Can Summer Basketball Lead To Injuries, Emotional Burnout, and Diminishing Skills?
Can Summer Basketball Lead To Injuries, Emotional Burnout, and Diminishing Skills?

As mentioned in the audio, if you play too many games compared to working on skills, your improvement will be limited.

It may take 20 games or MORE to get enough shots to match what you could do in just 1 skill session.

Along with the improper use of summer basketball to improve players, there are some other problems such as overuse injuries and emotional burnout.
  1. Injuries

    When summer basketball teams play 30 to 60+ games and weekend tournaments that have 3 to 9 games within 36 hours, the players are more prone to injury. Often, the athlete's muscles start to fatigue after 1 or 2 games. When the muscle is fatigued, your chance of injury increases exponentially. There is a reason many NBA GM's dislike their players participating with their national teams. A better option may be a summer program or summer league that involves 2 to 3 skill sessions a week and 1 to 2 games a week.

    According to the book, Sports Specific Rehabilitation by Robert Donatelli, "In 2001 an estimated 18 million children were treated for a sports/physical activity-related injury. Approximately, 50% of those injuries (9 million) were attributed to overuse mechanisms resulting in muscle damage."

    That's a lot of overuse injuries. Could multi-game weekend tournaments and too much of the same sport have something to do with it?

  2. Emotional Burnout

    Specialization and playing too many games can also lead to emotional burnout. This doesn't necessarily happen right away. Often times, it happens around ages 13 to 16. 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.

    I often hear the argument, but the kids want to play. This may be true and it's fine to do some summer basketball. However, you don't want to play 50 games! It's better to keep them wanting more than it is to force-feed them until they can't take anymore. It also helps build excitement for next year.

    In addition to burning them out, specializing in a sport at a young age can hurt them as an athlete. In the book Children & Sports Training, Jozef Drabik states that coordination is best developed between the ages of 7 to 14. If this is true, wouldn't you want children to be involved in a wide variety of sports that challenge them differently to produce better athletes? Lebron James played football. Kobe Bryant played soccer. Steve Nash played soccer. Michael Jordan played football and baseball. Who knows how many sports they played as children that helped them turn into great athletes? It surely wasn't 1 and was probably more than 2.

    My advice to youth parents and coaches would be to play seasonal sports. Play a bunch of different sports and make them fun. Kids are kids. A passion won't develop for something that isn't fun. If the passion to do something is gone, so is everything else.

    When it comes time to start specializing (somewhere after age 15) and the athlete has a passion for a sport, they will come to you.

What do you think about the lessons and advice shared? Please leave your thoughts and opinion below...

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Ken Stone says:
6/25/2009 at 7:58:14 AM

I agree with kids playing a variety of sports at an early age, but to the level of competition they play each sport concerns me. I have two sons (11 & 9 ) who play basketball competitively, but we as Father and Son (s) play, tennis, flag football and we work on boxing skills. To have kids playing competitive full contact Football and then within a few weeks competitive Basketball and into Baseball in my opinion is too much for a youths body and mind. Because of our money driven society the majority of parents make their kids destination the NFL / NBA or MLB and forget to make the journey fun, loving and memorable.


Scott says:
6/25/2009 at 8:30:46 AM

I have all ways thought that practice was more important than games. I give this analogy; in school you study 5 to 10 days or more to take 1 test. It is no different in sports, no matter what the sport is. You must take the time to teach the individual fundamentals, show and work on how they apply to the over all offense and or defense you are running. You need to do this over and over again, most people learn best though repetition. For instance you wouldn't hire some one for a job they know little about and then constantly tell them to do things when you haven't shown them how, but I see coaches do this time and time again. Take rebounding, I don't know how many times I have heard a coach yell from the bench to Timmy or Suzy, "Box Out, Box Out" when I know they have spent hardly any time on boxing out. These skills are not written in to they're DNA. They do not come with the ability to jump high and run fast.
Just as using different exercises to better improve muscle strength is best, so you don’t get burnt out on one routine. I think it is best for kids to play different sports to best improve their hand eye and foot coordination. Most play in to the other and keep the player conditioned and working in a team atmosphere. Basketball most of all, I think, based on the amount of running, jumping and lateral movement. I am amazed at how I have to work against the coaches of the other sports my players participate in. They all tell the kids and they're parents that they should play only they're sport, this started in 6th grade or earlier. I have a simple out look on this, when it is basketball season I am pretty strict about being at practice and games, with penalties for missing either. In the spring and summer I carry a large roster so I always have enough for practice and games. I encourage my players and have gone to see them play at time's the other sports they are in volved in. This in contrast to they're other sports coachs, who are militant about playing and working on just they're sport, has lead a few of those players to quit that sport or team or just hate the coach, while I have become beloved by most of my players and basketball has become, for most, a sport they love to play


DuWayne Krause says:
6/25/2009 at 11:21:24 AM

Scott is absolutely right. The harder you "squeeze" kids the harder they fight back. Do we want them to love the game or view it as a job they have to go to?


