League Fatigue:

WOW!  I used to write a LOT!  This was written before our new web site and name (Basics Sports) way back when we were called My Basketball Basics!  Seems like a long time ago.  So much has happened since then.  MANY of the kinks on this page will NOT work, just a heads up.

What HAS NOT CHANGED are kids.  They still love sports and want to play and do well.  TIP: whether your child is the BEST player or scratching to make a team, Basics will help ALL players improve.   Coach McGannon 


  • Definition: Competition without sharp skills leads to mediocre players.
  • Analogy: Taking tests without sufficient studying leads to poor students. 
  • Summary: Don’t compete until you are ready.  Just PRACTICE.  Be patient.
  • 2:06 Video Addendum from Coach McGannon

It would be safe to say that leagues have great “brand awareness”. The league brandis COMPETITION. Many parents and coaches feel/think that leagues, because they are competitive by nature, must mean if their kid or team participates, then that kid or team must be getting more competitive.   McDonald’s has great ads, a GREAT brand but not many would argue it’s great food. What leagues really have going for them is the attention we give them. Their real value is in our attention, not the product.  If parents focus on what youth leagues actually produce, nobody (or VERY FEW) would enroll.

We were taught that an argument is most powerful when it is based on FACTS.  Facts alone, while hard to argue with, will not convince parents to skip that next league when everybody says “Get IN!”  There is a growing awareness in this country about our obsession with Youth Sports.  Driven by hugely profitable and marketing-savvy corporations, many parents are convinced that to improve their children’s chance of success in sports (and pretty much anything), they must COMPETE and WIN as SOON AS POSSIBLE. (The “League Brand” is dominant.) This belief has become cultural.  It is pervasive.  And it is wrong. To compete and win (2 of my favorite things!!), you must first be eminently prepared. (related newsletter for advanced players:The Power of Positive Thinking)

Some quick Basics Facts:

  1. Over 90% of our Pre-Season and Summer Camp players make their school teams
  2. 138 program graduates have played or are playing college basketball
  3. Every member of Grand Haven’s back-to-back state championship teams has been through Basics. (2012-13)
  4. Every member of West Michigan Christian’s 3-peat state title run (2008, 2009, 2010)  came through Basics. 
  5. In 2012 and 2013, 19 HS freshmen who regularly attend Basics were called up to varsity, 22 freshmen were called up to JV and 27 sophomores made varsity.  Younger kids with sharper skills who practice more and play less.  


Volumes have been written by many athletes, educators, and athletic authorities about our wrong-headed approach to youth sports.  It is common knowledge we play too many games.  Everyone knows there is too much money in youth sports.  Very few disagree that we emphasize winning, travel and trophies beyond the pale.  There is almost universal agreement that too many parents are overly-involved in their kids’ sports.   Communities often quietly accept one, two or more aggressive Type A parents who drive that area’s youth sports agenda REGARDLESS of those parents understanding of the game. Specialization (the playing of 1 sport all the time) is a hot topic, known to be LITERALLY and PHYSICALLY unhealthy for your kids yet many sports are now year round, non-stop competition and leagues.   Sports related injuries due to over-use and over-extension have exploded.  What should be the PRIMARY focus of youth sports, character development and appropriate modelling for our kids, is often (not always) dismissed as unimportant, weak or not addressed at all.  Middle School players (and younger) actually travel with “teams” whose organizers have convinced the parents the competition they are about to experience will make their kids better yet our highest levels in basketball (D-1 and NBA) now IMPORT a large percentage of players from abroad who can dribble, pass and shoot because we don’t generate sufficiently skilled players here to compete at these levels, let alone at the middle school level.


