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Coach Paul R

Plan For 10 Year Old Son

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My son currently plays for me in a very poorly organized YMCA league. He was intersted in playing for a local AAU team this spring that plays in 3-5 tournaments but practices twice a week regardless. I'm conflicted as to what to do with him. He has played 2 consecutive 10 game seaons and also attended a week long camp at Medaille College during Feb. break. He went to the University at Buffalo Camp (UB) last summer and wants to attend both 1 week sessions this summer. My concern is that he will get burned out if he plays as much as he currently wants to. I would rather have him take a break and work on skill development in the driveway with a teammate or his younger brothers. Thoughts? Thanks.

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I coached my son in the Y from kindergarten through 5th grade playing two seasons each year on a pretty solid team. He wasn't the superstar on the team, but played solid ball. I also coached soccer and football during those years, so he wasn't just focusing on bball. I wasn’t really interested in getting into the competitive scene, but the Y rec leagues just weren’t cutting it.

In the 6th grade, we decided it was time to try out for a more competitive bball team, which he made. He played in two competitive 6th grade leagues and it was very apparent the Y style of ball was nowhere near the competitive level. I decided he needed some private lessons, so we found a coach through the competitive league and that made a huge difference in his style of play. He'd also attended several camps during 2009 and 2010, plus played on a 3 on 3 team I coached.

This past year (7th grade), I coached my son along with the core group from his Y team. We've played in three leagues and several tournaments. Currently we’re playing in a 3 on 3 league and will play in a competitive spring league. From Oct 11 – May 2012, we’ll have played at least 80+ games. That's a lot of basketball, to put it mildly. Keep in mind, I was Mr. Rec Coach a few years ago not wanting to really get into the competitive world.

There's no substitute for the experience in real games with real pressure. When we started in Oct, we held our own, but couldn't deal with full court pressure. Now, we're applying that full court pressure. We've come along way in five months.

A few kids on our team (and several from other teams we played) are playing on AAU (Club) teams after the spring league, so they will play all summer. My son was invited to play on a club team, but we decided not to do it. He has other interests outside of basketball and we couldn’t justify two-three practices per week plus tourneys every other weekend all summer.

As an alternative to club ball, we decided to continue the private lessons and keep the team together for some team skill sessions (w/ the private coach) plus a few tourneys over the summer. We’ll spend a lot less than a club team and still keep some basketball going over the summer.

There were a few weeks this past year where I could tell the kids and parents (and coaches) were getting burned out. Overall, the kids keep the grades up and enjoy basketball. I have no misconceptions that my son or the other players are headed towards the NBA, however, it sure beats sitting in front of an XBox for hours at a time.

Knowing what I know now, I would've looked into the more competitive side in 5th grade. Not so much to play 60-80 games, but more to expose my son to the competitive side of basketball at an earlier age. I think the reason we played so many games this year was to "catch-up" to everyone else who'd been playing competitive basketball. The disparity between kids who’d played more in competitive leagues to the rec kids is intense.

The downside to all this is the pressure you feel to keep your kid playing. It can almost be like a "keeping up with the Joneses" type thing. Is my kid going to the best camp? Is he playing enough basketball? Should he play on a more competitive team? Etc.

If you're thinking he'll end up in the competitive arena sooner than later, I'd take a hard look at the AAU league. As long as your son is enjoying the sport, keeping his grades up and you guys are cool with it, I don't see a problem joining the league. I can almost guarantee it will give you a good idea of what's coming if you decide to continue down that path.

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