6 Ways to Relate Basketball to Positive Youth Development

6 Ways to Relate Basketball to Positive Youth Development

This is a guest blog post by 3 students that are taking graduate classes at NC State; Rakeem Brawley, Kevin Canevari and Shahnee Haire.

No matter what team you are rooting for, the love of basketball seems to bring a variety of individuals together. Basketball has been around for years and has become one of America’s favorite sports. A few people are aware that the American sport was created in the late 1800’s by a physical education teacher, that needed an activity to keep students engaged and a distraction from negative behaviors. Who would have thought that the sole purpose of this exciting sport, was created to keep at risk youth occupied? Our blog group also realized that basketball isn’t just a game, but has the pieces needed to produce the framework for positive youth development. “Bounce around” below to view the six ways to relate basketball to youth development.

  1. The Coach

As a coach, your role impacts how youth feel about themselves as a young athlete and as an individual.  As coach you should be an everyday role model and make training a positive experience. The challenge of coaching youth is to provide discipline, cognitive development and self-esteem while keeping training “fun”. When training/playing is enjoyable youth want to come back. With greater commitment youth develop better mastery of skills and superior knowledge of tactics and strategy. This can lead to the development of strategic thinking which is helpful in all aspects of life.

Positive Reinforcement Supports Youth Self Esteem:

It is important to provide positive reinforcement when training youth but not unless they are putting forth their best effort.  Instead of telling them what they are doing wrong all the time, focus on what they are doing correctly, while helping them correct the things they are doing wrong. In coaching them on what they are doing incorrectly choose words like “lets focus on trying to get your foot higher” or “that was great next time let’s try…”. Negative reinforcement is shown to discourage young athletes and negatively impact self-esteem.

Leadership Skills:

Leadership is the ability to motivate people to challenge themselves and meet goals.  Competitive team sports create an environment where people must work together to achieve their goals. Participation in sports can assist youth in developing strong leadership skills.  A team approach is an important component of developing leadership traits. In coaching youth provide team related challenges that encourage the youth to work together to achieve specific measurable goals. Sports are by nature competitive and can foster rivalry.  Instead, foster team spirit and cohesion. Eventually, a “captain” will stand out and become the accepted position of team leader.

  1. Referee

Referees in basketball can be one of the upmost importance when teaching young athletes life lessons. Drawing the parallel of referees as being somewhat of the “law or authority.” Children must learn to follow the rules and realize their mistakes. The youth athletes also grow by understanding how to deal with a “bad call” or one that they disagree with and not lose their temper. This is a vital lesson that can sometimes be hard to convey from a parent. A referee’s job is to make the game fair and young adults can discover themselves and how to deal with good and bad calls in a way that is of high character and leadership.

Mental Development:

Referees play a role in the mental development of the youth. They are taught to respect authority. Referees have the chance to make calls from a completely unbiased perspective and that is something that some kids have never had. As young athletes grow mentally, they start learning the do’s/don’ts and their strengths/weaknesses, all through the set of rules that the referees are enforcing. These parallels of respecting leadership can be drawn to law enforcement, teachers, parents, and/or any form of authority in a child’s life. A child’s mentality is strengthened in learning how to respect the referees.

Technical Fouls:

In basketball, there are what is called, “technical fouls.” This is when a player does something that is way out of line. Two technical fouls equal an ejection. If you do something that the referee feels is way out line (ex. throw a punch), they can give you two technical fouls at once which is an ejection. Each technical foul equals 2 free throws and the other team’s possession of the ball. Technical fouls are like yellow/red cards in soccer and unsportsmanlike penalties in football. They teach kids how to control extreme emotion and not let impulse take over. In competition, things can get intense and highly emotional, this also true in life. Referees can teach children lessons that can save their life. One bad decision can set youth down a bad path and referees are able to help the youth understand where to draw certain lines, through the giving of technical fouls.

  1. The Player

Youth sports can promote the development of problem-solving skills as well as teaching youth how to work cooperatively with peers as a member of a team. According to research, youth sports are all about promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles as well as strengthening communities.

