Mike Klinzing is Founder and Executive Director of Head Start Basketball (Cleveland, OH). Offering youth basketball camps and skills training for over 20 years, Head Start Basketball uses the game to improve character, develop leadership, and promote sportsmanship.
Parents play arguably the most important role in the development of a young athlete. It is the parents – not coaches or teammates – who spend the most time with a child. And by extension, it is the parents who have the most influence on the child. Make the most of it!
1. Surround your young player with excellence.
As a parent it is critical that you choose the right program or coach for your young player. Surrounding your child with good people creates a better environment for everyone involved. Good programs and coaches attract quality players and families. Make sure that the program you are considering has the same values you do. Find a program that believes in the same things you believe. When everyone from coaches to players to parents is on the same page success is sure to follow.
2. Make sure your young player keeps learning.
There are two components that I believe are critical to helping your young player learn the game of basketball. The first is to make sure that they are learning the skills necessary to be a good player. This includes spending the proper amount of time training and not just playing games. Our youth basketball culture today overemphasizes games and puts less of a premium on skill development. Your young player must have time to work on their game, preferably 4 or 5 practice/training sessions for every game they play. I know this is a challenge, games are fun, training is hard work, but as a parent you have to battle the too many games syndrome.
Second, have your young player learn about the game through reading. Not only will you be helping their basketball skills, but you’ll also be encouraging them to pick up a book and read. My favorite book for young players is “Stuff Good Players Should Know” by Dick DeVenzio. I read the book as a kid and the advice it provides is still valuable today.
3. Teach your young player to deal with people the right way.
As a young player your child deals with many different people in many different roles. They must deal with coaches, teammates, opponents, referees, fans, and you, their parent. Just as you spend time teaching your child how to interact with people outside of sports, you must teach them how to deal with people as a basketball player. Your child could be the best basketball player around, but if they don’t know how to deal with people success may be hard to come by.
Teach them to treat coaches with respect. Don’t second guess the coach in front of them. Teach them to look the coach in the eye and accept criticism as a way to get better, not as a reason to make excuses. Teach them to respect the referees and let the coach be the one that communicates with the refs. Model good behavior towards referees as difficult as that may be. Teach them to have respect for their opponent by competing as hard as they can at all times and then shaking hands when the game is over. Teach them how to be a good teammate. Kids model what they see from you more than what you say, so make sure that your behavior and actions model what you want from them.
4. Steer your young player towards their passion.
In order to be successful at anything in life you must have a passion for it. By providing your young player with positive experiences in the game of basketball you will be helping to build the foundation for a love of the game. As your child gets older they will understand that they just can’t go through the motions and do just enough to get by. Maybe they will decide their passion lies elsewhere, maybe in another sport, maybe in music, maybe in art, who knows? Remember, to truly be successful at anything the passion must come from within ourselves. The goal of basketball success must be your young player’s not your own.
5. Keep your expectations in line with those of your young player.
What does your young player want from the game? If they are like most kids, they want to try their best, get along with their teammates, and have fun. Keep your expectations in line with theirs. Talk to your child about what they hope to get out of playing on a team, attending a training session, or going to a camp. Many problems can occur when the player’s expectations are not aligned with those of the parent. Frustration can result and the child will be driven away from the game.
Use the game to help teach life lessons that can be applied in different situations throughout your child’s life. If you expect to win every game and expect that your child’s basketball career will lead to a scholarship, chances are both you and your child will be disappointed. Set the proper expectations and your young player’s basketball experience will be a good one.