to follow the rules that has probably caused much of the economic turmoil confronting most Americans today.

Again, for what is worth, I have coached my son in the past and I will probably coach him in the future. Because I personally believe that playing by the rules is more important than winning, I will continue to coach him and his teammates to play by rules. In so doing, I sincerely believe that I will provide my son with the best opportunity to develop as a basketball player, but more important, as a person.

Finally, as a former player myself, I generally respect all decisions made by the head coach, even if I disagree with them. For that reason, I have never before complained or even discussed any decision by any of my children's coaches, be it in basketball, baseball, soccer or swimming. By the same token, I never before heard one of my children’s coaches instruct my children to intentionally violate any rule, but especially under these circumstances, when the team was trailing by more than twenty points with less than three minutes to go. As such conduct so clearly reflects poor sportsmanship, I firmly believe it is my duty as a parent to do something about it.


Dave says:
3/12/2009 at 10:49:52 PM

I just finished our last practice with a team of ten 8 & 9 year olds. It was my first year as coach. What an experience. The adults tend to be the problem, not the kids. Even I had to resist the impulse to sub in better players. We didn't win a lot. Most teams had two dominant players who did everything and they won a lot of games. My team usually had 7-8 players taking shots. The last 3 weeks I divided them up into 2 squads -- the listeners and the non-listeners. The listeners really came together and started to gel. Tonight, they ran our dummy offense drill completely unattended -- mixing up the screens and cuts as they saw fit. It was awesome. Unfortunately the other squad was more like the keystone cops. They need a lot of work. Better luck next year.


Coach says:
3/17/2009 at 9:34:27 PM

When you are playing on a traveling team and every other team that you play in tournaments play to win do you still play all kids with equal play time or should you also play to win?


Joe Haefner says:
3/18/2009 at 8:07:47 AM

Hi Coach,

My thoughts are that any teams under the varsity level, you coach to develop players. Teams 14 and under, I think you want to keep the playing time fairly equal, because this is what's best for the kids LONG-TERM.

Coach to develop. Players play to win.

  1 person liked this.  

Joe Haefner says:
3/18/2009 at 8:09:01 AM

One more thing, you always coach to develop players. However, there is a certain time (I believe the varsity level) that you play kids to win the games.


Dr Laurence J. MacDonald PhD says:
3/26/2009 at 8:08:44 PM

As well as coaching a pro team this year in Hong Kong, this year I also coached a girls high school varsity team..every game we played and I mean every one..we faced a 2-3 zone...we, of course, play man to man. this told me that the coaches have no idea how to teach man to man or they are simply just lazy..my team went 26-0..


Dennis Lunstroth says:
5/7/2009 at 11:29:06 AM

Having coached youth sports for longer than I care to admit, I feel I have to comment on the "equal" playing time issue. When the players are younger, say pre-K through 3rd grade my players recieve roughly equal playing time-within reason. However, as the players mature and develop, playing time is used as a reward for hard work and dedication. If one were to give equal playing time to an individual who shows up late to practice if at all, never works on their game out of the gym, and doesn't apply themselves while in the gym is unfair to those who work hard and dedicate themselves to the team and getting better. It serves little purpose to give PT to a player who shows little interest in helping the team achieve it's goals (which are, by the way, developed by the players themselves in an inner circle meeting). We currently have several teams. One team is made up of kids who are the hard chargers. They are in the gym every week, work hard and spend considerable time out of the gym working on their game. We also have a squad of kids who have other activities and interests that preclude them from devoting the time that being on the "A" team requires. These players are at a different level both in their skill level and their dedication to their game and to the team. We also have a team of kids who play for fun and recreation. There are several leagues in our area and we place these teams in the appropriate league. Our top teams play in AAU and our rec team plays in the local Y league. In this way, the kids can play at a level that suits their level on interest and ability and thus their is little or no stress on the players to live up to a demanding coach who wishes the player would put more time or effort into their game or team. This method places players of equal ability on the same team(s). I have found that if one were to put a B or C player on an A team, the B or C player never sees the ball because the A team players fear that the lesser player will screw up in a crutial situation and cost them the game. This places less peer pressure on the less motivated player and helps retain team unity. Nobody is playing for themselves, but playing for their teammates. Also, we find that sometimes players find that they cannot devote the time to our "A" team and they decide to drop back to the B team or even our Y ball team. We keep the kids in the gym, never cut a player, and have had a substantial retention rate. Conversly it also affords those players who have decided commit more time and energy to the game and the team to move up to a higher level team. This system had worked very well for the 33+ basketball teams I have coached over the years, and, these teams always do well at their level of competition because too much is never asked of a player or team.


Frank says:
5/11/2009 at 9:24:07 AM

I coach at a boys and girls club.Right now I coach teh high school level kids .I try to give equal playing time but I do hear complaints from the kids who come out of the game.There is a playoff at the end of the season so there is something to play for.I do see other coaches yelling at the kids but that's not my style of coaching.I try to instruct while the game is going on.But, how do you handle the kids who come off the court and complain because they are better than the kids going in the game?I hear them complain when the kids that aren't as good miss a shot or lose the ball.I feel the negativity hurts the team and the players play for themselves rather than the team.Any suggestions?


Joe Haefner says:
5/11/2009 at 4:16:09 PM

Playoffs or no playoffs, youth basketball should be fun. I'm actually not a fan of playoffs, because coaches get caught up in the playoffs and that's when poor coaching is often displayed by an untrained coach. They are so worried about winning the game that they resort to yelling, unequal playing time, and tons of other terrible youth coaching tactics.

As for the kids that complain about equal playing time, I would think it would be a key moment to teach the important lessons of being a good teammate and teamwork.

Being a good teammate is always cheering from the bench and encouraging your teammates to do better. If a player does not do this, it can affect team chemistry. At the higher levels, this can lead to benching of the player that display this poor attitude.

Ask the child:

How would you feel if somebody said negative things whenever you went on the basketball court?

Do you think it would make your play better by hearing those negative things?

If you want to help the team win, shouldn't you be supporting your teammates?

Ask him to help the other players.

Tell him to watch Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls. That guy is always the first guy off the bench to congratulate and cheer on his teammates.

When these kids go out in the real world, they can't insult their co-workers, they have to learn how to support and help others, even if they are not as skilled. This would be an important time to show those players how to be a good teammate.


Joe Haefner says:
5/12/2009 at 9:38:37 AM

Hi Dennis,

I’m glad you brought up these points. These thoughts are on the mind of many youth coaches. However, I respectfully disagree. To be honest, I’ve done some of the same things you mention below in my first year of coaching youth basketball players.

After spending countless hours studying products of experts such as Don Kelbick, Bob Bigelow (former NBA player), Brian McCormick, Mike Boyle, Brian Grasso, Tudor Bompa, Josef Drabik, Lee Taft, and many more, I’ve completely changed my philosophy.

I have responded to your comments below.

“When the players are younger, say pre-K through 3rd grade my players recieve roughly equal playing time-within reason.”

How can you not play them exactly equal? These kids are younger than 9 years old, not high school kids or even 7th & 8th graders. I would understand if they are 13 to 16 years old, but not 8 & 9 year olds. You can never tell who is going to be good at 8 or 9 years old. So much changes from then to 16 or 17 years old. Heck, a lot changes over the next two years. You need to play kids equally, so they get the crucial game experience that helps EVERYBODY develop. I’ve known kids on the ‘C’ squad in 8th grade that become varsity starters.

“However, as the players mature and develop, playing time is used as a reward for hard work and dedication. If one were to give equal playing time to an individual who shows up late to practice if at all, never works on their game out of the gym, and doesn''t apply themselves while in the gym is unfair to those who work hard and dedicate themselves to the team and getting better.”

If this comment is referring to 7th and 8th graders, I can start to understand. You would want to make rules for kids that do not show up and constantly miss practice. For example, unexcused miss practice, your playing time decreases by 5 minutes.

However, if you’re referring to anything under 7th grade, I don’t agree. Are you telling me that there are kids that want to go to the gym and work their butts off? 99.99% of kids under the age of 13 just wants to play and have fun. Remember, youth sports if for the kids, not some youth coach’s ego about winning games. And half of the time, they have no control over what time they can get to practice. Their parents do. We shouldn’t punish them.

“It serves little purpose to give PT to a player who shows little interest in helping the team achieve it''s goals (which are, by the way, developed by the players themselves in an inner circle meeting).”

If you are having players develop goals and coaching according to those goals, why are you even coaching? Aren’t you the one who is supposed to put things in perspective? Aren’t you supposed to be the mature adult that is doing right things for the kids?

“One team is made up of kids who are the hard chargers. They are in the gym every week, work hard and spend considerable time out of the gym working on their game. We also have a squad of kids who have other activities and interests that preclude them from devoting the time that being on the "A" team requires.”

If this is referring to kids that are around the age of 13 or 14, I could deal with it. I may not fully agree with it, but it’s not a huge deal to me. If you’re referring to kids under the age of 13 to be in the gym more than 2 or 3 times a week (including games), that’s not healthy emotionally or physically. These are kids. They could get injured due to overuse of muscles and they’ll burn emotionally out before they reach the 7th grade. There’s a reason that AAPHER came out with a study that showed over 70% of youth kids quit sports before the age of 13. They need to be enjoying themselves doing other kid activities.

This is not just about preparing them for 7th grade, 8th grade, or even high school varsity, this is about kids learning love physical activity so they can be a healthy adult. If you’re demanding this out of youth kids, they’ll be playing computer games and playstation the rest of their life.

“We also have a team of kids who play for fun and recreation.”

Shouldn’t this be all of the youth players?

“Our top teams play in AAU and our rec team plays in the local Y league. In this way, the kids can play at a level that suits their level on interest and ability and thus their is little or no stress on the players to live up to a demanding coach who wishes the player would put more time or effort into their game or team.”

A demanding coach? If you’re demanding stuff at the youth level, quit now. You’re probably ruining children’s lives. Read our new blog article about developing “passion”.

All of the successful players have a passion for the game. A passion isn’t demanded upon someone. Actually, the complete opposite happens. If the passion is demanded, it ends up being resentment. You think Michael Jordan’s dad was demanding he practice bball in the backyard? No. Jordan’s passion was baseball when he was younger and his passion for basketball developed later. Let the kids choose what they want to work at, not what a coach or parent feels the kid needs to work at.

“I have found that if one were to put a B or C player on an A team, the B or C player never sees the ball because the A team players fear that the lesser player will screw up in a crutial situation and cost them the game. This places less peer pressure on the less motivated player and helps retain team unity.”

I think this would be a perfect time to teach life lessons of teamwork and working with teammates to help develop them as better players. Otherwise, they’ll have an attitude that they are superior to other people and when it comes to be out in the real world, this attitude won’t rub off on other co-workers too well.

If you’re coaching to win the game, you’re not developing youth athletes properly. You may win a game or two now, but you’re hurting some kids in the long run. Youth sports are about EVERYBODY, not just a few of the kids who happen to be the best at age 11 or 12.

Not to mention, have you ever heard of the “self-fulfilling prophecy”. If you tell a kid is he is not as good as others, he’s not going to be. There have been studies of this done in schools where they tell kids they are smart and tell other kids they are not as good. The “proclaimed” smarter ones do better on the test. That’s what happens when you place kids on A, B, & C squads at too young of an age. This would prevent from some players with great potential from ever reaching it. There is a time and place to separate, but I’m highly against it before 7th grade. I’m also on the fence of whether 7th & 8th grade teams should have it.

“Conversly it also affords those players who have decided commit more time and energy to the game and the team to move up to a higher level team.”

This can be decided at the varsity level, not at the youth level.

“This system had worked very well for the 33+ basketball teams I have coached over the years, and, these teams always do well at their level of competition because too much is never asked of a player or team.”

It doesn’t matter if you have won every single game at the youth level for 100 years. This is about developing athletes and people. It’s about what happens, 5, 10, 15, and 25 years down the road to these kids. Who cares if they fared well as a youth player if they end up resenting physical activity, quitting the sport before reaching high school, or developing other emotional damage because of the youth system?

It’s not about making the high school team, college team, or getting the next pro contract.

These kids are not mini-adults. They are kids. Let them enjoy sports and life.

  1 person liked this. 2 replies  

Don Wyatt says:
2/1/2015 at 5:23:49 AM



Paul says:
5/31/2015 at 8:10:01 PM

You should be mandatory reading!


cp says:
10/1/2009 at 2:18:44 PM

Last yr. I coached a 5th-6th grade girls travel team. We had all 5th graders and were 0-22 although we nearly won the last game. The kids still had fun and we kept it positive. My only regret is that we played a lot of zone in order to stay competitive. We also used a full court zone press. This year we will play man to man 100% of the time. In my opinion it is harder to teach zone because kids don't know who to block out or who to guard.


Sterlen says:
11/13/2009 at 12:49:15 PM

I'm a board member of a youth league located in South-Central New Mexico. The way we operate our league is that kids are placed by board members on teams according to their grade level. 1st-2nd grade teams are co-ed, as are 3rd-4th grade teams. Both divisions play games with a rim height of 8 1/2 ft and a 28.5 size ball. Games are played with 20 minute halves with subsitutions at every 5 minute interval. Every kid must play at least 10 min in every half and sit out at least 5 min per game. This ensures that every kid gets a chance to play, at the same time enables the better developed kids to sit out. By playing the game in this fashion, it not only puts every kid into a live game situation, but also amplifies what the coach actually teaches the kids at their practices. Even at this young age, there are some kids whom are better developed and can play at higher levels. If that situation arises, we as a League Board will bump that child up to the next level. If a score becomes one-sided, we'll turn the scoreboard off, but still keep time. That way the kids keep playing without being constantly reminded of the score, placing the emphasis on playing the game.

In the 5th-8th grade divisions, kids are separated by gender and grade level and are expected to pursue improvement, because at about this time, Jr. High School basketball is around the corner. Rim height is regulation 10 feet with a the official size ball according to genders. The divisions are 5th-6th grade boys and girls and 7th-8th grade boys and girls. Player drafts and rankings are implemented to ensure equally talented teams. Games are operated in the same fashion as the younger grade levels, but with a tighter emphasis of violations, fouls, etc.

Although there is not a perfect system, this system works well for our community and produces a lot of talented, better developed ballplayers whom play close, competitive games with sound fundamentals and knowledge for the game. Kids of all abilities playing together on teams, physical activity, love of the game, game knowledge, discipline, etc. are all goals which have met and exceeded our expectations as a League Board. Every year this league continues to grow, so we must be doing something right.


Coach Lee says:
11/17/2009 at 5:09:07 PM


I coach kids from ages 5 up to 13. I have been fairly successful in keeping kids and parents happy with playing time. It took me a few years to figure it out but this is what I do:

With the 5 to 7 year olds, PT is reletively equal. I even switch up the starters every game.

For 8 to 13 year olds I show balance in this area. I make sure that all players get an ample amount of playing time while at the same time being competitive. The amount I contribute to a few factors: Who is working harder, Team we are playing against (with weaker teams my less talented players play more), etc. If their is a certain skill I want to get out of them I will say, "whoever makes the best passes will get the most PT time!" All of a sudden your ball hogs become passing geniuses.

I keep a calm loose enviroment and allow no negativity among coaches or players. I do enough skill building during practice where all players regardless of talent can compete and have a specialty on the team. Kids on my team want to play for me the following season so I must be doing something right.


Mike C. says:
12/10/2009 at 9:46:24 AM

I coach 3/4 grade boys. Our league states that we have to play zone in quarters 1,3,4 and MTM in the 2nd. For some of my 3rd graders, this is their first time playing, so it's hard for them to simply understand the game, let alone different defenses. Simplicity is the key here I believe working on their strengths.


john says:
1/21/2010 at 9:13:34 AM

We had a situation last week in our game, 5-6 grade cyo, that I help coach. To begin the 2nd half, the other team up by 10, put on a stall offense, 3 kids just over half court. Now we play on an old gym, the same dimensions an nba. Our league is supposed to be a fun league but competative. Well I told the coach to stay back in our zone defense. But kids being kids they went out and twice the other team scored lay-ups on us. Our kids did that because the fans starting freaking out. I was prepared to stay in a zone defense for 2 quarters if we had to. You just don't do that, in my opinion. Am I wrong?


Joe Haefner says:
1/21/2010 at 10:38:38 AM

Well, I can understand both perspectives, John. Your perspective is why the heck is running a stall offense? This is youth basketball!

The other coach's perspective is why the heck are they running a zone defense at the youth level? So, he thought I'll bring them out of the zone since I have the lead.

Personally, I may have done the same thing, because I don't like to see zone defenses at the youth level. It's a flaw in the youth basketball system that allows teams to take advantage of players being slower, weaker, and less-skilled. Not to mention, their cognitive processing speeds are slower meaning they can not react as quickly to situations as players that are older.

For baseball, it would be like allowing players to take leads and steal bases whenever they want in 3rd & 4th grade.

I could go on and on why I think youth leagues should BAN zone defenses, but that is another discussion that we've written about on other articles on the website:




I hope that helps you understand the other coach's perspective a little bit better.


Joe Haefner says:
1/21/2010 at 10:43:41 AM

I also forgot to add that you should focus on, man to man defense, fundamentals, and offensive concepts to better the players in LONG-TERM. You may get a few extra wins at the youth level by playing zones, but you'll have more success in the future by focusing on the other things.


Daren says:
2/4/2010 at 9:56:06 PM

Hi Joe
I coach in a 3,4,5 grade house league. Our first teams usually consist of 5th and 4th graders while second is 3rd and some 4th. Each group plays every other quarter.It seems with this setup there is little to no complaint about playing time.
We have the rule for second team play that defense stays inside 3-point arc. However, it seems that this tends to create a wall inside the arc and takes away from any real man to man play. We try to control the chaos with this rule but do you think it takes away from the kids learning the real skills of basketball. They themselves seem frustrated with the constant reminder of "stay behind the line" like they are being restrained from playing the game. Any thoughts?


