How Coaches Can Help Less Skilled Players Who Would Otherwise Be Cut
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Frankie Jones, a 2017 Double-Goal Coach® Award Winner, and his late brother co-founded Denver Kings (@denverkingsbb) in his Northeast Denver neighborhood as a means of teaching life skills through basketball. The organization now serves roughly 60 boys and girls from sixth grade into high school, hailing from the city and suburbs as far as a 90-minute drive. Teams comprising players of a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds play travel ball together in AAU tournaments and several sneaker-company-sponsored circuits.
Jones talks about seeing kids who were not quite skilled enough to make the team who show up to tryouts again and again and repeatedly get cut because they had not gotten any better. As a solution, he created the position of "practice players" to allow these players with the will and fortitude to keep showing up a chance to improve by practicing with the team. The eventual goal is that the player will improve enough to earn a spot on a team.
What Jones saw was a team that would celebrate together and embrace a practice player who earned his spot. "These guys often times end up being our emotional leaders." Eventually, he got to witness old practice players start supporting and mentoring new ones. By giving less skilled players the opportunity to work hard for a spot, he was able to reward their resilience and show the rest of the players how to help their teammates get better. Also, he witnessed players learn how to celebrate each other’s successes as if they were their own.