|a youth basketball coaching resource|
ESPN Sportcenter Syndrome
by Ed Riley
You and your child are watching ESPN Sportscenter and you see these short news bites. Allen Iverson gets the NBA's MVP award. A little bit ago you saw where he was arrested for having a gun in his car. You see a pro-football player arrested and charged with murder. You hear the announcers laugh as they show a clip of Shaq trying to shoot a free throw. You see replay after replay of Allen Iverson driving down the lane and getting his head taken off by some monstrous forward, and the announcers say, "That's one way to stop him." They show a clip on some college kid who made five 3-pointers. Or a player who takes off from the free throw line and stuffs one. Coaches, this type of publicity is already the bane of youth sports and basketball is leading the charge.
There is a girl who played off-season for me for the last 4 years. She was one of those players who gave you everything she had, every moment she was on the court. She was well on her way to playing ball at a major high school. Over the last year I started noticing she was taking more and more 3 pointers, and working the ball inside less and less. In her last game of the off-season, she took over fifteen 3-point shots....and only made one.
OK, Ed, so she had an off day. How do you keep the rest of your team focused and playing team ball, when they watch her? Even when I bench her for not listening to me, the damage has been done. And what is it that she is really doing wrong? That's what you see on ESPN, isn't it?
Let's look at this aspect of it. Another player on your team is wide open under the basket for a lay-up, and Miss 3-pointer won't pass to her because she HERSELF is open for the three. So how does the open player feel about Miss 3-pointer now? Teamwork and team spirit is rapidly deteriorating. It doesn't take much of this before your whole team is so brain damaged that you might as well blast and rebuild.
Basketball is about 5 people acting together as a team to achieve a common goal. It is not about imitating the plays on Sportscenter. So what do you do, tell the parents to stay away from watching it in front of your players? Yes, that's exactly what I would ask them to do. Next, correct the behavior whenever it occurs, LS or in a game. You don't wait until it happens twice. You WJE them immediately = whistle, ask them to justify their behavior, and then explain the correct thing to do. If it continues, then they run laps in your LS. If it happens in a game, then they lose playing time. This is about as serious a problem as there is in today's youth sports. Do not accept any form of this behavior as being even semi-OK.
The real controversy is this, NBA players are role models for today's young players, whether they want to be or not. These players signed big money contracts to play ball. Their contracts don't say anything about being a role model. They get paid to play. BUT.......with their faces and athleticism splattered all over our TV screens, they are definitely a lot of today's youth's role models.
Please don't misunderstand me, there are an awful lot of NBA players who are great role models. The problem is that these players aren't the ones you hear of or see. We hear about Sprewell choking his coach, or Iverson arrested, or Rodman being his usual bad-boy self. We just don't hear about the good things. Just as I'm sure that Sprewell, Iverson, and Rodman do their share of good things, YOU JUST DON'T HEAR ABOUT IT because it's not newsworthy.
When you originally signed up to coach your child's team, you never thought that you would have to contend with ESPN sensationalism, did you? Folks, I'm here to tell you that it starts as early as 4th grade. You tell a player not to take that long distance shot because they have a teammate open under the basket, right? They go home and watch players make 7 million a year and do what you just told them not to do. This can be just a little bit confusing for little Johnny or Susie, don't you think?
A classic example: you spend a lot of time teaching your players to shoot the right way, and then they watch Shaq make over $100,000,000 and he still can't shoot a free throw to save his soul. What's wrong with this picture???
I don't blame the NBA players. They get paid for playing, not for living up to my expectations. I don't blame their coaches, or the General Mgrs. I'm just telling you that this is one of those things in life that just exist, and you will have to deal with it at some point in time.
There's more than one way to skin a cat. and my way is just one of many. I discourage my players from watching sports on TV I discourage the parents from doing the same. And my players all sign a team contract before they ever set foot on my basketball floor. If I have a problem, I will counsel the player several times. Then I meet with them and their parents and discuss the problem. If that gets me nowhere, then I kick them off the team and start looking for a replacement. I will not allow cancerous attitudes to fester on my team.
Now for those of you who can't kick a kid off of your team, control the their playing time. Cancerous attitude means less playing time. The greater the attitude, the less the playing time. Make sure you document the attitude and lack of cooperation of the player. Then inform the refs before each game. Also inform the head of your program, be it a school's Athletic Director or the head of your club. Document everything and this way it won't come back to haunt you.
If you want your TEAM to succeed, if you want basketball to remain a fun game for your players, if you don't want to become even more of an alcoholic, then be prepared to handle the E.S.S. = ESPN Sportscenter Syndrome. If you don't control it, IT WILL CONTROL YOU!!!!
If you have any questions, please post them on the discussion board on my website at www.coachingyouthbasketball.net Hopefully you will get prompt help from more than just me.
Copyright 2001-2002, by Ed Riley, Steve Jordan, Darrell Garrison and Steve MacKinney. All rights reserved.
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