6/25/2009 at 12:32:25 PM

This is so true.I have a 13 yr old boy,he has been playing b-ball since 7yrs old.this last year
he played for his jr high team,from oct to feb,
then played AAU ball untill this june.the last 6 weeks of AAU,was tough on him,he was just tired of playing and practice.just burned out.
now,I am worried he wont ever get that drive
and love for the game he once had,back.He is going to just relax and be a kid this summer,He
and I will play some ball in the drive way.I hope he will be ready to play again for his school team in oct.


Jim says:
6/25/2009 at 12:53:55 PM

This is a never ending problem. I coached a sixth grade school team last season, and we had a player who is an absolute joy to coach, always works hard, listens, and was easily one of the top 2-3 kids in our entire league (18 teams). Our school rules state that we are limited to four events (practices + games) during the week (usually worked out to three practices and one game), and equal playing time in games for all players. His father completely disagreed, and thought the kids should be playing many more games. So halfway through our season, he put his son on an AAU team that practiced two times per week, and played 3-5 games/week. Within two weeks of this schedule, he looked like a completely different player. His fundamentals eroded quickly, had very little energy, and went from one of the best in the entire league to the fourth or fifth best player on our team. The poor kid just could not handle the load. Both our AD and I tried to approach the father, and were told that we didn't know the first thing about basketball, and he knew what was best for his child athletically.


Bruce Blanton says:
6/26/2009 at 11:19:25 AM

Kids need the opportunity to be kids, enjoy all kinds of sports. It has to be fun for them! Recently a young man who was one of the best high school players in the state of KY. who led a small school to 3 consecutive state tournaments and the semi-finals this past season. This young man who had numerous division 1 scholarships, said he has had enough basketball, he is suffering from "hoops burnout" has played nothing but basketball since he was 8 yrs. old. Camps, leagues, AAU, middle school and high school, games every summer. Had no desire to continue his game because of burnout, will attend college in KY on academic scholarship. This is what basketball coaches/parents want to stay away from. Players should love and have a passion for the game!!


Jake says:
11/17/2010 at 11:37:38 PM

I''m 17 years old, and I have played baseball and basketball since i was old enough to understand the games. the past few years, i have been getting tired of just going to practices, and dreading game days. i completely agree with the burnout theory and the pressure to go out and play, and play well, from parents, coaches and peers has just made sports something I really don''t look forward to anymore


Joe Haefner says:
11/21/2010 at 11:26:54 AM

Sorry to hear that, Jake. Just make sure to work hard and have fun. Sometimes, coaches forget that it's a game.


Michel Godbout says:
4/27/2011 at 9:39:16 AM

Can't agree more on that. Kids should take part in several sports activities. First reason ? Having fun. Second. Discovering a variety of new sports. I live in a country (Canada) where a lot of people are hockey lovers and in my province a lots of kids play this game pratically on 12 month basis. This is too much and I am suspecting that some of these kids will drop out soon because it is too demanding. One of my basketball player plays also hockey and told me this past winter that he will quit hockey. Why ? Because it is not fun anymore ! He's only 12 years old ! There is a problem somewhere.


Josh says:
4/27/2011 at 11:41:44 AM

So is it wrong for coaches to keep the door open? I understand burn out and i dont want that. I ecourage kids to play all sports. I tell them when they are not playing another sport the door is open mondays and wednesdays for open gym or individual help.


MikeL says:
4/27/2011 at 12:16:34 PM

Fun story: one of our 13-year-old players is a competitive fencer who missed one of our games while reaching the finals in the regional fencing tournament. Next week, we put him on the opponent's point guard, and he totally contained the guy near the hash mark. His teammates congratulated him at the end of the third quarter for putting his fencing footwork to good use. En garde...


steve dement says:
4/27/2011 at 7:01:14 PM

after 33 years of public school coaching in Texas, my other big concern is some over zealous parent coaching a summer league team and teaching bad habits, or not teaching anything at all---- and being concerned about one thing ..... WINNING. I have seen it dozens of times. more kids are ruined by this than anything else. Personally, I prefer my kids go to a good camp, meet some new kids, get some new ideas from professionals. I think the kids know what their level of interest is and it should be their decision how much they want to play. I want them fresh when they come back, not burned out.


a martinez says:
4/29/2011 at 12:46:13 PM

i have a son whos played b-ball since he was three he loves the game. he''s nine now and he wanted to play all year we let him putting him in a variety of b-ball camps and leagues. he''s in a park league now and struggling to play as well as he has in the past.we will be taking a break this summer and i recommend a break between sports or other activities due to burn out. they really need time to play and just be kids.


Jack says:
5/1/2011 at 9:16:24 AM

What you say is definitely true. But this is a battle that will never be won because parents are sold on this stuff as the way of getting their son/daughter a scholarship. The numbers of kids in Summer AAU basketball continues to rise and they will continue to do so, even though the results - a better player - are not being produced.
It is much more fun to travel around the country playing in Showcase Tournaments where you are promised the world and leave without your wallet.


