A rough and tough lesson via YMCA youth basketball

Today marked opening day in the YMCA basketball winter league. Knox has been on a team for three years with his posse and another group of kids from another local Catholic school. They have played three seasons together and were kicking the pants off of all the competition in their age level (7-9). This year the parents decided to move on up to the 10-13 level for better competition and so the boys/girl could learn to lose a little.

So practices began 10 weeks ago and today was the first game. View this:
five nine year olds line up for the tip vs five 11-13 year olds!
The tip was comical but the game was real!

Knox’s team was passing and moving the ball well but could not get it inthe basket, no big deal. The other guys were scoring at will and using their bodies to be physical. Now I know we made the move up a level for competition but there is a time when the coach has to take advantage of teachable moments. As the score hit 40-4 bad guys I was making eye contact with the opposing coach who was yelling things like" drive it" and “take it to him”. I was in disbelief!

Last year when our team took a 20 point lead the coach would insist that they dribble with their left hand, pass the ball a minimum of five times, pass it around the key and then back or some other skill building trick. The boys learned to be better players and the other teams did not feel as embarrassed and often felt they were still in the game. A win/win for any youth league, right?

So, today at half time our coach asked the ref and opposing coach to ease it up a bit and the other guy said no way!
I, on the opposite side in the crowd taking it all in. I start staring down the opposing coach and I could tell he was on to me. Our coach got called for a technical (score was 50-7) after he spoke to the ref a second time asking for them to lighten up. They wouldn’t so our coach unplugged the scoreboard resetting it to 0-0! Touche’ and a round of applause from the parents. Well that is when the T got called.

After the game I positioned myself so that the opposing coach couldn’t leave. I was polite and respectful. I congratulated the coach and then told him that I was disappointed in him not taking advantage of the opportunity to teach the four lessons of the YMCA to his team: Respect, Care, Honesty and Responsibility. I told him that I felt he was responsible to teach his boys new skills like dribble left handed etc… I also informed him that he lost the chance to create some good sportsmanship moments during the game. I told him that he needed to inform his 6 foot 13 y/o son that driving it in on my 4’6" son was nothing to really be high-fiving over.

I pointed to Knox, who was with my wife and crying, and told him that is what he achieved today. Demoralizing and breaking down a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds. Instead of bringing his group together and offering a chance for them to learn ball control, passing skills etc… he thought taking it to the little guys was needed. I told him that he was in fact the problem with youth sports today…the win at all costs mentality.

He was as happy with me as anyone getting a verbal spanking would be. I kept a smile and often gave him congrats and complimented his team. I continued to politely lay into him when Knox came to me for a supportive hug. I told Knox that his team was the better team today as far as sportsmanship and character went and I congratulated him for laying an elbow into the six footers gut causing him to leave the game. I looked at this dude from the other team and said, “…remember the name Knox…” . However you remain the problem in training league youth sports… the kill or be killed coach.

He left rather quickly when his wife came over and told me I was absolutely correct and she was embarrassed by the smack talk and the running up of the score. She told me her husband was a compassionate man but… something happens when he coaches the kids. I told her he should remove himself if he is in it only to win. The worst lesson in sports is win at all costs. Nothing comes from that except kids who feel like losers!

I love competition and all sports but there is a time for teaching and good adult leadership and a time for playing to win. Today I felt that the YMCA league was violated by a man who sat the smallest kid on his team for the entire game except the last five minutes. The Y league has been a great asset in our community. Over 1000 kids play, a great success.
However, it cannot replace"… promoting character development, good sportsmanship, and competitive success in a constructive team environment…" with " Winning at all costs" . Defeats the whole purpose of joining a YMCA league, right?

I completely agree, and I’m sorry that Knox had such a bad experience. My dad used to have my brother in little league, but the coach would never let him play! He would only let kids play on preferential treatments, and on how awesome they could be. Little did he know that my brother grew up to be an exemplary athlete, well accomplished in many sports. It’s just sad when adults miss the total point of why we even have these leagues, and what we’re trying to teach our kids. Good for you, for standing up to him. Knox learned a much more valuable lesson from you, today, than the trauma of his bad experience: Standing up for what’s right.