And although very little will change, we believe the paradigm is shifting, slowly.  After all, these are YOUR KIDS.  Time flies, take a moment and seriously consider their development without someone yelling in your ear.  We are convinced parents eventually, when educated on any topic, will make the best choice for THEIR KIDS regardless of pressure, or landscape, or tradition or arm twisting. In the mean time, Basics is here with facts that are hard to argue with. 2:50 Clip: NBA Coach laments loss of skills

ADDITION July 2014:  This newsletter was written in January of 2014, 6 months BEFORE a slower, older, less athletic team DESTROYED a faster, younger more athletic team in the NBA Finals.  (Spurs 4 games to 1 over the Heat).  Add to this comment the fact that the Spurs roster is DOMINATED by foreign born players, and the argument becomes stronger.  WAKE UP!!  Skills defeat athleticism at every level.

The great news for parents and coaches who understand this and have the courage to forgo League Fatigue is this: you have an opportunity to separate your kid and/or team from the pack.  The majority of other kids, teams and coaches will NOT get this, they will still sign up for league after league after league.  Get ready to get better.  Basics builds competitive habits. 

Recent parent comment: “How can we know if our kids are improving unless we play in these leagues?  I mean, if we play hard and get beat at least we know those other kids are better and we need to get to that level.”   Answer:  No, the other kids aren’t better, they are most likely LESS AWFUL. Basketball is the most highly skilled game of all.  Tom Izzo: “Skills defeat athleticism.”  Parents, emphasize SKILL DEVELOPMENT, not what team you’re on or where you’re travelling to.  Can your kid break 40 on the Mikan Drill?  Heck, can your kid break 30?   (The Mikan Drill teaches players to score near the rim, using either hand, the correct INSIDE PIVOT, keeping the ball up, extending, elevating as best you can and then proper use of the backboard.  In other words, how to score.  Pretty important skill!!(Mikan video and youth standards in this drill below)

Having said this, it must be tough to register your kid for Basics instruction when a BUNCH of other kids (their friends) are following the lead as described above: play in this league, get on that team, learn these plays, win that trophy.   One of my favorite lines:  “Well he made the travel team.”  Really? This should not be a big surprise:  almost EVERYBODY makes the team and sometimes EVERYBODY DOES make the team.  If a kid gets cut, there will be a “Blue” team or a “White” Team or an “Orange team.”  It’s all too often about dollars and cents.


But, these are dutiful kids.  They will do what they are told, go where they are told to go and do their very best to make mom and dad happy.  These kids will NOT argue “Hey,we think working on our skills is more important”!  This makes it all the more important that PARENTS understand what is happening and make an educated choice for their kids.  They also do NOT have the benefit of hindsight or perspective.   What’s in front of them TODAY basically defines what their youth sports experience is.  Be aware of who the coach is, what the practices are like and how productive the effort is ON and OFF the court.

NOTE: The most important thing Basics did in 2013, 2014 and 2015 had almost nothing to do with basketball, but with an effort to assist kids in Newtown, CT, a community ravaged by a tragedy that occured a year earlier.  Coaches:  give back when you can and as often as you can.  Photos here.  

There is an important and significant social component to leagues and team play.  The kids are friends.  Many of the parents are friends.  This is terrific!  Do not however confuse a choice that has a social component to it with winning.  While we get many kids from the same schools and communities playing Basics (and they have a BLAST!), by definition we do not recruit single community teams.  (We recruit no one) The ideal situation for individual competitive growth is to play with kids you do NOT know and whose games you are NOT familiar with.   Nobody to lean on, no expectations of who to give the ball to, no parent or coach yelling to do this or do that.  Just play, in other words rely on your skills.  This is fertile ground for our coaches to instruct. What your kids can and can’t do on the court is stripped down immediately.  We try then to build their skills, their competitive habits.


When should my kid play in a League?

There is a time to compete. The big question is WHEN?  If a player is not capable of executing the game’s basic skills UNDER PRESSURE, why would you put that kid in a position to compete without the tools?  It’s hard not to get angry when we see kids trying to compete with little or no chance of success. And then to make matters worse, let’s ASSIGN A CONSEQUENCE to their performance!! (A Win or a Loss)  And can these games get ugly?  Oh my goodness…..