Strength Training

Basketball requires you to perform a diverse set of athletic techniques including running, jumping and quick lateral movements. Basketball provides an excellent full-body workout and can help you develop useful, lean muscle. People who don’t play basketball may not realize that it is a physically intensive contact sport. Defense and rebounding are two aspects of the game that are highly reliant on effective body positioning and the ability to maintain that position when your opponent exerts bodily force upon you.

Mental Development

Basketball requires a wide range of physical skills, but it is also a fast-paced mental game. Research on the mental aspects of basketball has revealed that players must develop a great deal of attentional control to quickly and accurately process what’s happening on the court and make effective decisions with the ball and on defense. Attentional control refers to your ability to direct your focus in a desired direction; in basketball, you must train yourself to constantly observe your teammates and opponents and evaluate what course of action to take in response to their actions.

Motor Coordination

To be a good basketball player you must learn to perform many skills with the ball. Practicing skills like free throw shooting and jump shooting is particularly helpful for training your hand-eye coordination. Rebounding missed shots is another skill that requires a great degree of full-body coordination. To be a successful rebounder you must coordinate the timing of your jump to reach the ball as it caroms from the hoop and do so before other players do. Rebounding also trains hand-eye coordination, as you must safely secure the ball with your hands before others tip it away.

  1. Social Media Influence

Social Media is a huge part of our youth’s development. Children are creating their own social media pages as early as elementary school. These pages and apps include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, snapchat and many more. This growing phenomenon is something that has had a unique impact on society, specifically kids and young athletes. Children are now finishing basketball games, going to their virtual pages and reading everything that everyone must say about their performance, good and bad. The Internet and social media has caused a lot of athletes to become way more self-absorbed than ever before. While it can be used in a positive way, children need to be careful with how they are using it and what they are posting. When used properly, social media can show the youth how to take compliments and remain humble as well as take criticism and remain driven.

Mental Development/Perspective:

Social media influences the mentality of our youth. As children are growing mentally in today’s day and age, we must focus on our attention to their perspective on things. As divisive as times are, social media plays a role in athletics and kid’s minds. Children are forced to make strong opinions early, sometimes before they are ready or understand certain situations. Youth must be educated and fully aware of what they are putting their name on before it is shared to the world. Secondly, kids must understand that social media is not an area to turn to for sympathy or to become self-absorbed. The internet can cause a youth’s mind to be more into themselves than what is healthy and that can be toxic for not only a basketball team, but any type of team environment.

Rules by Parents:

In college, many coaches have a rule to their athletes that says do not post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want your mother/legal guardian to see. I think this is a great school of thought. Youth must realize that even a “retweet” of someone else’s words is still them putting their name on something. The child should not only be concerned with whether the post will be accepted by a potential college recruiter, employer, etc., but should also care about their character and reputation before they post certain things. Before kids post things, they should ask themselves, “Would my parent/guardian be proud of this post?”

  1. Parental Support

Parents and guardians play a vital role in a young person’s life. An involved parent can mold a juvenile’s mind negatively or positively, through exposing their children to a variety of activities at an early age. Basketball is one activity that contributes to parental support and involvement by promoting attendance of guardians during games (either recreational or organized). Basketball helps create bonds and possibly daily interactions between parent and child. When a parent shows up to support their child at a basketball game or even to play one on one that action; assists with self-esteem, promotes trust, forms unity, and increases physical fitness. A child that has a proactive parent in their life that supports participation in basketball, can grow into a well-rounded individual.

Creating Bonds:

The bond between a parent and child can be unbreakable, and the game of basketball can assist with that bond. A parent can increase a positive relationship with their child by; making sure they start on a firm foundation, understanding that a relationship takes work, making time for their child, setting healthy respectful boundaries, and interacting with their child through daily interactions and extracurricular activities (such as basketball).

  1. Opposing Team/Non-Supporters

As a child transitions to adulthood, they will begin to realize that everyone is not their friend. During the early childhood phase, we want everyone to be our friend and form intense attachment to others (especially parents). Being involved in basketball will quickly teach youth that everyone is not rooting for you and/or supports you. Basketball is a game that helps set boundaries for youth to discover by competing against an opposing team.


