Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Youth Basketball: A or B Team Which is Better for You?

As a parent you want the best for your kid in sports, in school and in life. You want them to succeed and fulfill their potential at everything they do.  To help them get to the highest levels of any endeavor, you work with them or you find coaches, teachers or mentors to help them, you encourage them when they have doubts about their abilities and you nudge them when the fear of failure is holding them back. An aware parent also has to recognize when not too push.

Last night, my son, Nic, went to basketball tryouts for his school's 8th grade team. He has played on the A team for the last two years, but he had no intentions of playing for the A team this year. And I had no intentions of pushing him.

Flashback: At the end of the 6th grade regular season and throughout the 6th grade playoffs, Nic's scrappy play earned him a spot on the starting five of the A team. It was a result of pure determination and hard work and he was so proud of himself. Still, when 7th grade tryouts came around his heart told him to jump to the B team and have fun. His head and pride (and maybe my pride) told him to play on the A team again, so he accepted a position on the A team again.

During the 7th grade season, Nic was not an A team starter anymore. He was relegated to a somewhat limited backup role. He and I both understood this because my son doesn't even pick up a basketball during golf and baseball seasons while others work had hard in the off season to improve and advance.

The coach did love Nic's intensity and quickness on defense, but he didn't have a role for Nic on the offensive side of the court. My son didn't exactly relish his limited role or the intensity of the hard-nosed coach who wouldn't let him wear his headband so after enduring a long miserable season he decided that the B team would be the best option for him.

After the season he said "I've decided to take my talents to the South B team. On the B team I will be a featured player, I will handle the ball more and I will be allowed to wear my NBA swag."

As it turned my son was not the only A team player to opt for the B team. Only 7 of the 9 original A team players decided to return. Two perennial B teamers had high hopes to make the A team but did not make the cut. The A team will make a run with only 7 players.

The Main Point

Parents get a certain amount of pride by saying that their kid play on the A team. As such many parents push their kids to reach for the top teams in the top leagues. The A team, however, might not be the best player development situation for the kid.

My son is deciding between two high schools for next year. One school is big and wins State Championships, the other school is smaller. He has very little chance of making the basketball team for the big school (unless of course he grows 10 inches), but he has an outside chance of making the squad of the smaller school. He will increase his chances if he improves his ball handling skills. He wouldn't improve his ball handling skills as a role player on the A team, but he will gain valuable experience handling the ball in game situations on the B team.


  1. I wish my son's basketball organization had a B team. He's six and new to b-ball. Poor kid never gets his hands on the ball because there are at least 4 kids that are bigger and way more experiened - at AGE SIX! There are other boys in the same boat and I keep thinking they'd enjoy it a lot more if they could play with kids at their own level.

  2. Our school maintains 3 teams from grade 3 -5 that are all equal in terms of talent, size etc.. In 6th grade an A team is formed to go with 2 equal B teams. I have always argued that there should be 3 teams and A, B and C for every grade. The C players will have a chance to touch the ball, perhaps play point guard. They would gain experience that they will not get on more advanced teams. But the argument is that the C team would be so bad that they would struggle against the competition and that would not be fun either. I am not sure what the right answer is.

    At age 6 - tell you son to hang in and fight for every loose ball - coaches love scrappy players and practice in the backyard. Things change every year as the kids mature at different rates.

  3. Pretty amazing that only 2 of 9 players are playing on the A team this year. Probably a combination of a lot of factors, but the A team coach should be concerned. Youth coaches should measure themselves on how much their players enjoyed their experience. One way to do it is to analyze how many kids return to play the sport the next year. In the case of the A-team coach, it's how many boys who could play for him, want to play for him again.

    Basketball is a tough sport to appease parents and players because only 5 can play at one time.
    Coaches have to emphasize the importance of practice & design practices that are fun, promote skill development, keep everybody moving & teach the kids how to play by utilizing short sided games(2 v. 2; 3 v. 3.) In middle school, every kid who is on the team should get a minimum amount of minutes. Middle schools take themselves too seriously in terms of wins and losses. Development should be the primary focus.

    My son is a 6th grader and an outstanding athlete. He's playing club soccer for the first time & is on the B-team. I call them the B-Boys. My son is an A-team talent, but I've got no problems with him being on the B-team. Got to pay your dues in a good club & the boys on the A-team can ball. My son is a featured player on the B-team and usually plays the entire game against very good competition. It's been a good experience for him. Would it have been a better experience for him on the A-team. We will never know. The A-team has an incredible coach & very good players and that's a great recipe for growth, no matter how much playing time you're getting in a game.

    Because he's playing club soccer, we decided that he would play flag football and basketball with his school. I'm a big believer in cross training and not specializing in one sport at a young age. His school only has one team in each sport and boys from the 6th to the 8th grade compete for spots. Big difference between a 6th & 8th grader. In football, he's the only 6th grader who will start. In basketball, we'll see, but playing time in either sport doesn't matter that much to me, because he's getting the reps in practice for 6 hours every week. My point in telling this story is that parents have to value practice and not always look at the the games to validate their kids sports experience.

  4. Your son has shown wisdom beyond his years! And there's nothing wrong with going to a smaller school because you want to play. Of course, if he he looking to college, he will be looking at playing for smaller colleges too. My daughter played vb in a good sized high school, but is playing in a small college...but she is actually PLAYING as a freshman. No, it doesn't have the glory of a bigger school, but she is playing and having fun.

  5. Clarence and Janis - Thanks for sharing your vast experience with my readers.

  6. Wow - I can't image what is going on in your life to induce such an anger filled comment like that. I hope whatever it is resolves itself.

    I never approached the coach in this instance because the coach was playing the best players at the time - my son had lost his edge while playing baseball to kids who concentrated on basketball. My son concentrates on baseball and is not going to play basketball on the HS team so playing on the A team in middle school did not matter to him. I would have supported my son on either team - makes no difference to me.

    So please share your real issue - why are you so angry?

  7. Increase your resistance. Like all physically-demanding sports, basketball requires extreme body resistance and stamina. https://basketballhooplab.com/




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