Archive for March, 2009

Don’t miss Bob Shaw’s series about youth sports in the Pioneer Press

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

With great interest, I read a front page story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press headlined “A generation on the sidelines” written by reporter Bob Shaw. This is the first in a four-part series about the declining participation rates in high school athletics. The report cites statistics that the participation rates in Minnesota have dropped in half in only one generation. The story was well-written and very interesting. I look forward to the rest of the series. Today’s story talked about the reasons for decline: hyper-competition at a young age, sports are time-consuming, sports are expensive and sports, in some instances, are not very fun.

The ending quote is the best. A parent/coach is quoted in the story saying “Parents have messed it up. We are all guilty.”

I wrote about many of these same concepts in BasketCases. If basketball is no longer fun, players will quit by age 15. The main reason, obviously, is youth parents and coaches who push their kids too much. Below is a link to today’s story. Take five minutes to read it and watch for the other stories in the series: 

Don’t miss the column on Curby

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Gail Rosenblum wrote a great column this week about Curby Rogers, a youth basketball referee who takes a great approach about making basketball a positive experience. I do not know Curby and have not worked with him, but from what I read, we share similar beliefs as Gail wrote “of championing competition, not obsession.” Take five minutes to read the column. Here is a link to it on the Strib’s web site:

It’s difficult to help the “professionals” who don’t want any

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

The biggest challenge I have in marketing BasketCases is reaching the basketball parents, coaches and officials who think this book does not apply to them. Nothing lathers me up more.

I can’t promise that everyone will enjoy reading BasketCases, even though all the feedback I have received has been 100 percent positive. What I can promise is that this book could not be any more relevant to parents, coaches and officials at all levels of youth basketball from the first organized games in third grade through high school varsity. As KARE -11 sports anchor and youth basketball coach/parent Randy Shaver says on the back cover of BasketCases: “It will change the way how you watch the game, and in some cases, that’s a good thing.”

Any basketball coach, parent or official who doesn’t think this book applies to them is mistaken. Everyone who participates in basketball can learn from, and the vast majority will enjoy BasketCases. The perception that “I’m not the BasketCase he is writing about” is a tough one to break. I have often found that the person who thinks he or she doesn’t need to read BasketCases is the one who needs to read it the most.

Case in point. Earlier this fall, I spoke at a couple of the training sessions for MYAS youth basketball officials and had the opportunity to sell copies of the book afterward. I remember speaking to one particular official for awhile. He talked about how this book is needed. I encouraged him to get one himself and he declined.

About a month ago, I worked with this same official for the first time during a weekend youth basketball tournament. He asked me about how the book was doing before our first game and proceeded over our block of games to reinforce why BasketCases should be required for reading — and comprehension — before any youth basketball officials is allowed to put on a jersey and blow the whistle.

This official, more than any official I have ever worked with, watched the ball the entire time. He failed to understand basic rules about traveling, had no concept of court coverage (wherever the ball was, his eyes were, leaving 8 of the 10 players unofficiated when the ball was in my primary), over-officiated, called ticky-tack falls, had no concept of advantage/disadvantage and began to wear down physically after only a couple of games.

Outside of a lack of fitness, I don’t mind those issues because they all can be corrected with proper education. I tried to help. After a couple of suggestions, my partner clearly didn’t want the help. So never in the history of the world has an official been so wrong when they thought they were so right. In BasketCases, one of the great illustrations by Wade Gardner uses the cartoon balloon “Don’t you realize I’m a professional seventh-grade girls’ basketball coach?”  This official was one of those “professional seventh-grade basketball officials” who thought he knew it all. In reality, he had several issues that were only masked and not exposed by the lower level of play.

As I write in BasketCases, I did many things wrong when I started officiating in 1998. I did the best I could based on the knowledge I had. The difference, however, is I was always asking other partners how I could improve. If you are new official, don’t make the same mistakes I made when you started. You now have a resource named BasketCases that has never been available before. The teams you officiate deserve the best that you can do because whatever the grade level, nothing is more important than that game to those participants on that day.

Lessons apply to all sports

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

When people who have kids that play in sports other than basketball learn that I wrote a book to make youth basketball a better experience, I frequently hear comments like: You need to write about hockey parents, football parents, soccer parents or baseball parents. I have no plans to write a sequel to BasketCases to help parents in other youth sports lower their blood pressure. I only officiate basketball and have no intentions (nor does my wife want me to have intentions) to start officiating another sport.

But, in a way, I’ve already shared important lessons with parents of different youth sports. Most of those parents just don’t know about it yet. Most of the lessons in BaskeCases can be applied to any sport. I received a letter from my friend Mike Savidge who lives near Seattle, which amplifies this point.

He wrote: “Thanks for sending the book. It was a good read and brought back memories of parents when I coached hockey. This book can easily be read by parents and coaches of any youth sport. Great job. The Savidges.” Thanks, Mike, for the letter.

With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day fast approaching, consider picking up a copy of BasketCases and consider your shopping done.

A 3-hour tour: Hard to put down what you pick up

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

I received a note from Chris Olson, a fellow basketball official who I worked with a couple of times this year. We worked together one night in February, the same night I signed a copy of BasketCases for him.

He wrote: “Derek: Thanks for the book. I got home from our game at Jordan @ 9:45 and read straight through until 12:45 a.m. - finished it that night. Enjoyed it.”

Moral of the story: If you pick up BasketCases, you may need to clear your calendar for three hours because once you start reading, it’s hard to put down. Thanks, Chris.