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Do They Love It?

by Randy Erickson, Owner
Website: Wear out the Net!

We say we love it. Those weekend tournaments chock full of buzzer beater games and obnoxious parents. We rise early to fill water jugs and burn the midnight oil scouring uniforms. The early car rides full of upbeat promise and the rides home rehashing the games. We come armed with money wads, knowing we can never be too prepared for what sweet smell might be wafting from the concession stand. The trophies are won as pictures are proof another weekend is in the book. From elation to tears, the only constant is exhaustion. We love it we say.

We all put our kids in traveling basketball with the hopes they can experience something special, to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We agree to more games and pay a hefty fee for a group of informed people to label our childrenís athletic ability. We start off positive with high hopes and competitive dreams. Somewhere along the journey we lose our way. Those games become films we are banking on as highlight reels where our beloved children are not

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only on display, but are sometimes held to a standard they can not meet. We watch with sharp tongues and harsh criticism. We wish someone had pushed us to be better and work harder so we push our children. We tell them they love it.

My son asked, "Can we lower the hoops and play basketball so we can dunk the ball?" I responded, "It will not make you a better basketball player." He said, "I know, but it will let me be a kid." My son was right. I was wrong. Sometimes itís that simple. We become so obsessed with the win loss record of our sixth grade kids that we forget they are just sixth grade kids. We want it more than them. They know they will play more games next weekend. They want to play basketball and we want them to win. We want success to become synonymous with their name. However life can not promise them this. I ask my son, "Do you love the game?"

At a certain point winning is not enough. Our kids are only as good as their last game. We expect more from them each and every time they step onto the court. We know what they are capable of, or else we wouldnít push them we assure ourselves. The pressure is enormous and the fun is sometimes hard to find. Our kids make friends on the court as we jeer at their parents in the stands. We see them as adversaries as they see competitors they respect. They plan to play ball together in the summer as we stand by wondering how we can cheer on the same team. Are we doing this for the love of the game?

The trophies become plentiful as dusting becomes a parentís nightmare. If they received awards for the fanciest uniforms a real contest would ensue. The expectations of these youth must dramatically fall as they enter high school ball with old school uniforms and no signs of weekend trophies. The reality is the success found in youth sports may never be matched in many young players lives. Have we taught them to work hard and play fair or have we merely set them up to ultimately fail? Is the game so fickle that there is a fine line between love and hate?

We all have the best of intentions. We want our kids to have what was never set up for us. We spent countless hours of endless summer days setting up backyard basketball games with neighborhood kids we bribed to play. We picked teams on our own and although no one was professionally labeled, we knew who was good and who lacked athletic ability. Everyone played, though. Sometimes kids would leave crying, but they always returned. The teams were usually fair and you respected the team who picked the athletically challenged kid first. There was no need for referees. If there was a close call, we got up in each otherís faces and fought for respect. There were no parents yelling for us to shoot or pass or play hard. We learned to do that all on our own. Perhaps we didnít have it so bad. We loved to play. We loved the game. We still love the game.

When I sit back and watch people at youth basketball games I know who they are. They mirror all of us feeling guilty we canít let our kids play summers away with the neighbor kids who might not be "A" players. We are spending time and money we hope will equate the superior ability level and happiness of our children. It is a problem we have created and continue to feed into almost cult like. It has become a necessary evil too big for us to contain.

We need to go back to the reasons we first put our children in traveling sports. We want them to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We want them to be surrounded by a team. We want them to have fun. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be surrounded by a team. They want to have fun. To win or lose is just a parallel to life. We have to teach them how to handle both and maybe along the way we can learn something, too. Perhaps in spite of ourselves we can right this wrong.

It can start with having more practices than games. The need for more wins and bigger trophies is sucking the life right out of the sport. Sometimes their trophy case does not equate their athletic ability. We have the ability to schedule scrimmages with neighboring teams for fun. We can have pizza and pop parties afterward and get to know other parents in similar circumstances. We can have parents against players contests all for the sake of fun. A scoreboard does not need to haunt our childrenís waking moments.

At the end of every season one team stands as state champion. Does that mean only one team was successful in their season? This generation of children has been labeled and tested more than any before them. It is breeding a false sense of reality for them. The constant assessment of their athletic value seems to be stressing out our children. Are we going to have enough savings to pay for therapy sessions when our "A" basketball players donít have instant success in the job market?

We need to assess our childrenís desire toward the arena of competitive sports. It is our job to ensure they have enough down time to just be kids. We are their only buffer between the harsh realities of the youth sports world. As parents we need to be aware of the burn out factor that faces our children. We need to invest more time in the psyche of these kids. Their worth is much more than their ability to play the game.

"Do you love the game," I ask? My stocky 4'9" son replies, "I can post you up any day." We take it outside and for two hours we drain fancy hook shots and call for Michael Jordan off the house and through the garbage can nothiní but net shots. After Iíve taken a physical beating and realized Iíll be sore tomorrow, he looks up at me and says, I love this game! Amen.

Wear Out The Net currently offers three DVDís geared toward the fundamentals of basketball. One Television Show Basketball Improvement Program is a thirty minute workout that can be used individually or in a team setting. Coaching Your Coaches: A Guide To Coaching Fundamental Basketball is dedicated to equipping coaches with break down drills to run a successful practice combined with practice cards that every coach will want. Become The Offensive Threat is designed to give kids fundamental drills so they can improve their skills to bring something to their team-the offensive threat.

To view video clips and find more information about Wear Out The Net, check us out on the web at www.wearoutthenet.com.

Keep Wearing Out The Net!

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