By Rickey Hampton, For TheAfricanAmericanAthlete.com
You may have heard about the melee that took place at an AAU basketball game in Atlanta over the weekend. According to reports, members of the Chicago Raw attacked one of the referees during their game with the Houston Raptors. When you watch the video which is linked below, you will see one of the ugliest scenes ever captured on a basketball floor. Of course, there are differing stories.
The coach from the Chicago team claims the referee started the brawl. What I see in the video is a group of kids jumping the referee who was on the floor and defenseless. Regardless of how that mess started, it should have never happened. Nothing that was taking place on that court was important enough to start a brawl.
First and foremost, it would be a huge mistake to lump all of AAU basketball and youth basketball into the disgusting situation that took place in Atlanta. There are AAU programs that do an excellent job in teaching the fundamentals of basketball, as well as developing life-skills and favorable characteristics that will carry young players through life.
Former New Jersey Nets forward Derrick Gervin, the younger brother of Hall of Famer George Gervin, operates a superb youth basketball program (Team Gervin Wolverines) in San Antonio. Gervin teaches the fundamentals of the game, sportsmanship and requires his players to be productive student-athletes and citizens. His team’s play to win, but Gervin is teaching life concepts that are far more important than basketball.
“When I saw what happened in Atlanta, that brought me to tears,” Gervin said. “There are a lot of problems all the way around (with youth basketball). First of all, the game should be fun for the kids, But when you bring the money and you start recruiting 12-year-old kids it brings a lot of the other stuff with it.”
Sadly, there aren’t enough programs around touting the philosophy that Gervin operates his youth program with.
More often than not AAU hoops has become a for-profit entity, that milks money from parents chasing hoop dreams that their son or daughter will one day play in the NBA or WNBA when the reality is a lot of them will have a hard time making their high school basketball team. They spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars traveling around to play in games that are so scatter-shot and wild, that they only peripherally resemble the game of basketball.
“I have kids who all want to play college basketball and then in the NBA,” an AAU coach told me over the weekend. “My goal with these kids is to teach them enough where they might have a chance to make their high school teams.”
The problem is that this is a reality check that many parents don’t want to hear. If you have been to one session of AAU basketball, you have likely heard a parent(s):
A. complaining about playing time and the philosophy of their kid’s coach.
B. Cursing the referees, and the parents of the opposing team.
C. Telling their kid to shoot the ball and be tougher.
D. All of the above, and then some.
Now, couple that with coaches who swear they are working Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and you have kids out on the floor who are playing as tight as a drum. And very few look like they are having fun, and very few are developing any skills.
Finally, there are referees who shouldn’t be in the business and make the true professionals look bad. They are the ones who rarely make it up and down the floor in transition, and love to call techs. I have been to enough AAU games over the years as a father, coach, and journalist to know that _ even though I was not in that gym in Atlanta _ many of the above mention scenarios were in play.
We will be discussing this issue Tuesday night at 10 p.m. EST on TheAfricanAmericanAthlete.com talk show. Call 917-889-3271 to talk or listen. To listen online:http://tobtr.com/s/10873453