Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do's and Don'ts of Club Ball from Elite Parents #2

With the high school season winding down and club ball ready to start, I have asked some of the parents of college bound kids to provide advice selecting a club team.

This advice comes from William & Mary committ Victoria Willems:

After my daughter, Victoria played the YMCA circuit as a youngster, on a team that I coached. At age 12, we figured it was time for her to play club ball. To be honest, I did not realize how intimidating this quest was going to turn out to be. The girl’s club basketball community is actually very small, and everyone knows everyone. The hard part is getting into it in the first place. I figured since she was the tallest kid in her middle school grade; it would be a piece of cake to get her on a good team and besides, I figured club ball was not that big of a transition from YMCA. Wrong!

Victoria was cut from the first three club teams she tried out with. It was discouraging for her and quite honestly very depressing for me.....You will be surprised how much better you can get, when you have no other choice. We were very fortunate to find the right fit for her by accident. I now understand that if she would have made some of those other teams she tried out with, her development could have been much slower, not only from a playing time perspective, but also the way some those teams played the game. Example: If she was fundamentally poor as a post, and got on a guard orientated team, she would have never developed, as a player. She needed to learn how to be confident in the post, before ever taking on the nuances it takes to be a good guard.

In November 2009 she signed a Division-1 scholarship to play basketball at William & Mary in Virginia. It has been a great journey, filled with memories that our family will get to share for many years to come....Below are Twelve Do’s and Ten Don’ts we have learned on that journey. Many of them are lessons learned the hard way.

What you should do:

1. Do make sure you have a clear set of goals laid out when you start looking for a team. There are recreational club teams, and very competitive teams. Make sure you know what you are looking for, to avoid getting on the wrong one.

2. Do make sure you understand what it takes to be successful playing on a club team. Are you willing to sacrifice the time it will take for practices, and tournaments? Are you willing to work and pay for a skills coach in order to improve?

3. Do talk to everyone you can to find out about a particular club team and coach. Nothing's worse than not being able to get along with a coach or players/parents on a particular team. You will spend a lot of time with each other. Make sure you are compatible to start with.

4. Do understand the style of play a team emphasizes. Up tempo, is a lot different than a set orientated team. Make sure you know the difference, and how your athlete fits in that system.

5. Do understand where your daughter needs to be at the end of the journey not just the beginning. Just because she is tall when she is 10 does not mean she will be tall when she is 18. Remember tall in college is well north of 6 foot. If chances are she is going to be short, she better develop some really good ball handling skills. There are NOT too many wings in college that are less than 5’3”. That size is almost always a point guard. Remember no matter what size a player ends up, the more positions a player can play, the more attractive they become as a college prospect.

6. Do understand it is very expensive to play club ball. Especially at the Elite level. Are you willing to invest the many thousands of dollars it takes to play at a very competitive level? Or, are you willing to give up the time it takes to run effective fundraisers.

7. Do be punctual and fully participate. If your daughter is always missing practices, and or games, nobody is getting better, the player, or the team.

8. Do show respect to the people that run these teams. If you have not done it, you have no idea in the world how much time it takes to run a successful club team. Pay attention to details being sent out. Nothing is more frustrating to team management than going over things multiple times.

9. If you Do decide to start your own team, understand point #8 explicitly. Also make sure you have really thick skin. Nothing brings out the Best and the Worst in people than their kids and their money. That is exactly what you are dealing with when you are running a club team.

10. Do emphasize getting good grades in school. After all your daughter is a student first, and an athlete second. Trust me, if you plan on playing in college, this will be one of the important factors in the choices you have.

11. Do have balance in your life. Playing in a tournament every weekend is going to burnout everyone.

12. Do enjoy these special years, they go by quick.

What you should not do:

1. Don’t jump around from team to team, or chase the latest fad team. Make decisions based on the future, not what seems like a great idea at the moment. Also, if a team is being coached, and or run by parents, make sure they are on the same timeline as your daughter. Otherwise you might be scrambling to find a team when you need it the most.

2. Don’t confuse winning at the moment with achieving long term success at playing the game. They have nothing to do with each other. Many kids development has been compromised by coaches that just want to win, especially at an early age. A college coach could care less how many games a club coach, or team has won. They only care about how fundamentally correct a kid has developed, and how that kid fits and helps their team.

3. Don’t burn Bridges. Everyone knows everyone. Your reputation precedes you.

4. Don’t be ugly. Remember our kids learn by our example, and nothing is magnified like the emotion of sports. It is easy to get stupid, even for a moment.

5. Don’t be afraid to meet with a coach to express your concerns about your daughter’s development. A good coach will tell you the truth.

6. Don’t stiff a team for money. For the most part nobody is making money here. If you do not pay your fair share, it normally comes from the folks running the team.

7. Don’t be the coach in the stands, or the team manger in the background. If you are that smart, run your own team, don’t compromise someone else’s efforts.

8. Don’t live the sport through your daughter. Your daughter is not you. She might be an artist of another type. Making her play a game that you love is not going to make anyone happy in the end.

9. Don’t just rely on your club team to open up college opportunities. The more proactive you become in this process, the more success you are likely to have.

10. Don’t just rely on the club team to make your daughter better as a player. If she is not working out on her own, and constantly touching the ball, other kids will progress right past her.

Having been a parent on a club team, and a club director for three seasons, I can tell you that it is ton of fun, and a lot of work. It is also a great way to share time with your kids as they are growing up. Not only do the kids get to find out a lot about themselves, so do the parents. ENJOY THE RIDE!