Friday, October 09, 2020

DAIRY OF A BASKETBALL MOM (PART I)



My daughter started her basketball journey at an average age (9-10). We started it as a hobby to keep her in shape and active. Never did I know that it would lead us to possible college scholarship aspirations nor did I in my uninformed mind know that it was even a possibility. But as the path flowed and lead us so began our journey. I say “our” because although, yes it is about the athlete, the parents are very much involved, committed and invested in it. Sometimes, unfortunately, more then the kids are. But I digress...

We began with basic local recreational teams and workouts. She took to it very quickly and was, as some would say “a natural”. I was approached by the coordinator of the recreational league about connecting her to an AAU program. I shared that I had been looking into local stuff and found a team that was doing tryouts in the area. He said he knew the coach and that he would put in a good word. We went to tryouts and I saw how intent on doing a good job she was and how well she did. I also saw how the coach was very excited at her abilities.


She made the team and so began our AAU journey.


I myself did not grow playing sports and did not start watching till I was a teenager. I was a student at every game. Learning the rules, understanding all the nuances. It was very exciting and easy to watch. How I sometimes miss those simpler times!


My daughter was a two sport kid, playing both baseball and basketball. We would often times pack for both teams and she would transition from one to the other in the car. It was exciting for me as a mom and a woman to watch this young girl be confident and just perform in these activities that mostly boys play.


As AAU wrapped up she was asked to play on our local boys team because there were not enough girls who wanted to play basketball. She played on that team for one season and proceed to play two seasons with a local boys AAU team as well as with their girls team AND also while fitting baseball in. She was an Athlete through and through. Her confidence at this point was still strong and her skills and athleticism were getting better.



Side note, anyone looking to put their girls in basketball I HIGHLY recommend they play/train with the boys at some point. The boys play and mentality is very different and I find that it builds confidence, focus and discipline. It also helps them get tougher and stronger. This has been my own experience.



But back to the story at hand.



We began to notice that many of the teams she was in had little competitiveness and the skill level was not improving. She would generally play up in every team she was in. Which is great, but also felt that she needed more in order to be pushed to improve and in order to develop her game better....so began our journey into competitive AAU.

Friday, September 11, 2020

"CANCEL CULTURE"


Today, is definitely a different world. 


We live in an era where adults criticize children for their lack of toughness/competitiveness, their unwillingness to voice their opinion or even hold people accountable for their indirect or direct actions yet perhaps the adults should take a peek into their own mirror.


As of late, largely due to social media, “cancel culture” has become apart of today’s lexicon where according to dictionary.com -“Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered OBJECTIONABLE or OFFENSIVE”. 


In essence, subscribing to “cancel culture” people are, generally, “cool” with the removal of public figures / companies who in their opinion are ADVERSELY affecting the climate, as a whole.


So here we are.


The gift and curse of social media is everyone has opinion and such can be unfavorable while some can be ultra flattering.  Most adults love “likes” or positive comments but become irate with an opinion. To the point where some even consider providing a dissenting opinion as “hate” or “anti” resulting a “back and forth” via twitter, instagram, or tic tok.


Let us paint a picture.


A random adult (business owner) types his/her opinion towards another business owner’s “unfavorable” business practices and deems such activity as detrimental to the “culture” to the point where he/she feels it affects their business. 


If the (affected) adult raises questions (via social media) is he/she considered a “hater” or is she/he one who is concerned about “the culture” and the perception of the practice?


Ultimately, despite friendly cliques and partnerships businesses are in the business of being a business.  Therefore, as a business, one must COMPETE in order to secure their position within the field. There is no doubt that competition comes in many facets, we are quite sure the PEPSI / COKE wars were not friendly as they each tried to secure a portion of the market place for it’s called competition. Sure the same mental reigned supreme in the APPLE/MICROSOFT battles but yet today’s ultra sensitive world ADULTS  cry afoul when confronted with such a situation.


In short, (laughter), most businesses are results driven and from our vantage point, it is (very) FAIR to question those within the business. That is how people (businesses) GROW professionally and develop.  It also can serve as a way to “convince” prospective clients that a certain product/service is better simply by having an open and transparent conversation.  


BUT, such conversations might be a thing of the past as we now live in an uber sensitive, non competitive (friendly), afraid to question anyone society.





Friday, August 28, 2020

Elgin Baylor: Needs more flowers


MEDIA: What is reality compared to pseudo truth?


Today, we live in a world where the use of phrases like - “unprecedented”, “groundbreaking” or even “never before” are thrown around with a “cavalierly” attitude to the point where such statements are considered truth without any form of research.


