Top seven most needed changes to youth summer basketball

This level of bedlam has no place at youth basketball events.

I spent a lot of time in gyms over the weekend watching high school aged young men playing basketball in Indianapolis.  Many of theist players in the country were here, so why not drive a few miles to see them for myself?

My son played summer basketball with a great group of young men for two very good coaches who were committed to the kids having a great experience – and they did.

Because of that, I have long been a honk for summer hoops.  It’s a great experience for the kids.  The travel is fun, and the kids bond in a way that is impossible on high school teams.

I’ve always felt the good outweighed the bad, but what I saw yesterday changed my mind.  A referee walked of the court under police escort, got in his car, and drove away rather than continue to receive the relentless verbal abuse from spectators.

The ref had one guy kicked out of the gym, but that only heightened the mayhem for the rest of the crowd, who continued to relentlessly mistreat the ref.

It was ridiculous and horrifying.

A man who relishes trying to help children enjoy basketball in a safe and fair environment was driven out of a gym by parents, uncles, aunts, and deranged fans who tormented him.

There was a sense of soulless satisfaction that bordered upon glee among the crowd when the ref pulled his bag across the floor and out the door.

Humanity doesn’t sink much lower than when it tortures a well-meaning but easily rattled person just for sport.

Something needs to be done.  In fact, some things need to be done.  Here are seven – and this is just a start.

7 – Technicals on the crowd.  This might cause more problems then it solves, but if fan misbehavior caused a penalty for the team, maybe parents would learn to keep their mouths shut.

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6 – More cops.  The day is going to come when a referee or opposing parent is going to be shot.  It’s inevitable.  A police presence might keep tempers in check, or will at least keep a full on shootout from happening.

5 – Coaches much stay seated throughout the game.  This seems crazy too, but coaches act like morons during the game, and referees need a rule to exercise to keep them rational.  Forcing them to sit seem a good way to restrain their volatile emotions.  It also keeps the coaches from pretending to be John Calipari while coaching in front of John Calipari.

4 – Everybody plays equal at least 10 minutes per game.  The best roster size for summer teams is eight players, but many teams choose to carry more because there are weekends when all kids can’t show up.  The result is that three players at the end of the bench might not play at all during games, and that is not what the kids sign up for.  If coaches want to carry 11 players, there should be a mandate that all players play at least 10 minutes.  It would be great if coaches could be trusted to see the purpose of summer hoops as developmental, but sadly that’s not realistic.

3 – Metal detectors at the door.  Emotions run white hot at summer basketball events, and it’s only a matter of time until somebody is stabbed or shot.  Parents defending the honor of their kids are as dangerous as any psychotic on the street.  If metal detectors are necessary at NBA, NFL, and MLB games where people generally don’t care much who wins, they should certainly be required at these events.  For the safety of refs, other parents, and tournament organizers, serious measures need to be embraced to mitigate damage from ill-temper.

2 – Require coaches to complete training course.  Anyone who can put together a roster can be a summer coach.  Leadership acumen isn’t vetted, and they tend to be ill-suited for their positions other than as recruiters – or conduits to college coaches.  Most coaches spend the entire game haranguing referees.  Some make or take calls on their smart phones.  Others jump up and done screaming at their players.  A few know what they are doing.  At the very least, coaches should be educated by the shoe companies that sponsor teams to serve as positive role models for impressionable teens.

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1 – Ban parents and other spectators from watching.  If the justification for these events is to help kids learn from the game, be seen by college coaches who can help their dreams come true, and test their skills among the best talent in America, what is the point of allowing spectators to watch?  Even the best parents are screwy.  The players, refs, and coaches would be thrilled if parents were forced to stay home.  This is the nuclear option that renders the majority of the previous seven rules unnecessary.  It’s also the least likely to be enacted, because cash from the gate and concessions is a serious incentive to hold these events.

Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-6p, and writes about Indiana sports at

4 thoughts on “Top seven most needed changes to youth summer basketball

  1. Kelin

    Kent I just said this today…..during live periods it should be closed to just teams and coaches only. No parents or ‘guys’ just hanging out trying to attach themselves to kids or make contacts with college coaches to feel important.

    I also think coaches should be required to complete a training course and if they do not their team cannot play in the big tournaments (UAA, Nike, Adidas etc.) This would push programs to have legitimate coaches and hold them accountable for their actions.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Great idea on the parents for open period events. Playing in front of coaches is a huge elevator of stress for parents who surmise (often incorrectly) that their sons will get offered if they hit a bunch of shots. Clear the parents out.

  2. Joel

    It’s a shame that people have to act his way, but this is the society we live in these days. Many seem to have no respect for rules, authority, and feel they have the right to act in any way they deem. This includes all aspects of society, not just youth basketball. Mommy’s and Daddy’s need to behave in the stands. If you get bounced out for shooting your mouth off, that’s your fault. Deal with it. But they can’t and now we are getting prime examples of this awful behavior of people who are supposed to be guiding our children in life, by being poor examples of adults.
    I refereed a few boys’ high school club volleyball games and I have gotten an ear full a few times and was approached by one parent in the parking lot after the match. It’s crazy!!

    I love sports just as much as the next, but it’s just a GAME folks, just a game. A game that is taken WAY too seriously in the context of life. Sure we enjoy the competitive nature of two teams battling it out, but it has gone over the top. In my opinion, I feel there is too much emphasis put on youth sports. It’s getting excessive with kids specializing in one sport year round. Parents moving to different districts so there kid can get a chance to play or they have a disagreement over how much clock they are getting or the program is not doing their little darlings justice. Parochial schools recruiting, on and on and on…

    I have a niece who is 6th grader and her family’s life revolves around youth basketball pretty much the whole year. It’s insane. I have attend a few of her games over the last 2-3 yrs and I can attest to the way some of these people act at 4-6th grade girls basketball games. Unreal!

    To try and govern the loonies in the stands would be tough. Kent, you have some good ideas on what might be some feasible ways to do it. Yet again, like I mentioned people have no respect for authority. We see it on TV where people are disregarding law enforcement and then they get shot or take a well-deserved beating because they do not comply. I agree, like you said, It’s only a matter of time till something REALLY ugly happens at a high school/youth sporting event.

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Exactly. Parents need to understand it is only a game. Heard a story from the dad of a four-year old who was approached by the coach of a seven-year old who asked about his son’s availability. That’s crazy.


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