A non-profit youth sports organization targeting underprivileged youth. Great idea. But can I do it?

        I live in a Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It is a lower income city, in the northeastern  part of the state. We are about 15 minutes from Scranton and about 90 minutes from Philadelphia. At one point it used to be a nice place to live but over the years it has become crime ridden. In fact it is number 18 on the list of top murder cities, did I say that right. Everyday the drug use and crime seems to sucking up another kid and spit them out. There isn’t an inexpensive   place for a kid to play and learn fundamentals in a sport. The cheapest  basketball is $50 bucks at the CYC, a place where the refs told me if they called every foul there would be no score. This is an instructional  league. Any type of travel team or AAU  team gets very expensive. Many of the kids around here are unable to play because of their financial  situation. You would think the YMCA or CYC or someone  would offer a spring program or summer program at an affordable  price. They do not. Nor does the city. I wrote my Congressman Matt Cartwright  several days ago asking him for some direction  and he never responded. Who is there for these kids?

         I want to start a non-profit  youth sports organization  for underprivileged  children. I want to concentrate  on 2 sports, basketball and soccer. Those are the 2 sports you need the least amount of equipment for. Less money for families to spend. I want to offer these kids an option other then drugs, drinking, fighting, gangs or whatever else they may get into. I want to offer a kid the same opportunity  a wealthy kid gas, why punish a child for a parents station in life. I see so many incredible athletes who lack the fundamentals of their sport. For basketball at the CYC, you get 1 hour of practice a week. You get the privilege of playing school teams who practice quite a bit more. Many kids spirits are crushed because of this. A kid who I’d fundamentally sound can compete with less talent, causing that kid to carry better grades, stay out of trouble and stick with their commitment. I don’t think we should be getting wealthy off of kids playing sports, AAU and travel soccer teams. Why aren’t the kids coming first?

          I want to be able to defer cost through federal, state and corporate grants. I want this to focus completely on the forgotten youths of a dying city. Anyone who has played a sport will tell you that it helps you in many other aspects of life. You learn a work ethic, discipline, teamwork, confidence and make lasting friendships. Through all of this you avoid trouble or you cannot play or be with these friends. Some kids can get an athletic scholarship because of this, some will get an academic  scholarship because they work harder to keep good grades because they want to play and go to college. It changes how many kids life daily. Why not offer a program that helps them?

         When the kids would enter are program there will be certain obligations  they must meet for us to defer their costs.
1) They must maintain a B average in school. If I a kid needs help, I would like to offer a tutoring program. Education is the key.
2) They must stay out of trouble. Any detention or suspension will be met with the same at our program. If it us a continuing problem we will refer it to a facility to help. We will try not to leave a kid behind. But they must realize there are repercussions for your actions.
3) They will be required to do volunteer work at a soup kitchen or any other program that requires volunteers to help the needy. To teach them empathy, compassion  and remind them that there are people who have it worse. After my daughter did these with the Key Club at G.A.R. High School she couldn’t wait to go back to help again.
4) To participate and help organize community outreach programs periodically. Several times a year. Anything to reach out to help those less fortunate, even if it is a free basketball or soccer tournament. Through this they will hopefully take pride in their community and look for ways to help improve it.
5) Summer programs and clinics that the kids can help teach. Teach them to give to others in order to help them improve their situation.
Most importantly I want to keep them off the street and out of trouble. Have impromptu  3 on 3 basketball  tournaments, 5 on 5 soccer tournaments. For those that want to play AAU or travel soccer, we will offer those programs but ask the kids to hand out flyers or participate  in fund eaising, all with a qualified adult present. I would like in the summer to offer child care to low income families. Several hours a day. Introduce them to a sport, get them outside and active. Have dodge ball tournaments. We need to fight childhood  obesity  as well.

            I would also like to offer affordable clinics for coaches. Youth coaches effect a child more then many people realize. It would help if they had proper training that didn’t eat up a lot of their time or money. Youth coaches are typically volunteers. They deserve some thanks in this grueling process. The better the coach, the better chance a child has. I want to build a facility  with several indoor courts, several outdoor courts, 2 high school size soccer fields and 2 small children soccer fields. Maybe I am being naive, but I believe this is needed where I live and in most other areas. Why can’t we be the template everyone else follows? I know some areas offer something similar to this. Now is the time for Wilkes-Barre  to offer it.   If you want to take your community back, wouldn’t this be a great jumping off point? Now to figure out how to get it done. Any ideas?

