Michael - Sounds like your league is doing it the right way, it's cool to hear that the refs talk to the kids and coaches before the game. I'd add that the good refs should also be talking to the kids during the game and helping teach them. Couldn't agree more on the stealing and fouls rules you have, that is great. I guess it depends upon the mission and philosophy of the league, but most rec leagues I've experienced promote fun, equal playtime and they want repeat customers. My take five years ago was to keep my son playing with a group of good kids and parents. Not just basketball, but other sports like soccer and flag football. Our kids understood how to play hard and be competitive, but always with the backdrop of displaying good sportsmanship, fundamentals, and having fun. I had no clue what was out there with regards to the real competitive world in sports and often wonder if that would have tainted my coaching philosophy back in the day. I can tell you making the high school team wasn't even on the radar. Our transition into dealing with presses and learning how to play stronger was a pretty brutal awakening. There really is no easy way to make that transition, but is sure helps a lot if the kids have some strong fundamentals. We decided to play a tourney outside of our rec league at the end of our 5th grade season. We got hammered by three teams and barely hung in with another. The games were physical, fast paced, and the scores were lopsided. We were in shock, to put it mildly. At some point in a basketball player's journey, the reality of presses, steals, and sitting on the bench comes into play. The officials seem to allow more physical play as the kids get older, so the need to play strong is now a necessary skill. For us, the 5th grade tourney gave us a taste of the competitive world, we never looked back. From 6th grade to now (9th grade), we've been playing up at the higher levels. Hard to say if we started too early or too late with the competitive thing. I feel fortunate that most of the kids on my rec team stuck with it and now will end up making their high school team in a few weeks. Here's a recent vid of our team playing in a fall league. I just threw some clips together from a mom who'd taped our last 3 games. We're black in the first game and white in the other games. My son is #14.
We've come a looong ways since our 1st/2nd grade teams.