Joe Haefner says:
2/5/2010 at 2:40:05 PM

Good question, Daren. First of all, congrats! it sounds like your youth basketball league has better rules for the development of players than 99.9% of them out there.

I would also prefer that kids of this age play 3 on 3 half court. They get more touches and there is more space to process things and learn the game. That's another topic, though. You can read more on the topic at this link: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/blog/index.php/could-3-on-3-basketball-be-the-best-for-youth-players/

I like to set the 3-point arc rule so that kids can get comfortable with the ball and experience success. If a defensive player (or players) is smothering them, they have trouble developing ball skills (dribbling, ball handling, passing) in a game-like environment. This is crucial for the long-term development for the players. If you have not already, I would highly enforce a “No double teaming rule” and make sure that the kids are still guarding their man. It’s imperative that the referees enforce this.

As for real basketball skills, they don’t have the skills, strength, and mental-processing capabilities to play the same game at the NBA level, yet even the high school level. We need to progress them to that point which will take many years. Just like you would progress a child learning from learning math to calculus. If you allow extended defenses, pressing, etc at this age level, it looks like a group of 10 wild cats in a 4x4 ft room trying to play with one stuffed animal laced with catnip. There is not a whole lot of basketball development.

It’s the same thought process behind the progressions for youth baseball and youth soccer. Could you imagine 8 year olds playing the major league game? Stealing, running 90 foot base paths, and pitching from major-league distance mound. For some reason in basketball, we feel the need to have players shoot at 10 foot hoops, press, and play zones like the pros. In most leagues, we don’t have that progression that helps them.

I got this quote from Bob Bigelow who is a former NBA player and current youth sports expert, “The #1 rule in youth sports is you adapt the game to the kids, not the kids to the game.”

As for the frustration, I saw the same thing in the leagues I’ve worked. They also get frustrated that they can’t shoot the ball every time. :)


Daniel says:
2/11/2010 at 10:35:46 PM

Hi Joe,

I must admit, I am now an addict to this site!!

We have just started a new junior basketball in Australia, and I was getting fed up with Clubs designing junior teams to player skills, looking to win as many Grand Finals as possible. We are talking about our domestic league competition, which I believe should be around as many kids just playing basketball, not winning at all costs.

We even hav clubs actively paoching players to go to their club based on their skill levels.

We have set our club completely differently, and we gaurantee equal court time for all players (as long as they attend training that week prior).

As a coach, I have always found that by using a equal playing time sheet, it has minimised any issues for kids to be worrying about playing time, I don''t need to select who is a stronger player or not, and kids can just get on the court and have fun.

I understand the demtoviating factors here also, and I am keen to ask, whether or not the tools i apply would be appropriate.

Our early team meetings are always based on wha the players expect out of each season, of which they will nominate:
1. they choose their attitude, and it must always be positive towards each other
2. No negative talk to any player
3. Encourage, encourage and some more encouragement
4. Effort is always required, regardless of skill, parents and volunteers their time, and effort is the only expectation.

These are rules that my players have created, and they have also developed suitable consequences to any rule that is not adhered to. Parents are invited to view the interraction, and support where required.

We are based on fun for the kids, and focus on building team structures versus individual performance.

Would you have any further suggestions to this at all?

Kind Regards



Joe Haefner says:
2/13/2010 at 7:48:13 PM

Kudos to you, Daniel. It sounds like you're off to a great start. I can't think of anything off of the top of my head to add. I guess most of my thoughts are on this site.

Thank you for the kind words as well.


Jerome Walker says:
3/8/2010 at 9:30:42 AM

I coach a 11u boys elite aau team, our season is about to begin. I been thinking on how to keep this season "FUN" and be a competive team without getting caught up in the win's and loses ? AAU basketball can be a monster, and with some coach's winning is life and death!! So I know everybody loves to win and I m a competive person when it comes to basketball butt I want to keep in mind the development of the kids as my main GOAL , and also be competive and make it FUN all season long win or lose.


melvin davis says:
5/17/2010 at 2:28:12 PM

hi, my name is melvin davis aka poohbear, i coach on all levels of basketball ranging from ages 7 to 18. right now im coaching in the junior league 13 to 16 with a running clock, two twenty minutes halves and playing by high school rules. Plus if you get an twenty point lead you must go into a zone until the team get the points to 10. Then you can come out the zone. I feel when you are at this age it shouldn't be a stipulation on how you should play because you know it's going to be a winner and a looser. Too me it's all about how you prepare your team. I use to get beat alot starting out. But now, i study the game and now im winning an people doesn't like it but i didn't complain when i was loosing but my team learn what i taught them an now its wonderful. My team this year scored on 2 occasions over 100 points in a game and the league stated that wasn't fair, all i do with my team is practice how to defend your opponent. We do alot of shooting drills but defense is my PHILOSOPHY lock in an make them sweat. To play for me you will be in good condition when the season starts. Plus in my league everyone must play 10 minutes a piece the first half. Then the second half you put a team in for 6 minutes then another team for 6 minutes then the last 6 minutes that's when you put your horses in for the kill. Tell me what can we do to make this league better.


Joe Haefner says:
6/1/2010 at 9:11:13 AM

Hi Melvin,

It sounds like you've done a great job emphasizing player development and equal playing time. All I could add is to make sure that you're teaching the players about life and how to be a good person.

Keep up the good work!


Kevin says:
6/10/2010 at 10:16:12 AM

I was thinking about coaching my son's basketball team. That's the reason I am subscribing to this newsletter. I have changed my approach to coaching my son since reading this newsletter. I have been tough on him. We would work on fundamentals at home in the driveway and I would practice with him after the game to work on things I thought he needed help on. I agree when a kid is young, my kid is 10, they just want to have fun.We probably should hug them more and communicate more. I was definitely one of those parents that would get upset when my kid didn't play well. I expected a lot from him because I spent some much time working with him. My approach is different since reading this newsletter. I agree that youth basketball is for developing kids. Give all the kids a chance to develop.


Joey G says:
8/5/2010 at 1:58:48 AM

Hi Joe -

Thanks for this site. Very informative, and a great way to exchange ideas. I'd like to comment on your opinions about not allowing zones to be played in youth leagues. While I agree that man-to-man principles need to be taught and reinforced every year, I do think that kids need to be taught how to play zone defenses (and against zone defenses), maybe starting in 6th or 7th grade.

Where I grew up, playing zone was sacrilege. The teams that played zone were either 1) small and needed to do something to stop entry passes down low 2) slow, tired, needing a break or 3) trying to slow down the game and reduce possessions. The impression of zone defense was "the defense you played if you were no good at man". Some high school and college coaches still think this way and will NEVER play zone. They think it's weak. However, I believe that we've seen a transition over the past decade where the zone defense isn't a fallback defense or a gimick - it's a weapon.

High school basketball is pretty advanced where I now live, and of the 25 games our team played last year we saw a zone defense in all but a couple games. More and more teams are playing it, with all sorts of schemes (trapping, funnelling, full court, half court, match up, different formations, etc.).

I began having my 8th grade team play some zone a few years back and I realized that there's a LOT to playing good zone defense and a LOT to learning how to teach it. How to match up, how to hand off, how to adjust to skips and flares, how/when to front, how to rebound, etc. If you watch man-to-man defense back in the 70's or even 80's, you'd never see some of the advanced things that you see today. It took decades for man-to-man defenses to advance to where they are today. I think we're starting to see a similar evolution in zone defenses. The days of - "in a zone defense you're responsible for an area - make sure you stay in that area and keep your hands up" are gone!

So my question to you...if you buy that you'll likely be playing zone defenses and against zone defenses in high school, when should this area of development begin in the youth leagues?


Joe Haefner says:
8/5/2010 at 12:53:03 PM

Hi Joey G,

Great points! And I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I believe the current youth system makes this difficult to achieve without hindering the development of the players. If it was applied appropriately in well-thought out progressive model, I think it would be great to incorporate zones to TEACH starting in 7th or 8th grade. However, I would never want the teams to use zones as their primary defense YET. In high school, that could be fine depending on the skill level of the players.

However, a lot of coaches will use zones with the intent to win, rather than the intent to teach. And some coaches will use it with the intent to make their teams competitive and not get blown out every game. And most of the time, they have no idea zone defenses could hinder the player’s long-term development if not applied appropriately.

If the system didn’t allow unequal teams and focus on winning, some of these problems would probably be solved. Also, youth coaches are rarely educated on youth development and basketball. Youth coaches are not valued and rarely paid, so why would they spend the money and hours that should be required to be educated as a youth coach?

And most times 7th grade is a problem because the kids have not learned the skills needed yet to be an effective basketball player. I actually prefer 9th grade before allowing zones, but that’s just from my experiences and experiences of colleagues. Actually, I had kids who played zone their whole youth experience and we didn’t play zone their entire 9th grade year because they needed to learn the principles of man to man in order to succeed at the higher levels. I tell you what, that is not any fun because I would have rather spent time elsewhere making them better players and a better team.

With that being said, I have seen 7th grade teams that were ready for zone concepts, but unfortunately those are the rarity rather than the norm.

Also, from my experience, players who play zone at the youth levels tend to form bad habits defensively because they can get away with things that they cannot get away with at the high school level, such as reaching, constantly going for steals, and disregarding where other players are on the court.

Thank you for the very good points for discussion and I would enjoy to hear your thoughts!


Jim says:
9/17/2010 at 8:09:01 AM

I agree with many aspects mentioned here, foremost, your rule on no zone defenses. Most youth leagues play zone defense. In my coaching experience, kids need to learn how to guard a player before learning to guard a zone. In football, do you teach zone blocking first...no. So why teach zone defense before teaching man defense?


Professional Sports Fan says:
10/29/2010 at 1:57:23 AM

A basketball coach no matter how smart and learned in the art of basketball strategy they believe themselves to be is only going to be as successful as the talent level of their players allows.


Coach Brockwell says:
12/21/2010 at 4:23:37 PM

These are great best practices. I am quite new to the youth basketball world (3rd &4th grade) and I see many of these practices already applied to the league I coach in, but I see plenty of room for improvement.

Besides betting on it, I knew very little about b-ball game play before taking on my new coaching duties. Luckily, I played college and men's league rugby for seven years, and I found many of the principles of the greatest sport in the world translated quite well to b-ball.

In my first year of coaching your b-ball, our team won the championship, and I was coaching against very skilled coaches with amazingly talented ringers/sons. They had amazing plays, great shooters, wonderful quick passing, etc.

Here was my trick: ultimate conditioning.

75% of my team had never played b-ball before. Even after a month of great practices, our shooting and passing skills were very sub par when we entered our first game.

But we were in tip-top shape. All of our practices were a 60-40 split of conditioning and fun skills/play training.

The kids questioned me and weren't too happy with my training regiment but I promised them they would be very happy when it came to game time and they would actually have fun. Boy, was I right.

We did great! As I told them after they won the first game of the season, "They shot better than we did. They had better passes. They had better more advance set plays.

"But we hustled harder. We were in our defensive positions faster. Our offense was always one step ahead of their defense. And we weren't tired when the game ended."

My guys and gals quickly realized that the more in shape they were, the more fun they would have. And boy did they have fun!

Because we took care of conditioning first, our guys were more focused throughout the game (because they weren't thinking about being out of breath.)

After that first game, I started every practice by asking my guys "What went well in the game and what should we work on?"

100% of the time, we all had the same answers.

I planted a seed using conditioning to make them amazing little athletes. That seed grew into a desire by my guys to become amazing little basketball players.

After the first game, my players' demanded to get better. It was overwhelming and refreshing. They loved basketball and they wanted to get better. That's when we really started working on learning the game of basketball.

While my coaching method may seem a little tough for some, my kids were so happy during games, and I got a lot of "thank you" notes from their parents.

While they were building out the current season, the league administrator received quite a few calls from my last team's player's parents requesting me as their coach for the new season.

Their kids couldn't wait to play again. And that's what it's all about right?


MATT says:
2/16/2011 at 9:07:39 AM



Joe Haefner says:
2/16/2011 at 9:16:47 AM

Matt, find a different team. Playing time is vital to becoming a good player. Riding the bench at this age will restrict the child's development as a basketball player.

I firmly believe that it is better to play on a lower level team and get playing time. Touches is the key at this age.

As Bob Bigelow likes to say, the higher levels at the youth level are just "less worse" in the big picture of basketball.

It's also crucial that he gets about 2 practices per game with plenty of touches during those practices.


larry christensen says:
4/13/2011 at 6:03:40 PM

Let''s see, my son''s HS football coach liked to call players cancer and throw the f-bomb around. My daughter''s HS/BB coach screamed at them that they were losers and threw the f-bomb around during the game, all in public. Another of my daughters HS/VB coaches yelled at kids about poisoning the program and threw the f-bomb around. The kids are told that if they work hard they will succeed but reality is that those with the most talent will be given more latitude. My community has instituted pre-K basketball. Seriously, pre-K basketball! I have 4 children who were all pretty much successful in multiple sports and were top students but if I were to do it again I would have encouraged them not to play sports and instead go hunting in the fall, family skiing in the winter, okay maybe baseball during the spring, and watersports during the summer. Too many coaches are narcissistic jerks who have never left HS and I do believe I can smell some of this attitude posting here. Guess what, American education stinks and part of the problem no doubt lies with our obsession with youth sports and sports in general.


Blair Bunke says:
8/26/2011 at 12:00:40 AM

I'm all for kids getting equal playing time but don't you also think that the kids who have practiced more at home and are therefore more talented deserve at least some benefits for doing so? Let's say in my squad of five I've got two guards and one is clearly much better than the other. During a game if every time my good guard touches the ball we get a good look and every time my not so good one touches we get a bad look or turnover then should I still be running an equal amount of plays for the two?

Thank you in advance and I think you guys are doing great work here.


Jeff Haefner says:
8/26/2011 at 1:17:45 PM

Blair - I think you have to look at each individual situation to figure out what is truly best. Generally speaking most youth coaches are too worried about winning and a standard rule of equal playing time would help more kids than hurt. But equal playing is not perfect for all situations. You bring up good points. Is the kid just not playing well because they lack confidence, self esteem, and have not learned to enjoy the game yet? If so, then maybe that kid just needs to caring coach to give him a chance to succeed and fail in the game for a while. He needs someone to believe in him. Eventually the child needs to learn that life requires hard work. But that is best learned by seeing a good example at home. The kids may or may not be ready for the life lesson of work ethic yet. In this situation confidence and building self esteem might be the first step. That''s up to you as a coach to figure out. In addition, it''s more than just performance too. I have no problem with rewarding good attitude and hard work. But the kid that stinks right now might have a chance to get really good when they get older. You just never know. I know I stunk when I was in middle school but that was because I was small and never practiced. I didn''t start practicing until after I developed a love for the game in high school. A good coach taught me a few fundamentals when I was old enough to comprehend, which got me excited, and I was hooked. Hope this helps.


Sharon says:
11/25/2011 at 12:59:31 AM

About the equal time ... my daughter is playing 7th grade. She has played since 2nd grade. Perhaps it was "only in a city league" but it was playing non the less. She now attends all practices, 2 hours daily, and puts in another 5-10 hours at the Y practicing shooting and dribbling. Her long term goal for basketball is to play in college.

So here's the problem. Her coach seems to have chosen who she wants to mentor and deems "worthy" and the others get very little to no court time. We have had 2 games now and lost badly ... the kids she has "chosen" are NOT good ... as all!!!! One didn't even know which basket was ours! The first game they accomplished a few free throws and 2 baskets. The second game they lost 71-2 ... they couldn't hit the side of a barn let alone a basket, they couldn't dribble, they couldn't keep their feet in bounds, they couldn't play defense or offense ... the list just goes on and on of the mess they are. Yet, she continued to not even allow the "B" team play ... even when it was OBVIOUS that the "A" team had LOST the game. The "B" team to be told they are worse then this mess has to be extremely discouraging ... because to think you are worse than these players is to say you are worse than pathetic.

The reality is that they are NOT worse. My daughter and another for sure aren't. They have both played for years and have got to have better skills than these girls. The other 4 I don't know how they play because I haven't gotten to see how they play. Practices are closed to parents and the girls have gotten NO time on the court.

The only thing that I and other parents can determine from this behavior of the coach is that she is going 100% on the girls' height and/or whose parent has their head up her ass kissing it. It for sure is NOT based on their skills.

She has told the girls that if anyone's parents complain to her that they will never get court time. So, what is a parent to do? Is there not some rule that would require her to give more adequate court time? This is not a matter of "rewarding" players for hard work and skill that some others seem to think is fair ... this is a matter that has some very potential future players losing out on development at a time that could make a difference on their future.

Please advise.

Thank you


Jeff Haefner says:
11/27/2011 at 5:04:05 PM

There are only two things you can do...

- Talk to the coach in a mature non-threatening fashion. Have a nice conversation. Get to know the coach. Don't start off just about playing time or the things you don't like. Talk about what you do like, and positive things. Ask the coach what your daughter can do to get better? Ask for advice (if she was your daughter what would you have her work on)? How can I handle this at home? Do you see her doing this in practice? Etc. This might take more than one conversation to work your way into getting answers without the coach feeling threatened.

- If that doesn't work, find a different team/coach.

Good luck.


Sherrard IL says:
1/17/2012 at 10:37:18 PM

What about a 4th grade coach playing his 7 player rotation with 11 kids in a developmental league (the league the grade school sends a form home for)? The coach literally benched a 3rd grader last year in his first ever game because he wasn't ready to play and the next game because he didnt grasp the "system" the coach had installed. Basically the guy is coaching 7 kids and ignoring others. I've driven 20 miles to get my kid to a 4th grade basketball game and driven home with him playing zero to 2 minutes at the end of the game. Is this guy allowed to be called a coach? By the way, we've lost plenty of games where my boy didnt play so it's not like we're chasing AAU titles here. It's disgusting to watch.


mark blumanthal says:
1/17/2012 at 11:09:41 PM

can parents, coaches,schools be held liable for injuries inflicted by intentional fouls by student basketball players under nebraska statutes?