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Our 5th and 6th grade girls basketball season.

          I signed up to help coach my daughters basketball team this season. It was my second time coaching basjetball, my first was coaching a 7th and the grade school team. For that school team we had 5 practices before the season started and 2 a week. Definitely  not enough to compete against teams practicing all week. Our team is a group of girls who were put together on a team. They recieve 1 hour of practice a week. Yet the we’re bumped into the school 5th and 6th grade league, against several schools who have practiced daily, as well as being together since 2nd grade. They were also cherry picked teams of the best kids they had. We were up against it.

         We begged and pleaded to get more practice time. We got 1 extra hour. Out of our 2 practice hours, one was on a half court. The only other team that practiced there had full court. Our head coach preferred to scrimmage and I prefer drills with rules in a scrimmage. During practice I would run drills to improve fundamentals ; dribbling, passing , shooting, boxing out, rebounding and off ball movement. I would try to combine them into one drill in order to make the most of our time. The only place we did not see dramatic improvement was our shooting. They jumped from 8 foot to 10 foot rims. The adjustment period has been tough on them. We worked on adjusting their shots  one girl double clutched every shot. Very difficult  to work with in 2 hours, but we made progress.

       Our 2-3 improved dramatically  over the season. First game all of our points were given up in transition. Our second group of girls had difficulty  learning the close out, then returning to their spot. Our guards played well, although they left the middle open quite a bit. Our center was very good but we were a team of 5th graders playing the majority of 6th graders. I know it seems like lame excuses, but their guards were taller then our center. We played well despite the odds. The kids never quit. We had 3 games where we got trounced and we were just over matched in those games. St season the 2 guards ran everywhere while the 3 down below stood there. It was a difficult learning curve for them. They shpwed a ton of improvement as the season went on. Very proud of them.

        Offensively we did not have much to build on. Last season the guards did the work while the big stood and watched. We taught themscreens, give and goes, V-cuts, pass and move and just general smart off ball movement . Because of the lack of time and their difficulty  understanding how to use a 1-3-1 to break the 2-3, we had to run some very generic movements. We referred to it as the curl and screen. The wings curl down under the basket to the other side. We would set a high screen and a low screen to cause the close out to fight through a screen. The only issue is we could not make our shots, otherwise it worked. We got a lot of open shots that were either air balled or bricked. One girl scored about half of our points, she took smart shots and worked into the middle. The big thing was the growth, they were setting screens, passing improved in games, shot selection for the most part was good and the dribbling improved. They also started doing things on their own. One quick example; they came down court, set the screens inside the top 2 in the zone, point guard dribbled in, drew in the defense and lob passed to our center. Who missed, but it was what we were looking for.

         We did win 1 game, suprisingly, even the guy in charge of the league was suprised  we won at all. All season we told them not to look at the score board, wins in 5th grade basketball are not important. This is where you set the foundation  for everything you do going forward in basketball , work ethic, attitude, skill and sportsmanship is built here. Throughout a 10 game season we went to the free throw line for 10 shots, yes 5 times total. Referees there were not good. It was a learning experience  for me, how to bend and mend in order to get 11 year olds to practice hard, to cement in their heads that you play like you practice. It clicked for some, others not so much. It was a season of growth, despite the fact I seem bitter, I am not. I am trying to be honest and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to being disappointed  in myself. I let them down at times, as all coaches do, my practices were not planned out properly, wasting precious time and I didn’t put my input in on out lineups, despite disagreeing with how we started the game. We will be playing in a few tournaments  against some of these good teams, yes it will be a learning experience  on how to grow and play for them. But as it is said, iron sharpens iron. The better we play against the more they improve.

Our Basketball season up to now.

I knew we were in for a difficult season. We had about 5 practices before the season and zero preseason conditioning. It was our schools second year fielding a team and my first year coaching basketball.Our head coach has coached for awhile but it was only younger kids.

Our school had a combined budget of $5,000 for the girls and boys programs. We do not have our own gym, so we had to practice elsewhere. Between that and transportation our budget was gouged. We had 2 hour and half practices a week. I worked in as much fundamentals as I could. The head coach wants constant scrimmage. We get nothing out of them because there was nothing in place to work with.

