A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
House rules of NBA great: Try a lot of sports
By Greg Bach
When it came to sports, the rules were simple for former NBA great Kiki VanDeWeghe growing up.
“My dad was a pediatrician and also a sports medicine doctor and when I was young his one rule was that we had to try different sports,” says VanDeWeghe, who scored nearly 16,000 points during a 13-year NBA career and is the NBA’s Vice President of Basketball Operations. “We had to learn the fundamentals and skills of all the sports and then when we got to be teenagers he said pick one that you really love and apply yourself and be as good as you can possibly be in that sport. And I think that’s a pretty good model for everybody.”
Is it ever.
Burnout and overuse injuries never had a chance to sabotage VanDeWeghe’s youth like they have so many other youngsters these days.
Instead, he played, enjoyed – and reaped the benefits – from trying a multitude of sports.
“We want kids to participate in athletics and we want them to try all different sports,” he says. “You learn different things from different sports and you develop different muscles and different ways to focus.”
So, the more sports kids are exposed to the more diverse skills they’ll develop.
And the greater chance they’ll discover a sport they truly love and will crave playing for years to come.
“That’s the beauty of sports, especially team sports, is not necessarily playing one in particular; but it’s learning the fundamentals of that particular sport so you can enjoy it the rest of your life,” VanDeWeghe says. “Whether it’s basketball or any other sport, it teaches you teamwork, respect, hard work and dedication – all things you can use throughout your life.”
Many other lessons are also learned which prove incredibly valuable while transitioning into adulthood.
“The real lesson in sports – and it comes from my dad – is to learn how to fail,” VanDeWeghe says. “It’s learning how to fail and then coming back from failure. Whatever sport you’re participating in – it can be swimming, it can be water polo, diving, basketball, baseball, it doesn’t matter – you learn about having a bad day. And what happens? You work harder, get better and come back and do it again.”
CREATING CONFIDENT SHOOTERS
VanDeWeghe averaged more than 19 points a game during his illustrious NBA career. So when it comes to shooting and helping kids become more efficient and confident at it he’s a great source of insight because he was a real headache for opposing players to defend.
“A coach told me once to practice the shot that you know you can make and that you will get in the game and develop confidence with that one shot,” he says. “Then you have something to go to in the game, and I thought that was a great learning lesson.”
But it all starts with creating that positive vibe where kids feel good about what they’re hearing from you and are enjoying their time with you.
“If kids are feeling good about what they are doing and they feel that their coaches believe in them and are encouraging them and are rooting for them to succeed they tend to do better,” VanDeWeghe says. “And even on the bad days they realize that ‘hey, somebody believes in me so I’m going to get out there and work and try harder and I’m going to succeed next time.’ It’s all about positive reinforcement.”
Coaches have lots to cover with their teams, and teaching and modeling good sportsmanship should always be one of the top priorities.
“Great sportsmanship and what we like to call respect for the game is a huge part of learning lessons in sports and should always be part of sports,” VanDeWeghe says. “It’s an old statement – it’s not if you win or lose but how you play the game – and that starts in practice with having respect for others, showing up on time, working hard, making your teammates better and always having a positive attitude. All those things translate to success.”
And no coach was more successful – or respected – than the Wizard of Westwood.
“You know there was a great coach at UCLA by the name of John Wooden who never talked about winning or losing and never mentioned it in a pre-game or post-game speech,” VanDeWeghe says. “What he talked about was doing your best, playing your hardest, making your teammates better, and practicing the little things that are going to make you successful. And those are the types of things you want to impart to young players.”
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