Maybe a bit hypocritical on travel teams
By Joe Black | (email@example.com)
Somebody asked me just the other day why I hated AAU basketball so much. They didn’t know that I had coached AAU basketball for several years (and even restarted Tom Ware and Charlie Finley’s Blount Stars basketball program). I think their question was based on my apparent indictment of travel teams and year-round participation in a single sport.
I can understand that.
But if they had dug deeper, they might have rapidly concluded that I was a complete hypocrite. You see, my own kids played travel ball and on multiple teams. Goodness, I can remember when my son played on two T-ball teams and can remember when my daughter went from high school basketball to club volleyball practice to AAU basketball practice. All in the same day.
So let me set the record straight: I don’t have anything against travel teams or particularly against AAU basketball.
Year round participation in only one sport for a 10-year-old kid?
I believe that competition is important in athletic development. We’ve pretty much always known that to get better, you’ve got to play better competition. In the pursuit of excellence, you’ve got to seek out those that are better than you. That’s where things like travel teams can be important.
I can remember some of the teams that we played in our basketball travels. Like the 6-foot, 7-inch 14-year-old in Atlanta. Or the kid from Charlotte that scored 50 on us and maybe could have scored 100. You’ve gotta get better playing against that kind of competition.
I remember the fledgling Smoky Mountain Juniors volleyball team that struggled against most teams because volleyball in this area in those years wasn’t quite as good as most of the teams it played. I also remember the time in Clarksville where they beat one of those teams and learned an important lesson about realizing your potential.
I remember playing against a storied AAU basketball team coached by a legend in a tournament in Johnson City. Most of their players were destined for Division I basketball. None of ours were.
Yet, we played them toe-to-toe for most of the game until a future UT star took over the game and finally put it out of reach for us. While no one on our team went on to become a Division I basketball player, almost every one of them became a college athlete and now, successful adults. Among those teammates came lawyers, accountants, teachers, coaches, and successful businessmen.
In that same tournament, a Bob Knight look-alike told me before the game that we had no business even being on the floor with his team. And then we beat them. Something about believing in yourselves in that one.
And in looking back at those years and those teams, what many of those athletes, grown men and women now, remember most fondly are the relationships that they developed.
Road trips and riding in the family van with your teammates. Practicing and playing and fighting together, sometimes against insurmountable odds.
Traveling to downtown Memphis with new/old friends and having ribs at The Rendezvous — memories that seem to stay with you.
I’d like to think that some of those relationships have stood the test of time.
So maybe, just maybe, it is all about believing in yourself and relationships and realizing the immenseness of your potential and not so much about making sure that you get a college scholarship playing that game.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (firstname.lastname@example.org)