The spring AAU basketball season is right around the corner as travel, middle school, and high school basketball seasons begin to wrap up over the next several weeks. Players and parents will soon have the opportunity to try out for teams run by various AAU programs including our own partner club, Hoop Guru. When done right, AAU basketball can be a huge asset in a young player’s development.
After the tryouts have finished and your young player has been offered a spot on the “B” team how should you feel about that? What might be the difference between an “A” and “B” team experience?
First off, it’s important to understand why most AAU clubs have two or more teams at a particular age group. No youth basketball coach or program director wants to “cut” young players that want to play. Sometimes it happens if a quality coach cannot be found or a competitive team cannot be formed by the players attending the tryout, but generally speaking, the more kids we can provide with a positive basketball experience the better.
One of the biggest hurdles in putting together a “B” team is the perception from many parents that being selected for the “B” team is an insult to their child’s basketball talent and ability. Those parents may choose to have their child not play at all as a result. I think that is a mistake. The players themselves may feel a little disappointed at first, but as soon as they start practicing and playing together with their teammates that feeling quickly dissipates and the player just looks at the team as “their” team and not the “B” team. Of course mistakes can be (and are) made in the tryout process, but if the tryout is well-run by coaches that care about the outcome, most of the time players will end up in the right place that will help maximize their development.
Now, let’s look at the pros and cons of being selected for the “B” team.
A player that is on the borderline between the A and B team will most likely get more playing time on the B team than they would on the A team. Would you rather your child play 10 minutes a game as the 9th player on the A team or 20 minutes per game as a starter on the B? Most kids would choose the B team so they could play more. After all, getting the chance to play is one of the main reasons kids play sports. You can’t get better sitting on the bench. You have to play to get opportunities to develop your skills.
A young player will be more likely to develop leadership skills as one of the better players on the B team than as a bench player on the A team. I believe every coach should develop the leadership skills of all their players, but not all coaches will do that. Being a key player on the B team can make it easier to assume a leadership role.
Young players can look at their selection to the B team as a motivator. They may realize that maybe they aren’t quite as good as they thought. Players can take that as a challenge to really work hard and come back next season with an improved basketball skill set. That hard work and dedication fueled by being on the B team may lead to greater future success. It’s important for parents to guide this process and not express disappointment in their child when they are not selected for the A team. Frame the B team as an opportunity for growth and your young player will likely look at it in the same way.
Across all the players on the two rosters the A team will have better players. The chance to play with and against those players in practices and games is a huge benefit to being on the A team. That being said, if your young player is clearly not as good as their teammates, they may lose confidence and actually perform worse as a result.
Chances are most A teams, even those that don’t have great records, are stocked with fairly good players. B teams on the other hand can vary widely in the ability of their players. It’s always fun to measure yourself against the best competition out there, especially if your coach keeps the team’s won-loss record in perspective compared to other measures of success like skill development, leadership, and sportsmanship.
Parents, don’t let your own ego get in the way of what is best for your young player. The skills and confidence that your child can gain from playing on a B team can be invaluable to their long term development as a player and a person. Take the experience of being on a B team to teach your child the value of hard work and perseverance. If you do, I think you’ll find the experience to be a positive one for your young player.
The one thing that I did not address in the pros and cons above is coaching. I tell parents all the time that what will ultimately determine your child’s experience on any team is the coach. If you have a good coach that knows the game, cares about their players, focuses on more than just win and losses, and uses the game to teach life lessons then the experience will be a positive one. If you have a bad coach, the experience will reflect that. Don’t assume that an A team coach is better than a B team coach. That may be true in many cases, but it is not true across the board. Do your due diligence to learn about the coach before joining a team.
Always remember that the best 10 year old player frequently does not turn out to be the best high school player. Kids hit growth spurts, some work harder than others, things change. Your child’s high school coach is not going to care if your young player was on the 4th grade A or B team. He or she is going to care about your child’s basketball skills when they are in high school.
Encourage your young player to make the most of whatever opportunity they are presented with and you’ll never know where they may end up!
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