We have to take the good with the bad

We have to take the good with the bad
January 06
11:17 2023

I was halfway through writing my column on how horrible those reporters treated Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Giovani Bernard as they attempted to interview him after a game, but I quickly switched gears after having the opportunity to witness the 2022 Lash/Chronicle Tournament.

The reason for the switch was due to my love for youth sports and what it can teach our young men and women. I need to give my observations about the good things I have noticed about it, as well as the bad things that I feel need to be fixed to make youth basketball, in particular, better for our young people.

Let me start by saying that this year’s Lash/Chronicle Tournament was a great event, as usual. There were a few hiccups, but we were able to overcome that with the assistance of some great people. I would also like to give a special thank you to Carver High School athletic director Danny Piggott for the use of the Yellow Jacket gymnasium after the power went out in the gym and surrounding area of Winston-Salem Prep.

There were some things that I have been paying close attention to this year when I watch local youth sports, but the Lash/Chronicle Tournament gave me a unique opportunity to watch teams for three consecutive days to see how they play, how they adjust to different competition, how the coaches make in-game decisions, and how parents interact with players, coaches and referees.

I was purposely watching all of these things because I was interested to see how these things played out over the three-day span of the tournament. Some of these things went as I anticipated, while other things wee not. I was able to see the tournament from different perspectives as well. One as a reporter and the other as a referee.

One thing I enjoyed about the tournament is the fact that there were teams from 1A all the way to the 4A level competing against one another. With this being a junior varsity tournament, I thought the higher-level teams would have the advantage with talent. That really wasn’t the case, for the most part. Several of the lower level teams, like Walkertown and others, put on a great showing and played like a 4A team.

Let’s start with the good things I noticed during the tournament. First off, I enjoyed the competitive nature of the players. These young guys came out every day and gave it their all, no matter who they were playing against. It didn’t matter if a team was down by 25, they played as if they had a chance to win all the way to the final horn.

I also noticed how skilled some of the players were as compared to the talent level of the JV players from 20 years ago. I know there are a lot of players who have individual trainers and that specialized training seems to have worked well for several players. I also realize that the athletes are bigger, stronger and faster now, on average, than they were years ago. It seems that combination of genetics and training is making for a better player.  

On the flip side, there were things that I was disappointed with and was really surprised by some of them. As I stated above, the skill level of players nowadays is higher than it’s ever been in my opinion, but I still prefer players of the past for one simple reason: fundamentals. Yes, these players have a lot of skill, but I also saw a lack of fundamentals in many of the players, which saddens me.  

Missed free throws, not boxing out, not setting screens off the ball, playing lazy defense by not moving their feet, sloppy passes, no clock awareness, and the list goes on and on. The lack of fundamentals at this level is surprising. I don’t want to focus solely on the teams in this tournament for the lack of fundamentals as it’s really a problem in the areas I report on and referee. If these kids focused on their fundamentals as much as they do their skill development, this area would be thriving in youth basketball.

When it comes to lack of fundamentals, we would have to look at some of these youth programs that these players are coming up in. These JV coaches have a tough task to try and “coach out” these bad habits and lack of fundamentals that many of the players learned before joining their high school JV teams. That has to be a tough task when you have limited practice time and a lack of continuity, which comes along with coaching on the JV level.  

No shade to any of these youth and AAU coaches because there are some good ones out there, but unfortunately for the kids, there are too many who are unqualified to coach. They are not teaching fundamentals and are just concerned about wins and titles. Kudos to these JV coaches who are doing a job many are not suited for.

I think that lack of stability on the youth level has led to one of my biggest concerns that I noticed during the tournament and that would be the lack of respect for adults from several players. The amount of profanity and disrespect directed toward other players, coaches, and even referees, was appalling. I couldn’t even imagine cursing or disrespecting any adult while I was in uniform, especially my coach, when I played. My coaches growing up would have pulled me from the game immediately and I would be done for the day and maybe the season.

In response to a player using profanity, one coach said, “They all do it,” as an excuse as to why a technical foul shouldn’t have been called on his player. This lack of accountability is not acceptable, and these players need to be disciplined for it. I am just concerned at how comfortable some of the players were with talking to adults as if they were adults themselves. Never in a million years could I have gotten away with that in my day. 

I’ve said it once and I will say it again: the reason these players are getting out of control is because the several adults in the stands can’t control themselves. Some of the things said by adults from the stands was just nasty and vile.  We as adults must continue to compose ourselves and remember the most important part of youth athletics is sportsmanship.  If they see us out of control, they will emulate that same behavior. We must do better.

All in all, it was another good showing; but, youth sports in this area has so much potential. If certain things are adjusted and fixed, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County could be a constant force in the state playoffs every single year.  All I can do is just continue to hope that things get better in the future.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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