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April 24, 2016

Bringing It Back

Bringing It Back

FAMILY SUNDAY – One travel team isn’t enough in the spring for some kids and parents. They need two. And that’s just for basketball. Some parents even add another sport on top of the two teams, and/or the kid plays on a spring sports team at school (usually for social reasons – and understandably so). Bundled into the fears of missing out, there’s the music lesson, religious class, and/or the tutor to fit into the schedule. And at some point I would think there’s a family or friend event or two on weekends. Oh, and I guess we should include homework, eating, and sleeping.

I still can’t get my head around why, in all of this scheduling madness, kids ages 11-14 are traveling to “AAU” events. Competition is usually just a few blocks or one town or two away. College scouts are not hanging out at these events. They dread the recruiting circuit enough as it is. Don’t ask them to go watch a 12-14U game when they are only looking at the ones who are close to decision time.

One would think that all of this travel is driving families apart, but, who knows, maybe it’s bringing them closer together? I just know that until the sensible parents call a big time out, and say there is a smarter, simpler, cheaper way, those who are in it for the money-grab in the game-first, reward-driven culture will not stop. All the time wasted on traveling and sitting around waiting on games is much better spent training and improving one’s game. But that’s too boring. Boring is hard. Too much discipline required. Steak with no sizzle, and too many kids and parents need the sizzle.

We had training sessions with great scrimmage time built into the end today. Kids from upper Manhattan and the Bronx were mixed together. It was hard work – for the kids and for the coaches (who actually had to coach and not rely on talent to run practice). Anyone in that gym at any point during the 2-hour workout would tell you it was worth every sweat-filled moment. There wasn’t one ball for 15-25 kids to share as is the case in games. Every kid had a ball in his hands for most of the workout. We covered details of a wide/sideline break versus a break that cuts the middle of the floor. We taught the boys grades 7-8 and grades 9-10 (two different sessions) how to get through off-the-ball screens, how to jump to the ball, how to play “weak-side help defense,” and most of all, how to communicate as a team.

After a tough sprint (two of them), the older boys were rooting for each other and so proud of what we did. The coaches encouraged all the kids to go outside in their driveway to practice the individual drills we went through. We also admitted to how much most kids and adults sit during the week, and how important it is to get outside and condition so that the body does not think sitting and not moving is normal. We said we would know next week who did and who didn’t put in time to prepare for our workouts through deliberate, intentional practice. Parents and players said thank you and then went outside and enjoyed the rest of the beautiful spring day.

We have hundreds of kids playing for us this spring, including 8-10 local “Train Hard & Play Local” teams. We offer about six hours of training per week for April plus another 16 more for $50 surcharge – for a total of 8 weeks. We replace some of that training time in May with games – about 5-8 games/hours worth of game time for the younger kids, a few more for the older kids. (Remember it is the off-season. College players aren’t playing right now. They don’t start back up officially until October for good reason.) Not all the kids show up all the time, but the ratios are right where we need them to be to give every kid a chance to improve. We’re trying to bring it back – back to the way it should be. We may be the shrinking minority, but this is the only way we as a staff and culture believe we can get the best out of our kids, and the best out of ourselves.