I love this article by James Leath. It has applications for players, coaches, and parents. Your attention to detail sends a message about who you are. What message are you sending?
Youth basketball can be a roller coaster of emotions for both players and parents. One weekend it’s a big tournament victory and the very next weekend nobody can make a shot and the team goes down to defeat. We all want our kids to have a positive experience in youth sports and sometimes it’s hard to maintain a healthy perspective as a parent. Here are some ways parents can support their young player and keep the experience in perspective throughout the basketball season and beyond.
In the time before, during, and after the game your young player needs you to love them unconditionally. At these moments, your child’s emotions are running high and so are yours as the parent. Give your young player some space and they’ll be willing to talk about the game when they are ready. All kids are different, but most kids don’t want to rehash all of their mistakes immediately following the game. Let the coach be the coach and you focus on being the parent.
If you are both the coach and the parent, make sure you leave the game at the gym and shift back into parent mode once the game is over and you are headed home.
You may have wanted to play varsity basketball in high school and never had the chance. Don’t force that dream onto your child. Living vicariously through your child is a sure way for both of you to be disappointed. Your kid may not have the interest or aptitude to achieve the goals you have for them. Help guide them on their chosen path, whatever it may be. Don’t force them down the path you missed in your own life. Their journey is not about you.
This quote has been around the internet for a long time and it really fits here. “Your kid’s success or lack of success in sports does not indicate what kind of parent you are… But having an athlete that is coachable, respectful, a great teammate, mentally tough, resilient and who tries their best is a direct reflection of your parenting.”
Your moods and self-worth should not be tied up in your child’s performance on the court. Tell your child you love watching them play regardless of the outcome of the game. Always remember that you are proud of them as a person and that your feelings about them are not dependent on how they play out on the court. I always try to look for character related actions to praise in my own kids after a game. For example, in a recent game my son helped a teammate refocus after he had gotten upset at another teammate. That type of leadership was something to be proud of that had nothing to do with his basketball skill or the result of the game.
Your child is not going to play in the NBA or the WNBA. Why do you want them playing sports at all? So they can have fun, so they can make friends, so they stay active, so they learn life lessons? Or are you focused on a college scholarship and a lucrative pro contract? Even if they beat the odds and get to make a living playing their sport don’t you still want them to be a person of character with lots of friends?
This is the hardest piece of advice for any parent to follow. I struggle with it all the time. What sport do they play? It’s their choice, not mine. How much do they practice? It’s their choice not mine. I offer them opportunities; the decisions have to be theirs. That said, doing nothing is not an option. Nurture your child’s interests. Help your child find something they love to do and then enjoy their journey.
Too often we forget that kids often just want to be heard. The point of conversation is two way communication. Don’t just lecture your child about what’s important to you. Listen so you know what’s important to them. Use what you find out to deepen your relationship. You can still get your point across and listen at the same time.
If you are critical of every mistake your child makes out on the court, they’ll stop trying new skills and play scared to keep you happy. Mistakes at the edge of their comfort zone through deliberate practice are where growth really happens. Be ok with mistakes!
If it’s a situation that is dangerous to your child, then obviously you need to step in. If it’s an issue they can handle, let them handle it. Kids need practice speaking for themselves, so don’t deprive them of the opportunity to solve problems by stepping in every time something doesn’t go their way.
Many things that are said in the heat of the moment are regretted later. Take a pause and reflect before you say something to your child, to the coach, or to another parent.
Most kids like having their parents at their games supporting them (Although they wish we would be quiet). Be there as much as you can, there’s no better way to demonstrate your support of their activities. If you can’t make a game it’s ok. Often parents get burned out trying to make every game, especially if you have multiple kids. It’s not the end of the world when you miss one.
Along the same line, make sure you attend other activities your kids participate in even if they aren’t your favorite. Show up to their music concerts, art shows, and dance recitals even if you’d rather watch them out on the court. Show you are interested in more than just their games. You’re actually interested in THEM.
Coaching from the stands doesn’t help your child perform better, in fact it’s a proven distraction that causes confusion and poor performance. Yelling at coaches, referees, and players doesn’t help anybody and contributes to a negative culture. Cheer positively for everyone or just sit quietly and enjoy the game.
