Children playing AAU basketball at an early age has become a normalcy. The youth leagues are focused more on competition than development. For every one or two practices, a game is played. Unfortunately, playing an endless amount of games does not improve a child’s skill set, instead it can reinforce bad habits. For this reason, some leagues for young players have placed restrictions on how the game can be played. Would these limitations be emphasized if our youth were skilled before they could play full court basketball? Creating a solid foundation for a child is far more important than having them run plays and sprinting up and down the court. Footwork, and playing without the ball are critical skills for kids to develop and master, but many times these skills are overlooked. AAU, recreation, and high school teams will not always have the most qualified coaches, so as a parent, you must understand what is instrumental in the progress of your child’s development. Investing money on credible basketball camps, basketball training DVDs, and or trainers could be far more beneficial in the long run, then if you focus only on playing AAU basketball in the off season.
As a parent you should research different basketball camps and or trainers before investing. Once you're registered, attend the camps and take notes. Taking notes should also be utilized after purchasing basketball training DVDs. If you have decided to invest in a trainer, talk with the trainer about your role in the developmental process. Record important objectives, points, and progressions that your child needs to focus on. As a parent, even if you do not know anything about basketball, take some time and learn with your child the important factors of the game. Take notes during basketball camps, taping workout sessions, or consistently examining basketball film will provide your child an opportunity to see how important it is to study not only their basketball game.
When choosing an AAU team, look for coaches who are qualified, focus on skill development, and executing systems correctly. As a parent you may not know if a coach is credible, but their system on how they want to play, and their role for your child should be clear. After spending time with any coach, the player should show signs of growth. If they are not, that program may not be good for your child to be in. However if your child is developing into a better basketball player consider having them continue learning from that coach EVEN IF your child is not playing much. When deciding to leave a program, playing time should be a focus, but it should not be the focus. There are a lot of factors that should be considered. Although practices may not be taped, communicating with the coach and reviewing game film will be very important when trying to assess your progress during the season. If a player is not getting substantial playing time, review players who are and learn from their mistakes and accomplishments within the coach's system. By doing this the player will learn what look for during the game and will be prepared for when their number is called.
If parents show their child how to be a student of the game (without being overbearing), they will be more accepting of reviewing and studying film. This will encourage players to discuss tactics, fundamentals, and different philosophies when they become older. It is imperative that young players understand that there is a cognitive side of sports and developing a high IQ in basketball will make them more efficient players.
Once your child has practiced the fundamental skills, using them in a game setting will allow for mastery. 3-on-3 games are the best game for novice players. This will allow players to learn how to play basketball. Players will learn about spacing, passing, pick and roll, screening, and cutting while each player will have the opportunity to have more ball touches. This also allows players to defend against the skills named above. Once the player has become proficient in their execution in a half court setting, it is then time for them to progress to playing full court basketball.
This ideal may sound odd but parents who focus on the long term process will allow there child to grow and become better basketball players, while also ensuring their child does not burn out. This developmental process is completely opposite of the United States model, but is a concept followed throughout Europe. Europe has earned a reputation of teaching and developing fundamentally sound players. Players are not rushed to play games when they can barely dribble and do not understand the concept of traveling. This is counterintuitive and thus, will allow players to practice and strengthen bad habits. However, if time is taken to strengthen the fundamentals, a player's self-esteem will grow and the game will be more fun. By focusing on the development and not games played, you can ensure that your child will become a fundamentally sound intelligent basketball player, who loves the game.
Players who practice more and play less will strengthen their fundamentals (4-6 workouts for every game), allow their bodies to rest, and allow a developmental process to flourish, so that they do not get burned out. Since most players at this point will not follow the model, use games to learn from by studying the film and setting up Game Plans to follow and execute.
Larry Roberson was born in Akron, Ohio in 1979. Played college basketball and for the IBL. Coached collegiately and is currently coaching high school basketball in Suitland, MD. Loves the game of basketball and is an innovative coach which strives to learn.