U.S. Soccer Mandates and Youth Basketball

U.S. Soccer has recently released several mandates that it hopes will improve the way youth soccer is played and organized in America.  Author John O'Sullivan wrote a great piece about two of the specific mandates.  You can read his full article by clicking here.  Personally, I am a huge fan of these changes and wish U.S. Basketball would begin to organize and initiate some of these changes in youth basketball.

Anyone who has ever watched a 2nd grade 5v5 youth basketball game will know why I want this for youth basketball.  Here is how the average 2nd grade 5v5 youth basketball game plays out. Defensive players form the standard five-man pack that follows the ball around everywhere it goes.  Usually there are one to two players that are significantly more skilled than the other players and they try to dribble around and through this five man pack.  They are really the only ones that touch the ball.  The other players run around with their hands up in the air like they are being chased by the police, all while yelling, "Pass!  Pass!  Pass!" The ball they use is so big that it looks like the player is trying to dribble an elephant and when they go to shoot the basket is so high (along with the ball being so big) their face literally looks like they are about to drop dead from aneurysm.  What is the final score?  6-2.  Of the 16 players that played in the game, 12 of them probably touch the ball less than 6 times.  How can our youth really get better in that scenario?

Two of the main mandates that U.S. Soccer is asking its member organizations to institute are more small sided games and changes to the age classifications.  Both of those mandates would significantly help youth basketball in America.  

Playing small court 3v3 games for youth basketball players in grades Pre-K to 3rd grade would be a great start.  In O'Sullivan's article he referenced a Manchester United study which cited statistics comparing an average 4v4 game to an average 8v8 game.  In the average 4v4 game, players completed the following:

  • 135% More Passes
  • 260% More Scoring Attempts
  • 500% More Goals Scored
  • 225% More 1v1 Encounters
  • 280% More Dribbling Skills (Tricks)

DOWNLOAD:  Manchester United Study

It is rational to believe that you would see similar results in comparing a 3v3 small court youth basketball game to a 5v5 youth basketball game.  All players would get more touches on the ball, have more space and freedom to develop creativity and if team sizes are kept to 5 or 6 all players would benefit from more playing time.   If you also factor in smaller ball size mandates and basket height mandates you would see a significant improvement in skills, and proper shooting technique.  So many bad habits are developed by young players just trying to control a ball that is too big and a basket that is too high.

The other mandate referenced in O'Sullivan's article is the changes to the age classifications that will now coincide with school age/grade classifications.  In youth basketball all the way up through club and AAU, they use grade classifications or completely absurd age classifications which result in players who are often 18 months older (sometimes more) than some of their opponents.  

Regarding U.S. Soccer's registration and age classification changes, USSF Youth Technical Director Tab Ramos said, “It makes the process easier. Over the years you go through coaching youth soccer and you are constantly finding parents and players confused about what age group players belong in … It also puts our players on the same age-playing calendar as the rest of the world so they will be used to competing in the right age-group. That makes it much easier for us to scout for the national teams and find players ready to compete internationally.”

Recently, one of my coaches at Colorado Premier Basketball Club sent me the Tweet below.

It's funny, but true.  I can't tell you how many basketball games I have attended where I have said to myself, "There is no way that kid is in 6th grade."  Well, she may have been in 6th grade, but she was 15!  I remember one tournament specifically where my 6th grade girls were watching the team we were going to play in the game before ours.  These "6th graders" were clearly more developed than my girls.  I over heard my girls talking about this and one of them said to the other, "Look at her chest.  It's bigger than my moms!  I am only in a training bra."  I could only laugh.  And, we all know those parents who specifically start their kids later in school so they can be the older, more developed player on the court.

It would go a long way in youth basketball if we segmented divisions based on U.S. Soccer age classifications versus going off the grade of the student.  It would improve competition, fair play and create an environment where skill was king, not physical development.

Maybe it is time for U.S. Basketball to take some pages out of the book of U.S. Soccer.  The model is already there.  We just have to follow it.  

-Keith Van Horn - I'm a husband, father, entrepreneur, coach, writer and former University of Utah All-American and NBA Basketball Player.  I blog about youth sports policy and issues, parenting young athletes, college basketball and occasionally a little more.

Connect:

Web: keithvanhorn.com

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/keithvanhorn

Twitter:  @coach_keith44

 

 

 

Delusional Parent Disorder - Repost

Definition of Delusional Parent Disorder:  Parents who have false or unrealistic beliefs or opinions about their children even when confronted with facts: “Watching John yell at his son after the game makes me think he suffers from Delusional Parent Disorder.”

I am not a psychologist.  To my knowledge, there is no confirmed condition called Delusional Parent Disorder (“DPD”).  I’m just a dad and a coach, but coaching middle school girl’s basketball for Colorado Premier Basketball Club sometimes makes me wish I had a degree in psychology!  It would certainly help me to understand the thought process of some of the 3,000 parents who have kids in our programs.  Most of the parents on our basketball club are amazing and only suffer from a mild form of DPD, which I also admit to suffering from, but there are always those extreme cases.  You know that dad or that mom.  While I simply made up the name of the disorder, it is a real problem, especially when DPD creeps into parenting a young athlete.

