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Developing Passion For Youth Basketball Players

QUESTION:

I have volunteered as a coach in the CYO leagues for the past 7 years. (Grades 5 through 8) One of my greatest frustrations is how obvious it is that most players put the ball down at the end of the season and never pick it up until the following season. Does anyone have suggestions on motivating players to keep playing through the off season?



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Answers and Comments

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Joe Haefner says:
8/17/2009 at 6:39:26 PM

First of all, I don’t believe this should be viewed as a problem. You’ll find that the favorite sport for most youth & middle school kids is the sport that’s in-season. As I’m sure you’ve already discovered and the reason for you writing about this concern, it can be very hard to get them to play anything else besides the seasonal sport.

I think it’s great that kids love to play different sports at different times of the year, because you want them to play a number of sports at that age. Most athletic development experts recommend for athletes to stay involved in a number of different sports until AT LEAST age 15. The more sports (without overtraining) you introduce them to, the better athletes they will become. By becoming better athletes and if they decide to focus on basketball at a later age, the ceiling on the basketball potential is much higher.

Here are some tips to develop a passion for the sport:

1. Make things fun! Nobody wants to work at something that isn’t fun. Kids play sports to get away from the stress of life, not to get more.

2. Don’t push too hard. If you push too hard to try to develop a passion for the sport, the complete opposite will often happen. The kids will end up disliking or even hating the sport.

This statement from this article does a great job of summarizing how to handle your children with sports - http://www.insideyouthsports.org/2009/05/are-sports-your-passionor-your-childs.html
"Instead of pushing your passion onto your child, simply provide the opportunity to participate and give words of encouragement.”

3. Make things competitive. All kids love competition. Take the little things, like your typical shooting drill and give them a goal. For example, make 7 out of 10 shots or make 10 shots in 45 seconds.

4. Challenge them, but not too much. If you don’t challenge them, it can become boring. If you make things too hard, they can become frustrated and quit. As a coach, you need to find the happy medium.

5. Take them to a college basketball game or pro basketball game. If you can afford it, try to take them to some tournament games. The buzz around those games is great. I went to the NCCA tournament games this year, and I still love it. When they feel this same excitement, they might think, “This is great. I want to be out there some time playing in front of these fans.”

6. Stay positive. Sometimes, parents will ask their kids if they want to go shoot or go play. If the kids say, no, some parents will get irritated and respond in a negative manner. As a result, a negative feeling gets attached to the sport when the parent has the best of intentions. Unfortunately, the player may develop the “basketball-stinks” attitude.

If they end up liking the sport which they may or may not, they’ll probably come to you. If you can’t tell, you could always ask without being pushy.

If they decide they want to work at basketball, that’s great. If not, things could be a lot worse.

As long as you teach them important life lessons and guide them into becoming a good human being, I think everything else will take care of itself.

Here are some other helpful articles on the site:

http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/blog/index.php/when-did-steve-nash-start-playing-basketball/

http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/blog/index.php/8-secrets-to-sucess-how-they-relate-to-youth-coaching-parenting/

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Hank Cullinane says:
8/20/2009 at 9:25:27 PM

Just finished up helping out at a summer program for girls where I picked up a tip from one of the other coaches. His stament was that boys liked to be competetive where girls liked to be challenged. Being a guy I was always trying to make things competetive. While doing layups I had the girls counting how many they could make in a row. Not competing against each other just challenging them to beat their best. It really worked. They kept updating me when they got a new record. Sometimes it is doing something a little different to motivate

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Jon says:
8/27/2009 at 10:54:48 AM

What I did this summer is invite 3 other teams to play at our gym in a scrimmage like format. We ran the clock but not the score. So the girls came to play just for the fun of it. At half time the coaches huddled all the players in the center of the court and talked on fundamentals of the game. We didn't allow for any set plays and instead of inbounding the ball we just picked it up at the site of the violation and played. This kept the game moving very fast. We had a variety of unusual violations that promoted the skills we wanted to improve, such as catch and face the basket or look before you dribble. There were many of these rules. The coaches re-fed and coached as the girls played. It was very successful for all 4 teams.

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Christina Concialdi says:
10/4/2009 at 11:24:51 AM

Great idea Hank! I am going to try this with my girls this week. When I was playing as a girl I was always super competitive (maybe the boy in me!) so it has been frustrating watching the girls not have the same fire. I have been looking everywhere for new ideas and this is the best I've found. I'll let you know how it works!

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