Good on you for standing up for your child and his team. Learning to lose is as important as learning to win with grace. Too bad the other coach didn’t realize that when he had the chance. Maybe he learned his lesson today and the next game will be much better. (putting a positive spin on it!)

I played YMCA ball for 4 years during elementary, and I totally agree with you. Even in JH ball for my school we played with sportsmanship.

It was one game when is was in 8th grade (senior now) my team had 3 guys over 6’, and we were playing a team that had only a couple over 5’6", during most of the second half our coach made us keep one foot in the lane on defense at all times, which was very annoying, but it taught us a lot of discipline.

Now I am a starter on the Varsity team, and when we get a big lead, we don’t let down on the intensity, we still make good passes, fight for rebounds, and work out butts off, we just don’t make it a point to score every time we get a chance, we wait until we get the shot that we are looking for, but we never score for the sake of scoring, because even on the varsity level we have so much we still need to improve on.

Great post, a lesson for all who love to compete. A post to read often for kids of all ages.

Claude, Jeremy, Renata and Lizmari -

Thank you all for the kind words and positive feedback. As a parent you always want to be involved with what your kids do, right? Coaching has been something that I have stayed away from because I want Knox to learn from others as well. We spend so much time at the park throwing a baseball, a football, pitching, hitting and shooting free throws. I take that as my very special dad time. Those are the minutes that mean the most to me.
So, on purpose I do not coach. I assit during practices but stay in the crowd on game day. Plus I want to focus on my little dude!

I hope that other coach will take something from this. I made sure to be pleasant but firm and extremely polite but honest. Jeremy, you are in the thick of this now and it seems you have a eal good head on your shoulders there, use it well and you will go far in life not just sports!
Lizmari, Knox is a tremendous gift that we received almost 10 years ago and his character is second to none. He will take this and move forward as he always does. This is a lesson for him to reflect on when he becomes a camp counselor, a HS coach, or the big dude in the neighborhood. He has compassion and will do well.
Renata, let’s hope so. I will never wish ill towards someone but that coach needs one of his teams to be shellacked one time. He also needs a long look into the mirror as a coach for youth sports.

Claude, thank you for your support here. Back in the day, you know, before cable, video games and computers … you know, sports was the outlet for most of us, Good sportsmanship is not part of the DNA code so we, as adults, must strive to teach it to our children. On the playing field someone always ends up on the short/losing end but the lessons are in the playing and planning not the results.

Thank you all for your kind words and you know, today ,life moves on…albeit on the Wii system for now! Enjoy your Sunday and your week(s) ahead!


You did a great job standing up for sportsmanship, you son and your son’s team.

As a former commissioner for a youth basketball league it is not a surprise for me to see coach/parent’s acting this way, but it is a breath of fresh air to see a parent take it straight to the coach. Our league emphasized sportsmanship and we had a strong commission that investigated quickly and acted promptly in response to aggression and unsportsmanlike behavior. We were quick to point coaches and parents to other available leagues where hardball was accepted or even encouraged. All parents AND coaches are required to attend a one hour sportsmanship seminar at the beginning of each season. We bracket teams based on their age AND skill, not just age.

We’re also involved with the YMCA but not its sports teams for the very reason that it’s control over coaches is so lax, at least in our area. It offers not sportsmanship training, takes coaches on a volunteer basis with no screening and allows cherry-picking in team selection. Sorry, not for us.

Well done. Keep up the good work.


Terry -

Thanks!! I here you about the YMCA leagues. Our league has really been fine tuned and well run for the three years we have been involved. Certified officials, coach training, 10 weeks of practice and then 10 weeks of games etc… This is the first negative experience we have had with the Y and I was shocked!

I love what you wrote, there is no better time to teach sportsmanship, respect, compassion and skills then to youth!! The opposing coach was a pure knucklehead! My real problem was that nobody else felt that need to speak up. I don’t want to be seen as “one of those dad’s” but a parent knows when it is time to take control on behalf of their child. I respect those who take on the coaching task. They give up family and personal time and do so for the kids. This was a bad egg and he was a new coach to the league as well.

Again thanks for your comment, glad to see others, who believe as I do, are out there.
My best to you and great ob taking the bull by he horns!