Ken says:
1/18/2012 at 12:10:01 PM

Larry -

Its hard to believe that HS ADs and Principals would allow that kind of language being thrown around in front of these kids. If these things were happening you should have called the AD and had a meeting to discuss this.

I was pretty demanding as a coach but I never used this kind of language and IF I even thought about it I would stuff a towel in my face. Nobody wants to hear those outbursts... which by the way, I hear from some parents in the stands now as I go watch the games. Maybe not the F bomb but if you could hear the way some of them talk to their kids and the coaches you would be amazed.

As for this " Guess what, American education stinks and part of the problem no doubt lies with our obsession with youth sports and sports in general."

I agree with you on the obsession of youth sports - too much / too early. PK stuff, give me a break! THATS on the parents thinking they have the next M. Jordon. As for American Education stinking... thats kind of like putting all your eggs into one basket here?

There are good and bad teachers just like there are good / bad doctors, lawyers, policeman, fireman, pick any career you want.
I know some pretty good teachers and all the rest too... so I certainly wouldn't all American Education stinks.


Ken says:
1/18/2012 at 12:12:50 PM

Sherrard - A developmental league is just that - DEVELOPMENTAL. Every kid should play as close to equal time as they can. The problem here from what you are saying is simple, this coach is all about winning.

I would find someplace else for my son to play if this was the case.


Ken says:
1/18/2012 at 12:13:56 PM

I meant to say -

I know some pretty good teachers and all the rest too... so I certainly wouldn't say that all American Education stinks.


Mando says:
3/21/2012 at 10:59:35 AM

Would anyone find a conflict with the following situation:

A board member from a youth league decides to start a seprate travel team from that which the youth league already has. In doing so, the board member and a coach purposely do not tell the parents of a player who played on the travel team the prior year and whose parent is the vice-president of the board, so that the league president wouldn't find out about thier forming thie own team. The same board member of the league also asked another parent not to tell the vice president, who are friends, about the new team. And finally the board member and the coach scheduled thier own meeting for thier new team on the same day and around the same time that the league team had scheduled a workout session and failed to tell the parents of the league of the scheduled workout time for the league. Does anyone see a conflict with the Board Member and Coach's actions?


Ken says:
3/21/2012 at 11:40:02 AM

Mando -

In one word - YES -

You don't have to look far to find out whats wrong with youth sports today.... all they have to do is read your post.

Maybe its time to ask this member to step down....... Thats like recruiting kids out of your league / travel team to play on his team. Pretty sad.


Sean says:
5/27/2012 at 11:04:12 AM

Hi I am going to begin teaching 5th grade boys basketball. My son is on this team. We live in China, where I teach at a small private school here. I have spent a little time with the kids and discovered that they have almost no basketball skills whatsoever. I really like what you have said about keeping it fun here. Basketball is hugely popular here and they all love the NBA, but they are doing almost nothing to develop the players. I have taught them triple threat, passing and dribbling. I want to work on layup and the stop drill but I think i will have to teach pivots before I can do that. Could you review the pivot moves for me. (I know this may not be the correct place for this question but this is my first post.)


Ken says:
5/29/2012 at 4:32:22 PM

You might try this site for teaching pivots...


You will want to teach them a lot of fundamentals daily.... try to make your practices and drills FUN because you also want to teach them a love for the game and how to play it the right way.

Good luck


T-Bone says:
10/22/2012 at 3:16:02 PM

About equal playing time......Speaking from my own experience as a youth, I would rather play and lose over sit and win....all day. Kids + Game = youth sports.


Don Jr says:
11/11/2012 at 12:37:31 AM

I coached in a YMCA league where the Men that ran the gym would coach along with a few fathers. I coached the 12 to 15 year olds. I had one practice before the first game. I taught the team everything in one hour. Some of the players I had to coach how to shoot the ball because this was the first organized sport they had participated in.
Our first game where often blow outs but at the end of the session we all started fresh with a single elimination tournament.
I think I won the tournament three times in five years.
The main problem is that all the coaches quit and no longer could handle the humiliation of losing to kids off the street against handpicked gym rat players. One day I went in and they told me they would no longer have a league for 12 to 15 year olds.
My point is that it is not the players it is the coaching.


belfast1 says:
1/23/2013 at 11:51:58 PM

My 11 year old son is currently playing on a school team they play 4 periods of 6 minutes each the coach of the team let 3 kids on the team play the full 24 mins 2 other kids played 10 mins an seven other kids got to share 2 postions for 12 mins ,1 kid did not even get playing time this to me is a discrace no wonder kids pack in sports when coaches do this .I think sometimes its more about the coach getting a win than the kids getting to enjoy themselves how do they improve if they dont get playing time.Does anyone know if Chicago public schools know if there is a rule for kids getting playing time or coaches to change out players


Ken says:
1/24/2013 at 5:47:43 PM

I don't know about the CPS but in the suburbs... they must play 5 players in the 1st qtr and a different 5 in the 2nd qtr. They usually keep 12-14 players and make an effort to get those last 4 players into the game.

Those are the subs... players that play in the 1st qtr. cant play in the 2nd, the players that play in the 2nd qtr cant play in the 1st qtr. So they are playing at least 10 different players..

This is for 7/8th grade teams... as for 11 year olds, they should be getting some playing time and not sitting.


Roger says:
2/9/2013 at 3:56:09 PM

Im here in Pauls Valley, where and what :traveling league do you play in".

I may be interested in the boys or girls league if they play in my area.



Roger says:
2/10/2013 at 1:12:59 AM

I agree wholeheartedly with this, except for one thing: the 7th and 8th grade section.

This is the age where the middle school teams are and where the competitive school basketball teams start getting on these kids' radar. They're going to be expected to learn more of the more "advanced" material anyways if they want to progress.

If they aren't pushed, they'll be left in the dust in the high school teams because the middle school players would easily outshine them.


Ken says:
2/10/2013 at 2:02:07 PM

Roger -

As someone who coached at the high school level for 27 years +... when I watched 7/8th graders play.... I was looking for kids that could handle the ball, play good m2m defense (on and off the ball ) and who could shoot. I wanted to see if they had a good feel for the game.

I wasn't interested in how or IF the could play a zone, press or trap... or won the game for that matter. I saw many kids that came into our high school that didn't have a clue as to how to play m2m defense, that alone put them a couple years behind the kids that could.

I coached 6-8th graders for 13 years and it took me a long time to figure out what the high school coaches were looking for. Played mostly zones until I got smart..... I learned to spend more time on fundamentals also... and that carried over when I moved on to the high school level.

I would bet that the middle school coaches would be very happy IF the kids coming to their level could handle the ball, play good m2m defense (on and off the ball ) and have a good idea about how to shoot the ball.

So, I not sure what you mean about being pushed? Hopefully its all about teaching the undamentals etc.


Amme says:
2/11/2013 at 9:47:23 AM

I have a 10 year old son who LOVES basketball. He isn't extremely skilled but he loves to play. He dribbles and shoots well, and also gets rebounds quite a bit, but the fast pace of offense to defense leaves him a little confused with regards to exact positions on the court, in other words, he sometimes still chases the ball. He has the best work ethic, greatest attitude and willingness to learn. He just joined a 5th grade team, so 9-10-11 year olds. His coaches bench him every game except for 1 minute each HALF. He tries to cheer on his team but he tears up as soon as the game is done and he is back at home with us. I am wondering if we should allow him to quit the team or if you think he can learn something from this? It is very apparent and he is a very well - loved kid. The minute he gets in is filled with people and parents cheering for him. What is your advice?


Amme says:
2/11/2013 at 9:55:40 AM

In addition, it seems the biggest thing he has trouble with is remembering plays and also something called 1-3-1. Should he know these things by now? I have never played and can''t even help him with this.. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you, Amme


Ken says:
2/11/2013 at 10:52:18 AM

Amme -

I would think that at this age your son is or should be in a developmental league... which is all about teaching fundamentals... PLAYING and HAVING FUN.

It sounds like your coach is about winning, NOT appropriate at this age.

You might try to find a time to talk to him about what your son needs to do to get more playing time. Be positive and not confrontational.

It sounds like your son doesn't understand what the coach wants.... but you say he runs plays and a 1-3-1 zone..... I don't think that running a system is in the players best interest... but he's the coach.

Here is a link about the 1-3-1 zone defense`
There is another one on this site under the DEFENSE section at the top on the left side of this page.

Good luck, let us know how this goes


Ken says:
2/11/2013 at 11:01:10 AM

Amme -

Just one more thing.... IF its one thing I dislike its treating 10 year old kids this way.... Just keep encouraging your son. Since you don't know the game. maybe you can find some male adult that can mentor him a little bit?

Just a thought


Amme says:
2/11/2013 at 11:27:47 AM


Thank you so much for the quick response. I have looked into trying to find someone to help him one on one but that is easier said than done! Lots of leagues, other coaches busy, no gym time, etc. I have a referee interested but am trying to find an open gym. Life is just different nowadays.. Less time for people, more time for winning/competition, etc. Sad.

On a different note, I looked at the link you provided. WOW! Can you tell me if a 10 year old should be able to grasp this concept? I know the team he is on hasn't won a game yet. Sadly, I can't tell if the other kids are running this zone well or not? I am assuming the other kids get playing time because that stuff makes sense to them, but I am not sure. I did see you mentioned you did not think that it was in the best interest of the player at this age. Is that because the concepts are too much at this age? Or should my son be able to follow that and play as the coach is asking?

I've thought about speaking with the coach but hesitate to overstep boundries and look like the meddling mother. But I could try to approach it as you suggested and see what comes out of it. I also suggested to my son that he ask the coach and see what he says to him.

I will keep you posted as to what happens in the next week or so.

Thanks again. Amme


Ken says:
2/11/2013 at 1:09:30 PM

Amme -

There is something that we as coaches call using the KISS method ( keep it simple stupid )

IF your players cant grasp what you are trying to teach, then you need to look at WHAT you are teaching of HOW you are teaching it.

He is just a young boy.... and what he needs is a lot of repetitions. If he was playing before this year he might be able to grasp this stuff easier.... and IF the coach is running plays, that makes things much more difficult.

Good luck, I hope this works out for your son and you too.


Andy says:
2/16/2013 at 11:35:00 AM

Just found this forum today. Very interesting.

Amme - most important rule to me as a parent is figuring out my kids "passion" and then encouraging and supporting it. By your response, your kid "LOVES" basketball so supporting him is so key. Keep him in Possitive programs. Camps are great too i think because they focus more on fundimentals and less on competition. If basketball is his passion, then some private coaching certainly could help him gain the skill and thus more confidence.

Bottom line, kids want to feel good about playing, having fun, but getting better because as they get older and better, so do the other kids. They want to compete and feel good about themselves. It''''s our job to nurture their interests and help them increase tnte it skills so they can continue to compete.

Great site!


Amme says:
2/19/2013 at 9:05:06 AM

Thanks Andy! We are working on getting him additional coaching and have signed him up for some camps in the spring. The funny thing is, my son is actually pretty good. Not great yet but as good as the other players, skill wise. His main difficulty is trying to maintain a zone defense and follow some of the more complicated plays. I've watched several more games of his since my initial post and am convinced we have some really poor coaching going on. It appears the coach has given up on the zone defense and went back to man on man. Still throwing out numerous plays though and the team is still without a win. My son sits the bench most games still, but we are encouraging him to stick it out for his teammates and to really understand that his lack of playing time is not a reflection of him but of a coach more interested in "winning" then helping players develop. It is a private school and they have thier favorites. We will encourage him to continue learning and having a good attitude. His attitude and heart is already noticed by anyone watching him play the 2 minutes he gets put it. It won't be long until it is noticed by the RIGHT people. You sound like a great parent, Andy! Thanks!


Ken says:
2/19/2013 at 2:45:55 PM

Amme -

It appears that nothing has changed.... like I said before, finish this season and move on.
The camps should help him a lot and if you can handle some individual training, that would even be better.
This summer make sure that he is playing for someone who will TEACH and allow ALL the kids to play. 10 year old boys / kids learn to play by playing, not by sitting. When you sign him up for a summer squad, make sure that they have a good policy for playing everyone and that they practice at least as much as they play.

Good luck


Amme says:
2/20/2013 at 2:32:35 PM

Yes, nothing has changed, Ken. But we are keeping our head up and trying to move forward. I will DEFINATELY be asking about the playing policies from now on! And we are definately working on finding a good individual instructor for a few sessions until the camps start. Thanks for the encouragement!



Ken Sartini says:
2/20/2013 at 2:54:32 PM

Amme -

And make sure that the team you enroll him on teaches fundamentals also.


Dion Maurice says:
2/25/2013 at 12:33:20 AM

I am a youth basketball coach. I coach a 4th/5th grade teram. My son is 9 years old in the 4th grade and is probable the best youth player here where I live. He can dribble, pass, play defense, make left and right hand layups and shoot 3 pointers consistanly. He is also 5'1" and loves basketball. One of his friends plays on the team with him and he is also 4th grade, good player also. Everyone else on the team are 5th graders who skills need to be on a recreational team. The cannot dribble, pass, shoot, or make a layup. My practice consist of fundamentals for the first 45 minutes and 3 on 3 pass, screen and curl drills for the next 45 minutes. We are having a good season thanks to my son and his friend but the other teammates that are not that skilled are angry because they feel they are not getting the ball a lot of times. I told my son as a point guard you have to make your teammates better but every time the recieve a good look pass it turns into a turn over. My son came down they court and his opponent was not guarding him tight, instead of passing the ball to his teammate that cannot dribble or shoot he takes it himself and splashes the 3 pointer. He told me his teammate got mad because he didn't pass the ball to him. I tell my son to keep playing and stay humble, it will get better.


Ken Sartini says:
2/25/2013 at 9:16:09 AM

Dion -

Both you and your son are in a tough position.
4/5th grade teams are for skill development and having fun.....

Keep on working the fundamentals, especially passing. I was the Varsity Boys coach for 16 years... stepped down.... was going to relax and the girls program was without a coach... so I took the Sophomores..... I figured with all my knowledge, it would be a piece of cake... WRONG AGAIN!

They couldn't pass or catch the ball either. So, the first 20 minutes of my practices ( for about 3 weeks ) was dedicated to passing drills, some very basic and others a little more difficult. Just basic in the half court... then, after they finally got the idea I added more full court stuff.

So, tell your son that kids 6 years older than him couldn't pass or catch the .... this all takes time, practice / repetitions.

Your son (and friend) are gamers, they want to WIN... don't blame them but you need to talk to both of them ( like you are now - about making the others better ) don't worry to much about winning right now... you will have plenty of time for that as you get older. IF you are going to be successful as a team, both of you are going to NEED them as you move up the ladder so to speak.

Look at Michael Jordan ... he didn't win a championship until Phil Jackson convinced him that he needed to get his teammates more involved in the game. To me, HE was the greatest player in the game, at the very least - one of them.

So, IF your son wants to be like Mike :-) tell him that story.

I think you are saying the right things to him..... and your son doesn't have to pass the ball every time... he or his buddy can still take some shots... just get your other players involved.

I don't know how much practice time you have every week... but you might try this little game... lets say you have 10 players... so its 5 on 5.... Game is to SIX -- EVERY PLAYER must score before anyone can hit the game winner... split your son and his friend up... they cant be on the same team... you will find out who your leaders are, and both your son and his friend will learn to set up the other kids and get them involved in the game.

Good luck


Dion says:
2/27/2013 at 2:17:26 AM

Thanks Coach! Tried that game last night, the kids loved it. Everyone had a chance to score, and they all had fun! I am a proud dad and love to talk about my boys. I played basketball since I was 10 years old. I never played in the AAU circuit, just pick up ball. I made my high school JV basketball team my 10th and 11th grade year but I got cut my senior year. Joined the Navy, kept playing and tried out for the All Navy basketball team in Okinawa Japan (PacWest) in 1995. Made it through until the final cut, devastated but was happy I made it that far and just played on command, base teams and inter-murals collecting hundreds of trophies..lol.
I just teach my boys to put in the work and your dreams and goals will come through. Check them out on youtube, search. "Basketballdad0308" I call my oldest Halfboy half amazing, and my youngest is the bone collector AKA the Assassin. Thanks!


Jason says:
3/15/2013 at 6:16:46 AM

While I agree with 90% of this article... I find it hard to believe that any professional or even collegiate basketball player every waited till 7th grade to play traps or on a 10 foot rim.
I agree it must be fun for them. There are ways to make it extremely competitive and fun at the same time. I agree that zone defense is teaching the wrong fundamentals. But kids must understand the concept and be able to play against a zone. I agree with equal playing time. Unless the kid is not motivated. I agree with eliminating the 3 point shot. All this does is give kids incentive to shoot the ball with bad form. As well, the 3 point shot is not good offensive basketball for many reasons in youth basketball. Finally, I believe all kids should work on the same skills and fundamentals. Just because a kid may be big and tall as a youth does not mean he should always be the "big man" inside working on rebounds. He may not be all that tall as he ages and then he has not guard skills because he has never worked on it. All kids should be the center and all kids should be the point guard as well as everything in between. And for God's sake, stop teaching kids "plays". Show them and offensive set and let them use their imagination to just play the game. They have to learn how to play without all the X's and O's. We all know plays fall apart, what are they going to do then if they have not been taught how to just play the game?


Joe Haefner says:
3/27/2013 at 3:09:07 PM

Thanks for your input, Jason.

"I find it hard to believe that any professional or even collegiate basketball player every waited till 7th grade to play traps or on a 10 foot rim."

That tends to be more true these days, not because it is the proper way to progress kids, but because of the current system in which most kids are raised.

Steve Nash didn't start playing until he was 13. Dirk Nowitzki was around 12. Via the sports announcer during the recent Magic-Heat game, they said Kyle O'Quinn of the Orlando Magic didn't start playing until he was 16.

These are just a few. I'm sure with a little research we could find more.


