How do we show our values in youth sports?

Every time that I speak to a youth organization, they emphasize the constraints that they face to improve the coaching in their organization. The two primary constraints are finances and volunteer coaches. These seem to be fate de complis for youth organizations.

I just spoke to Allison McNeil, the Head Coach of Canada’s Women’s National Team about a clinic that she ran this weekend. She lamented the same issues of running clinics for volunteer coaches. However, her clinic cost $135, but the coaches paid only $50 due to government grants. Furthermore, she said that the provincial government wants every child to have a certified coach by 2015! While that is an ambitious plan, what an ambition to have!

Such a plan demonstrates a commitment to youth sports; it shows an interest in youth sports as an important element of a balanced childhood. The plan demonstrates a desire to provide the best possible environment for its youth athletes.

Since I wrote Cross Over: The New Model for Youth Basketball Development, I have written frequently about the basketball system in the United States and elsewhere. My biggest contention is not that the U.S. system does not work or is broken, but that it is not as good as it can be. With the money invested in basketball in the United States, I do not understand the apathy for searching for and building an improved system that meets the needs of all youth basketball players.

Volunteer coaches are the lifeblood of most youth sports organizations. However, as much as we value youth sports (and look at the attendance at the Little League World Series), and especially youth basketball, there should be an effort to create a better environment.

I spoke to a local recreation center recently. They have over 2400 children involved in basketball every year. Why not offer the opportunity for parents to add $1 to their registration fee to go toward coach development? Even if only one-quarter of the parents opt in, $600 is sufficient to pay for most one-day clinics. The organization could pay the clinician a $500 fee and have a raffle for coaches who participate for a $100 gift certificate to a local restaurant. This pays for the clinic through volunteer contributions and provides an incentive for coaches to attend.

Obviously, government grants or funding from the NBA, NCAA or USA Basketball would be ideal. However, without this funding, which does not appear to be coming any time soon, organizations have a responsibility to make efforts to improve their programming.

Imagine if all 2400 parents contributed $1. The organization could pay a mentor coach to assist dozens of coaches by attending practices and offering pointers and evaluations. The organization could purchase coaching materials for the coaches. There are many ways the money could be spent.

Alternatively, the YBCA offers a FREE online coach education course. Is it too much to ask of volunteers to work through a one to two-hour course on basic concepts of coaching?

If our government is uninterested in providing an ambitious plan or funding like in British Columbia; if the NBA, NCAA and ihoops are uninterested in leading reforms, including coach education; and if local organizations appear unwilling to use creative methods to finance better programming or efforts to improve coaching, what does that say about the way that we value youth sports?

By Brian McCormick
Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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