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CHANGING THE GAME PROJECT: The Enemy of Excellence in Youth Sports

This week I would like to point you to an outstanding article written by Changing the Game Project Founder John O'Sullivan.  It is a MUST READ for youth sports parents, coaches and leaders.  Make sure to check it out at the link below:

The Enemy of Excellence in Youth Sports

Check back next week for the last installment of the Don't Drink the Kool Aid Series:  Youth Sports Travel

-Keith Van Horn - I'm a husband, father, entrepreneur, coach, writer and former University of Utah All-American and NBA Basketball Player.  I blog about youth sports policy and issues, parenting young athletes, college basketball and occasionally a little more.

Connect:

Web: keithvanhorn.com

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/keithvanhorn

Twitter:  @coach_keith44

DON'T DRINK THE KOOL AID: The Importance of Free Play in Youth Sports

This is the second of the three part Don't Drink the Kool Aid Series I am running this winter. My intention for running the series is to provide parents with facts regarding three big issues in youth sports so they can make fact based, informed decisions about their families participation.

Below are the topics I will be covering in the series:

  • Specialization in Youth Sports
  • Youth Sports Travel 
  • The Importance of Free Play in Youth Sports

Last fall, I drove through a great neighborhood on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Littleton, Colorado. 78 degrees.  Sunny.  The weather was probably not all that different from where I grew up outside of Los Angeles.  I pass the local park.  Beautiful trees.  New playground equipment.  Impeccable grass.  I think to myself, "I wish the grass at my house looked that nice."  Two great basketball courts.  Empty.  In fact, the entire park is empty.  I pass two other parks on my way home.  One has an adult Mexican organized soccer league game going on while their kids play on the playground equipment.  The other park is empty like the first with a basketball court that looks like it has never been used.  

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DON'T DRINK THE KOOL AID: Specialization in Youth Sports

This is the first of the three part Don't Drink the Kool Aid Series I will be running this December. My intention for running the series is to provide parents with facts regarding three big issues in youth sports so they can make fact based, informed decisions about their families participation.

Below are the topics I will be covering in the series:

  • Specialization in Youth Sports
  • Youth Sports Travel 
  • The Importance of Free Play in Youth Sports

"More isn't always better.  Sometimes it's just more."  -Barbara Benedek

You might have had a similar experience.  Four years ago I was trying to find a basketball team for my daughter.  She tried out and made one of the top teams in the state, but before we agreed to join the team, we had to agree to the coaches conditions which were for the most part reasonable, except for one.  We had to make a one year commitment and only play for that team.  The coach stated we must focus only on basketball or my daughter will not become as good as she can be.  He said, "All the best players are now specializing in 5th or 6th grade.  She will fall behind.  She won't get a college scholarship."  Oh no!  Since it is our family policy to only allow our children to play one sport at a time, we had to ask our 10 year old if she really wanted to join the team because she played other sports and she would have to give them up for that one year period.  She decided to join the team.  I took a gulp of the Kool Aid.

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DON'T DRINK THE KOOL AID SERIES

Keith Van Horn Blog - DON'T DRINK THE KOOL AID SERIES

This winter, I am going to run a three part series called "Don't Drink the Kool Aid."  Why Kool Aid?  Well, it's not all that good for kids and unfortunately, a lot of adults in the youth sports world serve it.   It is my hope that the articles will shed some light on what some parents and players are currently being told by youth sports organizations and coaches and provide them with facts that will help them make better, more informed decisions for their children and families.  

Below are the three topics in the series:

1.  Don't Drink the Kool Aid:  Pick One!  Early Specialization in Youth Sports

2. Don't Drink the Kool Aid:  Does Youth Sports Travel Really Make Sense?

3.  Don't Drink the Kool Aid:  Can't We Just Scrimmage?  The Importance of Free Play in Youth Sports

Check back in early December for the first article of the series!

-Keith Van Horn - I'm a husband, father, entrepreneur, coach, writer and former University of Utah All-American and NBA Basketball Player.  I blog about youth sports policy and issues, parenting young athletes, college basketball and occasionally a little more.

Connect:

Web: keithvanhorn.com

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/keithvanhorn

Twitter:  @coach_keith44

IT'S JUST A GAME: 5 Videos Youth Sports Parents and Kids Have to Watch

(Shout out to Colorado Positive Coaching Alliance Executive Director Linda Crum for telling me about the Canada Hockey videos)

We've all done it.  We've been at a youth sports game "supporting" our children and we just can't help ourselves.  We have to say something.  We know it does not help, but it just might this time, so we yell to Johnny on the free throw line, "Focus Johnny, Focus!  Follow through!"  He misses the first one.  We now yell "Take your time John!"  He misses again...

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