Steve says:
6/16/2013 at 9:41:49 AM

Wish someone had told the coaches I had to deal with about this. I quit sports before I was 13 because I hated everything about it. BTW, do coaches still let kids pick who they want on their teams? I almost flunked a year in high school because I refused to attend gym class over that one.


Ken Sartini says:
6/16/2013 at 10:52:53 AM

Steve -

Sorry that you had such a bad experience as a kid.

Part of the problem is that the coaches are volunteers that do not have a lot of knowledge about coaching the game. They aer doing their best and in some cases they are only doing it because no on else will.

I was a volunteer at first also... it took me a long time to learn what needs to be taught and how to handle team properly.... guarantee I made plenty of mistakes.... the difference was that I WANTED teaching and coaching to be my profession.

Its too bad that you didn't have someone to talk to when you were in high school to get you past this. Hopefully, it is over with now. With your negative experiences, knowing what was bad for you and what you see now, you might be a good youth coach if you were willing to put the time into it.


Michelle says:
6/21/2013 at 9:33:19 PM

My son is ten years old and has been playing basketball with the same team since he was 7. They play a tri-county league and then AAU. They have a group of 4 coaches involved. Usually only 2 are coaching at a time. This year has been a struggle. 4 of the kids who play majority of the time belong to these four coaches. Those kids are also ALWAYS the starters. The "bench team" has been told that if they show up for practice and work really hard, they have a chance to be a starter. It''s the end of the AAU season and it has not happened yet. The bench team works harder, out plays, out shoots the starters at practice. The starters are the kids the sit down, don''t pay attention, show boat, or don''t show up for practice. The coach has also pointed out at a practice in the beginning of the AAU season which 3 players have the most talent. Yes, 3 of the starters. And honestly, they are all good players...no one stands out as the best. The bench players are always reminded that when they are playing tough teams (which always seems to be the case) that they don''t play as many minutes because they need to win. The bench players play about 7-10 min per game if lucky. They are sometimes sent in and told they are going in for a player so they can talk to the player being pulled. As soon as they are done, roughly 2min, the bench player is pulled. If a bench player travels or makes a mistake, he is pulled immediately. That is not true for the starters though. After the game they get a scolding for letting the starters carry them and not contributing more. We live in a small community. The kids are friends. How do I address this with the coach(es)? My son has lost all confidence and thinks he''s a horrible player. I''m seeing it start to impact others areas of his life. It''s very upsetting! He just wants to play but now has a huge mental obstacle to overcome. What should we do?


Ken Sartini says:
6/24/2013 at 5:02:44 PM

Michelle -

This is supposed to be FUN for kids this age... its not the Pros! Its all about teaching fundamentals and a love for the game. Pretty obvious that this is a political situation... coaches/sons.

Either you or your son could go talk to the coaches about this situation, but from what you are saying, he wants to win... so I wonder if it would do any good.... it wouldn't do any harm, thats for sure.

IF this is affecting other parts of his life, it might be time to move to another team if there is one.... or just move on.

Lets see what Jeff & Joe have to say about this.


G Bark says:
8/29/2013 at 3:40:47 PM

I see it more so in other sports, but I am completely appalled by minimum play rules in any youth sport. I have all too ofter seen coaches that are more worried about getting the older, faster, stronger athletes on their team all of the reps, practice and game time because of the pressure to win. They feel that they have the younger athletes for another year or even two depending on the league and the "I can put off developing them until next season" so I can win this season. All minimum play rules in youth leagues should be eliminated in favor of equal play rules so that coaches have to teach and develop all athletes equally.

As a youth coach, your 2 biggest concerns should be to #1-DEVELOP and CHALLENGE your athletes with sport specific drills that are both age and skill appropriate for the age group you are coaching, and #2- Ensuring ALL of your athletes have fun and learn the fundamentals of the game. I feel that your team can go 1,000,000 and 0, and if you have ANY athletes that do not want to return the next year and play because they did have fune, learn new skills or improve skills they already had, YOU as a coach had a LOSING SEASON.

Also, the biggest thing that I feel is causing this pressure to win is all of these "Championships." As long as there are tournaments, or championships in youth leagues, there will always be pressure to WIN FIRST. With the pressure to win a league tournament or championship from parents and administrators, most coaches will always play the fastest, strongest, most coordinated and usually oldest athlete in a game before he plays a slower, not as strong, not as coordinated and usually younger athlete that NEEDS more coaching and development.

As coaches, we all need to get back to the fundamentals of developing athletes and fostering a love for the game.

Just my 2 cents.


Riko says:
9/4/2013 at 9:03:03 AM

most of the time i give my players equal playing time,
But a big game is comming up, is it wrong for me to coach for the win?


Ken Sartini says:
9/4/2013 at 3:16:24 PM

Riko -

How old are these kids?

I take it that these kids are pretty young..... IF your goal was to play them as equal as possible all year... then I think you should continue with that.

I understand that you want to win, you can still coach to win using the same rotation you have all year. JMO


Boonie says:
10/10/2013 at 3:42:18 PM

My son plays on an elite 6th grade AAU basketball team and its his first year with this team. I have noticed that if the kids that were on the in previous years get away with a lot more in terms of making bad plays or turning over the ball. The new kids get pulled a lot sooner if mistakes are made. Some coaches are so loyal to there previous players that they cant see the fact that some of the new players are just better. If you have a kid on your team then he should play. Everyone makes mistakes and most kids that are good in elementary to middle school are not always the ones that are good in high school and that''''s when it really matters.


Ken Sartini says:
10/10/2013 at 7:21:58 PM

Boonie -

I agree, everyone at this age group should get playing time, this is still the age of developing good fundamentals.

I would say that most coaches are loyal to their past players.... BUT, if they find a new kid that is better, he should be playing too. My advice to your son is this... In practice, play as hard as you can and make sure that the coach can see how hard you are working and your skill level. Show him that you deserve more playing time and that you are as good as or better than some of the others.

I was a boys Varsity HS coach and the best players played. Yes, I was loyal to the players that were in the program, they deserve that..... but they also knew that IF someone was better they were going to get playing time, regardless of how long they were in the program.

Yes, everyone makes mistakes, even the coaches. As for the other comment about the good middle school players and HS, you are RIGHT. I had several players that didn't make their 8th grade team or didn't play much.... and they became starters and in some cases all conference. Kids mature at different ages as does their athletic abilities.

I hope your son hangs in there and proves that he deserves more playing time.


madison says:
10/22/2013 at 8:57:03 PM

kids are always being discouraged when ever they feel like they should be out in the court and thats what makes them want to quit even go for suicide!!!!!!!!!!!

I''d know because i was being treated that way in high school....


Ken Sartini says:
10/23/2013 at 11:58:36 AM

Madison -

Sorry that you were treated that way... its too bad that you didn't have someone to talk to when you were in HS.

Not every kid is being discouraged, some of course. Doesn't make it right. Forcing someone to quit because of how they were treated is bad enough..... but suicide?Thats a pretty drastic solution..... a permanet answer to a temporary problem. JMO


Robert Watson says:
11/12/2013 at 9:00:31 AM

I have coached youth basketball many years. Parents seem to expect miracles out of the coach. Why isn't my kid that good, why isnt he playing as much as others. Well, as in everything in life you have to work on things outside of your job, outside of practice, whatever it may be. You are not going to show up and play as much and be as good as the kid is out out in his driveway shooting free throws till dark every night.

You want your kid to be as good and play a lot, put in the time. Thats how a real life job is.
Not everybody gets the job, not everybody gets promoted.

I love kids, they are great, but you can see who tries hard and has the willingness to become better and the ones who don't. You obviously try to bring them alll along together, but it just doesn't happen. So, parents who have complaints that it isn't fair out there. The reason its not fair, is your own. Get out there work with your kids, take them to the gym in their spare time and make them better. Don't just whine about it and say he's not playing as much as the coaches son. Well, he's not because the coach is at the gym early with his boy/girl or staying late and working with his kid. Please do the same.


Jen says:
12/1/2013 at 3:22:18 AM

I agree with what you say Robert Watson, however, as with real life it''s becoming increasingly more about who you know rather than what you know or your abilities.

It appears to me that kids have more chances of being selected to play for a team if you are the coaches kid (obviously coach spends enough time with his kid so more than likely his kid will be good) or you know the coach quite well e.g. if you were very involved in the club, mix in the same social circles, kids go to school together, etc, etc. I am not saying that very talented kids go unnoticed but if you are just good then the selection criteria is more often than not based on the above. My child is quite good - no I don''t think he''s Michael Jordan or Lebron James - but I do know his strengths and weaknesses and yet he was passed over to play in the better team in a state competition. A few of the kids who were selected to play in the better team are really good players but there were also a few whose abilities did not match my child''s. Those who weren''t as able appeared to have been selected for the reasons mentioned above. Quite a few parents were not only surprised that my child had not made the cut but also that he was put in a team where most the players had never played basketball never mind at state level. Needless to say I was angry at how blatantly obvious what the team selection was based on and my child was hugely disappointed but decided to carry on after we had a chat about how we can''t just quit every time things don''t go our way, after all that is an unfortunate part of life.

Another bug bear of mine is how coaches encourage team play but when it comes to a game, "star" players get away with solo play with no consequences to their actions e.g. A telling off or some bench time. Yes the stats reveal that they have scored many points for the team but what it does not reveal is how many baskets they have missed and how most of this could have been avoided if they had passed the ball to a player who was in a better position to shoot. I have witness many instances where our team has lost but the coach still congratulate and reward the high scorers. So what does this teach our children? That personal victory is more important even if it results in a lost for the team than to play and win as a team? Good players know how and when to share the ball and yes there are times when you can go it alone e.g. open basket but these times are rare when you are up against a good defensive team.

Having said all that my child will continue to play basketball because he loves and is passionate about the game. However if this kind of bias continues, I can see his joy for the game will diminish to the point where he might eventually quit.


Z says:
12/6/2013 at 2:07:44 PM

My foreign wife does not understand our OBSESION with kids’ sports and I have trouble explaining it to her. Can someone help?


Ken Sartini says:
12/6/2013 at 2:46:03 PM

I don't think that there is ONE answer to this.... some just like to see their kids have FUN... or COMPETE.

Others are living their lives through their kids - or they think they have the next Michael Jordan. Some use it as a baby sitting service.

From my standpoint I think its a good way to teach a lot of things, sportsmanship, teamwork,dedication etc. Building character through all of the experiences they will get not to mention making friends with other kids they might never have known.

When I was growing up, my brother was the brain in the family so I turned to sports.... I wasn't great but I did ok and I had a lot of fun, met a lot of kids and adults as I got older..

When I turned to coaching, it was a whole new bag... I was teaching all those skills..... and I met coaches from all over the world via th internet... THIS site for one along with a few others. This was the best thing that ever happened to me..... hopefully we teach our kids some of the same things.

OK, I rambled long enough... not sure if this will help you... but I through enough things out there that might help.


Joe Haefner says:
12/6/2013 at 3:32:00 PM

If you're referring to kids' sports as 7th grade or under 13 years of age, I'm not sure your wife needs anything explained to her. It is quite crazy here.


Z says:
12/6/2013 at 5:27:20 PM

Yes, I was referring to kids under 13. I asked this question because I think that a lot of problems that are being debated in this thread have to do with our obsession with kids games.


Ken Sartini says:
12/6/2013 at 5:43:22 PM

You are right Z!!

Parents want to see their kids succeed.... bottom line. Heck, t he kids want to succeed, some more than others of course.

Take her to some games and tell her to enjoy how the TEAM plays... cheer them ALL on.


Frenchon says:
12/8/2013 at 10:49:57 PM

My son is 10 years old and has been playing organized basketball for two years now. It seems no matter how much you practice with them when they get out on the court they seem to rush everything and totally forget the fundamentals of shooting and good passes..they forget how to play under control make moves play defence and put the ball in the hoop..my sons coach has experience but it dosent seem to help I. Don't think they get it...they just run around and throw the ball at the hoop and fight over the ball trip over eachother.. if I was the coach..the first thing I would do is spend a whole practice on cutting to the basket getting open to receive the ball..boxing out and stopomg the ball..the coach allway tries to run plays that never work...I don't get it


John says:
12/8/2013 at 11:17:54 PM

I have an 8 year old son (3rd grade) who was brought up, along with 10 of his classmates, to play in a 4th/5th grade league for his catholic school - no physicals, no waivers, nothing. We are going to be outgunned all season, and the coaches are all gung ho because of how much better the kids will be next year. Ugh. It turns my stomach to see the anger in some of these kids because of their over-competitive parents. This one guy is really living the dream thru his kid. One of these kids are going to get hurt bad. One is already wearing a knee brace at 9 years old. For me, I have a hoop in the back yard and I go with my Son all the time weather permitting. He''s gotten better, but is still 8 after all and has not fully coordinated. He is playing better than the coach''s Son in center because I am taking the time to teach him post play. I am finally able to teach him about range and have him listen (and not jack up 3''s for fun). He goes out on his own now and starts with 50 short shots, then 50 free throws. Then he messes around a bit and we play knock-out, one on one, or something. Then he works his off-hand layups and finger rolls. Doesn''t make too many, but that doesn''t matter now, I tell him...we''ll get there. I told the coach of the school team that tonight''s practice was the worst I''d ever seen. I had to email him to apologize and clarify my thoughts. He brought on our other 4th grade team to practice with us. It was so uncoordinated with the 4th grade coach leading. Anyway, I just vented...sorry about that.


Ken Sartini says:
12/9/2013 at 10:10:48 AM

Frenchon -

You have to remember that they are TEN.... the younger years are for learning fundamentals and having FUN playing the game. I cant see what is going on and the last thing I would want to do is to judge other coaches for kids of this age. For the most part they are volunteers and are doing the best they can.

Its not as easy as it might seem.... when I started it was coaching 6-8th graders and I made a lot of mistakes.... I learned a lot from talking to other coaches, clinics and watching games etc. Finding out what the HS coaches wanted helped a lot too.

Be patient with the kids and the coach... and if you have some free time you might volunteer to help him out doing a few things... as long as you don't step on his toes.


Ken Sartini says:
12/9/2013 at 10:24:38 AM

John -

How are you feeling now that you got that off your chest? :-) Do yourself a favor, don't "attack" the coach, that might come back to bite you. If you have something you want to talk to the coach about, keep it low key I was a varsity coach and had some bad practices... the last thing I needed was ANYONE coming up to me and talking to me like that.

These are people who are coaching 8 year old kids - they aren't professionals - pretty much like the guys that ref the game... you aren't getting HS refs on these games, they will make mistakes. Too bad someone cant remind the coaches that this is a GAME!

You are right, these are young kids and it should be all about having FUN! You are doing the right thing by working with your son and it sounds like he is having fun doing it. IF you feel like this is not right for your son (playing up levels) talk to the coach and tell him that you would rather he play with the 3rd graders and have fun while he learns the game.


Chad McDonald says:
12/10/2013 at 2:22:43 AM

My son is in 8th grade and loves the game of basketball. He goes to a smaller school. The assistant coach's grandson is our starting point gaurd. His whole familly(Grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles) all attended this K-8 school and all the parents of the starting and non-starting players are so upset and beyond discouraged about the favoritism this player receives from his last name and not his raw ability and work ethic! He plays 99% of every minute of every game, no matter if he's having a good or terrible game. He's a descent player. This is very special team and have set all most every school record since the team started playing togotherIin 5th grade. There's alot of talent on this team and theres been half dozen losses this season strictly due to coaching staff. No matter if my son or any of his teammates can be having the game of there life and can be lighting the floor up and he will have to go in and out of the game 6-8 times a game and our point gaurd whos grandpa is the assistant coach can be having a horrific game and playing poorly but stay in the whole game. This team has the potential to make a run at state finals but the players and players parents are getting very frustrated and its showing on the court and in the teams amotsphere. Some of the parents have started voicing there opions in the last couple weeks and the teams performance has worst end in the last 3 games. We just lost tonight and had a 21 point lead at halftime. There were 2 players having a really strong night and with them having to keep coming in and out of the game due to our point gaurd never coming out the team just lost momentum. Our point gaurd was not playing well at all and his teamates that were playing great started getting extremely discouraged having to keep coming in and out of the game all night they lost all momentum. None of the parents including myself know what to do! Were open for any suggestions.
Thank you.


Ken Sartini says:
12/10/2013 at 3:48:57 PM

Chad -

IF you look back at some of the other posts, you will see a lot of the same problems you are describing..... (not to be rude) but welcome to the world of YOUTH SPORTS.

That's taking nepotism to a whole new level. - or should I say low level ! Some coaches want to WIN at all costs and others will play favorites.

All you can do is to encourage every player on the team, the last thing you want to do is to create bad feelings for these kids, because thats what they are, KIDS. They deserve good coaching and to be treated fairly.

Once the season is over, you can always go to to the principal or AD if they have one to see if they can work something out.

As for now, try to be positive because your son will follow your lead as will the other kids following their parents. This is going to be a good learning situation for your son and the rest of those boys...... how to deal with adversity.

After a couple of tough losses my principal said to me that times like this teach character, I told her no, it reveals character.


John S. says:
1/10/2014 at 4:18:22 PM

I have read through all of these posts. I have to say it has been cathartic. I am hurting right now.

My daughter is 13 and in 8th grade and just pushing 6ft tall. She decided, after not playing much competitively, in 5th grade that she wanted to make her middle school team in 6th grade. This is fairly hard to do in her school. I told her that though she was tall, which was an advantage, she would have to put in some work over the summer and Fall if she wanted to do this and that I’d be willing to help. We got her in camps over the summer. This place was great and really focused on fundamentals. She loved playing and hanging out there. She worked hard and made her middle school team that Fall. I was so proud of her for the work she put in and so happy for her to make the team.