If basketball isn’t fun, why would any kid want to play? I’ve gained plenty of perspective on this one through personal experience. As much as I want to teach my own kids how important it is to work hard and strive to get better I’ve come to realize that they are not like me. They aren’t putting in the same amount of work that I did at their age. To me, that was fun. To them, it’s not. Basketball is a game and it should be fun.
Whenever I sit in the stands and watch a game at just about any level of basketball, there are usually one or maybe two players that stand out. They don’t stand out because they scored the most points or were the best athletes, they stand out because they are “basketball players”. This is a term that I love to use when I’m trying to convey the message that a particular kid simply knows how to play the game and has the potential to succeed at a higher level as they advance in their career. Although this description is somewhat intangible, in other words, more of an eye test thing for me, I recently came across a list of characteristics that the Australian Institute of Sport uses to help them determine which young players get selected to attend their national sport school for one year and train with their high performance coaches. A player that checks off all the items on the list is most certainly a “basketball player”. It’s a great list that I believe has value for players, parents, and coaches as we look for ways to improve ourselves, our kids, and our players. Here are the characteristics the Australian Institute of Sport looks for when selecting their players followed by my thoughts on each characteristic along with links to articles I’ve written previously on these topics.
1. Competitive spirit – A player must love to compete. A competitive player will bring out the best in themselves and others around them.
2. Desire to improve and learn – Having a growth mindset, being a life-long learner, and not thinking you know-it-all are critical to reaching your potential.
3. Ability to handle adversity – Everyone has a good attitude and work ethic and when things are going their way. What happens when the breaks go against you? Great players rise up to meet the challenge, lesser players let the adversity get the best of them.
4. Accountability for their actions – A player that always has an excuse or blames others is unlikely to improve and fulfill their potential. Excuses are the enemy of self-analysis and growth.
5. Willingness to sacrifice for the good of the group –Selfish players are team killers. Even the best players must be willing to sacrifice to lift up their teammates. No player can do it alone, it takes a team.
6. Communication – Players that communicate well with teammates and coaches both on and off the court eliminate confusion and help everyone get on the same page moving together in a positive direction.
1. Heart – Do they have a love for the game? This is #1 for a reason. If a player doesn’t love the game, they’ll never be willing to put in the work that it takes to maximize the rest of their skill set.
2. Head – Do they demonstrate an understanding of concepts of team play? My “basketball player” description above is based on the player’s head. Understanding the game at a deeper level allows certain players to stand out from their peers. Having a high basketball IQ can lift a player above the level of their physical tools.
3. Hands – Do they have a soft touch and the ability to pass and shoot? A player with poor hands will have difficulty mastering the skills required to be a great player no matter what level they are currently playing at.
4. Feet – Can they move laterally and run the floor? Good basketball is dependent on footwork and balance. A player with quick, nimble feet will have advantages over the slower, more plodding player.
How a player could use this list: Do an honest self-analysis and identify your skills in each of these areas. Continue to build on areas where you are strong and look for opportunities to improve your weaknesses.
How a parent could use this list: I guarantee that all coaches at every level are evaluating players using most, if not all of these characteristics. To help your young player make a team, get more playing time, or find a bigger role, guide them through the process of understanding where they are right now in regards to these characteristics and how they can grow and improve each of the areas on the list.
How a coach could use this list: Evaluate your players in each of the ten areas on the list and then use that evaluation to help you coach them more effectively. You can design practice plans and drills to improve the specific on-court skills you’ve determined they need to work on, while also incorporating team building and leadership activities to improve some of the more intangible areas on the list.
Great article to share this week by John O’Sullivan from the Changing the Game Project. Here’s a quote from the article, “No matter how good your kids are at sports, even if they are one of the .01% who turn professional, they will still have two-thirds of their life where the life skills matter much more than their sports skills.” I usually phrase this a little bit differently when I discuss this topic with parents and I’ll say, “Even if your kid makes it to the NBA (and they almost certainly won’t) don’t you still want them to be a good person?” Read the article to find out more about how to race toward the right finish line with your own kids when it comes to youth sports.
Looking for a formula that will lead to success on and off the court? Use Alan Stein, Jr.’s Pick 2 Strategy.