During a conversation with a friend last week, it was brought up that a friend of his was coaching his son’s 5th grade team. Naturally, I asked how the season was going. He went on to tell me how the program director for the school his team fed into was coming down on him for not getting enough wins nor placing an emphasis on winning. My concern with youth basketball is that adults are placing too much emphasis on winning without thinking of the big picture. If a 5th grade team goes undefeated, does that guarantee future success? Is it a good indicator of improvement at the fundamental skills? Does it necessarily mean that the coach did a great job of teaching the kids?
I’m not an old timer in the sense that I can remember a time when all players were solid in the fundamentals by the time they reached a certain level of play. I can always remember teammates and opponents who had serious deficiencies. (Let’s not even bring up my lack of skills)
However, I know that there is a consistent problem with incoming freshman being able to do the basic individual fundamentals, let alone have a decent understand of a team concept. These are even kids who played on the so-called best team in the city as 8th graders.
While there is no quick fix to this, as coaches who work with young athletes, we can continue to do our jobs of teaching the basics, regardless of how boring or unappealing they may be. Competition has it’s place and is a great thing, but without teaching fundamental skills, we are doing a disservice to our kids.