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Playing "Up" vs. Playing "Down"

June 18, 2016



The scene is Houston, Texas and I am a 6'3 180-pound freshman in high school with enough skills to be labeled as one of the better basketball players on my high school team.  Later that summer, I got invited to play on an AAU team that primarily competes in a small gym located in inner-city Houston.  While the gym was small and unassuming, the talent of the players was anything but that!  I quickly realize that the skills that had carried me on my school team and in the recreational leagues were not enough to keep up with the skill level of the AAU competition -- this was actually one of the main catalysts for my seeking our personal basketball lessons.  I found myself struggling to keep up at times and pondered whether I was better off playing in recreational leagues where I could excel and build up my confidence.  Or was competing in a high-quality AAU league where I had to struggle to get on the court, let alone excel, the best path?  This is a common situation that I have seen arise with many of the players that I have taught in the past. 


I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that there really is not a "right" answer to this type of question.  The bad news is that there really is not a "right" answer to this type of question!  However, having played on a number of different leagues of varying skills levels in addition to teaching players of different skill levels who have run into this issue, I have captured a few important things to take into consideration when making the decision as to what league you want your child to compete.


Development Will this opportunity positively impact your child's development?


Before joining any league you should always spend a little time researching the coach and the team.  Remember, joining a new team is not just about athletic development, but also about social development.  Does the coach teach the proper fundamentals on and off of the court?  What do former players say about their experience with the team?  When in doubt, simply schedule a short conversation with the coach and, if possible, try to contact a few parents of former players that might be able to share some additional insight.


Age Is your child mature enough to cope with defeat and failure?


Some children are mature enough at a young age to cope with defeat and failure while others need a few more years to adjust.  Your child's age and overall maturity should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to put him or her into a higher-caliber league.


Enjoyment Is your child interested in competing at a higher level of competition?


If your child is proactively letting you know that he or she would like to play with better players and become a better player, that is a great sign that he or she may actually enjoy playing in an elevated league.


Commitment Are you able to commit enough time to another time-intensive league?


Yes, I wrote YOU!  The fact of the matter is that elevated leagues like AAU can be time-consuming.  From daily practices to weekend tournaments, these leagues tend to take up a lot of a player's and parent's time.  Before committing to joining another league, always make sure that you and your family are in the right place to make a long-term commitment to making all of the practices and games.


As always, if you have a questions with which we can help please do not hesitate to let us at Hot Shot Skills know!





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Mark Gabriel                     

(484) 380-5316

Mongomery County, Pennsylvania