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Whoís Coaching Our Youth Coaches?

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

In coaching at the high school, college and now at the youth basketball level I see a real lack of preparing our youth coaches. At the higher levels of the game, coaches take it upon themselves to attend clinics or acquire materials to draw upon expertise to help them find success in the game of basketball. Our youth basketball coaches however, are sometimes by process of elimination, forced to coach their son or daughterís team. Some are ill equipped to control a practice let alone teach kids the fundamentals of the game.

It is always shocking to me that traveling and in house basketball programs pay big bucks to buy the finest uniforms, but are unwilling to spend a little time properly training their coaches. These programs are full of promise that tend to overlook the obvious. Coaches who have played the game sometime in their past may not have the know how to set up an age appropriate practice plan that will readily prepare their kids for a game. They may indeed play the game, but are untrained to teach. It would be like sending a student in to effectively teach a class. We make people go to college to be trained in such things. We do next to nothing for our coaches except complain when they fall short.

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The fundamentals are therefore lacking at the youth level of the game. This will only continue to spiral downward as these players go through the ranks of their careers. If itís not being taught at this level, who will find the time to teach it? I witness so many young teams sitting in zone defenses it makes me physically sick. Because it has seemingly basic rules to follow, it is an easy fix for coaches to add to their repertoire. Many young teams can not consistently shoot the outside shot and due to lack of physical strength, can not effectively swing the ball to get off a shot. Most often the zone is being taught incorrectly and typically resembles a straight arms up approach, but nonetheless it can equate a win for young teams. It is my opinion that zone across the board for young traveling teams should not be allowed. If we teach these kids the fundamentals the right way, the help side defense might resemble a zone, and we will have successfully taught them something that will continue to be perfected along the way-good defense!

In our constant desire to push our kids to play more and more games, we haven taken away the ever important practice time. While games are fun and learning how to play at game speed is important, it is over kill. Practice is where the game is taught through repetition and break down drills. A 5'9" physically mature sixth grader who can take over a game due to his height but does nothing to improve his skill level, becomes a 5'11" junior point guard who sits the bench because he canít handle the ball. It is our responsibility to equip each player with the necessary skills to become better basketball players. It becomes their responsibility to put what theyíve learned to good use.

As a youth coach, my job is not to win ball games. We all like to win, but that is not the imminent goal. The goal should be to improve the players by teaching them the game in hopes they can all go on to play at the next level. What they learn in youth basketball should then be what is built upon at the high school level. My hope is that what is asked of them at the next level has already been properly taught by their youth coaches. It should be what all high school coaches want out of their feeder programs.

It happens all the time. The star youth teams and stud players fall by the wayside by their high school careers. Their counterparts have not only caught up with them physically, but have had to work on their skills and have surpassed them. It is detrimental to the psyche of many young athletes but a reality nonetheless. The zone defense is no longer as effective as kids are physically stronger and can now drain the three reconfirming the negative after affects of youth teams playing to win at all costs. We have kids sitting with rooms full of trophies and embroidered uniforms boasting their names, who donít fit into a high school line up because they were not properly trained. We have set them up to fail. We are breeding youth super stardom that lack the basic skills and hard work to transform their game at the next level. These kids are spending too much time and money on playing more games while spending less time on their driveway hoop working on fundamental skills.

The lucky players are those who are gifted with raw talent. The real players are those who do something with it. Players are fortunate if they have the opportunity to learn fundamentals from a coach. So consider your team charmed if itís not always sitting in a zone even if it costs you a game now and then. Theyíll be better players for it someday. Understand that the break down drills athletes perfect now will become their offense in the future. Remember every hour they practice dribbling and shooting skills, instills in them the knowledge and confidence they need to be successful at whatever level they choose to play.

What is fun to see in coaching youth basketball is the fallen player being helped up by his opponent. Kids donít have to hate each other to be rival competitors on the court. The Xís and Oís of the game can be in place, but a lack of character can easily over shadow a talented team. As coaches, teaching good sportsmanship is a must. Itís a simple concept. Hand the ball to the referee, donít make faces or yell obscenities when a call you disagree with is made, and always respect your opponent as well as the game. The ultimate goal should be to help these kids become young men and women. Many of them may not go on to play high school or college ball, but all of them will use what they have learned to become better human beings. Sometimes being that role model on the bench is the hardest job any of us will ever have. Itís imperative to gain respect by your actions because teams follow their leader.

Have fun playing the game and make a commitment to coach your coaches! Take time to hold a clinic before the season to actually show coaches drills they can use. Bring in the varsity team to run through a practice. Then follow up mid season to address problems and add useful game strategies. Youth coaches put in countless hours of time for the benefit of children and itís time the program gives them something back. Arm them with the knowledge and hands on skills to work with our young athletes.

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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