The simple act of sportsmanship through a gentle handshake or high five after each basketball game, shows youth that it’s okay to respect the opposing team. Sportsmanship is important because it creates fairness, conflict resolution, and respecting the judgment of officials. Sportsmanship builds respectful youth that turn into understanding and respectful adults.

Thank you Rakeem Brawley, Kevin Canevari and Shahnee Haire for adding value to our blog!



Last weekend our oldest son was playing in an AAU basketball game in Greensboro.  It was the start of an AAU season that had us all excited.   Our son took a steal at half court, and took off on a fast break.  A defender landed on him after his layup and my son’s leg was fractured in two places.  If you knew my son, you would know the passion he has for basketball.  And if you know me, you know that watching my son enjoy and pursue his passion for the game I also love is one of my greatest pleasures.  There is no doubt that I shared his excitement and anticipation for the upcoming AAU season.

I’ve been wrestling with disappointment this week knowing that this AAU season won’t be what we were hoping for.  If he’s lucky, he may be back by the very end of it.  I think it’s therapeutic to write down your thoughts, so I figured that I would go ahead and share my thoughts about dealing with disappointment.  This is really just me, preaching to myself.

  • Stay grounded I think this is kind of pre-work. You have to know where you’re grounded.  For me, it’s in my faith.  You need a foundation and a strong core so that you don’t get shaken beyond what’s healthy.  I did a Gallup Strength Finders test for my work at Torrent Consulting.  It’s a personality test that rates your strengths from 1 to 34.  My number one strength was Belief, so I guess it’s a no brainer that this is where my thoughts go first.  If you’ve never used Strength Finders, and you like to learn about that kind of stuff, I would strongly recommend it.  gallupstrengthcenter.com 
  • Look it in the face and call it what it is – I figure the worst thing you can do is try to hide the fact that you’re disappointed. Like anything else, I guess you have to accept it first.  It’s important to be real with yourself and those around you.  I’m super bummed for my son.  And honestly, I’m super bummed myself.  It’s ok to be disappointed.
  •  Find perspective and be thankful This is a pretty easy one, actually, if you just take a step back and think about it.  We have so many things to be thankful for, regardless of the current circumstance.  There’s always something worse, someone who’s dealing with something worse than you are and there’s always something good that can come from it.
  •  Look forward What’s done is done. You can’t go back, so let’s accept it and move on.  It’s not the end of your story, it’s just part of your story.  I think it’s important to re-evaluate and set new goals, looking forward to a brighter future.  Maybe it looks different than you thought it would, but different doesn’t mean it’s worse.
  • Move on with purpose This is a big one for me.  I think you need to find purpose in what you’re doing and go after it with passion.  There’s something to learn from what you’re going through.  I’m sitting here at home a little disappointed in myself for this week that has been, that I haven’t made better use of it.  I could have done better this week.  I could have been a better mom, a better employee and a better wife. If I learn from every situation and move on with purpose, I believe I can and I will do better.  I believe that if my son can embrace these concepts, and I’m certain he will, that he can come back stronger and better than ever.  He can use this time to learn and  grow, he can use it to be stronger mentally, and he can use it to encourage someone else in the future.  I know he will.



Coach Keri

4 Easy Tips to Standout at a Tryout

4 Easy Tips to Standout at a Tryout

All of these tips in theory are ridiculously easy to do in a tryout situation, and yet I promise you, these 4 things will separate you from the group.  Let’s talk about them.

  • Talk – Talk – Talk
  1. When You Arrive. It starts when you come into the gym. Introduce yourself to ALL of the coaches.  Make sure they know your name, your school, and be ready to talk generally about any mutual connections that you may have.
  2. On Defense. Obviously, right?  Yet in every tryout you’ll hear the coaches point this out over and over again.  Call ball if you’ve got ball.  Let your teammates know when you have their weak side help.  Call out screens.  Call shot so we know we’re rebounding.  Open your mouth!!
  3. In Line. Talk to the other players around you.  Tell ‘em good shot when they score.  Encourage someone.  Do you want to stand out?  Everyone is not doing this.  It’s easy to do.
  • Hustle Everywhere.