There is no doubt, the recent boycott by NBA players of the 2020 “restart” season sent shock waves throughout the media channels and created an “unprecedented” movement for 2020, but such a decision is NOT “unprecedented” in the HISTORY of basketball and should not be spoken with a “matter of factly” voice.


We would be foolish to believe today’s “sport fan” shoot even “regular person” has time to research every nugget of information.  However, it would be wise for such a person to cross reference the information to formulate their own opinion instead of relying on “trusted” sources who have displayed compromised practices throughout history.


Case in point, we present Elgin Baylor [inventor of the Euro Step]- who in 1959 “boycotted” an NBA game in protest of equal hotel rights for the (3) “colored boys” on the Lakers team.  One can only imagine what the then rookie was called during this era, but despite such pressure the soon to be Hall of Famer sought to defy “common sense” in order to stand up for equality.  Yet, the MSN (main stream media) would have one believe the narrative that the 2020 NBA boycott [which sparked other professional athletes to follow the NBA’s lead] was a “new thing” yet- despite the over abundance of ways to find and consume information in today’s world most are willing to accept this pseudo truth as a reality. 


We are living in a turbulent and in “powder keg” era, but we must avoid becoming “prisoners of the moment” and refuse to rely - solely - on MSM for our information. 


As American writer Philip K. Dick wrote 

“Today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups... So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”


——-


[For historically purposes]

  • Craig Hodges of the 1991 NBA champion BULLS attempted to boycott game of the series against the Lakers but was thwarted by his peers namely Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
  • Baylor (again) along with Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and others refused to participate in the 1964 All Star Game until their “demands” surrounding pay and pensions were not met. 
  • The great Bill Russell along with several of his Black teammates, like Elgin years before, boycotted an exhibition game in Lexington, Kentucky where players were denied admission to establishments during the road trip.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Recruiting in a "THE CORONA ERA"





Well, it is obvious that "RONA" has cancelled Spring and now Summer evaluation periods.  Word is on the street that NCAA will adapt and provide colleges an opportunity to view players in September.  

So, what now?


1. Be honest with yourself and create an attainable list of colleges

When looking at schools that you want to attend, create a list of things that you want out of your college experience. Do your homework and make sure that the academics and athletic program aligns with your wants.

There likely won’t be a perfect match but if you come up with your non-negotiables (ex: Major, proximately to home, and style of play) you will be able to come up with 8-10 schools that you could envision yourself playing for, maybe more.

Then it's all about narrowing down the first draft, but be sure to be REALISTIC.  For example, If you are being recruited mostly at the D2 level, then focusing on D1's might not be the best way to speak your time.  

2. Speak up for yourself

Now that you have a "short list" hit the internet and look up the various programs' ENTIRE coaching staffs .  (Be strong and resilient because some coaches get many emails and might check immediately).

Here in a quick "resume style" where you should include all pertinent information, FULL games trump a highlight video, but send whatever you have access to be sure to include your stats,
awards you received and of course your GPA. And in today's world include social media ex. Twitter handle), your coach’s contact information and links to any articles that feature you.  

3. "Hi Coach - How are you?"

Now clear your voice, practice in the mirror and get on the phone and introduce yourself.



Here’s a cheat sheet.

Hey Coach ______, this is Fred Stephens. I’m a 2022 and I’m very interested in your program. I sent you and the coaching staff an email last week with some game film that I would love to get your feedback on the video and "resume" that I sent and if you have concluded your recruiting efforts for the upcoming year.

Your goal is to get a feel for the Coach and introduce yourself all the while answer any questions you might have.

Welp, enjoy the process and stay ready!

Thursday, July 09, 2020

STREET GAMES THAT MADE ATHLETES




During the 1970's and 1980's, many players' like most in urban cities, were infamous for their ability to create or reinvent games.  In doing so, and prior to the social media and computer crazed world, players bonded together, created a safe community which fostered "friendly" competition and solidified friendships.

Out of a sense of "lack of" players created a myriad games such as STICKBALL, hide & seek, and red light - green light 1-2-3 which became urban America staples, however it was four games that amplified players' basketball ability.