6th grade – didn’t see a lot of playing time. When she got in she did well. She played about a grand total of 4 minutes and scored 4 points for the season. Coach recommended she play in a non-school winter league (same place she did the camps) during the season as well. She played there but didn’t really enjoy it for a couple of reasons. She didn’t care for the extra commitment and the rest of the girls on the team were not very skilled at the time (some of them she is playing with now on her school team and have improved greatly) and really had a hard time passing the ball in to her on the post.

Spring league after 6th grade season – Same organization as above. Tries out and gets placed on a second level team (not complaining…she still had some work to do). They decided to have an “elite” team and then divvy up the players after that selection. So even though the talent pool for her team was quite diluted, they still went out and played some heavy duty AAU teams. This was quite an experience for her and she certainly learned a lot. After the first couple of games she was in a boot with a stress fracture in one foot. Out for most of the season. One coach (she still works with from time to time) worked with her on her shot. She became a REALLY GOOD shooter from this. We are talking she is 50% for the season behind the arc this year. She finally got back for the last tournament of this season and in the second game of the tournament her knee started hurting. She played their third game hurt and had the best game of her career so far with a double double. Diagnosis – growth plate issues in the knee.

She did not play after this, basically until 7th grade Middle School tryouts. She made the team again and was still rehabbing. We told the coach no cutting yet. First practice, coach told her to cut and I found her crying when I came to pick her up from practice. Her other knee was hurt. Back to the doc. Growth plate again. Another interesting thing happened during her 7th grade season. Though she was out rehabbing the entire season (didn’t practice or play at all) she really started getting stressed out and developing a dislike for her coach. Her main complaint is that the coach yelled all of the time and didn’t give enough positive feedback. She wasn’t having fun and was getting stressed out. She mentioned that she didn’t think she wanted to go out for basketball next year (By the way, my daughter wasn’t the only one, but I was the only parent with enough sack to talk to the coach).

We talked about it and she said the coach was the problem and that she liked playing for the other coaches she has had. I met with her coach after the season and very politely let her know that my daughter was seriously considering not going out for the team in 8th grade and told the reasons why. It was a tough meeting. But all things considered it went ok. She said that she really needed my daughter to come out next year (due to, IMHO, a lack of good talent development on her part) and committed to be more mindful of how she came across to the girls in general and my daughter in particular. I also set wheels in motion to introduce the school to Positive Coaching Alliance, which so far they don’t seem to be acting on.

Meanwhile, she tried out for tennis in the Fall (never played before but was able to make the team – and did OK) and we got her back working privately with her favorite coach (who is really good) and she started to get a little more positive and, it seemed, excited about her 8th grade year of basketball.

8th grade season – She is a starter. Puts up 14 points a perfect 5 for 5 from the field and 4 for 4 from the line in her first regular season game after two decent performances in two preseason games. While she still needs some work on ball handling (coach has her planted at the post mostly but gave her the green light top pop off 3’s after she saw what a good shooter she had become) and still needs to get more aggressive going after the ball, she really seemed to be coming along. And more importantly she seemed to finally be having fun playing. Then she got sick. Missed a couple of practices and gets few to no minutes in a couple of games (cool because she is not feeling well). Then she gets better and has apparently lost her starting spot to the coach’s daughter and as the season has progressed has been getting fewer and fewer minutes. She went from being a starter to now getting 3-4 minutes a game the last couple of games. I think this just devastated her. On top of that, apparently , the coach is being a bit harsh with her again. Now she says she is dreading going to practice every day and I can tell she is not enjoying herself any longer. She was so stressed out one day over Christmas break that I just couldn’t make her go to practice because she was in tears. She has agreed to finish out the season and “do her best” but I can tell her heart isn’t in it like it was in the beginning of the season. She also has stated that she doesn’t want to go out for basketball again next year. She says she just doesn’t enjoy it and the schedule is too demanding and she doesn’t get to spend enough time with her friends (who none of them do much of anything…grrrr…).

I am so crushed and frustrated because, I can see her potential and raw talent. Not just that she is tall, but she is also not clumsy and pretty athletic. She cannot seem to see her potential. In the end I want her to enjoy what she does and be active. I certainly don’t want her constantly stressed out. Basketball seems to fit her proficiencies better than any other sport she has tried so far. It seems to me, that in some part the coach has had a good bit (not 100%) to do with this bad turn in attitude. I have heard

She enjoyed tennis but really didn’t have to work that hard at it yet and she is going to try track this Spring. High School try outs for basketball are also this spring. I told her I won’t make her play next year but that she had to do at least one sport. She is also afraid of letting me down. I love her to death. I asked her to do me one favor and don’t totally give up on basketball. She said she would actually enjoy working out with her favorite coach privately this Spring and later. He always seems to inspire her. Maybe he will inspire her enough to at least make try outs in the Spring. If not, maybe a year off with some private coaching to keep her skills up will have her realize she misses playing. I think she has enough raw talent to miss freshman year and make the team as a sophomore if she keeps her skills up. Then at least she can be a part of the team and be able to make meaningful contributions her Junior and Senior year. I know the HS coach already has his eye on her.

Or maybe she will just give it up all together. I guess it will need to be her choice now. Thank you for letting me vent and being a part of my grieving process. And sorry for typing so much.


Ken Sartini says:
1/10/2014 at 4:55:51 PM

John -

Now that I got past the first two chapters, is there anymore? Haha... just klidding.

Your daughtter has gone through a lot of stress over basketball.... seemingly around a coach? One thing she does have to learn that there are people out there that she is not going to like very much, but IF she wants to play, she has to get past it.

I coached boys for many years and girls for one... the thing I found out is that in order for boys to be HAPPY and play well, they have to win. In order for girls to play well, they have to be HAPPY.

Ok, so she is going into high school next year, my suggestion is for her to go meet the coaches and see if this is going to be a match. She can go to the Spring and Summer work outs and maybe play in their Summer league.

She is right about one thing, there is more of a commitment in high school ball, especially when she gets to the Varsity level... (it is for coaches too) but trust me, it is well worth it. The people you are going to meet, (players and coaches from other schools) refs and fans

The best thing I ever did was to go to college and become a teacher and a coach.... and I didn't start until I was 32. She doesn't have that choice if she wants to play. Losing one year could make the difference, then again, depending on her abillity and drive, maybe not

It does have to be her choice, she has to want to do this..... playing varsity ball is amazing.... I know that I loved it when I got the Varsity job.

Again, I would ENCOURAGE her to go to the Spring and Summer work outs.... meet the coaches and other kids... see what high school is all about. Trust me, the 4 years go by so fast.. Remind her that there will be NEW cooaches to work with.... some are like Johnny Wooden ( quiet and laid back ) and others are like Bobby Knight ( a little outspoken ) Some described me as a " Litttle to the Left of Attila the Hun. " But I worked with boys.

The year I coached the girls they told me to treat them just like I did the boys... yeah right..... told them no way, I don't want them crying all the time LOL But I would teach you like I taught the boys.

Let her read my reply ( I tried to match your chapters but just couldn't do it. LOL ) If she has any questions for me, I would be more than happy to try and help her out. A lot of kids right to this site to ask for help. They ask a lot of questions until they feel better or more comfortable about themselves, their game and self confidence.

Good luck.


John S. says:
1/14/2014 at 4:50:27 PM

Hi Ken,

Thanks for the response. I read it a couple of days ago but just haven't been able to get back.

All great points above and I really appreciate it. Her situation is a bit different as she goes to a private school. So barring transfers in she would be moving up with the girls she is playing with now. We already kind of know the HS coach as well and my daughter has said she likes what she knows of him so far. I have also heard the difference is night and day from the MS coach (to the good).

We watched the JV HS girls play the other day and honestly, they do a better job of developing players than the MS coach does. By far. He basically broke the girls into two squads and did mass substitutions and they all got substantial, meaningful (it was a close game throughout) playing time. Her current MS coach is so wrapped up in winning that she will stick with the starting 5 for nearly the entire game if it's close. Plus, the more I observe, it seems that now that her MS coach has determined she doesn't NEED my daughter to win (like she thought she did last May when I talked to her about how her coaching style effected my daughter) she is punishing her, by limited playing time, for my calling her out with the added bonus of making her daughter (who isn't bad, but not great) a starter getting 15-20 minutes per game while my daughter sits. Of course I would never share that last little bit with my daughter because this is just my own perception.

As a look at from another angle though, I will admit that my daughter may have been able to earn a starting spot back if she got a little tougher and more aggressive (that is the main thing she needs to work on). If she could conquer that one thing, which IMO would come with more confidence and playing time which the coach has seemed to squeeze out of her, she would be undeniably better than two of the current starters and maybe arguably a third (especially considering she is a head taller than any of them). That is her major development area.

I will be GENTLY encouraging her to try out for the HS team this May and I may have her read your post as well. She got to play about 14 minutes last night (because they were winning by a blow out) and she did a good job while she was in (though it's harder when you are playing with subs instead of filtering in as the 6th or 7th man). She scored a bucket, pulled in a couple boards and had a steal. She came out with a positive attitude after the the game and actually had some fun. I think all may not be lost.

I have also been inspired through what I've witnessed her go though over the last 3 years to get involved with coaching on the youth level. I know some good coaches that might be willing to help me get started (and I played in HS so it's not totally foreign). I would like to try to volunteer to coach Upward next year and I specifically want to coach and inspire girls to love and continue the sport. I talked to my daughter about this and she was excited to maybe help me coach the young girls and she thought it might be really neat to teach and coach when she gets older. This really seemed to excite her. This may also give her motivation to stick with her own basketball development. Maybe a little light shining there at the end of the tunnel.

Thanks again. I really appreciate your taking the time to read my novel and responding.


Ken Sartini says:
1/14/2014 at 6:07:35 PM

Magic here... my entire post vanished.... must be your daughters coach LOL

There is a reason that she is coaching MS ball.... but even if all she wants to do is WIN ... you would think that she would see what your daughter has to offer.

Onw of the good thing that your daughter is learning is how to deal with adversity... make the best out of this situation... use it as a learning experience and get herself ready to play at the next level.

Your daughter can read my posts and ask me any questions she might have...

I went to college late, 32 years old and went to the HS to teach and coach at 36 and I can tell you that it was the smartest and best move I ever made. I know that you will enjoy working with young kids - teaching them the fundamentals of the game and letting them have some fun.


jake pierre says:
1/17/2014 at 9:10:36 PM

im about to turn 17 years old im trying to make my basketball dreams come true but i never played aau and i only played for a team was when i was 13 got cut from my high school basketball team twice but i really work and try, and i think im just as good as some of the j.v. player at my highschool do i still have a chance if i work hard


Ken Sartini says:
1/18/2014 at 9:45:47 AM

Jake -

This is not going to be easy but stranger things have happened. Keep working at your game, go to a camp if you can to help you with the fundamentals of the game.

Did they ever tell you why you were cut? OR, did you ever ask the coach what you would need to do for them to pick you next year?

Good luck and I hope that your dream comes true.


Erik Hawes says:
2/6/2014 at 12:01:17 PM

I coach a 3rd grade team playing in a 5-on-5 league, and I like the concepts discussed in this article, but don't know where to find a development league like what's being described here. Does anyone have suggestions for a league like that in the metro Houston area?


Brian says:
2/15/2014 at 1:50:05 PM

I coach a 4th grade team in a league that tries to strike a balance between competition and development. Playing time is not equal but it's relatively close. There are certain players on my team that never wanted to be there in the first place. Allowing kids to participate in a broad range of activities is fine - but the parent has to understand the burden they are putting on their child.

I have a player who plays hockey, basketball, and does scouts all in the same season. He goes from school to hockey practice to basketball practice and eats nothing between lunch at school and the end of basketball. He may as well bring a sleeping bag because he walks around the court like a zombie in practice anyway and he is a complete disruption with his behavior. The child is way overextended and my job is to be his basketball coach. The fact that he is too tired from hockey is NOT my problem. I'm not his parent and I'm not his hockey coach. My job is to coach basketball and help them develop skills. I demonstrate what they should do to improve. They do the work to improve.

I don't demand too much from 4th graders. This is what I expect:
1. You will focus on basketball the whole time that you are at basketball practice.
2. You will be respectful of teammates, coaches, referees, and opponents (any malicious flagrant foul or technical foul for sportsmanship is an automatic benching for the remainder of the game AND sitting out the next one).
3. It doesn't matter how well you shoot, dribble, pass or play defense. What does matter is that you are putting in your best effort with every drill and situation that we put you in so that you can get better at these things.

The parent of the one player mentioned above actually told me that my expectations are out of line and that I should only expect him to focus on basketball 70-80% of the time. What am I supposed to do with his kid the other 20-30%??? I'm a coach. I'm not a babysitter. I have 11 of 12 players that have shown massive improvement over the course of the season because they are willing to work at it and they showed up on Day 1 wanting to get better at basketball.

Hell will freeze over before I take extra playing time away from one of the 11 in order to give it to the kid that doesn't work at all (it's not a matter of not working as hard - he literally walks during a dribbling drill no matter how many times I encourage him to go faster, he's too lazy and too tired to run while playing basketball), doesn't pay any attention to any instruction that is being given, and subtracts coaching time away from the rest of the team while I have to babysit him. My practices are open and the parent sees it all but doesn't want to believe it and thinks his kid is really trying - which is so far from the truth that there's no way to convince this parent otherwise.

I've heard from other team leaders, parents that had kids on other teams, scout leaders, etc. that this has ALWAYS been the case with this child and the reason the parent got incredibly angry with me is because I'm the first one to tell him the truth and this is the first time that his child has played less than others. I just found out that in scouts this year, that child was at 3 of 10 events, was disruptive at the 3 events he was at and was given all of the same merits as the kids that were there and did the hard work that was asked of them. What kind of message is this sending to our youth? Getting a pat on the back just for showing up is ridiculous.


Joe Haefner says:
2/15/2014 at 2:19:56 PM

That must be frustrating, Brian. It sounds like you're doing the right things. Keep up the good fight!

Babying inappropriate actions and rewarding it will just hurt the child in the long-run.

If the comment was due to the unequal playing time remark in the article, that subject actually needs to be addressed in a separate article as I never intended to mean that you just GIVE everybody equal playing time. It needs to be EARNED. I rarely have issues with this at the youth level as kids actually crave discipline.

Also, be sure to try to understand the kid as well. His behavior may be due to issues he's having elsewhere. Be there for him.

I was told once that sometimes the kids who drive you crazy are the ones who need the hug the most. In general, I think this can be true about people.


Ken Sartini says:
2/15/2014 at 3:04:48 PM

Brian -

"I have a player who plays hockey, basketball, and does scouts all in the same season. He goes from school to hockey practice to basketball practice and eats nothing between lunch at school and the end of basketball. He may as well bring a sleeping bag because he walks around the court like a zombie in practice anyway and he is a complete disruption with his behavior. The child is way overextended and my job is to be his basketball coach. The fact that he is too tired from hockey is NOT my problem. I'm not his parent and I'm not his hockey coach. My job is to coach basketball and help them develop skills. I demonstrate what they should do to improve. They do the work to improve."

Reading this tells me that the problem lies with the parents overextending the kid.... he's 10? Maybe he needs a good role model/parental type?

The more you coach the more you will find out that you are going to be a coach/parent/social worker/counselor/teacher & friend

I was a varsity coach and there were times when we worked out at night and some kids
( that were playing summber baseball ) came into practice looking like they went through a ringer... I WOULD NOT ALLOW THEM TO WORK OUT .....

I don't think this kid is too lazy, he plays hockey,basketball, goes to scouts and school along with having to do homework. Thats a pretty hefty schedule for anyone let alone a 10 year old.

Joe -

"Also, be sure to try to understand the kid as well. His behavior may be due to issues he's having elsewhere. Be there for him.

I was told once that sometimes the kids who drive you crazy are the ones who need the hug the most. In general, I think this can be true about people.".

I agree Joe, this kid needs someone to care about his best interests.- JMO guys


Brian says:
2/15/2014 at 9:41:33 PM

Thanks for the feedback, guys. I do agree that sometimes those are the kids that need the support most. The problem is that I'm around the player for only 2 hours a week and between working full-time and raising my own family (I do not have a child on the team), I can't do much beyond the time commitment that I already made.

The comment wasn't necessarily a reaction to the article itself but a total reaction to the entire conversation in the comment section and just giving an example of a situation where it's completely unfair to the rest of the team to lose playing time to this particular player.

I've never punished the player for being late. I'm not a screamer in practice that is there just to yell at kids. I'm not one of those coaches that thinks the only way to get results is to make kids suffer. My purpose for being there is to teach basketball and life skills in the limited time I am allotted so that is what I focus on and the practice environment is welcoming and fun for the kids.

I tried explaining to the parent that his child is overextended. His response was that he wants to expose his child to anything he's interested in and simply signs him up for everything he asks for. This parent blew up at me when I said to him "exposure to many activities is ok but you are going about it the wrong way. Your son will never learn how much he enjoys an activity because you are never giving him a chance to fully enjoy any one of them."

This dad approached me and my assistant immediately after a practice and ripped us a new one (disobeying our 24 hr cooldown period + schedule an appointment rule).

When I asked him "Why did you sign your son up for this? What was your expectation?" Turns out, he thought the idea was to just throw the ball out onto the court and let the kids go have fun "playing basketball" (with no instruction - just a basketball focused recess where I was the adult chaperone). I pointed out that he found out quite differently on day 1 so why did you keep your kid in the program?

The parent got mad at me and told me it was my responsibility to make his kid happy at basketball and that none of the burden is on his child to put in any effort to getting better. At that point, I just said to him "I can't take you seriously. There's no point in continuing the conversation." And I walked away.


Ken Sartini says:
2/16/2014 at 1:35:15 PM

Welcome to the world of coaching Brian .

At least you tired to explain things to this parent who obviously doesn't get it. This boy will be one of those that quits playing sports by the time he reaches high school if things don't change.

I LIKE your 24 hour cool down rule. Every coach should use that.

You might suggest that he takes his son off the team and let him go play in the park where its all fun and games.