The head coach wanted her kid to be the star. I had to inform her that she was not our best player. We also have a child who refuses coaching. If anything is said to her, she immediately takes it as a personal attack. When we took measures to curb her attitude and lax practice habits, her mother went on the attack. When she didnt get the right answer from the head coach, she went to the athletic director, when he didnt givec the right answer she went to the principal, who entertained her thereby undermining any other authority. It was a major issue, that was eventually ironed out.

We were not competitive. We were playing a 2-3, which we played solidly but our transition defense was atrocious. Despite drilling them to at least get one back, only one kid bought into it. Our perimeter defense was stout. Inside our girls didnt jump for rebounds or shift quick enough. At least 70% of the points we gave up were in transitions. The head coach switched us to a 1-3-1 and that got tore up, but she refused to switch out of it.

Offensively we are a complete mess. I wanted install an offense, coach was against it. I wanted to have plays, coach thought they would take up to much time. 6 games into the season she bought into the plays. We had 2 plays put in based around picks and motion. First game we ran it we had 27 shots, many of them wide open. The next day we played, the kids couldnt run the plays. We are running a 1-3-1 against the zone. It works well when they play it. It has been frustrating up to now. I give them simple assignments and then refused to do them.

I have begun installing a 3-2 motion offense. High and low post, overloading the ball side, with weak side backdoor cutting. The motion is there, they are setting picks and are now being more unselfish. The motion alone is an improvement, they do not move or come to the ball. We are not a good shooting team. I have done alot of work with their shots, they are not pushing off their chest anymore. We are hitting the rim more, not as many airbags. They know how to do a layup now.

We have seen incremental progress. I have kids crossing over, driving the lane when its there, taking smarter shots and there is more teamwork. The head coach and I are working way better together now and it shows. I am not a good coach, I am an improving coach, as is our head coach. Repetition is the key here. More practice time is also key. All I can hooe for is that they continue to improve. Hopefully we get more time next year.

Our first basketball game.

        I am not going to lie and say that I was oozing confidence. We had 7 1 and half hour practices, it was our first year in the league and the players knowledge was pretty weak. The Head Coach didn’t want to put in an offensive system because it would eat up the clock. I asked to go over the defenses, have a dry run and was told they were aggressive enough. I taught the kids a way to break the press by using picks or screens and movement. As you can see the kids werent working with much.

They won the tip off, kids didn’t play defense and they scored. Our girls forgot the press break and stood there waiting. Before you knew it we were down 8-0. I told the Head Coach to call a timeout and went over the break with them. We were able to inbound it but not move it up the court. The 2-3 defense turned into part man, part zone. One girl literally chased the ball all around the court. The spot she vacated in the zone was where they scored from. We were down 20-0 after one.

We came out in the second and were able to inbound and push it up the court. Very early in the quarter they stopped pressing. Our defense started to stay in position, except for our one outside on the back 3. Instead of covering the three point line on the back half, she would worry about the girl by the basket. She should have passed that on to the center. We stopped their fast break and it became more of a half court game. It was 26-2 at the half.

In the third and fourth quarter our lack of a half court offense was evident. We missed 4 free throws because the girls stepped over the line. Our center would not play her zone on defense and there was absolutely no court awareness whatsoever. At least 5 times we were caught from behind and had the ball stolen. I was calling for picks to no avail. Asking out bigs to establish position on the ball side to no avail. Asking for penetration again to no avail. We could not call a play because the girls wouldn’t listen. All this being said they never quit. We lost 36-6.

It was very frustrating, mostly because I wanted to approach these subjects, but was instructed not to. We play again tomorrow, I hope we learned from this. They need to play with a sense of urgency. I am sure we will see some improvement, but will it be enough.

Basketball Season starts soon.

      November 18 is our first school basketball practice.  I will be an Assistant Coach for the 7th and 8th grade girls team. We will have 3 practices before the season starts. So we are a little behind the 8 ball here. Not to mention 4 out of our 13 girls have never played before. This will be my first time coaching basketball. I am very excited.

When I played I was an above average point guard with a good jump shot. I am a little nervous going into this, mostly because I have expectations becausr of playing experience. I never played soccer so it was easy to coach. I have started reading books on coaching girls basketball and the ideas I have are pretty similar. Defensively I would like to play a 2-3 zone, with occasional full court press. The theory if played correctly forces the shots to be taken from outside or forces teams to dribble into the teeth of the defense. I hope the theory holds up.

