Youth Basketball and Repetition

So, remember last week when I was doting on refereeing the fifth and sixth graders?  Remember how I said it was something that was often the highlight of my week?

Well.  This week was NOT one of those weeks.

While last week the kids reminded me of my early days and I recollected them fondly as a result, this week’s antics made me feel like I wanted to give up.

Early on in the game kids were complaining that they weren’t fouling or complaining that they were BEING fouled until I finally turned all “bad guy” on them and told them the straight truth.  During a free throw line up and a silent gym I said, “Listen guys, I’m getting sick of the attitudes.  If I call a foul, it’s a foul.  If I call a travel, it’s a travel and that is just the way it’s going to be.”

Things seemed to simmer down but at the end of the game I began to realize who some of these kids learned it from: their coaches.  If the coaches would focus more of their energy on helping kids learn and cheering them on than on what I’M doing, as the ref, then their kids would be learning and they would be having fun.

Kids do what they are allowed to do.  If authority figures in their lives let them complain and sulk and carry on then (and, what’s more, do it themselves) well, then that’s what they are going to continue to do.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I am not the poster child for a good attitude, especially when it comes to sports, or anything competitive for that matter, but I hate seeing kids who don’t understand that it’s wrong.

The team with the bad attitude players ended up losing that game… and they lost by a lot (by fifth and sixth grade standards).  I just hope what I said started to put something in their ear about their attitudes, how that’s no way act, in a basketball game or elsewhere.

It is a tough lesson to learn, I’ve been there, but it’s important; a bad attitude will get you nowhere.  I’m not going to change someone’s life by what I said but it’s like I say with all youth sports and activities: kids just need things to be repeated and reinforced until one day, it clicks.  Whether it’s “use your left hand” or “hustle back!” it’s the continuous reminders that will one day become habits.  I hope that other people in their lives are repeating the good sportsmanship sentiment so that it will sink in with these kids before the negativity overwhelms them and becomes a negative habit.

But, in the end, all wasn’t lost and I ended my evening in that gym on an encouraging note telling two of the young boys that they did a great job being positive.  And a parent nearby thanked me for saying what I said during the game.  He said, “No one else will say it, but it needed to be said.”

I just hope it keeps getting said.

Danielle Clark

About Danielle Clark

I am 28 years old and for 5 years out of college I played basketball for a living. I was a professional basketball player in Europe so I spent most of my years there and came back to Maine for summers and a couple weeks at Christmas time. I thought my years there would open my eyes to what I want to be when I "grow up." That didn't happen. I have discovered, however, that I just have to try something. Just do things and toss myself into them. I have currently tossed myself into being a college basketball assistant coach and one on one reading tutor. I grew up in Corinna, Maine and have been a resident Mainer. I love sports, reading, writing, cooking, baking, watching movies... everything. I have lots of hobbies and not enough time in the day!