As a coach its your responsibility to teach him the game ( fundamentals) , things about life....
(even at 10) and let them have some fun. Its not about winning and losing at this age.

It is also very obvious that this boy needs you to be a coach/parent/social worker/counselor/teacher & friend because right now his dad does not have his best interest at heart.

Good luck and I hope that things work out for you AND this boy.


Justin manganello says:
4/25/2014 at 4:18:11 PM

There is no fun in practicing fundamentals all practice and if a kid quits then he could never take the nba NEVER


Desmond says:
5/22/2014 at 10:32:12 PM


I am a former Div III College player at Purchase College in NY, and a JV Head Coach and Varsity Assistant in Tarrytown NY. I have been around the sport my whole life. I have been in every role as a player in the sport, from the last guy on the bench to a captain of my college team. I was really impressed with this column.

As a coach, I was around many coaches who focused on the next win. This would place a ton of stress on the sub-par player who has the potential to become a college bound athlete. My goal is to start a league that would focus on fundamentals and allow for playing without the stress. Do you have any advice for me?


Joe Haefner says:
5/23/2014 at 2:20:04 PM

Thank you, Desmond.

As of now, the only experience I have is running camps and coaching teams.

For the camps, we focus on skill development and use 3 on 3 to teach tactical skills such as cutting, down screens, and ball screens.

For coaching teams, find a team and coach it the way you believe it should be coached. Make sure to have a parent meeting and be crystal clear with your philosophies and reasoning.


Mark says:
5/28/2014 at 8:14:02 PM

I have 9 year old boys that have been playing since they were 2 years old at the Y. I coach there 3 on 3 basketball team in the summer and 5 on 5 in the winter. In the 3 on 3 I have no problems with parents because we get to choose the team we want. 5 on 5 we don't and that is a problem. I have kids that do not pay attention in practice so they don't play as much. They play the minimum that the the league requires which Is 4 minutes a half Im so tired of parents complaining. I read all the comments above and it's the same complaints. I don't even try to explain why anymore. I just tell them I'm a busy guy and I take time to coach. If you don't like the way I coach then why don't you coach yourself?? So to all the parents complaining, shut up and coach yourself if you don't like how the coach is coaching your kid. We don't get paid for this. It's volunteers.

  1 reply  

G Bark says:
12/24/2014 at 9:28:41 AM


I am not claiming to be a good coach by any means, but I have coached an 8-9 year old coed team for 3 years and a 10-12 coed for 2 years. The biggest thing I have noticed between the two age groups is that the younger ages, you spend A LOT of time herding the kids together. Some of the suggestions I would make to keep everyone happy, your number one job as a coach at that age is to MAKE SURE THE KIDS HAVE FUN PLAYING BASKETBALL. It should NEVER be about winning for you.

Next, you do not know how those kids are going to grow and develop physically so you have to give them all EQUAL experience at ALL positions on the floor. That means you have to run age appropriate drills that teach these young athletes the fundamentals of the game.

Next, when you run drills with your athletes, you have to understand 9 year olds have a very short attention span. If it takes more than 1 minute to explain a drill and more that 2-3 minutes to run all of them through the drill, YOU WILL lose their attention. I also would recommend running drills where you have your athletes learning multiple skills where in one line they learn an offensive skill and the next they learn a defensive skill. It helps with the time and keeping the athletes engaged. I have also found that after every third or fourth drill, letting them shoot around for 3-5 minutes helps keep their attention as they have something to look forward to. I typically use that time to help a player with a skill or drill they may have had a hard time with, or if they want to score on the coach, you give them the opportunity.

Speaking of defensive skills, absolutely DO NOT worry about trying to teach zone defense to athletes that young. You are actually doubling your work doing that. You absolutely cannot teach any zone defense without teaching man to man fundamentals. Keep it simple, you already have limited time in practice, don't complicate things. Can teaching and implementing a zone help you win more games, it definitely can in certain situations, but like I said earlier, don't make it about winning.

Lastly, you have to understand that in a Y league or any Rec league for that matter, all parents pay the same fees for their child to play and as a parent, they EXPECT equal coaching, development effort AND playing time for their child. Once the parents and athlete take the next step and commits their child to an AAU team or Middle School/High School teams with tryouts, that is when you start rewarding hard work and skill with playing time, or slacking and not working hard with less playing time.


Mark says:
5/28/2014 at 8:41:08 PM

Also I don't claim to be this great coach, Iam not even close. I do my best with what I know. I do let parents know before the season starts that I do want there kids to come to practice and pay attention. And that playing time hinges on this. It's not fair to a kid that comes to every practice and puts forth effort to play the same amount as the kid that don't come to every practice and is picking his nose or has his hands in his pockets almost the whole time. I get only 1 hour a week with the kids which is not even close in the time needed. I do open my home for extra practices So for the parents that have kids like this you don't want them on my team. Coach your own so then your kid that disrupts practice can play the whole game


Ken Sartini says:
5/29/2014 at 9:17:34 AM

Mark -This is from Joe

Joe Haefner says:
3/18/2009 at 8:07:47 AM
Hi Coach,

My thoughts are that any teams under the varsity level, you coach to develop players. Teams 14 and under, I think you want to keep the playing time fairly equal, because this is what's best for the kids LONG-TERM.

Coach to develop. Players play to win.

From me -

What you are experiencing from these kids is pretty typical for this age group. Its hard to keep them on task.... the key is to teach them fundamental and let them have fun. It sounds like you are getting pretty discouraged and I am sure that working with that age group is NOT easy. Kudos to you coaching this age group. Take a step back and relax... try to make all your drills fun, this might help to keep them involved..


Billy The Kid says:
12/23/2014 at 3:55:36 PM

My son just turned 14 years old and goes to a Parish school and plays CYO Basketball with his 4 classmates also 3 kids from a the public school that he played with last year!
Last year he was a starter playing basketball for a CYO team and was an awesome player and was playing with his previous assistant coach?
This year the kids are all playing CYO basketball again now we have a new coach and his son plays also with us ,I just don''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''t get why my son is the one that is sitting down and the coaches son became the starter? This is my sons last year and the rest of my sons classmates are even starting before him? Whats so frustrating is that all his classmates are starter except him? They don''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''t even envolved my son with there plays so basically he''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''s just lost out there?
My concern is why should not my son start and it''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''s his last school year and I''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''m paying for this parish school?
This is why basketball is getting so corrupt parents coaching there own kids in games like this give them the power to bench any kids they like and put there kids in front of them first before any other kids?
You tell me if this is right way to raise your kids or play with this coaches like this?
My friend told me to report the coach to the principal and Head P.E Coach what should I do?

Bill The Kid

  1 reply  

Jeff Haefner says:
12/24/2014 at 7:31:54 AM

I know this can be tough for parents and seems to make no sense. It is frustrating.

But as someone that has been on both sides (coach and parent), I can tell you that the parents really don't have a way to know if what the coach is doing is justified.

This is a different year. Just because he started last year doesn't mean he will this year.

I assume you have not been to any of the practices to see what is really happening? Maybe your son has not been giving effort at the practices? Maybe your son has not been doing what the coach asks in practice? Maybe the other players worked harder in the offseason. Maybe the other players are just doing better this year... for whatever reason. Maybe there are politics. Maybe there are not.

I think this is a life lesson opportunity for your son. If he is not satisfied with his playing time, he should do what any responsible person would do... be proactive and talk to the coach. He should be be very polite about it. He should ask the coach what he can do to help the team more. Ask what he can do to improve and get more playing time.

Unless there is a rule about equal playing time, the last thing I would do is report the coach to the principle. That could make things worse.

Here are a couple links that might help him:


Billy The Kid says:
12/24/2014 at 1:08:09 PM

The main problem with this situation is we don''t have any school CYO team practices the plays they run is thru there AAU coach that coaches the D-2 Team so basically he''s lift out,if my son wasn't that great of a player he wouldn't be playing for multiple AAU Teamand geting picked up,I just think he's treating him that way because he's jealous and he's taking to my son?

My son plays in a D-1 AAU Team and plays point guard
and can play and compete with the best teams out there?

I just think he doesn''t play him because he''s upset that my son joined a better team and lift them hanging and upset

It''s obvious that he doesn''t like my son because people notice it too?
As a parent i think he does it for a reason because he''s trying to make his son look good like his older son that scored 40 point in a game and got MVP?

To me they can have the MVP and Trophy''s all I want is to give my son to start like everybody else,even some the kids are noticing it why isn''t my son starting he''s the 2nd best player on the team?

To me I just want to hang it up or just quit because these foolish coaches just wants to make there kids better than the rest,but in the real world they getting taught the wrong way of basketball,I told my son this you work just work your butt of because these kids will not go far once they joined other teams!


Keith Kappel says:
1/17/2015 at 12:44:52 PM

I think the biggest challege here is when parents get favorable treatment on their kids. They may be a teacher or coach who is coaching his kids team and playing favorites. Equal playing time should be the rule until high school ball. Less playing time for kids that don't want the playing time but I think it should be their choice. No doubt any team has different skill level and dedication from the players but that does not mean they should get more playing time. Kids need playing time to develop period. Kids that are excelling are rewarded by playing better when they are in the game. I've coached for many years, trust me. Putting empasise on development, trust and fairness goes a long ways to the overall development of a good basketball program. What I tell my team is this. "OK, each of you are going to get the same playing time. Take full advantage of this tim to be the best you can be. "


amy says:
2/8/2015 at 8:21:24 AM

I have 2 boys. They each made our cyo region team. My 6th grader plays jv and my 8th grader plays varsity. This has been an eye opening experience beginning with a waiver I was required to sign that stated playing time will not be equal and we agree to understand. As the season progressed I watched kids sit on the bench, often for entire games. I watched this happen with all the teams. I was dumbfounded. The same kids play game after game while the remaining players sit in anticipation. I can make these observations with even emotions because my jv son played every game while my varsity son who would play basketball in his sleep if possible, sat on the bench. My question is have anyone reading this come up with a league rule that applies to playing time at the travel/ region level? All these kids have talent that is why they are hand selected for these teams. This talent does not grow without court time.

Any suggestions?

I want to encourage change in a flawed system. These coaches are not doing anything outside of the rules. I wish we could change the rules. It is in the best interest of the kids.

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
2/8/2015 at 3:59:56 PM

I'm not sure there's much you can do other than try to teach life lessons out of the situation and/or find another team where he gets to play. Here are a few links that might help find opportunities to learn life lessons and how to get more playing time.


BTW, I know there are some leagues that require playing time but there are problems with that too. Ideally you have a coach that makes sure all the players get a chance to develop and also uses playing time to teach and motivate them.


Christos says:
2/27/2015 at 4:50:23 AM

We live in greece and my 3rd grade son trains for one of the 2 top teams in the country and one of the top 5 in europe. it just so happens this is also our local town team.

i am dissappointed by many things of their training program (eg. they use standard height baskets for all ages even 1st graders!). the major one is their unequal time of play during friendly games they play against other teams. my son (who is average in ability compared to his teamates) loses interest sitting on the bench watching the same and the same kids starting up and playing the most time. i fear he will lose his interest for the game. when a new friendly is announced i anticipate more frustration from him and feel he is missing a training session for an unpleasant experience. i have even thought to ask his coach to exclude him from those ' games' but i fear this would made him feel more inadequate so i thought better. instead i decided to look for another training program. in fact the only reason we chose this team besides the fact it is our local one was that they train in indoor facilities which is the exception for youths in greece (90% train outdoors). i dont believe sitting on the bench more than some of your teammates teaches children this age any lessons about trying harder or other facts of life about inequality. its just dissilutions them. it can work in adolescence but not earlier. until then i believe kids should concentrate on learning the basics and to be able to make this fun for them is the key to a successful training program.


Matt M says:
10/26/2015 at 2:15:57 PM

Our local boys youth leagues runs 4, 6-minute quarters with a whistle at 3 minutes into a quarter for mandatory substitutions. Every boy must play equally. It's fantastic.


Chris says:
11/2/2015 at 2:50:29 AM

Well my Son basically started playing basketball (his only sport) for a couple of months for first time at 8, after those months he didnt touch a ball until 10, so its basically like he is just starting to play basketball for first time. My issues is at 10 he was on an AAU team that had players that had been playing sports in general since like 1st grade so he only played like 3 minutes a game. I was not okay with this but I understood because my son was not as skilled as the other players on team, I always thought to myself how can he develop if he never plays. After season I asked him what he wanted to do, he said stay on team and work harder so that was focus over the summer. Now he is 11 on same team and same issue is happening, but his skill level is on par with his teammates but he doesnt know how to use them because he doesnt get any playing time so he cant develop. My question is am i hurting him by keeping him on the team when i can have him playing for another team that might not be as good but are the same age group and he will get a lot more playing time to develop, but the con is they might not win as much or wont come close to winning as much. It just sucks watching him sit on the bench while other players are messing up and he doesnt even get a chance or is told to just go to the block.

  2 replies  

Jeff says:
11/2/2015 at 7:15:31 AM

Your son needs opportunities to play. In addition he needs opportunities to get lots of touches on the ball (minimal standing in lines for skills drills, 1v1 drills, play 3v3 games where you get more touches, etc).


Michelle says:
12/6/2015 at 1:47:36 PM

In my opinion, your son will never get off the bench until he gets better. My son went through the same thing, all he played was rec, one season a year then I signed him up for a competitive team, he was on the bench a lot. I told my son, 'you have to be so good at the game, the coach never wants to take you out, you want to be the kid the team is hoping shows up, the only way to do that is to work hard! Train hard!' Sign your son up in another league like you mentioned that isn't as good so your son gets more playing time, doesn't matter if they loose more, your son is getting better that's what matters right now, get him into training, if possible one on one, and or group training. He can also train on his own, look up ball handling drills on youtube, take him to a school yard on the weekend have him practice shooting. My son did all of this, he's so much better and off the bench. Trust me, when he starts training and can start doing thing he could do before he will get more motivated to keep its awesome. Please update!


Michelle says:
12/6/2015 at 1:27:05 PM

I'm a mother of a 12 year boy who plays basketball. I also coach girls basketball at my son's previous school.
I can tell you this, equel playing time is for rec team elementary up to 5th grade, I don't believe it should apply past that. I've followed my girls team for 2 yrs. This up coming season, they are 7th grade, and the rules are changed, full court press, not like elementary, only last 2 minutes of each half, full court press, now it's up to coach for playing time, before equal. Made me crazy because I had to play the girl who skipped practices, didn't practice hard, the same time as the girl who came to every practice, worked hard. When you have 11 girls on a team, four 8 minute quarters, equal playing time is no fun for the latter girl. This season is going to be great! The girls who work hard get rewarded for it!
My son is in 7th grade, playing in the 8th grade rec league for his school. 35 boys sign up, divided into 3 teams, the best players are divided and placed on seperate teams, they say because its fair. How is that fair? My sons team has 2 good players, 2 ok players, the rest either never played or played a little, they don't understand the game. This is the problem I have, the 2 good players. 2 ok players, who haved played for years, trained, practiced, work their butts off, have to now play with kids who cant play. This is beyond unfair! And the games are hard to watch. I wish I could post the video because parents and coaches who think equal playing time is fair or kids who want to 'try' the game out when they turn 13 can see what that does to a game. There are trainers, and no comp leagues, try those first. Seriously. When my son started he was in 3rd grade knew nothing, school was small, so 3,4,5 grade was combined, and they played 5th grade. I asked the coach to please not play my son more than a 1 or 2 mintues a half. Coach was good with that. My son got to be on a team, see if he liked the game, he wasnt in long enough to mess up the game and now he LOVES it.


Mike says:
12/6/2015 at 10:04:07 PM

Anthony you are doing the right thing. I would go to whoever runs the league or school. Have that coach removed. He is a cancer to the kids.


Joseph says:
12/12/2015 at 9:11:31 PM

I haven't read of this situation so I'll post this and see what replies I get.

What level of teaching should I expect from her coach? My hopes were my daughter would learn the game and play to the best of her ability. Unfortunately the extent of my daughter's training was to stay in a far corner of the court, hold your hands up and don't get in the other kids' way. 3 of the kids on her team are daughters of the coaches. My daughter doesn't feel like part of the team. In the last game she played 3 minutes in a 32-minute game. I'm not a big equal-time advocate but 3 minutes on a 3rd-4th grade team doesn't seem right to me. She is rapidly losing interest in the sport.
I would like her moved to another team, but I don't think that's likely. Any advice?

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
12/13/2015 at 12:09:39 PM

Most youth coaches are well intentioned volunteers that don't have the training or experience that we would all prefer. And even some paid coaches are not the best either.

At this age, you want lots of touches on the ball, fun, activity, and the development of basic skills (dribbling, passing, pivoting, lay ups, and man to man defense).

If your child isn't getting opportunities to play, discover, and touch the ball... put them in a better situation next season.

3on3 is great for young kids because they get lots of touches. In practice we play tons of full court 1v1 and small sided games so kids develop skills and get lots of touches.

At this young age, kids just want to play. As a youth coach, I do not give equal playing time. However I make sure everyone gets opportunities to play fairly equal for the course of the year... so that means scheduling B games or school level teams or whatever you want to call it. We don't give it a name. We just make sure we schedule games so everyone gets opportunities by the end of the season. And I match players up against appropriate competition so they get challenge the right amount and have chances to improve.


G-Bark says:
12/14/2015 at 8:44:18 AM

I think part of the problem is a lot of youth coaches and parents are confused with should be happening with the players on their team. I think the biggest problem comes from parents, coaches and organizations calling their teams "Competitive/Competition" teams. There is only ONE league in the US that is a Competitive league. EVERY OTHER LEAGUE that is not the NBA is a DEVELOPMENTAL LEAGUE to develop and prepare athletes for the next level, whether it is Middle School/14U-8th Grade team developing athletes for High School, High School/18U-11th Grade Team developing athletes for NCAA, or NCAA team Developing athletes for the NBA. Even the NBA-DL says Development League in the name, but notice how the pool grows smaller as you go.