NOTE FOR THE BETTER PLAYERS: if a player is one of the better players (more skilled) and he/she plays in these leagues full of underdeveloped and unprepared kids, does it really matter that this more skilled player can dominate?  Of course not.  It may feel good.  That ride home in the car may be fun and joyful.  But when that more skilled player steps up to the next level (there is ALWAYS a NEXT LEVEL!), he/she has been done a dis-service by competing against weaker competition.  An anthem we use with Basics constantly is “you must compete first with yourself.”   Constantly strive for improvement. Focus on sharp skills, conditioning, strength training.  Go ahead and compete but understand the BEST players are practicing WAY MORE than they are playing games.


Another point for the better players:  You are a competitive player, getting better and you want to compete.  But you have team mates who, while nice kids, really can’t keep up. (yet)   So if you decide to play in the “elite” league and travel your tails off and play athletic teams with 5 players and not 3 (or fewer), what good is it if the guard (for example) can’t feed the post?  Or the big man can’t rebound and outlet without getting stripped.  Or we can’t knock in OPEN shots?   It’s simple.  It’s all about the skills and a player’s ability to execute the skills under pressure, what Basics calls a “competitive habit.”   There is a reason why 19 freshmen in 2012-13 who are frequent Basics players are at the VARSITY level.  They have the skills to compete.  Competition does NOT EQUAL competitive growth.


We don’t think there should be any league organization before 7th grade.  We don’t even think 7th and 8th graders should play in leagues or travel anywhere unless they have a BASELINE of skills that can be executed in a competitive game. (HABITS)  BE PATIENT.  Help them develop.  Don’t force the competition on them until they have a set of basic skills.

NO leagues 7th grade or younger UNLESS the player can do the following.  Basics estimates only 5% of MS kids can meet these standards.  The other 95% should FORGET the leagues and sharpen their basic skills. 

  • Please note these are AVERAGES in 1 minute.  Records are NOTED. 
  • 7th Grade BOYS: Average Mikan Score: 32  (7th grade record: 44-Ross Koella ) Must be able to use BOTH HANDS and inside pivot.
  • 7th Grade BOYS: Average Reverse Mikan: 30 (7th grade record:39-Ryan Van Bergen) Same PLUS keep the ball head high or higher.
  • 8th Grade BOYS: Average Mikan Score: 38 (8th grade record: 51-Spencer Krannitz  (CMU)
  • 8th Grade BOYS: Average Reverse Mikan: 35 (8th grade record: 44-Matt Heneveld (MSU)
  • 7th Grade GIRLS: Average Mikan Score: 28 (7th grade record: 38-Taylor Richards )
  • 7th Grade GIRLS: Average Reverse Mikan: 25 (7th grade record: 34-Shar’ Rae Davis
  • 8th Grade GIRLS: Average Mikan Score: 34 (8th grade record: 43-Abby Cole )
  • 8th Grade GIRLS: Average Reverse Mikan Score:  28 (8th grade record: 37- Emma Veach )
  • Mikan Drill Clip: 20 seconds and Reverse Mikan Drill Clip: 27 seconds
  • Players should be able to catch and shoot the ball from 12-15 feet WITHOUT bringing it down or dribbling and make at least 50% of the shots in an UNCONTESTED drill.   45 second catch and Shoot clip   DON’T BRING THE BALL DOWN!!
  • Players should be able to change directions off the dribble using BOTH hands while protecting the ball with their body AND maintaining full court vision.
  • Players should know how to defend in RELATION to where the ball is, how to help defensively AND recover to their man.
  • Players should be able to handle adversity and failure quickly and efficiently, without dwelling on mistakes.  No “palms up” attitude or stares into the stands to see what mom and dad think.  Get ready for the ONLY THING THAT MATTERS: the next possession. 
  • Players at this age should begin to learn how to support and encourage team mates, focusing more on “WE” than “ME”.
  • Players should begin to learn how to handle WINNING and LOSING; with dignity and respect.


Big Kid, Adam Rayner, now playing at Olivet.  Blond kid, Alec Wysocki, at Cornerstone.

