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Choosing the right team for your athlete

Reputable, Respect, Domination

My experience as a young athlete is completely opposite from what athletes experience today. I grew up in a rich basketball culture. The reputation of teams proceeded itself. To hear a name was to know everything about it. It's like knowing 'Boo Williams', 'Compton Magic', 'Arkansas Hawks' and 'JL3'. They are powerhouses still to this day. Teams were built on trust and loyalty. They were reputable, demanded respect, and took pride in dominating. One of our mottos was 'walk softly, but carry a big stick.' We didn't have to be demonstrative or chauvinistic in how we carried ourselves. We were taught professional polish even as amateurs. Guidelines and standards were concrete. We didn't waste time on politics. Teams were legitimately selective. The Arkansas Hawks program used a vetting system. There weren't tryouts. We knew who would make the team based on their talent, athleticism, and grit. The basketball teams I was a part of (the Wings & Arkansas Hawks) and other well known organizations had a great system. I stayed with the same team from age 12-17.

Has the basketball world lost this rich culture? Cities are now oversaturated with grassroots pop up basketball teams. People encourage and applaud individualism more than uniformity. I hear so often parents venting about their daunting experiences. Kids are often misplaced, which causes regression. They literally have a stagnant experience. I see a lot of psychological manipulation and egotistical driven agenda. It's not on the parents. It's on the teams, because they lack structure, order, and vision. Parents want their kids to have a results-based experience. There are a lot of variables to consider when choosing the right team for your athlete. As a guide when navigating team selection-Know Your Goals, Ask Questions, & Analyze Player Development.

Tavarus Blanchard & The Wings

Know your Goals

Your driving force should be your immediate and long-term goals. Goalsetting doesn't have to be complicated. Your objective can be simply to want your child to learn basketball and develop their skill. Maybe playing a sport is solely a social aspect for your child. Contrarily, other families navigate with the purpose of seeking exposure so their child can receive offers for an athletic scholarship. Your objective determines what kind of team to search for. If playing a sport is recreational, chances are the passion that makes an athlete dedicate time to development doesn't not exist. Consequently, they'll have a lower skill level, lack of connectivity, & lack of anticipation for growth. Attaching your family with a team of high caliber athletes and competition wouldn't align with your objective. For those who want exposure to network with college coaches for recruitment, a travel team or one that plays in a well-known circuit against great talent is best.

Ask Questions

Seek information so you can make a well-informed decision. Don't only ask questions to the team's director and coaches. Ask people in the community. Reputation and prior experience tell a story- you can tell a lot by a little. Trust people and things as you see them.

Questions to consider are: Is the team local or is it a travel team? Some teams compete within the city. Most grassroots teams stay local. What days and times are practice? If that information isn't known yet, ask when it will be known.

Are practices at the same location? Can you provide a tournament schedule? Knowing information in advance allows you to plan better. What's known and unknown differentiate a well-organized team structure from a flyby system.

What are guidelines for missed practices or being late? Is there a reprimanding system in place? Will attendance affect playing time? How is playing time determined? Some teams require players to sit out x amount of minutes or a quarter based on the number of absences. Lower level teams divvy up play time equally.

"What other guidelines are in place?" My high school coach, Al Flannigan, required all players to attend summer training days and open gym; Mon-Thurs for 4 weeks. I call it voluntarily mandatory. He told us straight as the school year ended that if we don't have a job we needed to be there- and if we weren't there it would show him our level of commitment to becoming a key player on varsity. I hear his words to this day, "If I don't see you, don't bother coming to tryouts." His explanation was that those individuals weren't serious about helping our team dominate and continue our tradition. I was the only player that lived far from the school and had a job. I still managed to attend. His concept was a vetting system and there was a standard to uphold.

Analyze Player Development

Mastery and skill development should be part of your athlete's basketball journey. It's not common for a coach to also focus on player development, which is why outside basketball training is crucial. If a basketball team has time allocated for skill mastery, that's great! As a player gains experience, they should gain knowledge- becoming a more efficient player. Their basketball IQ should expand. Know that teaching a sport, or anything for that matter, is a talent that not every person has. A great coach may not be a great basketball trainer. That's why the titles are different; the focus of these two functions differ. Do your research on who or what entity is providing player development for a team. Find out their qualifications; what their experience is. While your athlete receives development, ask yourself "Is my child advancing?" "Are they getting the attention and correction they need? "Is the trainer breaking down technique and explaining the whys?" Know that every team marketing a 'development league' or 'develop' may not have the program structure to meet your child's needs, which aid in accomplishing their goals. When you're consistent, it doesn't take long to see results. When you pay attention and analyze what's being gained, it must be determined if your family should transition to something different or if you're in good hands.


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