Having said that, how can you be effectively developing the athletes on your team if you are not providing them adequate playing time to evaluate their skills and deficiencies. I can say with confidence, that you are not effectively coaching and developing your athletes.

Just my 2 cent.


Arty says:
12/20/2015 at 12:43:59 AM

Straight up there''''''''s lazy kids out there, and there''''''''s parents who want their kids to play just to lose weight and have fun. theres other kids who were very competitive and very skilled and take time to learn I''''''''m not gonna take time away from one of those kids to give to one of these other kids. You work for what you get in life you shouldn''''''''t be handed to you. Those kids who don''''''''t work for anything are the same kids who are going to grow up and just be on welfare why work if you can get something for free. If your kids no good at sports put them in some other activity that''''''''s all there is to it stop complaining about the better kids getting more time their parents are more dedicated and they practice more simple and plain.


DP 2 grade Youth basketball coach says:
2/11/2016 at 10:28:06 PM

My comment to the article or the younger youth basketball league is this: Parent and people that think it should be all about taking it easy and it is all about fun do not understand sports. As a coach my job is to take youth players and try to put together a team which would start with picking out your best dribbler and point guard, then Shooting guards etc... The first things that everyone has to remember is that you have very little to no practice time to really teach the kids all the parts of the game to make them a good player. Some kids have already got the skills before the first practice even start and some of the others that have no skills will learn very little during the season. Learning the game or any sports comes from the parents and having them work on their game off season. Example.. I spend hundreds of hours with my daughter learning the game during the off season to have her ready to be a point guard and this in not taught or learned during the season.

Parents think the kids should be in certain position and have fun, but let me tell you that sports are not fun in general for the simple fact that when they are out on the court with other kids fighting for the ball that are very aggressive and fighting and scratching. You all need to wake up to reality because sports take hard work where the stronger player will excel and move on up.. Yes you will have players drop out of the sport but they are going to do that no matter what I do.

I see 2 grade youth basketball girls that only have one girl that really does everything and all the other girls just run up and down the court trying to get the ball and are not going to learn much about the game.

If you want the kids to learn the game then they should not be playing the game against other teams in a competitive enviroment because then kids that do not practice off season will never learn the an sport.

Bottom line is that learning starts at home....

I could go on and on... but people and parents just do not get it at all....

  3 replies  

Jeff says:
2/12/2016 at 8:22:51 AM

So unless you have parents that have the time and knowledge to teach their kids basketball skills... you are out of luck!!??

Sorry but I don't really think it should be that way. That is why I spend tons of time teaching my youth teams fundamentals and developing them. Everyone gets a fair chance regardless of who their parents are of what they know.

They learn to work hard in practice, how to be proactive, sportsmanship, character, integrity, leadership, etc, etc.

It all starts with making it fun for them. Foster a love for the game. Teach basic skills and develop coordination. Then you build from there.

Eventually in time you make things more competitive (A/B teams, starting five, tougher competition, etc). Some players will fail and there are life lessons opportunities there.

Coaches can give them drills to work on at home (again lesson opportunities).

Some young kids are not capable of learning the "work ethic" lessons until high school. These are kids!!! They all develop physically, emotionally, and cognitively at different rates.

I believe everyone should have a chance to experience basketball and the lessons you can get from it.

Not having enough practice time is a real problem for youth sports. Not to mention the rules of the leagues that make it even tougher for coaches with little practice time (this the adjusted rules above in the article). If that's a problem, coaches should try to find more time to practice. Or find a different league. I mean what's the purpose if you don't get to practice. The league definitely should NOT be competitive if you don't give teams sufficient time to practice and prepare.

Could the developmental model in this article be improved? Yes. Is this model applicable to every situation? No. But it's a good starting point for a league admin to build from and adapt to fit their situation.

In my situation, we were a little more competitive and structured things so both the "recreational" players and the "competitive" players had appropriate opportunities against the appropriate competition.

My job as a coach to develop great players and great people (teach character, integrity, sportsmanship, and leadership). I also expect parents to teach character and develop great people. That is their job!!!! But I don't expect them to teach them basketball skills or to be their coach. That is MY job!! I expect them to me a parent.

So many problem occur from parents trying to coach at home. That is really tough!!! Just had a talk with a parent about this and they realized they just need to back off and say "I love watching you play" and stop commenting about the game. Just be supportive and let the coach coach.

I have heard so many coaching friends tell me how bad their relationships got with their kids -- they tell me they should have just been dad at home and not talk Xs and Os or be on them about their skills. I think the car ride home is the most important time. That is when the most damage can be done. That's when in my opinion mom and dad just need to keep mouths shut and show them love... say "I love watching you play" and just come up with something positive to say. Too many parents think they are a coach when they have no business and in fact make things worse for their kid.

I'm not saying parents shouldn't work with their kids on their skills. But I'm saying that I think they should be careful and there are much more important things for them to focus on as parents... especially when all of us parents don't have a surplus of extra time.


Jeff says:
2/12/2016 at 8:55:20 AM

This comment you made is a point of interesting because I take a completely different approach:

"As a coach my job is to take youth players and try to put together a team which would start with picking out your best dribbler and point guard, then Shooting guards etc..."

I started coaching a group of girls in second grade. Some of them were terrible. They couldn't dribble at all, pass, catch. They didn't know what a foul was or anything.

I took the opposite approach as you. Everyone got to play PG and all positions. We took a position-less approach. I proactively found gym time so we could practice twice a week.

We did not play any 5on5 because that is a joke at this age. We only played 3on3 as instructed in this article.

A couple of the not so good players quit after a year or two. Others stuck with it. I'm confident the other bad players would have quit too if I didn't make things fun and allow the to bring up the ball, etc.

Today as 5th graders some of those bad players are really good. We have one of the better teams in the state (not the top or anything... not like I recruited as other teams do). But we can compete with anyone.

I am thankful we showed patience with all the players because they have really developed and made things a lot of fun and have a really great team.

They are incredibly scrappy and out hustle most of the teams we face. They have a blast. It is fun. Competing is fun. Improving is fun. Developing camaraderie and friendship is fun. Servant leadership is fun. Helping others is fun. Hanging out with teammates is fun.

This eludes to your next comment...

"You all need to wake up to reality because sports take hard work where the stronger player will excel and move on up.. Yes you will have players drop out of the sport but they are going to do that no matter what I do. "

I'm convinced that many of the players on our current team would have quit if they were pushed too hard. The coaching has a huge impact on who quits and who continues. Of course it matters what you do! Sure some will quit no matter what. But you have a much biggest impact than you think... especially with young kids.

To this day I still remember what baseball and basketball coaches said to me as a kid. I remember word for word certain things. I remember a certain coach who gave me words of encouragement and said "I believe in you" in 2nd grade. Incredibly impactful.

As a coach you certainly have an impact on how many kids drop out of the sport!!


G Bark says:
2/16/2016 at 10:51:33 AM

@DP 2 grade Youth basketball coach, From reading your comment, I an quite positive you are coaching for the wrong reasons. Just like in a comment I made earlier, coaches that call any youth sport a competitive league or a competitive team has absolutely zero understanding of what their job is. In the USA, there only ONE competitive basketball league, the NBA. EVERY other league, NCAA, High School, AAU, USSSA, YBOA, YMCA Rec league are DEVELOPMENTAL LEAGUES. Even the first step below the NBA says it in the name, NBA Development League.

Also, I believe no parent should coach their own child. I have coached both of my children, but I now chose not to coach them. I have several reasons for that, but one of the biggest is to give them the experience of different coaches, coaching styles, differing priorities as some coaches prioritize passing while others prioritize shooting, etc. The next biggest reason is it is hard for children to know when it is coach or dad that is talking to them. Finally, the third reason is there are ENTIRELY TOO MANY coaches that coach their teams to spotlight their own child/children and put forth no effort to coach the other players on their teams so that their child looks like a star.

What you chose to work on with your child as mom or dad is completely up to you as a parent. There are parents out there that do not have the knowledge or time to help their child develop the skills to play the game. That is why parents put their children on teams, for a Coach that is knowledgeable in the game to TEACH the game. If you are not willing to put in the time to teach the kids on your team the basics and the fundamentals to play the game, maybe you should look for something where you are more of a personal trainer with individual players than coaching a team.

I apologize if my comment strikes a cord, but it is just my 2 cents


AMMA says:
2/12/2016 at 9:36:49 AM

I agree with Jeff. My sons both played basketball. I have a 12 and 13 year old. When I initially commented on this post years ago, my older son was having trouble because the coach he played for sat him on the bench all the time even though he was good, so that the taller players could play. The coach thought that height made a difference in FOURTH grade. The following year, his new coach realized he was good and put him as point guard, leaving other kids to sit on the bench. Even at 11 and 12 years of age, my son could see the disadvantage sitting on the bench has for these kids. They are KIDS for crying out loud. How can they improve if not given the chance to practice, the chance to play in a game?? If you think that you can tell if a kid is good at sports in SECOND grade, I would seriously challenge your psychic ability and the ability to effectively coach anyone.. The kids that are good in second grade, will not necessarily be good in high school or go on to play at the collegiate level. These kids in elementary school are not physically or emotionally mature enough to even attempt to discern who is "good" and who is "bad" at the sport. The kids that are tall in second grade, may not be the tallest kids in highschool, they may lose interest in basketball all together and find a different interest.Yet as small children, the coach spent all their time and energy grooming them to become the best players, while the other kids were overlooked. Totally ridiculous and I have not found this attitude in any other sport than this one. Unfortunately, our basketball story didn't end well for my son. He totally lost interest in basketball after seeing the unbelievable favoritism that exists in this sport. He is an amazing athlete, football player, wrestler and lacrosse player. He has won awards and enjoys each sport that he plays. He just doesn't have time for basketball anymore and the coaches that think they can tell athletic ability in second grade. It is such a shame that adults think they have the right to determine a kids worth. Be aware that kids are much smarter than many give them credit for. My son learned from his basketball coaches that basketball is the most unfairly coached sport and thus that it has ceased to be fun. Sports are supposed to be FUN. Think of the kids that you could be keeping off the streets if they just had a little bit of encouragement from the adults that are put into a position to help them. Every single kid you meet has potential. Any person put in a coaching position should have that as their motto.


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2/15/2016 at 7:31:51 PM

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Katie says:
2/28/2016 at 9:23:23 AM

I have a question about sportsmenship. I have 2 daughters, both playing basketball for little Dribblers. My youngest is 10 and plays with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade. She is point guard. To my point, my daughter was is playing with with smaller kids so she doesn't play rough or dirty but but the other coach teaches her team (daughter) to.
Should a player apologize if they injury another player on purpose. The daughter of the other coach kicked my my daughter and she fell hard and sprained her arm. The daughter is smaller than my daughter the ball was down court so the refs did not see it. I did talk to the mother and she said she did not think her daughter needed to apologize. It is just a game.

Is this unsportsmanlike? We still have 2 games with this team. My daughter is fine.

Thank you.


Nicole says:
7/10/2016 at 4:34:24 PM

I am only going to speak for myself and my own experience.

My son had an opportunity to play for an Elite AAU Travel team. He arrived with very little experience - but he is big and fast.

He was offered a position as a "practice player" who would benefit from the development taught in practice on the Elite Team, or go be a super-hero on the A-team.

My son chose to be a practice player. I let it be his choice. He told me "I want to play against kids better than me - so I can get better".

That was 4 years ago. In that first year he evolved from "practice player" to being invited to every travel tournament this team attended across the country.

I have witnesses situations where kids who claim to be younger - are older - and playing down. I have witnessed my son be discriminated because of his size. (The refs tend to let the smaller ones get away with a lot more).

I have witnessed parents - disgruntled that their player who used to start, is now sitting on the bench.

I have seen it all.

Currently, my son is 14 years old, He stands at 6 ft 5 inches and is growing. He has been offered a scholarship to a prestigious high school (he is entering 9th grade) - whose academic program is outstanding.

My son has been through it all. But it is his passion - his choice - and he loves every minute of it.

So - I suggest to those parents concerned about playing time and whether or not we use the term "competitive". If you cannot stand the heat - then get out of the oven. If your child is going home in tears all the time - then that is not the right environment for your child.

There are so many leagues at some many various stages of "competition" - there is one for everyone. But the guy who said it is not "competitive" has not been in the circuit lately. There is a LOT of talent out there nationwide. Only a few can manage that high level of play - demand on the body - the mind - all of it. It is NOT for every child.

DO NOT THINK if you are going to complain about "fairness" or "even playing time" or whatever that it is an entitlement. It is not.

My younger son is not as talented. He plays more for recreational and fun. He is in a league suitable for him. And guess what . . . I enjoy that just as much as the COMPETITIVE league.

Summary - find a program that is RIGHT for YOUR child and stop criticizing those that are not. That is why so many exist today - to accommodate everyone.


Justin says:
9/10/2016 at 6:51:48 PM

No offense, but this is very toxic thinking.
If a kid or his parents don''t care enough to develop the kid outside of my practices, why the heck should I give them special treatment?
Playing time is earned, and any coach knows the kids that are working on their game outside of my practices/games.

I also couldn''t disagree more that you feel it''s teaching a child "me me me". What it teaches kids is that if they are willing to put the effort in, they will be rewarded with playing time.

What your method teaches kids is "hey, why bother working at it? I''m gonna going to get rewarded anyway".
That "everybody wins" is part of the reason there is a huge problem with entitlement, and lack of responsibility in children.

Then, on top of dealing with kids like that, I also have to deal with parents like you who feel that just because you drove your kid to the game, that he is entitled to take playing time away from the kids that work their butts off and obviously put in the extra time.

While it may not be "my right" to decide who the players are in high school (whatever that means), it is my right, and straight up obligation to put the best players on the floor the most. They earned it, and pacifying little lazy Jimmy with the hurt feelings doesn''t do anyone any good.

Practice is development time.

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
9/14/2016 at 9:36:59 AM

Justin, just to clarify my thinking... this is my first goal as a coach.

Provide an environment that enhances the child's chances of living a healthy life from a mental and physical standpoint.

Second, I will do what's right developmentally for their future, not what's right for my ego to win games.

Also, we didn't say equal playing time no matter what.

I've used playing time as a tool to discipline negative behavior.

To receive relatively equal playing time, you must have a good attitude, give great effort, be coachable, be a good teammate, and attend practices. I'm sure there are a few more things that I can't think of right now, but that seems to take care of the majority of problems.

For example, if a player continuously misses practice, I will call the parents and talk to them. I will find out why. Then we'll try to come up with a solution. I'll also let them know that it's not fair to the other kids to receive equal playing time and they won't until attendance improves.

In worst-case scenarios, they would be removed from the team. Luckily, I've never had to do that. And if the child has a tough home situation, I will do everything in my power to get that child to and from practice and games.

"It is my right, and straight up obligation to put the best players on the floor the most."

What age level are you coaching? What do you mean by most?

How do you handle physical maturation issues?

This is the 12 year old who likes like an 18 year old. They don't have to work hard or practice but they still dominate because they're a man among boys.

Do you still play them the most?

What about the 12 year old who looks like a 9 year old, but practices every day, works hard, and is a tremendous kid... do you bench them?

Are you going to stunt the development of the kid who matures late because of genetics?

Kids develop by playing.

I'm not inferring anything. I'm just curious because we may be on the same page for the most part with some slight differences.

Through about 6th grade, I believe you should do your best to get equal playing time over the season. That is assuming there isn't negative behavior.

There will be some situations where a player might only play 1/3 of the game. There might be some situations where they play 2/3 of the game.

Personally, around 7th grade, I start playing my best players 60% to 70% of the game against the best teams.

Then against teams that aren't as good, I'll flip flop a little bit. I'll play the kids who aren't as good a little more.

Mentally, I think they're ready to understand that they may not be good enough now. However, if they work hard and put together a smart plan, they could be where they want in a few years.

We also need to educate them and tell them how to get to better, why they should be patient, etc.


Chris says:
12/13/2016 at 3:52:37 PM

Well i posted on this forum last year about my son, he is 12 now and only been playing sports (just basketball) for 2 years. Maybe someone can help me here with the stress level. The situation is he can do all the drills, has a great shot, when we play one on one he looks great especially for someone that has only been doing this for 2 years. He was on an AAU team from 10-11 didnt play much, which was understandable due to him being a beginner and other kids been playing since 4-5 years of age. Took him off that team and on a lesser team, he played, but just didnt look anything like what i see when its me and him one on one or training etc.. its like everything was lost, he looked scared and nervous every game and didnt perform well. Now he is 12 he made the 7th grade basketball A team, he was very happy. ( he also started).
So first game same thing as the past, he looked nothing like what i see when training and just playing ball with me or others, looks scared and nervous, so the coach saw that and sat him pretty much the rest of the game.( He looked scared to dribble the ball, shoot the ball, everything seems rushed to pass to get it out of his hands.) Second game he didnt start and only played 10 minutes the whole game, and looked scared while other kids, i know he is better then skill wise, just look comfortable out there on the court, and its frustrating because i know he is better than most of the kids on his team that have been playing a lot longer than him, if he just gets the nerves out of him and just plays as if no one is watching, I just want everbody to see what i see when playing or training. The doctor said he is a late bloomer so maybe thats it( cant even do 4 push ups) but question is how long does it take for someone like him who has only been playing for 2 years to get out of that stage or how can i help him get out that stage, so that he can show case his real skill level. I know its a long post, sort of a get off my chest moment but any advice would help. Im trying to enjoy the process because i know what he can do but its hard. Going through the tough times to enjoy the great ones even more when they come i guess.
Also should i request he gets moved down to B team just to make sure he gets more playing time, maybe that will help him break out of his nervousness stage. Obviously the coach saw something in practice and during tryouts for him to make the A team and start but game time is another story.

  2 replies  

Jeff says:
12/14/2016 at 8:43:24 AM

Some kids are like that. Fairly common.

Hopefully the coach will help build up his confidence. But ultimately it's up to your son. It's very hard for coaches to get to know players well enough in a short time... some players react well to a stern voice and getting challenged. Others just need the coach to be calm and show they are confident in them.

