Have some fun

This column makes numerous great points, but the two issues this LA Times writer is tackling should have been separated.

Yes, the state of high school basketball in Southern California (and many other places) is corrupted. Yes, coaches are trying to hustle and recruit – often without even looking in their own backyards first. Yes, it’s getting to be like college recruiting in some places. But that’s another column and another topic for some other day. This columnist makes some good points about how the fun is being sucked out of sports for some youth. I caught two instances of that this past week.

An assistant to the girls basketball team and the boys basketball coach at a school I know well were each telling an athlete that competing in track is a waste of their time. Both kids – especially the girl – are doing very well on the track team this spring, and they’re having a great time doing it. The girl might be setting herself up to eventually get a dual track and basketball scholarship, if she keeps working. But the coaches both told the kids that “True hoopers would be in the gym 24/7. You’re wasting your time doing track.”

Pretty damned sad, isn’t it? I wish more young ballers would “waste time.” Right now kids go immediately from their high school season to club ball season. Sometimes their high school coach also has them in a spring, summer and/or a fall league, and they’re pressured to play to keep their spots. The only time off these kids have is in August, and even then sometimes that’s interrupted by a tournament here and there. That’s why you have kids complaining of complete bodily pain at ages 16 and 17, and saying “they’re so tired” of playing. Elena Delle Donne, who dropped out of UConn and took a hiatus from the game for a time, is representative of many young basketball players who don’t take time out until either they’re forced to do so by injury, or they’re about to go nuts.

If there’s one thing I love more than basketball, it’s balance. It ain’t that serious. If a kid wants to do track, or any other sport, then a coach needs to shut the $#@& up and let them do their thing. Track, especially, will help build endurance that every baller needs. Have you ever heard a basketball player say they love to run? Probably not, unless they’re on the track team.

The days of the three-sport athlete are gone. There’s money in the game now, and the stakes are higher. But kids should be able to participate in two sports if they want to. Not only does it give them a physical break from the same types of repetitive motion, it gives them a mental break. In our culture today, so many of us – young and old – have forgotten how to have fun. Let the kids have fun. Don’t insist they do one sport for 11 months of the year. Save all that serious stuff for when they get older, and don’t rush it.

Instead of telling young people stupid stuff, more coaches should be focusing on their own game and doing these things:

Seven things successful coaches do

I don’t see nearly enough of that going on at the high school level.