USA basketball and the NBA made great strides this past week as they released the first-ever youth basketball guidelines aimed at improving the way children, parents and coaches experience the game, with a specific emphasis on promoting player health and wellness.
The main highlights of the new guidelines are:
- delaying specialization
- reducing overtraining
- encouraging play in other sports.
These guidelines not only make sense, but they are critical to helping protect the health and well-being of youth sport athletes. Yet, guidelines will remain guidelines, until the reality of other forces, namely, college recruitment, are addressed.
Most of the problems in youth sports today stem from the fear parents have of their child missing out on reaching the next level, often to play in college. And while college play may not be the goal for all, it sets the tone for many programs, driving youth to train more, and harder, too early.
To meet these excessive demands, a growing number of families upend everything from dinner and normal bedtimes to family vacations, holidays and religious traditions. Fortunately, organizing bodies like that of USA Basketball, Hockey, Tennis, US Lacrosse and others are taking note and steps to change the culture.
Yet, until there are concerted efforts demanding change in the NCAA’s recruiting policies and practices, guidelines will simply stay on paper while our kids stay at practice, far too long.