An often-debated topic in youth sports is whether it is more important to develop talent or win games.

 A common situation that I have experienced in my many years of being involved in youth basketball happens at the youngest ages of the game.  We will call this "The Winning Scenario."  Let's take the 11U age group as an example.  As a coach if I want to win most games, I put the player that can score the best and the best athlete on the floor at the same time.  Obviously, the best player will get the ball and score every time simply because they are a better athlete and the best athlete just dominates based on athletic ability, not skill.  This may happen ten or eleven times per game, and the team will win most of the time.

 Now let's look at "The Development Scenario."  I have the same players lined up in the same positions, but instead of coaching the best player or two to just attack and score, I tell them to control the ball run an offense and PLAY DEFENSE and play with fundamentals and sit the child when he does not give maximum effort.  With this scenario my team loses most of their games.  But which scenario is best for kids?

 The Winning Scenario:  This strategy will work for players at 9U, U9, 10U, 11U and 12U.  When they reach 13U, they will struggle because these players will not have learned how to play the game of basketball.  They will have simply learned to out athleticize and run fast, getting by on their athleticism alone.  After 13U, when they come up against teams that have learned to pass and create space, they will end up chasing the game the entire time and most often lose.

 The Development Scenario:  This strategy only works if the club has created the right culture.  What this means is that the Director of Coaching and individual coaches have clearly communicated the plan for development to parents and kids.  The challenge is to get players to stay with the development scenario even when the team loses most games.  What does it take to convince parents that a coach is doing the right things and that in a few years the team will win the large majority of games—communication!

 Communication is critical to implementing the Development Scenario.  First, the Director of Coaching must have the credentials that show that he or she knows what he or she is talking about.  Second, there should be some record of the development model working.  Now I understand that this is not possible in all cases, which means that the Director of Coaching and individual coaches must communicate their ideas repeatedly.   Once a club decides to coach for development, coaches must not waiver and get sucked into trying to be more competitive.  It is important to stay the course and let the development model work.

 So which approach is best for kids? Personally, I always opt for The Development Scenario, but as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, very few coaches, directors, and clubs actually stay true to this plan.  We are all naturally extremely competitive so it really is no surprise that people have trouble sticking to it. 

 Can you?