This should go without saying, but it needs to be said.  Here’s the difference…everyone hustles when they have the ball.  Most will hustle on defense.  But here’s where they don’t hustle…..when everyone’s standing around shooting before you get started and the coach blows his whistle and says “Bring it in!”  And 30 players walk casually over to the huddle.  If you wanna stand out, hustle your rear end over to the huddle.  When the coach needs a ball, get him one.  It’s easy to do.  It falls into the category of hustle.

  • Game Like Passes.

Here’s an example:  The Closeout Drill.  You know the one?  A defender starts with the ball and throws it out to the shooter.  The defender follows his pass to closeout on the shooter.  Here’s a tryout tip:  Pass it like you mean it!  This is a matter of basketball integrity and work ethic.  It separates players.  The one who under hands a lob pass out so they can close out in time discloses their character immediately.  Coaches want players that will push themselves and their teammates to be the best they can be.  One important way to do that is with game like passes in every situation.

  • You Be You.

Play to your strengths in the tryout situation.  It’s not the time to work on the parts of your game that are challenges, or to change who you are as a player.

If you’re a shooter, shoot.  But let’s be clear, most players think they’re shooters.  And even a shooter can have an off day.  A coach knows that.  Unless you are shooting completely lights out, you won’t separate yourself from the others with your shooting.  What are the other areas of your game that you do well?  If you’re a rebounder, get after every ball!  If you’re a defender, let me give you a nugget….go find the best player to guard in every drill situation where you have a choice.  Be vocal about who you’re guarding.  Let everyone know you’re up to the challenge.  The coaches will know the best player out there, and have an eye on that player.  If you can shut that player down, you’ll get noticed too.


Coach Keri

An open letter to youth coaches everywhere!

I’d love to offer a few words…take them at face value, do with them what you wish.

Practice What You Preach!  If you want your team to have poise, think about starting the trend yourself.  Don’t be a raving lunatic when a player makes a mistake or throws a turnover or the referee makes a bad call.  If you want your team to bring some energy to practice, bring some yourself.  You’ll find those around you rise quickly when you’re energized.  If you want your team to focus on the next play after a mistake in a game, then stop harping on the mistake and move your own focus to the next play.  Address it in practice later.  Practice what you preach and make sure that you’re preaching on the right things!

Keep It Simple!  At practice, it’s important.  During time-outs, it’s critical.  Pick a concept to focus on and build around it.  If rebounding is an issue for your team, then maybe you need to focus a practice around it.  (I’ve seen some teams I think should probably focus a season around it.)  In practice, you can play games with scoring systems that reward rebounds over points.  (In the event rebounding actually is your team’s biggest problem, might I recommend this link:  https://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/fundamentals/rebounding.html , I think you might get a spark of inspiration in that direction.) Whatever the area of focus, tell them, show them and allow them to practice it.  Give it the time and attention it needs, and keep it simple!

Pick Up The Pace!  There’s far too much standing around in practice, far too many single file lines.  Practice time is limited, and the only way they’re getting better is when they are actually practicing.  They don’t need to learn how to stand in a line (well, some of them could use some practice at that too, but you know what I mean).  They need to learn how to dribble a ball, how to pass, how to catch.  Rather than watch them one at a time while everyone else stands looking on, have them all do the drill as often as possible.  Guess what?  They need conditioning too.  It’s much more fun to get conditioning in while you’ve got a ball in your hands or a drill to keep you thinking.  Also, Youth Coaches, kids standing in line are usually unengaged and that’s when they get in trouble.  Can I get an Amen?

Teach Them It’s Ok to Fail!  So many kids are ridiculously stressed over their performance.  I’ve seen them time and time again break down in tears over a mistake.  They’ll spend the whole practice dribbling with their dominant hand because they don’t want to struggle through learning to dribble with the other one.  They need to know that it’s ok to fail, if they can’t successfully complete a drill today, they can work at it and improve.  Teach them to love the process!!

Last, but certainly not least…..Have fun!!  That means you, too!


Coach Keri


Welcome to the Dream Big Blog!

By following us you will be able to get some good tips and ideas on how to improve as a basketball player or coach. We will also try to help parents in staying positive and supportive. Founders/coaches George and Keri Holm together with coach/pro player Ny Hammonds will contribute to this blog. Sometimes we will also let guests contribute. Dream Big. Work Hard. Stay Humble.