Not much you can do other than just be positive and encourage him. Sometimes it just takes the right situation (maybe a teammate sick) where you get to start, have a little success, and get confident.

The good news is that even if he never breaks out of it... the only thing hurt is your ego. Your son will learn A LOT from the experience (by not reaching his goals). Often times you learn much more by failing than by succeeding. Not as much fun for you as a parent but sometimes better for your child when it comes to developing as a person in the game of life.

Again, use this as an opportunity to teach life lessons of persistence, positive thinking, hard work, etc.


Frank says:
3/5/2017 at 8:33:07 PM

My son had the same issue. He was probably top 3 on the team as far as athleticism & skill. But he was lucky to play 5 mins a game because ge looked like a deer i the head lights out in the court when playing. After several weeks of me trying to get him to loisen up and encourage him, there was no diference. I finally called the coach and explained to him what i was seeing and that for some reason my son is a wreck when out there. The coach knew exactly what to do & in no time had my kid playing to his potential. He knew my kid was shy & intimadatd because we talked. During the next few practices & games he did a few things different with my son until he found what worked to loosen him up. Most coaches are there for the right reasons and that is to help the kids, in anyway they can.


Cannonball says:
1/26/2017 at 2:57:02 PM

For younger kids- I stick with fundamentals and incorporating other principles that sports can teach us- like "Not Giving Up" and the benefits of working hard. Our program has a rec league and a travel league (for those who are more serious).


Frank says:
3/5/2017 at 7:44:20 PM

In my opinion there is an easy answer to all of the debates on whether youth sports should be competitive or not. The answer is simple, PARENTS NEED TO TALK TO AND LISTEN TO THEIR CHILDREN INSTEAD OF LIVING THROUGH THEM.

I have 2 sons, that are 1 year apart in age. They both started playing competitive sports at the age of 7. They both played soccer, basketball, & baseball every year until High School. My older son played Baseball & Basketball competively, but played soccer in a non- competitive league (meaning equal playing time). My other son played soccer & basketball competively, and was in a non competive baseball league. Although my older son only played soccer non competively from the age of 7-14, when he was in 8th grade he played goalie and fell in love with it and excelled at it. Now a sophomire in High School, he is the Varsity goalie. If I was to have forced him into a competive league when he was younger, he most likely would have quit and never looked back. I have always talk to my kids and let them play in the leagues they wanted to. I had one rule, if you join a team, you see it out till the end of seasin. No quiting.

There are so many different leagues out there. Some highly competitive, some semi competitive & some non-competitive. So what-s the problem? Sign your child up for what you and him/her think is best. It's simple talk with your child & if you LISTEN, they will tell you what they would rather do. Some kids are highly competitive and even while playing pee wee soccer at age 5, they are keeping score in their head, odds are he/she will quit, if at the age of 10 they still arent keeping score.

There are different levels at all ages in every sport. Talk to your child and find the league that works for him, it really is that simple. Problem is, people like the writer want to streamline everything. The reason different leagues exist, is because all kids are different. In most cases the only reason a kid loses interest and quits is because the parents are forcing them to do something they dont want to do to begin with.

  1 person liked this. 1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
5/9/2017 at 12:41:48 PM

Frank, I (the writer) really like your post and happen to agree with it.

For clarification purposes, what do you mean by this?

"Problem is, people like the writer want to streamline everything."

I'm trying to better understand if I communicated something poorly in the article.


John says:
4/3/2017 at 3:22:02 PM

Scranton, Pa -

Old article but will probably always apply. Our rec league baseball club has two teams, both coached by travel ball parents. IMO, if your kid plays travel ball they should be excluded from rec league. If they are to play REC league, then their travel ball daddy/mommy parent should absolutely be forbidden to coach. At the first practice this season, my kid's coach basically said to the parents, if your kid wants playing time, they'll get a few innings in the outfield. My infield is locked down. Send them to farm league if you want more playing time. I asked for a trade but was turned down. I won't say his kid is no good, but he isn't great even though daddy thinks he is.

Next year school 7th grade basketball has tryouts and cuts, and our school lets kids play up. Of course all the kids from 6th grade on the travel baseball team play up and the school AD is in the parent's pockets. And that baseball coach mentioned above sits in the bleachers keeping score how much time his kid gets to play.


Dee says:
11/22/2017 at 6:14:00 PM

This new age rules for basketball sucks, for I understand everybody gettin time to play but your also holding back the kids who do play great an practice hard to be a starter or get extra time.1st I’m from the inner city of Halifax we’re all the kids know is basketball where the ymca only has basketball and 10 courts in a 10 block radias,and over the last 15-20yrs the inner city kids and parents are being punished by raising prices $250 to play mini and people rent is $35-50 a month,yes we know there’s some funding some,but mbns now trying to even out the rules so the white kids or kids on the outskirts that have many options like hockey baseball etc have a better chance to compete,toning down the kids that only know basketball an that’s their life,to work harder then everyone else but to get tamed.another example teams like the ymca gets less home games then any other teams in the league then they make schedules for us to fail toughest teams and what makes it worse they’ll be way out the city some family’s don’t have cars and then not only half hour trips but then put us at 9am so as parents and coaches we gotta be up at 730am on a Saturday just so we can get their on time.i got so many things to say,I could make pages another example so there’s 22 teams in boys or girls mini teams Batam midget etc but after a couple games they make the ymca play the top 3 teams over and over again never the other 18-19 teams.i believe it’s because they want the team to fail and not to be the supperior team that it’s has been for over 50 years and a lot has to do with the fact it’s a black neighborhood promply all black kids with a few different cultures but there all welcome down there.ive been watching my kids play over the last few years and the refs call anything and everything against the y teams but if the other teams do the exact thing no calls.they wanna even everything out but we still NOT getting the same treatment.i can go on for days but for now just gonna leave it at that till later,waiting to hear people complain to change things to even things out or give their side cuz their kids team lose or it’s not a black thing etc people nowadays are scared to speak out but there hundreds of parents like me in the inner city north end uniake square.wats mbns response lol the haters will reply but what’s worse the people who know I’m right that won’t speak up or agree because or repercussions lol


Dawn French says:
11/29/2017 at 3:46:23 PM

What''s sad, is in our town our youth coach takes his personal feelings towards the parents that he doesn''t like and benches their kids and they don''t get to play, he actually tells the kids they aren''t good enough and it is hurtful, and sucks the self esteem out of the 2 kids that never get to play , They sit on the bench every game.


David Stout says:
12/1/2017 at 9:33:49 AM

Can coaches have closed practices to parents in a 5th and 6th grade girls travel team, put on by high school coach. There are no female coachest at these practices. All coaches are volunteer male coaches.

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
12/3/2017 at 4:47:16 PM

I'm not aware of any rules against something like that. But you can check with your local school district and/or talk with the coaches about the concern. If parents aren't comfortable then they might want to find a different team.


Noel says:
2/14/2018 at 8:02:12 PM

Seriously 80 % don't play because they are not good enough this article is dumb. If everyone was good enough to play it would be impossible to put one team out there from say a school district. It's not fun because your no good at it not because your great and got coached hard as a kid


stephen says:
7/16/2018 at 10:49:09 AM

Hi Erik. I am from Houston and would like to discuss this with you.


Robert Graber says:
11/30/2018 at 8:07:26 AM

I think that relying on teaching only M-F-M defense is not as good as we are being led to believe. Being able to change defenses often can be very effective even at a young age. I've coach basketball for 43 years, 40 in the same school district and am convinced it is important to teach both M-F-M and zone defenses to our youth. I view teaching only M-F-M defense is like teaching only the two handed chest pass. I think players need to be taught all of their options and early in their careers.

  1 reply  

Jeff Haefner says:
11/30/2018 at 9:04:49 AM

Those are interesting points. Some food for thought...

- One of the biggest problem with zone defense is volunteer parents are teaching. It's difficult to get the parents to learn one defense and teach it well... let alone get them to teach two defenses well. If I have to pick one, I hands down pick man to man and encourage youth coaches to start there... master that defense.

- Once you try switching youth defenses at youth level, it's hard to go back. It's addicting. But unfortunately things get sloppy. I see it first hand. You have youth teams doing a poor job executing their zone and man defenses... but even though the defenses are not good... the opponent is completely flustered because they are too young and mentally immature to recognize the changing of defenses... and honestly you have bad basketball on both ends of the court. Great coaching can overcome this.... but it's not easy and more times that not... it's a parent volunteering to coach the team.

- I have seriously thought many times about teaching our advanced 8th grade team how to switch defenses (man on makes and zone on misses or however you want to implement). I know some of those players will be using switching defenses in high school. But I always go back to spending time on shooting technique, shooting reps, dribbling, passing, pivoting, finishing moves, universals offensive concepts, agility, post moves, work ethic, mental toughness, and other things that I believe will help them more at this critical development time. Teaching them switching defenses takes too much of my limited practice time and I'd rather focus on skills and player development. As you know it's all about prioritizing. So we stick to our man to man defense and just get really good at that and spends tons of time on player development/skills.

- We do teach a little bit of zone defense. We play it roughly 10-20% of the time. But we're better at man to man because it's hard to find a lot of time to work on it. But our kids understand it so we're better at playing against it and they have a foundation to build on for whatever defense they are asked to play at high school level.

- Personally, as a high school coach, I have found that if I have kids that understand man to man defense, I can quickly teach them to play any defense... zone, press, switching defenses, etc. But if they do not have strong man fundamentals... it makes for a VERY long season and takes a really long time to get them learning zone or any defense because the can't stay in front of their man or just don't understand basic concepts like close outs and so on. Maybe others have a different view point but that is my experience.


Trey says:
12/8/2018 at 9:18:26 AM

This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard of.Ideologys like this ruin sports.


Chris says:
12/18/2018 at 11:13:16 AM

I have been coaching youth sports of all kinds for decades. Both rec league and higher travel league. This year I am back coaching a 6th grade boys rec basketball team. As with most drafts, its skills based. Better skilled players go first, with more poorly skilled players going last. This season, I was one of the few coaches that had to pick from the couple of remaining players. Typically, I would not care and we would move on but the player I received is an issue. At this age level, a very significant amount of the boys have played organized ball and are merely shuffling between drafting teams with familiar coaches. This player has never played basketball before and is significantly behind the abilities and game understanding of the other 7 players. While I have not been told of an underlying condition, I believe he has significant learning and social issues. He does not talk much, stays away from other players and is isolated a lot even when I try to involve him. To complicate matters, he missed the first two weeks of practice and two pre-season games but is now showing up more consistently. Our league has an equal playing rule, in that each player must play 2 quarters a game. He has not played in our first two regular season games due to his absence but he will be playing (provided he shows up for practice) in the coming games.

With my main 7 players, we are practicing various defenses, offenses, plays, and strategies. With this player, he cannot participate at that level. He consistently runs with the ball, dribbles with two hands, and has no concept of the court (offense/defense), lane, rules, etc. His skill deficient is so large that his obligated participation will likely change the competitive ability of our team to a point that will affect the end result.

I have spoken to the mother a few times, but only about the boy in general. She states that he has never played and simply wants to try it. I have not been honest with her yet on his ability level or how it could affect the team in games. I have let her know he is behind the others in learning and basketball knowledge and that we are going to have to practice with him one on one a lot. She really seems indifferent about that and seems to take a position that this is my job to transform him into player in our short rec season. While I have no issue with a player that needs brushing up, this is a ground up process that will take far more than a 8 week season and a dozen practices. I would rate him at a first grade level playing with sixth grade boys.

While I am cognizant of over emphasizing winning as the main goal, it is still one of the goals. I have a big fear that this boy could become a pariah for the others if his forced participation causes us to lose games. That would not be good for him, the parent or me as a coach. And i am afraid in today's sports culture this may even carry over to other players parents.

I am in a dilemma. I have read and read about coaching kids with disabilities and dysfunctions and most of that is about managing expectations. However, with forced playing time, I cannot manage expectations. He will have to play a full quarter, not sub, regardless of his effect on the team play. What I would like to do is play him in smaller increments, 2-3 minutes at a time but still enough to allow him participation.

I have spoken to the league official and I think I can get that in place for him. I wonder if I need to speak to his mom more about her expectations for him and her assessment of his abilities. Last year, I had a similar type player in a competitive but still rec soccer league. The parent was upfront and simply stated he knew he was behind and simply wanted us to play him as we could. Which we did as well and all were happy. This is different, the pressure here is to play the child regardless of that or the effect on the team and I am afraid that is going to become an issue in the stands before too long.

I need advice. I am looking for grounding. If I am off base, then I want to consider how to get on a better path. Or if there are others that have dealt with this and have advice, it is much appreciated. This is single most stressful issue I have with this team. Winning or losing, I am ambivalent but not so much when it may be mandated based on the obligated play time for a very poor player.

  3 replies  

Jeff says:
12/18/2018 at 3:05:20 PM

It sounds like you are handling things pretty good so far.

The best situation for this kid is to get in a situation where he has a chance to succeed at least a little bit and grow. It does not sound like this is a situation where he'll have a chance to grow.

I think you are on the right track talking to league officials and the parents. Maybe it will help to explain that for players to grow the need to be close to their sweet spot of development... so they are succeeding 50% to 80% of the time.

If they are succeeding more than 80% of the time, then they are not getting challenged enough. If they are failing more than 50%, then they are getting challenged too much and in time they will get discouraged and can lead to quitting or lowering performance.

I have always tried to put players in a situation where they are in the appropriate competition level and have a chance for at least a little success and do not hold back other players on the team.

I'm sure the parents do not want their child to get completely overwhelmed, discouraged, and lose confidence because they are matched up against experienced players that have had years of training.

See if you can talk to the parents and offer solutions to get him in a situation where he can be in that sweet spot for development. Maybe he's practice only player. Maybe there's a rec program he can get into with other beginner players. Maybe he can player with younger players for a year or so. Maybe he can work with a trainer for a year. You get the idea.

Hope this helps.


Coach Vic says:
2/26/2019 at 11:57:31 PM

What city are you in coach??


John says:
3/2/2019 at 10:30:03 AM

Put the kid at point guard. I've always said "Anyone can dribble the ball halfway up the court and pass it off". Teach the other kids on the team to support him no matter what. That would be their lesson. You/we don't know his whole story.


Chris says:
1/18/2019 at 10:04:16 AM


We have a team with 11 plays for 8th grade basketball. 5 players are 8th grade, 6 are in 7th grade.

The coach only wants to play 8 players a game because he says it's easier for him to manage and players get more playing time per game. He did this last year with the 5/6th grade boys team.

The 8th graders have never had this situation before, always about 7-10 players in the previous years, so the parents of course objected.

I believe that all players should be available for every game since:

1. Everybody practices the same amount of time
2. 8th grade basketball is vastly different than 6th grade basketball and you need all the bodies you can get.
3. By randomly sitting 3 players a week, how does that help your team if you sit the wrong 3 players based upon the matchup?

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
1/18/2019 at 11:18:20 AM

I actually like this as long as everyone gets equal opportunity during the year. This is a great way to develop players. When you have 10-11 on the bench, it is difficult to find enough meaningful playing time for each kid. Not to mention, if you travel it's frustrating for parents to travel and then watch you kid play for only a few minutes each game. If you know they will get plenty of playing time, it's a lot more fun to travel an hour or so and invest that time. And it's more fun for the kids to play more. With 11 kids... how much time does that 11th kid spend sitting on the bench? If it's completely equal playing time it wouldn't be too bad but if the better players get more minutes, then it could be pretty frustrating because there just isn't much time on the court for #11. I have found 8 is a good number of players to have in a game, get an effective rotation going, and get everyone lots of minutes. Depending on how the coach handles it, this might be a good thing.


Coach Vic says:
2/26/2019 at 11:46:47 PM

I currently run my own Basketball Development League in NYC. It is full court 3 vs 3. No racing up and down. We play three 8 minute quarters running time. No score is kept. Fouls are called as well as traveling, double dribbling, 5 seconds to inbound. Only 3 players on a team. Every player takes a turn dribbling the ball up and inbounding. Players are assigned to a side of the court. Right side and left side cannot enter into the 3 second area at all. The player in the middle cannot come outside the 3 second lines. I do this for spacing. It''s an interesting concept.


Coach Ken says:
3/8/2019 at 2:10:50 PM

I just finished our season coaching my son''s 7th grade travel team. We were the "C" team. We are the only town in our league that fields a third team so we only won 2 games. That being said, all of our kids got better, we were competitive in most of our games and we have a few players that developed enough to have a good chance to move up to the "B" team next season.
In terms of playing time most of our 10 kids played a half to 3/4 of the game. In our town, there is also CYO where 7th graders play a minimum of 3 quarters and town rec where everyone plays half the game. As the most competitive town league that also helps kids prepare for HS, the playing time is designed to gradually get to the HS level. Travel skews the minimum playing time as the kids get older from relatively equal in elementary school to 1/2 of a quarter in 7th grade and no minimum in 8th.
Our travel team has cuts and the dad evaluators typically make a handful of evaluation mistakes at each grade.
On my team there was a boy that should have been in rec not travel. He couldn''t shoot, dribble rebound or play defense and when pressured typically turned the ball over. In order to keep the games competitive against our mostly superior opponents, I needed kids who at a minimum played some defense, maybe rebound and weren''t turnover machines. I played man to man D and unfortunately, this boy would get beaten regularly for easy layups. He also only picks up a basketball during travel season. It was difficult to find playing time for him at all but I always gave him more than the minimum of 1/2 of a quarter our league required.
Needless to say, he and his parents were not happy at the end of the season. I have been a long time fan of your sight and your values so I regret not having played this boy more. If I had read this article before the season I would have. That being said, there were kids who were cut that are much better players and much more deserving of a spot on a travel team. In our town there''s a team for everyone and I think this boy is better served in either CYO or rec. where he wouldn''t be as overmatched and could play more.


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