BASKETBALL SKILL DEVELOPMENT via "STREET" games

  • "21" - In different parts of the country the game goes by "UTAH", but the premise is the same.  The player with the ball competes against a group of players at which point, he/she looks to score two points.  After the player scores two points, he/she is rewarded by an opportunity to earn another 3 points by making 3 consecutive free throws at that point he/she will repeat the entire process.  If foul shot is missed, whoever grabs the rebound will become the offensive player where he/she will attempt to score on the entire group.  Generally, the first player to earn 21 points will be deemed the winner.   
  • "52" - The game is played with a group of players (ideally 2-3).  Players shoot from top of key (High School 3 point range) and all shots made from that spot will earn the shooter 5 points. At that point, after the 5 point shot is MADE (must make the 5 point shot to begin game) wherever the ball lands (stops) the shooter has the chance to earn another 2 points by converting they next shot. IF shooter converts both shots, he/she will repeat, but if the shooter only converts one of the two shots the next shooter will go. First shooter to reach 52 points is the winner.  
ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT via "STREET" games

  • "HOPSCOTCH" 
  • "TAG
 As we fast forward to today's world, we find that most of today's children are instead of playing "street games" are playing computer generated games and are NOT outside.  These games not only were fun, but they provided members of the community a sense of togetherness, enhanced player's self esteem, and the above (and other) "street games" created tougher and competitive players. In addition, via "athletic development" games players developed fast twitch muscles and learned movements that aided in the creation of an athletic player.

In conclusion, today we have tons of apparatuses that can aid the development of players, however there is NOTHING wrong with using the "basic" aka  old school approach especially today's "NEW NORM" world.


Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Gentrification of Basketball



“I am telling you- in 4/5 years only the upper middle class and rich families will be the only ones able to afford basketball training or even play on highly competitive travel teams” - Joe Fenelon (NYGHoops)

The above quote is from an informal phone conversation that our Mark Williams had with one of the country’s leading voices in girls’ basketball in 2015.  Although at the time such talk sounded “weird” for it did not fit the history of basketball.  Basketball was/is an urban sport for several reasons but none more important than the required co$ts attached to the game founded by a Dr.James Naismith. From the onset it became obvious that basketball, unlike other sports, requires very little equipment which makes it appealing to pretty much any and everyone. As evident by Dr. Naismith, simply nailing a peach basket to an old barn’s wall.

Not too long ago, HBO’s “Real Sports” did a segment where it highlighted youth sports as a 9 BILLION dollar industry.  In the 2017 episode, a “traditional family” spent on average of $15,000 each year for their two children to train and participate in youth sports.  (the number does not include food, travel, uniform and equipment)  Although the INVESTMENT seems out of sorts, it is pale in comparison to the ever growing costs of a college education.  

Just think about basketball from the 80’s & 90’s where the “teams” were made up of local (park) players (who lacked disposable income) had an “old” person would simply take players to tournaments and incurred all financial responsibilities.  In doing so, teams which became programs only selected the best players who competed for personal pride and territorial respect.

Now fast forward to the late 2000’s.  On a daily basis new teams appear and no longer are they led by an “old” person who handled all the finances for the local (park) players (who lacked disposable income) have been replaced by families who are willing to pay programs for training, travel, tournaments, and all associated fees.  This concept has been called “Gentrification of Youth Sports”.

Like with gentrification of neighborhoods - the people who built and maintained the local ethos are “priced out” and only those that have the financial resources are able to live in the newly curated environment.  As a result, players who lack re$ources are rarely on (highly competitive) travel teams where colleges / universities will be able to offer FULL scholarship opportunities.

In conclusion, the Gentrification of Basketball has become a REALity. 

Monday, June 01, 2020

Diversity is a blessing in the work place.


Welp, yet again - racism has taken ahold of America via another entry in a very long list of POCs “killt” at the hands (knee) of a member of the “Blue Wall” aka police fraternity.

This new chapter in the book of “untimely deaths” created a weird synergy amongst members of the POC community where most fully expect celebrities, entertainers, professional and college athletic departments who have done nothing but exploit (take from) #theCulture to suddenly reverse their “tone deafness” on social issues and to publicly condemn a system that most have never had to deal with- on a first hand basis.  At best, such thinking seems unrealistic.

This wishful thinking further supports our belief that most, in not ALL, sports departments/ staff should be made up of a cross section of the population in which they intend to work with and/or target and such diversity would allow people/departments to act in a timely, thoughtful and “on point” matter.  Just imagine, an event occurs involving a POC and such an event forces a country to face a NASTY REALity that has been omnipresent from its beginning. Quite sure that professional teams and college athletic departments/staffs that are blessed with a diverse staff WOULD NOT wait 5/6 days to make a public statement on such an generational event.

In closing, perhaps professional teams / college departments should consult with Merriam-Webster’s Definition of Diverse (see below) prior to creating a staff as we head into the next decade.

#theend

—————-


Merriam-Webster’s Definition of Diverse

1: differing from one another


2: composed of distinct or unlike elements or qualities