Parent’s Guide: Section 1 Interacting with Your Young Player

What do you want your son or daughter to get out of the experience of playing basketball?

Do you envision your child playing in the NBA or WNBA (not likely)? Are you hoping they will become good enough to get a college scholarship (also, not that likely)? Or, do you think their participation is a wonderful way to enjoy physical activity, learn about team play, and maybe even score a few points?

Whatever your answer, give the question some serious thought. The way you respond will have a major impact on how you support your son or daughter's basketball participation. More importantly, your answer will go a long way toward determining how you interact with your youngster as he or she grows and develops as a basketball player.

For parents of young players there is one guiding principle: If you want your young player to develop a love for basketball, he or she must first develop a passion for the game. To do that, he or she must enjoy the game and see basketball, particularly at a young age, as an activity that comes with a smile. That's where it all starts — nothing more than an activity where the beginning child can bounce the ball a few times, maybe plop the ball into a shorter basket, and so forth. That's how the basketball seed is planted. Once it begins to sprout, it can continue to blossom for years to come, with your care and nurturing, of course.

What do you do during these early formative years?

For the most part, just sit back and share the experience with your child. Sometimes grown-ups have forgotten that basketball is just a game.

What advice should you give to your budding hoopster?

That's simple. Just tell them to play hard, and to have fun. If they keep a smile on their face, they will most likely give a strong effort. And by playing hard they will get better in the process.

Building a Basketball Relationship With Your Child

One of the joys of being a youth basketball parent is being able to watch your child grow as a player. As a proud parent, you'll beam when you see your little one wearing his or her first team jersey and taking those first few dribbles in a game. As your young player grows, so will his or her game. You will be there as they improve. You will experience the sting of defeat as well as the highs of victory. As a parent, your most important and rewarding role will be to share those moments and create a positive basketball relationship.

What About Coaching Your Own Child?

There's nothing wrong with volunteering as an assistant coach for your son's or daughter's team. In fact, it can be very rewarding for you and your child. Just make sure you check with him or her first. Most of the time, they'll love the idea. But they might say "no," too. If they prefer you don't coach, have the courage to respect your child's desires.

If the child says yes, remind him or her that if you volunteer as an assistant coach, it won't mean any favoritism. They have to know you will treat all players equally and fairly. But that doesn't mean being tougher on your child. Remember what you said about treating all the kids equally and fairly? That goes for your own young player as well.

If you wish to take on the responsibility of a head coaching position, contact your league director and make your availability known. If a position opens up, you may get the call.

Dealing with Your Expectations of Your Child

Let's assume your 10-year-old enjoys basketball, and that he or she is one of the better players on the team. Is it now the time to be dreaming of a college basketball scholarship or a future NBA or WNBA career?

Dreams are fine, but keep them in perspective. A young player might get turned off early and leave the game if they feel pushed too hard. The best path is to encourage participation, good sportsmanship, hard work and having fun. If they understand those are your expectations from them, then the cream will eventually rise to the top.

Play Basketball With Your Child

More than most sports, basketball affords parents genuine on-court interaction with their son or daughter. Whether playing a game of H.O.R.S.E (one player takes a shot from anywhere on the court, and if he or she makes it, the next player has to match the basket or else he or she is assigned a letter until HORSE is spelled), having a free-throw shooting contest, or even playing a simple game of one-on-one, basketball requires nothing more than a ball and a hoop.

But try not to use the opportunity to engage in competition with your son or daughter. If your daughter is 12, compete against her as though you were 12, not a full grown adult. Get in the habit of acknowledging a great shot or pass by your child. Make him or her feel good about their actions. Everybody responds to positive reinforcement – especially kids. And remember children imitate the actions of their parents. If you show them how to respond to a good play, they'll follow your lead.

What's the bottom line? Basketball is one of those rare athletic activities that can transcend gender and generations. And it's also fun!

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