Offense will be a bigger challenge. We are a tall team that lacks any true ball handlers. They also do not like body contact, so boxing out is going to be a chore. Our most talented player shoots like a chicken would (odd description, but fits perfectly). She has never seen a shot she didn’t like or could make. She makes less than 30% of her shots. The half court offense that makes the most sense to me here would rely heavily on the pick and roll and/or a motion offense. I think these styles would give us closer looks at the basket. The other odd problem, no one wants to shoot. I found that odd, most boys can’t shoot enough.

Last year they lost every game. Their closest loss was by 18 points. Our work is cut out for us. But I am used to being in this position, taking over a team that doesn’t know how to win. Our first priority is to be competitive, then hopefully win. I will post more, hopefully daily. I would like to update my ideas and hopefully get some input.Thank you.

The fine art of coaching, which I am still learning.

           I am entering my second year as a youth soccer coach. First year was a great learnig experience, as well as a,tremendous success. I would like to eventually move on to basketball, I do enjoy the game and have a working knowledge of it. That being said, this is as much a search for answers as well as an attempt to learn from others.

            I have just got home from watching one of our local basketball teams play. They made it to the playoffs and had a better than expected season. The team had a 6’11” 330 lb. center, an athletic 6’5″ forward, as well as a 6’2″ guard, a 6’1″ guard and 5’9″ point guard. A good shooter off of the bench and that is as deep as they go.

             They are a very undisciplined team, alot of unnecessary turnovers, bad shots and wasted possessions. With a 6’11” kid with that size I would post him up constantly, work an inside game hopeing for fouls. He touched the ball at total of 6 times in the game. Thwe forward had about 6 turnovers, just plain sloppy play. He took alot of playground shots and missed several open players. They had some good outside play in the opening quarter. They do not have a half court offense.

               Defensively they started in a 2-3 zone, which was getting carved up, very good passing team. The coach moved them to a 1-3-1 which worked well for a bit, moved back into the 2-3. As soon as that happened other team ran off 7 straight points. He stuck with the 2-3 until they were down by 15, went man to man and was down 24 with 2 minutes left. The kids werent running back on defense, they were not moving. The coach sat on the bench saying nothing.

             This is why I think of coaching as a fine art. Throughout the season the coach was quoted blaming his kids for not playing the way he wanted them to. If it were me I would have taken the blame myself and stressed to the kids that they would play my way. If they didnt like that they would sit. If tge game started and they didnt do as I asked they would get pulled. I do realize that there is more freedom in basketball but a gameplan is put there to take advantage of your teams strengths. That would be known in no uncertain terms.

             If you let them do as they please it doesnt teach them any kind of life lesson. That is part of a coaches job, not just win but teach the kids how to do the right things in life. If anyone has any ideas I would appreciate that. I realize my ways may be draconian, but they worked so far.

        
              

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The insane world of high school sports fans.

         Recently I started going to our 2 local high school basketball teams games. It is playoff time so the games are really good. I go with my father in law who has always gone, he really enjoys high school basketball as well as our 2 local college teams. He doesnt watch TV at all so this has been his hobby for many years.

         Last week we went to a game between GAR & Dallas. It wasnt a close game GAR was really taking it to Dallas. But the lady sitting behind us was cursing at the refs, screaming at the top of her lungs, oblivious of anyone around her. Started screaming at GAR that they needed to learn how to play the game right, instead of playing schoolyard basketball. It was shocking, I couldnt believe this was coming from an old lady. In the middle of the third quarter she threw out a few more obscenities and left. She couldnt have left soon enough.

           I have gone to 4 games over the last 8 days, mey alot of older guys that love high school ball. Several guys who used to coach & a guy who played in the NFL. I do enjoy going, the games are pretty exciting.

        We went to a game tonight for our other local team, Meyers. They were playing Mid Valley, both teams had won more than 20 games. It was a great game, kid hit a 3 pointer with 3 seconds left to win it. The guy sitting next to me and about 10 other people who were parents of the Mid Valley kids. Every time Meyers touched the ball these people were screaming walk, travel, charge, kid wouldnt be moving & they would yell for a foul. Whe Mid Valley had the ball Meyers was hacking, reaching,pushing, this went on from the beginning of the game. This gaggle of nut jobs harassed the refs & the kids mercilessly.

            I really didnt have a dog in any of these races but these people were certifiable. These are high school kids, not college, not pro, they in most case are no older than 18. I understand people will cheer & jeer, just do it within reason.

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