Kobe Bryant Mamba League

Sports Parents: What You Need To Know About Youth Sports

The duty of the club, recreational, YMCA, and high school coach is to develop players

These organization need to teach fundamentals at each level of development, build skills, confidence and sports IQ.

The pervasive win at all cost approach in youth sports, hurts the athlete’s long-term development for a short-term benefit of winning. Winning does matter, it is why we keep score, but developing athletes with proper technique, fundamentals and sports IQ matters more.

Right now, I think we’re putting too much pressure on these kids too early, and they’re not learning proper technique of how to shoot the ball, or proper technique of spacing..” – Kobe Bryant

Youth sports organizations are failing at developing fundamentally sound players. The focus on winning at an early age comes at the expense of teaching proper technique and fundamentals. Winning attracts the best players and coaches – it is a full-proof recipe to develop a successful club; at what cost?

NBA coach Stan Van Gundy believes youth coaches are failing in the United States teaching the game of basketball. The focus is on playing games and winning instead of teaching and fundamentals.

Awesome 2:00 minute video with Stan on the problem with youth basketball https://youtu.be/KZ9jTOAMTtk

Kobe Bryant slammed AAU basketball for not teaching

“Teach players the game at an early age and stop treating them like cash cows for everyone to profit off of,” he said. “That’s how you do that. You have to teach them the game. Give them instruction.”

This problem is not isolated to a single sport; sadly it exists in all team sports. Poor decisions on what is important for the kids have been made as the competition and economics (youth sports $15 billion industry) have exploded.

  • There are too many games and not enough practices. Games are important for player development – applying what is learned in practice, competing against different players, and to gain experience. Plus it is fun for the parent and athlete. Too many games lead to burnout, potential injury and “hijack” family time.


  • Traveling out of state at an early age. Most team travel at an early age is a boondoggle for the coaches and clubs (Cost: $800 – $1000 per kid per trip). Yes, it can be a positive team bonding experience for the kids. Is it necessary, aren’t there enough local teams to provide competition? Use travel money and invest it in training and practice resources (coach education, field time, equipment).


  • Athletes are assigned a position too early and it is usually based on size, speed and ability. This is a huge mistake and sadly one that happens all of the time. Each player should learn the skills and technique of every position regardless of size and speed. In Europe, youth basketball players are taught every position and work on them constantly. Guards can post up, “bigs” can handle the ball, and everyone can pass!


  • Practice focuses on team play and game preparation over technical development. Teaching the team game and making sure the team is prepared is important but not at the expense of teaching the proper fundamentals. There are too many athletes who dominate with speed and strength at a younger age only to struggle as they get older with poor fundamentals, simple skills such as the inability use their weak foot or hand, keeping their head up.


  • Youth sports organizations/teams automatically select the tallest, strongest, fastest kids… A natural tendency that helps win games, a short-term strategy with long-term issues. Kids develop technically, physically and mentally at different times and speed. Coaches need to be patient, take a long-term approach, and trust the process. The easy road is to select kids that mature early. Speed and height eventually even out – the athlete who matured early will be left behind if he/she has not developed proper fundamentals and IQ. The players who develop and have long-term success are the players who go to practice, work hard at practice/on their own, pay attention to detail, and compete to become best they can be.


Players all develop at different times.
All their attributes can develop at different times, and if you’re coaching a player at a very young age you can make massive fundamental errors around their trajectory and their ability.”  James Bunce, U.S. Soccer’s new High Performance Director.

What Needs To Change

US Soccer is trying to figure out how a nation of 320 million people is unable to develop a competitive men’s team. The Development Academy and bio-banding might be effective steps, but they are not the answer to fixing the talent issue displayed in the Trinidad and Tobago loss in the World Cup qualifier, a country of 1.3 million people. Review the current Development Academy standings, teams that are 1-15, 0-16… is traveling a couple of times a month an effective use of time and money? Is there a more effective development path?

USA basketball is developing coach education curriculum and working with Nike to encourage kids to get out and play with their Open Court free play initiative.

These are great steps but in order to develop athletes the fundamental issues inherent in youth sports must be addressed.

  1. Provide ongoing coach education and curriculum for parent, volunteer and professional coaches.
  2. Focus on fundamentals at an early age and continue to stress fundamentals with proper progression as the athlete develops.
  3. Remove the win at all cost mentality. Youth sports organizations must understand and teach coaches and parents that wining is secondary to the development of the athlete
  4. Remove the pay barriers that keep kids from competing. US soccer has $140 million in the bank; let’s assume US baseball, US basketball, Softball, Volleyball….. are flush with cash as well. Address this problem, use these resources to provide FREE sports at the rec and developmental level.

Kobe Bryant is on the right track with “Mamba League”, it is free, winning is secondary, and it focuses on player development. Youth sports organizations should take a time-out and remember why kids play sports.

Kobe Bryant Mamba League
Mamba League Photo

Similar Posts:

Joshua is married with three active children. He has experienced the good, the bad, and the politics of youth sports as a coach (12 years youth basketball coach) and a parent. All three kids have played soccer (Competitive, Development Academy, ECNL, High School) and basketball (Competitive & High School). Joshua is a co-founder at StriveFar, a marketplace connecting athletes with coaches for individual and small group training. Joshua has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver since 2008. Joshua holds an undergraduate degree in Communication from the University of Colorado and an MBA in IT from the University of Denver.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *