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Are you (or one of your kids) a high school basketball player or athlete? Then what you choose to do over the summer is a valid question and the answer is not always a simple one. The answer comes from a more important question, what do you want? Do you want to work on your game and become a better basketball player? Then you have some options. First, attending a few individual camps is a good way to get some specific work done. You get college level coaches and players working with you to become better, and nothing is more powerful. I had a blast when I went away to camp when I was young. We played a few games of course, but I got a lot of skill work in and I improved a ton. The drills helped my game and I had fun living away from home for a week, meeting other players and working with new coaches. I loved it.

Team camps are a little different, they are good team building but not as good for work on the fundamentals of the game, which is a big change since I was young. When I went to a team camp, we did skill work all day and a few games with our teammates at night. Now Team camps are mostly games, games and more games. Good yes, but practicing is how you become a better player, so it was a little disappointing when I took one of my teams a few years ago and there was no individual work. Still the girls got to know one another better on the court and had fun, so it was worth it.

Playing AAU gives you a ton of game time but is often more about showcasing players to college coaches, playing mostly in tournaments, and a lot of them. Back when I played AAU in the 80’s, we practiced a couple of times a week and then played a few exhibition games, a couple of tournaments and went to Nationals. I had time to play other sports and do other things. I always ached for more basketball, but often these days the teams play non-stop. Not all AAU teams are the same, so if you play, find one that works for you.

When I was coaching high school there were girls who were burnt out by the time our season started. Burnt out of playing basketball? That seem impossible to me. I love to play, but I think the need to play basketball 24/7 (or whatever sport you are into) is fueled by false expectations and has more to do with pressure from parents and coaches, than the wants and needs of most kids (It’s helpful to remember that only 1% of athletes receive full ride scholarships, so playing the game should be about being your best and making your team better). High School kids should not be burnt out. If you’re burnt out, you are playing too much. When I was coaching high school I wanted my players to participate in other sports, to cross train, and even take some time off to give their mind and body a break, because when they stepped back on the court once our season started, I expected intensity, focus and 100% effort.

Did I give them opportunities to workout in the off-season, yes. Did I like to have my players come to open gyms and games and camps, yes. Did I want them to spend their free time at a hoop shooting or working on their ball handling, of course, but I also understood that they were student-athletes and teenagers. And when it came time to get on the court during our season it didn’t matter to me if they’d played AAU, gone to camp or spent the summer at the beach, what mattered was that they stayed in shape over the summer, touched a basketball from time to time and came ready to work and be a part of a team.

So this summer, if you want to get better and help your team improve, make sure you stay in shape and get the ball in your hands as much as you can. You can go to camps or play AAU or better yet discipline yourself to go to the gym on your own or with a friend, and  even head to the beach from time to time. But in the end, choose what is right for you, and do it with all your heart.