Basics alternatives to Leagues


  1. IBL’s: Instructional Basketball Leagues: 3:00 video
  2. Individual Skills: shooting, ball handling, post play, Footwork, Passing, 1 v 1 skills, defensive positioning/rebounding, free throws and 3-point shooting
  3. Lakeshore Calendar
  4. Grand Rapids Calendar

Other Services



Basics is now being asked frequently to get involved with local teams who play in these leagues.  Only the best coaches ask for help or as Coach Wooden says: “When we are through learning, we are through.”  We are happy to help in anyway.  There is NO STRATEGY.  We only teach vision skills, foot skills and hand skills.  That’s it.  NOTE: every skill in the game revolves around those base skills, often executed simultaneously-known as a serial skill.

Just because a coach played in high school or college does NOT make him/her a good teacher of the game.  A good teacher is patient, persistent and really cares about each player’s development regardless of their skill or impact on the team.  Many great players can’t teach a lick.  (obviously not all)  Conversely, there are a few coaches who never played or just played a little who are GREAT coaches.  Teach the skills, repeat ad nauseum and then repeat again!   Coach Wooden’s 8 Laws of Learning should be memorized by all coaches: Demonstration, Imitation, Explanation, Repetition, Repetition, Repetition, and lastly, Repetition!

If your kid is in a league, INSIST on a skill development ratio that dwarfs how much the kids actually play.   Primary skills are VISION, FOOTWORK and BALL HANDLING with a heavy emphasis  on teaching the kids to extend, run hard (NO JOGGING IN BB!), cleanly catch and CONTROL THE BALL, develop great lateral movement skills and shooting skills that emphasize proper ball position, extension, leg drive and rhythm in their release.

The way a player plays in the game will MIRROR how they practice.  A good practice should include VERY LITTLE TALKING on the part of the coach and TONS OF TALKING on the part of the players. Explain precisely, demonstrate quickly and then GO.  If kids don’t get it, do it again.  And if they don’t get it by the 3rd, 4th, 5th attempt, guess what?  Do it again. Basics believes the truest testament to a coach’s ability to teach is the how much the worst player on that team improves from start to finish.  Practices should be active, animated, competitive and fun.

In marketing, it would be safe to say that leagues have great “brand awareness”! The league brand is COMPETITION. Parents and coaches feel/think that leagues, because they are competitive by nature, must mean if their kid participates, then that kid must be getting more competitive.   McDonald’s has great ads but not many would argue it’s good food. What leagues really have going for them is the attention we give them.  Their real value is our attention, not the product.

I spoke to Evan Bruinsma yesterday (2010 Michigan High School Player of the Year, D-1 at Detroit, now playing in Europe), he will be involved in our spring/summer programs again.  I asked him how much travelling he did in middle school.  He chuckled.  “Never travelled.” Me neither, all we did was play everyday with no management whatsoever.


The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan (BCAM) is the largest and most influential coaches association in the state. BCAM also has a strong reputation nationally.  Basics is humbled by this group’s endorsement of our approach.


“I am very impressed with Basics training program and philosophy. BCAM is trying to emphasize similar thoughts with its membership.  I would like to use your “League Fatigue” in my next newsletter to our over 5000 members.  Our coaches need to hear this message.”

Tom Hursey-Executive Director, Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan

UCLA replies

UCLA AD Bobby Field (ret) was a very good friend of Coach Wooden’s.  Since Coach Wooden’s death in 2010, Basics has maintained a strong connection to Coach Field, garnering feedback on a number of issues in an attempt to understand what Coach Wooden would have thought or would have done.  See Bobby’s comment below regarding this newsletter:

“Coach, these are great points you make in your newsletter to parents about leagues.   I couldn’t agree with you more about the need for fundamentals before kids are permitted to compete.

I once asked Coach Wooden if his practices differed during the NCAA tournaments.  (UCLA won 7 CONSECUTIVE national championships, and 10 overall under Wooden) “Yes, when we started tournament play, I went back to my pre-season practice routine which allowed us to spend more time on our basic, fundamental skills.”

