Building Better Youth Basketball

What's happening to American basketball? There was a time when the only thing that Americans had to do to win internationally was show up with some good college players. Now, we can't win with our professionals. Our opponents on the international scene are quoted as saying, "The Americans are good, but it's not a big deal to beat them anymore."

When compared to the rest of the world, we are progressing at a slower rate. Does the problem stem from organization? If you answered, "What organization?”, then you have grasped my point. The American system is a mish-mash of organizations.

Let's list a few: Middle schools, high schools, colleges, youth leagues, AAU, recreation leagues, and summer camps. Is there any way for a young player to begin at age eight, nine, or ten and remain in the same organization and be taught progressively, skill upon skill, principle upon principle, layer after layer? Almost without exception across the country, the answer is no.

How many future stars were discouraged because they gave up too soon? We'll never know. As an example, AAU is organized by age groups and gives the appearance of moving a kid along in the game. And there are a handful of AAU organizations that try to provide a system for development. But on the whole AAU is organized of individually coached teams whose purpose is to give the best kids in their age level a chance to play, win, and gain exposure - NOT to build a foundation of skills.

Another example would be a high school coach who has the chance to develop players from age 14 to 18. But how can he or she have a hand in the development from age 10 to 14. By age 14 a player might well have had eight or ten different coaches, all teaching something different and some teaching nothing at all!

Many of today's youth coaches are mothers and fathers who simply want to help, but, God Bless them, they don't know what to teach! Does America have any criteria that a coach must pass in order to teach the game?

America has 260+ million people. Some of the countries that are competing and beating us have 10 or 20 million. Does our basketball system simply throw the players against the wall to see which ones stick and which ones don't?

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