Basketball Twenty-four Seven? I don’t believe in it. You’re probably thinking, “What? A high school coach and former Division 1 college athlete doesn’t recommend that a player dive into to the game all the time?” Nope. I don’t. Unless of course it is ALL by choice. Every kid, and adult for that matter, needs a little nudge here and there throughout life, and when a kid is on the court, I expect 100%, but that’s part of the reason I don’t believe in practicing and playing all the time. It’s overkill. Basketball, or any activity, all the time can equal burnout.

I’m 45 years old and happy if I can get in a couple of days a week on the court playing basketball. After college I would play every day if I could. But before that it was different. During college I would take about a month off during the summer. College was intense and because of that, I needed the mental and physical break.

I started playing organized basketball in 7th grade (during the season) and by 10th grade I played on an AAU team that played in a couple of spring tournaments. My last two years of high school I played on a serious AAU team. That team practiced once or twice a week, played in a few games and tournaments and went to the Regional and National Championships. But that was just during the spring and part of summer. Not year long like many kids today. I loved playing basketball, but I ran track, played volleyball, sang and hung out with my friends too.

When I ask kids about their weekends these days I often hear, “Oh, I had another tournament.” Occasionally their eyes light up but more often than not, there is one word along with the lack of enthusiasm in their voice, that is a dead give-away to their tournament experience, and that is “another.” Another, another, another…

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think kids should be sitting around playing video games and watching TV. If you want to get better at something, you’ve got to work at it, put in the time. But people need breaks. Recently my daughter chose horseback riding and homework over basketball. As a coach, her coach, she knew about the open gym, but I couldn’t require that she come since it was out-of-season. As a parent, I could have insisted. (If it were an in-season practice, she would have no choice. You commit to the program, you come to practice every day.) But I refrained from “guilt trip” questioning and then slightly disappointment (mostly because I enjoy her company) I headed to the gym alone.

The next open-gym, she came on her own accord and played with a revived energy. What takes a player to the next level?  Practice and passion. Maybe my daughter had just needed a break.