Selecting a Travel Basketball Team
Selecting a travel basketball team for your son/daughter to play on is an important decision. Selecting the wrong team can lead to your son/daughter not enjoying the season, and you being frustrated. The most important factor to consider is your son/daughter’s DEVELOPMENT.
“Development” meaning, working on the skills that the player is having trouble with, or wants to get stronger in. Development is performing drills, and applying them in game situations. If your player isn’t seeing much playing time, then it will be difficult to see the skills being applied in game-time situations.
That being said, here are the areas which you should be focused on when evaluating a program:
Coach’s Philosophy – this is probably the most important thing to evaluate. Because everything surrounding the team will come back to the coaches’ belief system. If the coach has a win at all cost philosophy, the decisions that they will make will be based on that. The best philosophy for a youth basketball coach to have is one that places an importance on winning, but a belief that strong fundamentals will lead to wins. Under this belief system, a coach will stress fundamental development over winning, because they believe that by playing fundamental sound basketball, the team will win.
Style of Play – when you speak with the coach, try to get an understanding of the style of play that they prefer. It is good for a player to be well rounded, and to be introduced into multiple styles and system. They should be able to play in a pressure filled transition style system, or half court focused system. However, you want to make sure that your son/daughter is going to be happy if the coach prefers to have their players get into more a half-court game most of the time, when your player loves a fast-paced transition game, or vice versa. You will also want to find out the type of offense that will be taught. Is it an offensive system that stresses fundamental aspects of the game such as screens, cuts, pick-and roll, etc. It does your son/daughter no good to spend their summers playing travel basketball, only to get to high and not know how to run a pick-in-roll, or set a screen.
Practice format – A good well rounded practice will work on conditioning, skills development, and plays. Not every practice will include all these components. For example, a coach who holds practice three days a week, may do more conditioning work the first two days, and less on the third, especially the day before a game or tournament. Then fewer skills development and plays, on the first day, increasing on the second, and more on the third. The net-net is that a solid program has practices that work on all three of the above-mentioned aspects. Be careful of teams that expect a player to practice skills development outside of practice exclusively.
Playing Time – this is going to be determined by the coach’s philosophy. I recommend asking the coach to outline their philosophy on playing time, and do they believe that everyone should play in all games. I recommend avoiding teams that do not play players during games, especially if you are paying for the tournament. In youth basketball, there is no place for not allowing a player to play in a game. If you are evaluating a team where your son/daughter’s potential team mates are clearly more developed, then yours. I would find another team that is a better fit for your son/daughter. If a team has been together for a while, and your player is coming in, you may want to evaluate how much playing time your son/daughter is going to get.
Tournaments/League Quality – Tournaments and leagues offer a variety of levels of play. They range from developing to highly competitive. You should evaluate the level of play that the team will be participating, in comparison to your son/daughters talent level. You always want your son/daughter to be challenged, but being over matched is different. If your son/daughter’s team mates are much further developed, then your son/daughter, you should think twice about putting them on the team. As the coach enters the team in tournaments to stretch their abilities, your son/daughter is going to be clearly over matches, and not able to compete.
Finding the right coach, and team is vital. Do your research. You may not find the perfect situation, but strive to find one close to it.
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