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Enjoy real rewards of youth basketball

Sun., June 20, 2010

Twice last month I was asked to make a judgment on statements attributed to fathers of children playing high school basketball.

I chose not to comment on either occasion, but the statements stayed with me and are the basis of this article.

The two statements were something like the following: “My son will receive a Division 1 basketball scholarship as long as his high school coach gets him enough exposure.” And “We are making an investment in our son’s basketball future instead of saving for his college fund. We figure the best opportunity is for him to get a basketball scholarship so we are putting the money there instead.”

Both of these fathers show great confidence in their sons’ ability and commitment to the game. I applaud the involvement of parents in every aspect of their children’s development.

However, parents can also show some very faulty thinking that is damaging at many levels.

First, as my friend the accountant says: “Do the math!” According to the WIAA website, there are 386 high schools in Washington with basketball teams. Assuming 13 players on each varsity roster and a conservative estimate that 40 percent of those players are members of the senior class at each school equates to nearly 1,850 graduating high school basketball players each year in our state.

There are five NCAA Division I basketball programs in Washington. A recent check of their rosters showed a total of 25 players from Washington on all of these rosters. This includes scholarship recipients and those on the roster without an athletic scholarship who are referred to as “walk-ons”.

A large number of players have used a redshirt year and receive their scholarships over five seasons but are on the active roster for four seasons. If we overlook redshirting and assume each player receives a scholarship and is not a walk-on, it would equate to less than half of one percent of Washington’s graduating high-school basketball players receiving basketball scholarships to play at the Division I level in our state each year.

Secondly, as my friend the golf pro says, “Keep your eye on the ball!”

The purpose of youth and high school sports is: learning teamwork, enjoying sport, handling competition, enhancing friendships, accepting responsibility, and many other great developmental activities. The memories made in high school sport will last for a lifetime and are cherished as one of the best reminders of youth. When the focus becomes personal success for future achievement the big advantages of playing the team sport of basketball are lost.

I do want to mention that this article only addresses high school boys basketball. My glance of girls high school basketball in Spokane over the past decade suggests statistics that show a much higher success rate for girls from Spokane receiving athletic scholarships to the Division I level. This is worthy of praise. However, the success rate for boys and girls is not significant enough to change either premise for my writing.

Spokane is a wonderful basketball town. Hoopfest is a great phenomenon that is unmatched anywhere in our country.

Our AAU program is a model for the rest of the nation. Our local high school teams have enjoyed great success at state tournaments. Each of our local universities has recently been to the national tournament.

Let’s help our children enjoy the great basketball culture of our region and help them “enjoy the moment” afforded by the great game of basketball.

This is a much more deserving aim than the focus being placed on the remote possibility of a NCAA Division I basketball scholarship.

Jim Hayford is head men’s basketball coach at Whitworth University.


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