No Summer Basketball Under 14 Years Old? Here's Why NBA, USA Basketball, and Olympic Committee Agree.

This topic today could be extremely important to you, especially if you're parent of a youth athlete.

This information could save your child's athletic future. And in extreme cases, it could prevent possible psychological damage and physical injury as well.

First, if you're a parent or a coach, you should definitely read these two articles.

Do you play summer basketball? Steph Curry & Fear-Driven Early Sport Specialization

Youth Basketball Guidelines & Early Specialization: From NBA & USA Basketball!

When should basketball players start playing on an organized team during the winter, spring, and summer?

Let's talk about two situations that are typical for youth basketball players.

Situation #1 - Athlete plays basketball on a team seasonally. This is typically for 3 to 5 months each year. This can be for rec team, club team, or a school team.

Situation #2 - Athlete plays basketball for 7 to 12 months on a team each year. Typically, they play during the winter, spring, and summer.

Recently, I polled parents and coaches to see what age they thought was appropriate for Situation #2 where you play on a team 7 to 12 months for the year.

What Parents Said...

Most of the parents said around ages 10 or 11. A few outliers said 8 years old and some said 13 or 14 years old.

One Physical Education teacher said, "Never."

Now, there was also a poll with coaches.

What Coaches Said...

Almost all of the coaches said between ages 14 and 16.

Now, keep in mind, this is from people who have degrees in child development, physical education, and have seen 100s and even 1000s of athletes go through their programs.

And even more experts and large organizations back this approach.

More experts say to WAIT on early specialization! USA Basketball, NBA Jr., International Olympic Committee, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Federation of High School Sports, and more.

If you read the two articles above, you can skip this section.

USA Basketball & NBA Jr says that youth athletes...

  • Should NOT specialize until age 14 (they recommended 16).

  • Should play a variety of seasonal sports.

  • Need extended times away from organized basketball.

The Steph Curry article also dives into some more of the research and effects of specialization and summer basketball.

You also have major organizations say similar things. This includes the International Olympic Committee, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Federation of High School Sports, and more.

Here are a few key points, among others.

  • Most elite athletes played multiple sports and didn't specialize until a later age.

  • 50% of sports injuries were overuse injuries.

  • 70% of kids quit sports by age 13.

  • 88% of college athletes participated in more than one sport as a child.

  • K. Anders Ericsson (10,000 hour guy) says, "This idea that you have to restrict yourself is a total misrepresentation," Ericsson said. "The more practice you squeeze in does not necessarily lead to improvements but may, in fact, lead to the acquisition of bad habits."

Now, there is no doubt that you understand your child better than anyone on the planet. As a parent, I get that.

But for some reason with summer basketball, people who are not experts in this field tell other people what they should be doing. And fear is usually the driving motivator.

1 - Your fear that your child will get behind.

2 - Your child's fear to try something new and get out of their comfort zone.

Make sure cognitive bias doesn't affect your decision

Cognitive bias can also affect your decisions. However, this isn't a judgment. This is human nature. I do the same things.

I would highly advise you to read this speech by Charlie Munger. He is Warren Buffett's right hand man and vice chairman at Berkshire Hathaway.

The Psychology of Human Misjudgment

Now, don't get me wrong, there are special circumstances where you might want to specialize around 12 or 13 years old. Here are a couple of examples.

Your child could suffer from psychological issues. For some youth athletes, athletics is a tool to help with developmental issues to develop confidence and positive self image.

You might come from an area ridden with crime and this keeps the kids out of trouble. I know some clubs that mentor kids during the summer. That would be foolish to say they shouldn't work with kids during the spring/summer.

Spring & summer season might be a better option for you when compared to winter season

Also, I'm not saying you shouldn't play during the spring & summer season.

It might work better for your schedule to play during the spring and summer rather than during the winter season.

Also, there could be a really good program that only offers teams during the spring/summer season. Those are viable options too because you're only playing 3 to 5 months out of the year in a structured environment.

Should you do anything related to basketball during the summer (or offseason)?

If your child is really passionate and you see them practicing and playing on their own, that's great. Kids in this generation tend to be over-coached and not given enough time for self discovery and learning.

If you watch summer basketball games, you see kids who can't shoot or dribble. How the heck is playing more games going to fix that?

If you don't have those fundamental skills, you don't need more structured play. You need to get in the gym and develop those skills.

Before the 2000s, you would attend basketball camps, work on your skills, play & practice with your friends, and seek out good pick up games.

This is also what Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan era did. I think it worked okay for them.

Many coaches reference these players as some of the highest IQ and most skilled players of all time.

Then as you approached high school, you might play some Sunday night ball at the local rec center against older players. In high school, you might even play in some adult leagues.

I can guarantee that this teaches you way more about the game than playing against the "best 15 year olds" every weekend during the summer.

When you get your butt kicked by a 45 year old that can't run, can't jump, and can barely move, it teaches you a few things about playing the game. Trust me... I know from experience.

You can also do what my brother Jeff does with his youth teams. You can host a team camp for a week during the summer. It's a great way to improve in skills and team play to get a head start on the following season.

After the team camp, you can travel to one or two tournaments at a fun vacation location. Last year, I think they traveled to the Wisconsin Dells. It's a fun thing for the kids and parents.

Here is more about Jeff's team camp:

Run a Summer Skills Camp for Your Team - It's Incredibly Productive

Well, I hope this article gives you more information on making future decisions for your child. Also, let me know what you think below... even if you completely disagree.


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Ernie says:
6/28/2017 at 12:52:46 PM

I am a elementary physical education teacher and a HS girls coach. A problem in my area is that kids do not just go out and play anymore. The only way is to try to organize them into a camp situation or open gym. The volleyball coach at my school
has her girls play year around, making it difficult for me to get my girls to even come in and free shoot. My program is in the
rebuilding stage, so I need all the help I can get. I tell my girls to play school sports whenever they can make the team, but what does that mean for the summer months...?


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