While competition is inherent in any sport, most kids don’t set out into the world of competitive basketball because they love competition. Most likely, your young one has decided to give basketball a try because they love the game. As kids learn and develop skills, it can be very tempting to push them into the highly competitive world of “select” or rep basketball, but that might not be the best route for your child. There are a few things you can do to help them hone their love of the game while also learning how to appreciate the competitive side of the game.

Tips for Parents with Kids Playing Competitively

Get involved, but not too involved

This is a fine balance when it comes to being an involved parent of a basketball player. It’s great to be there watching and cheering them on, but be careful that your cheers stay well within the positive and encouraging realm, and don’t drown out the coach. If you’re in the stands and noticing the other parents slowing leaning away from you as you stand in the stands screaming, you MIGHT have crossed that line.

Don’t be too pushy

Listen to your player. If they’re pushing back against your urging to practice at home more, try harder and make certain moves, it might be time to take a step back. Pushing a player too hard can have the opposite effect than you intended, and actually encourage them to start pulling away from the game altogether.

Recognize small wins

While you no doubt want your child’s team to win, sometimes recognizing the small wins like the basket they made, the play they nailed or the minutes they logged can help them want to take the step into a more competitive field.

Top tips for Coaches

Keep their age in mind

A team of 8-year-olds is going to have a much different competition level than a team of 16-year-olds. When coaching kids, it is essential to take their age into account when it comes to deciding what level of competition you can push them towards.

Beware of pushing too hard

Encouraging players and pushing them to do their best is a good thing, but it is definitely possible to push too hard. If kids are pushed too hard too soon, they are at risk of pulling back too hard and losing their love of the game. Balancing encouragement with not pushing too hard is a delicate line to walk.

From the Experts: A coach who is demeaning hurts far more players than he helps. A coach who uses fear and put-downs as his major teaching tool will only be effective in destroying his athletes’ concentration, killing their confidence and turning his players off.  (Source: CompetitiveAdvantage.com)

Kids develop at different rates

Kids all develop at different rates and stages so coaching a team of kids all the same age can come with a fair amount of difficulty. Just because the kids are all the same age, doesn’t mean they’re all on the same level intellectually, emotionally or in skill development. Recognizing where each player is strong and where they need extra support is the best way to effectively coach them towards more of a competition level game.

Competition can (and should) be fun, too!

Figuring out the best way to get through to your player to help encourage them to love the game of basketball can be a tough thing to do. But once they learn how to balance competition and fun, they will be hooked for life.

Feeding a young player’s love of the game will help them develop skills that they can carry and hone as they grow older. Even if a young player isn’t destined to make it to the NBA, no doubt as they improve their skills and develop their game the competition bug will appear. Healthy competition is such an integral part of the game of basketball, and when taught how to manage it effectively, players often learn how to love it.