Parents; I am not one to defend AAU too often, and this is not really a defense BUT AAU does have some strong coaches and strong players.  There is no doubt about that.  But they are so far in the minority and the % of kids who can compete at that highest level is so SMALL, just read what Kobe says.  Even at the NBA level (light years ahead of even our TOP High School players), the lack of skill is so obvious.  Whether it’s with Basics or some other organization, focus on SKILLS versus games/leagues/tournaments-do your kids a FAVOR-sharpen their skills RELENTLESSLY.    Coach McGannon

NOTE: Basics runs IBL’s-Instructional Basketball Leagues-3:00 video, where the outcomes have NO meaning, there is NO travel, there are NO coaches or refs. There is just no other synonym for “League” that is sufficient!  We also accept individual registrants, buddies and full teams.  It’s NOT the competition that matters, although these scrimmages are VERY competitive.  It’s the TRAINING, the REPETITIONS and the REINFORCEMENT that matters. This model has led to 74 Basics graduates (as of 2015) at the college level.  


  • About Basics
  • June-sanity:  Change the summer schedule, please!  Too much BB 
  • NOTE: If you attend Team Camps, read the newsletter above-Summer 2016.  Most Summer Team Camps involve way, WAY too much play and not enough skill development.  COACHES: we would love it if you chose a Basics Team Camp  but even if you don’t, forget the camps with 6, 10, 12 teams.  Forget the visits to the colleges and the photo ops with the coaches and the other 400+ kids! (aka Cattle Calls) Work on your skills in your home gym and scrimmage internally with basically NOBODY EVER SITTING.   Use this opportunity to TEACH your players how to play/

Leagues defined from our perspective, and our counter comments below

  1. Teams are often hand picked
  2. Teams are often from a single school
  3. Kids are “invited” or “recruited” to play.
  4. Games often outnumber practices
  5. Practices often focus on PLAYS versus skill development
  6. Some teams purport themselves as the “elite” or “preferred” team.  (this is ridiculous at the youth level)
  7. Playing time is often NOT EQUAL. Who cares who wins?  It’s youth BB. Just get better and try and contribute to the school team.  
  8. There is often too much travel and game days can be measured in 4, 5, 6 hours of time.
  9. Who wins is often more important than who develops.
  10. Parents, many coaches (not all) and players think playing in leagues makes them more competitive.  It does not. It is simply a benchmark of skill.

Basics Skills and Scrimmaging 

  1. There are NO TEAMS.
  2. Rosters are NEVER from a single school. 
  3. Nobody is invited or recruited.
  4. Practice time and skill development outnumbers scrimmage time by roughly 8 to 1. 
  5. We do NOT teach plays.  We teach players how to play.
  6. TIP: never call yourself “elite” or “preferred”.  A trip to the dentist is probably in your future if you insist.
  7. We have no games, there are no standings.  We don’t like SUBS. Everybody should play almost all the time.  
  8. We play locally.  We do not travel. 90 minutes and done. Kids/teams that travel are wasting time and spending too much $$.
  9. There are no wins.  All that matters is skill development.
  10. We actually do NOT permit parents or coaches to participate other than staying to watch.  

“Coach I enjoyed working with you and the kids this summer and hope to return in 2014. Just as you did when I came through Basics, your approach is exactly what these kids need: more reps, more attention to detail, more practice and fewer games. The players and parents who understand this will see the results. It is senseless to be playing so many games at these younger ages.  Skill development is far more important.”

Evan Bruinsma, # 33
  • D-1 at U. of Detroit
  • Michigan HS player of the Year; 2010
  • 3 consecutive state championshsips at WMC  (Great job Coach Goorman!!)

All time High School leading scorer in West Michigan history (2008 points)  Spencer Krannitz came through Basics programs over 50 times, never one time in a league.  Spencer-blue shirt- in 7th Grade PLAYING UP.


And vs # 2 ranked U of M Dec. 2012



2015 Michigan High School Player of the Year!!

Taylor has attended dozens of times, 6th grade Summer Camp below. Her sister Allie in front row, now a GREAT player also.  Emily MacArthur next to Taylor; Emily is a top 15 scorer in the state this year at Whitehall HS.