“Tournament-itis” is what we have dubbed the sickness that is taking over the normal functioning and happiness of kids and families involved in youth sports today. Symptoms include but are not limited to; a lack of consistent effort, loss of joy, confidence, and fear of making mistakes. Being conditioned by fear as opposed to being encouraged to explore and expand without limitations, has become the norm and we’re seeing the impact in the gym all too often. Issues surrounding the burnout rate at a young age, the lack of load management on the bodies and minds of kids, and the emotional stress on the players and families are what we at Watts Basketball are addressing head-on.
When it comes to deciding what the right path is for your child and family in youth sports, the word confusing doesn’t even begin to describe the arduous process. With so much information available today on how you should bring up your child through sports, it makes it difficult to decipher a clear path, especially if you are a parent who didn’t grow up in the sports world yourself.
The all-too-common path of AAU from the time kids can barley dribble a ball, we believe in creating a divide between developing a love for the game and what is deemed “success” in youth basketball. As a basketball culture, we’ve evolved into a community that places the utmost value on winning the game at 7 years old, instead of developing skills.
This environment where winning is more important than actually developing the basketball skills that will afford true success down the line puts enormous stress on players and families. The emotional and financial strain coupled with time spent traveling to, from and at tournaments isn’t giving kids the appropriate environment to develop a joyful relationship with the game, because it becomes a job before that foundation is able to establish roots.
The pressures that come along with youth sports, specifically basketball being our main focus, in tournaments and on AAU teams often blocks a child’s development, both on and off the court. Subjecting young kids to the criticism, expectations, and judgments that come along with highly-competitive environments before they are equipped to handle it, can be detrimental to the growth of their love for the game, creativity, and development of self-confidence.
Prolonging the period where basketball is something that kids find joy in doing, as opposed to something that they have to do, for as long as possible is critical in the longevity of their playing career. Limiting outside influences until they are mature enough to handle the progression in pressures, expectations and judgments allow them time to fall in love with the game and develop the skills that they are unlikely to attempt in pressure-ridden environments.
In nurturing the growth of their love for the game by keeping judgment, criticism and unrealistic expectations at bay until that love is firmly rooted, we create a development process that is cherished and positive for everyone involved. Spending time working on their craft as opposed to playing in games that all too often instill a fear of failure, loss of confidence and an unwillingness to try things outside of their comfort zone, will enable them to continue to grow and eventually reach their potential!