A kid picks up a sport.
Their parents rush to put them on a plan that will culminate with a coveted full-ride scholarship offer by age 18.
Suddenly, this kid is traveling the country and devoting almost all of their free time to this one sport, and they haven’t even hit their teens.
It’s an all too common story in modern America.
Rather than focusing on where the sport will take a kid after high school, we should focus on making sure they still want to play the sport by the time they hit middle school. It’s a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. After all, burnout rates for youth athletes are higher than ever.
In those childhood years, we need to focus on fun above all else. And having fun starts with utilizing the proper equipment.
All too often, young basketball players are forced to play with equipment that’s not appropriate for their age and size. This instantly increases the frustration factor present in the sport.
“First of all, if a player is not successful at 5, 6, 7 years old, then they may give up basketball forever. And they could be a pretty good player. But if he has to play with a regulation-sized 29.5 basketball, and a 10-foot basket, and he has trouble shooting the ball up that far, he’s not going to spend any time getting better. Or he has trouble handling the basketball. They’re not going to spend that much time getting better. You gotta get them to love the game,” Don Showalter, Director of Coach Development for USA Basketball, recently told STACK.
“Lower baskets and smaller basketballs are very, very needed at a young age. Ages 5, 6, 7,8. They should have a smaller ball. They should have a lower basket to use. Then it progressively gets bigger. Nine-foot basketball instead of eight, then you graduate to a bigger ball. But I think those standards and rules are really important in development.”
If you’re unsure of what size ball and hoop are appropriate for each age, STACK created two nifty guides on the topic: