Monday, April 7, 2008

NBA and NCAA venture to improve grassroots basketball

A panel with a stunning amount of clout gathered Monday to announce a new youth basketball initiative in San Antonio.

NBA commissioner David Stern and NCAA president Myles Brand head entities that occasionally have been at odds, but took center stage.

They want their organizations to work with college, high school and AAU coaches, plus the shoe companies, to improve grassroots basketball in the United States. The NBA and NCAA are launching a joint business venture to:
- Educate and certify coaches.
- Train and certify referees for various levels of competition.
- Advise players and their parents on athletic, academic and social skills.

These all are lofty goals worthy of pursuing. But keeping all parties on board will be difficult.

Shoe companies award college coaches with handsome contracts, but also try to gain influence with athletes during so many camps in the summer that players get exhausted.

The players might be better off staying at home and working on fundamentals. But is a college coach paid by Nike going to advise an elite player to skip one of Nike’s camps? Probably not often.

If a sleazy grassroots level coach is steering athletes to a particular college, that college’s coach will advise him to get certified. Then the NBA and NCAA will look bad when the grassroots coach gets into trouble.

And if the certification process is too rigorous, the desperately needed volunteers at the youngest youth levels will be even more difficult to find.

“It will be a long journey, and the process will require patience,” Brand said.

There’s no question about that. It’s nice that all these entities say they are going to work in the best interests of youth basketball. But the track record of these groups makes you wonder whether they will do what they say. – Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

Glad to see more is being done to prepare youth for the future. Basketball is a great way but it takes the right people and the right influences. More is needed to give youth a facility to foster their skills (both on the court, and off). And please - a SAFE environment!

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