Flow, Learning, and Youth Sports

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, September 2014.

During the summer when I was in middle school, I walked to a halfcourt gym near my house and played basketball for as long as there were other children to play against. On some days, when the competition was good, I would play for three to four hours without realizing it, my only sense of time coming from my grumbling stomach as lunch time approached and passed. During these games, I played against a wide spectrum of different players; playing against older and bigger players forced me to learn new shots, similar to those that the San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker uses around the basket. Playing against smaller players forced me to work on my quickness to protect the ball. When I was the best player there, I would challenge younger children and play with a disadvantage, playing one against two or shooting only shots outside the key. […]

Where is the development in youth basketball?

In the last two weeks, I have officiated 10 middle-school and freshmen basketball games, boys and girls. The complete lack of everything is astonishing. Many of the players are not fit (asking to come out after two minutes because they are tired). Basic coordination is lacking. Because the players are fatigued easily and uncoordinated, basic skills like dribbling and shooting layups become far more challenging than they should be for 13 and 14 year-olds, many of whom started to play on teams when they were six or seven years old.  […]

Should every player hate to lose?

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, May/June, 2014.

During my first season as an assistant coach for a junior-college women’s basketball team, the head coach remarked that it was hard to coach a team and to win when the coaches cared so much more about every game than the players. It was an accurate statement; our livelihoods were invested in the team and the games, whereas few players had aspirations of playing basketball beyond junior college. When the game ended, we sat in the office ruminating over what went wrong; I left the gym and headed across the street to a pizza place and went over the game in my head. The players left the game and went to parties, the movies, or the library to study. In no way did I believe that the players did not play hard; they did. They gave a full effort when they were on the court. However, win or lose, the game did not change their behaviors once the game ended and they left the gym, whereas the game lingered and affected the coaches long after the final whistle. […]

Importance of play: Learning from kindergarten and Bonobo apes

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, October 2012.

In Robert Fulghum’s poem, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten,” he writes, “Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday school.” In our attempts to make sure that no child is left behind or to qualify our child for the right pre-school to ensure eventual college and professional success, have we created a society where these lessons from the sandpile are no longer learned?

Later in the poem, he writes, “Live a balanced life – Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.” Of those qualities of a balanced life, how many are emphasized in our society, whether with children or adults? How many children draw, paint, sing, dance, and play on a daily basis? How much do we emphasize work over the other qualities of the balanced life?  […]

The Purpose of the Off-Season

An assistant coach called and told me that the head coach met with the staff and insisted that the players should “hate September.” I don’t understand this mentality. Why do coaches want players to hate basketball and training? How do we encourage life-long physical activity if the goal is to make our youth hate training?  […]

What is the Point of Youth Sports?

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, October 2011.

Youth sports are a billion dollar industry, but what is its purpose? Do we invest billions in youth sports to produce professional athletes? If developing professional athletes is the primary purpose, why are professional organizations uninvolved in the development process? The NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL spend virtually no money on youth programs, instead relying on the school system and other non-profit programs (YMCA, Parks & Recreation, AAU) to supply talented adult-aged players for professional drafts. […]

Playmakers Basketball Development Leagues as a means to Increased Physical Activity

An oft-cited study by Gould, Feltz and Weiss of Michigan State University’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, found seven primary motivators for children’s sports participation:

  1. Fun
  2. Skill development
  3. Excitement and personal challenge
  4. Achievement and status
  5. Fitness
  6. Energy or tension release
  7. Friendship

[…]

Playmakers Basketball Development League as Physical Education Curriculum

For someone who played and loved sports as a child, I never really liked my P.E. classes. P.E. classes never seemed like real sports. Apparently, I am not alone. In an article titled “Student Activity Levels During a Season of Sport Education,” Peter A. Hastie and Stewart G. Trost write (Pediatric Exercise Science, 2002): Sidentop Read more about Playmakers Basketball Development League as Physical Education Curriculum[…]

The First Step to Athletic Greatness and Lifelong Physical Fitness

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness. At the gym this week, I watched a seventh grader work with a personal shooting coach for an hour. After his lesson, his mother spoke to another coach and had the coach watch her son and offer pointers. Then, the child shot for another hour as his Read more about The First Step to Athletic Greatness and Lifelong Physical Fitness[…]