Eric says:
5/2/2011 at 12:14:29 PM

Ive been in coaching for 12 years now, started out in little league baseball and am now at high school basketball and i also umpire baseball and football at all levels. You see this all the time, kids getting pushed by parents to do all of these sports all year round, tournaments every weekend, practices and games during the week. I dont like seeing that, kids may say they want to do that and be telling the parents that they want to do more and more but the parents need to be smart about what they are letting the kids do and how much. simple as that.


Lonnie says:
1/22/2013 at 12:22:49 PM

My 10 year old son has been playing sports year-round since he was age 5 with a different sport each season for a lot of the same reasons people have mentioned. He plays recrational basketball from January through mid-March with practices once a week and 2 games on Saturdays including a double-elimination tournament the last 2 weeks of the season. He's been wanting to play AAU basektball, but it always interfered with baseball. He's been doing a basketball development academy 1-2 times a week for a few months. He tried out for their AAU team and made it (most likely being the starting PG). This AAU team runs from about the end of January through June practicing twice a week and playing 2 tournaments a month. I'm really debating whether to let him play or not. I'm concerned if this will be too much of one sport (6 months). Plus, I'm concerned if he might want to drop baseball (which he's even better at than basketball). What are you all's thoughts?


Ken Sartini says:
1/22/2013 at 2:41:06 PM

I think this is a little early to start specializing... I found as a high school coach that the kids pretty much make up their mind as sophomores as to what sport they want to specialize in. ( This is what Joe said... 15 )

This could happen a year earlier but before that, they should enjoy as many sports as they can, have fun, meet kids and parents... maybe travel to differernt towns etc. JMO


Kedwin Grady says:
5/14/2013 at 10:50:32 AM

I agree with this article and most of the comments made supporting the viewpoint of the article, yet their are some generalizations made when the scope of what we are talking about is much broader because we are dealing with different kids and cultures. I live in Detroit, and the athletes here who take basketball seriously live, eat and sleep it. They play in summer leagues and aau ball year round including regular season for schools and don't get burnt out. I believe it depends on the age and passion of the individual. I don't believe in forcing our kids to do things that they don't want to do, but I believe in giving them an opportunity to do what it takes to accomplish their goals. If that means work hard, put time in at the gym and only focus on one sport, make it available to them, and if they want to play multiple sports or take time from competing to relax allow that also. In Detroit, if kids aren't playing basketball or doing something constructive, their is a lot of trouble to get into, so I am all for letting them play basketball all year if that's what they want to do.


Ken Sartini says:
5/14/2013 at 2:53:15 PM

Kedwin -

Like you said, each kid is different... I have no problem IF the kid wants to specialize.... the problem I do have is parents thinking this way.... not every kid is going to be like Mike... or the next Kobe or LeBron.

IF they spent that much time on their academics, I think they would be much further ahead in life. How many kids go on to play College ball.... let alone the Pros??


Kedwin Grady says:
5/17/2013 at 10:10:26 AM

I work at an inner city elementary/middle school in Detroit, I also coach the 3-5th team and help out with the middle school kids when I can. I love coaching and I love the game just like everyone on this site, this is one of my favorite sites. I teach the kids to set attainable goals, short term and long term, and to be dedicated to doing what it takes to accomplish them. So if a kids goal is to be a collegiate athlete, they need to know that academics and stand-out performances on the court is a must, and we as coaches should communicate that clearly. If that means putting time in at the gym and studying late to finish an English paper, you BETTER do both if you want to accomplish your goal. I also believe that if you aim for the stars, you can reach the clouds, and be farther ahead than the person who didn't give there all. I agree, I have a problem with parents teaching there kids the wrong priorities and trying to live there dreams through their child, but playing at the collegiate level is very attainable, maybe not D-1, but if you love the game, just to play at the next level and be educated is a blessing. My goal is to show the kids in the inner city that going to college is normal, and playing sports at the collegiate level is very possible. The NBA is a long shot and I have my views on that too, most kids do want to be like Mike and Kobe because they see them on TV all the time but they wont be, and we have to tell them the truth about that. Thanks for the response Ken!


Ken Sartini says:
5/17/2013 at 10:25:48 AM

Kedwin -

God Bless you for working with that age group, I know what that is like. I spent 13 years working with elementary kids... mostly 5-7-8th graders before I went on to the HS level.

Moving on to the HS level was my first goal, I wanted to know IF I could coach/teach football and basketball there. I achieved that... my next goal was to become the biys Varsity basketball coach which I did for 16 years. I did all this without every playing HS ball at either sport..... so it can be done for your kids too. Have a DREAM.

It sounds like you are doing a great job with those kids, keeping their heads in the right place and pointing them in the right direction... along with setting some goals.
Keep up the good work and be a positive role model for them. :-)


Kedwin Grady says:
6/7/2013 at 12:28:09 PM

Thank you brother


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