Last week my son attended a basketball tryout for an AAU team considered one of the “best” in our area.
I convinced him to go so that he could see how he stood up against other very good players his same age. And, yes, so I could see too.
My message to him in the car on the way to the tryouts was the same as always: “Play smart, play hard and have fun.”
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I reminded him that it didn’t matter whether he made the team or not, it was more of an opportunity to play with kids his own age and ability, who all take basketball as seriously as he does.
He wasn’t crazy about the idea of even going at first, but once we arrived at the gym and he started firing up and making shots during warmups, his competitive juices started flowing.
While there was a range of ability levels at the tryout, most of the kids were better than the ones he plays with and against in the two leagues he is competing in this winter. I tried to evaluate his performance objectively.
Offensively, he more than held his own. He made smart decisions, took good shots and made most of them, and dished off several assists when he could have probably shot without criticism. He struggled a bit defensively since, for the first time, his height advantage didn’t matter against players who were much quicker than he was used to defending.
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I took it as a good sign when the head coach took him aside and explained a defensive strategy to him. I know as a coach that at tryouts, right or wrong, we don’t usually “teach” the kids who we know aren’t making the team.
My thinking turned out to be correct. He got the “welcome to the team” email two days later.
He respectfully declined.
His reason was simple. While he loves basketball more than any other sport, he also enjoyed playing soccer for the first time this past fall and has a chance to play on the same travel team again in the spring. The players on that team have become his best friends. He didn’t know one kid at the basketball tryout.
So, for now, despite me knowing the best thing for his basketball “game” would be to play on this AAU team, I’ve accepted the fact that it just isn’t going to happen this year.
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The decision to decline the invite didn’t come after a long drawn out discussion with me pointing out all the reasons he should play on the AAU basketball team, especially since he could still play soccer in the fall. Rather, his simple explanation kept the discussion short when after reading the email, he said, “Dad, I’d rather play soccer because I love playing with my friends.”
I had no rebuttal. He will have no regrets. And that’s what matters most.
Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years with perspectives as a parent, coach and board member. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.