One of the Y’s areas of focus is youth development, with a goal of inspiring and encouraging kids and teens to grow with positive, caring mentors. To support this goal, our youth sports program runs year-round, giving kids as young as 3 years old a chance to make new friends; learn the practical skills of soccer, flag football or basketball; and enjoy their game of choice in a low-pressure environment.
Lance Blocker, a volunteer basketball coach with the Brentwood Family YMCA, loves his role because he was surrounded by positive coaches in his own youth. “I enjoy passing on wisdom and understanding of the game,” he says. “I want to help kids reach their goals and become pillars of their communities.”
Can that happen on the basketball court? At the YMCA, we think it can.
Our coaches emphasize sportsmanship and teamwork, teaching the kids that having a good attitude and working together are crucial to success. Players begin to develop these skills as they interact with their fellow teammates in practices and play games against other teams.
Lance approaches practices and games with a list of objectives for his players in mind—all of which are traits he believes will help them far beyond a gymnasium. “I want my players to understand sportsmanship, have an optimistic attitude, show dedication and commitment, and learn time management skills,” he says. His own daughter, Skye, is on the team.
Overall, he boils it down to three big lessons that he hopes to teach his players that contribute to the Y's long-standing goal of helping develop healthy community members.
1. Life isn’t always fair.
As adults, we can imagine how a sports competition plays out in a five- or six-year-old mind that is still learning that everything isn't fair. Sometimes the referee misses a call, Lance says. We have to accept that events don't always turn out the way we think they should—and this applies to basketball. When a young person can start to internalize this reality in a small thing like a sports game, they can learn to apply it to the whole world around them. But it doesn't stop there...
2. Focus on what you can control.
This lesson ties into the end of Lance’s first big idea, and it can be a new concept for young kids. When you can’t control the referee, what can you control? You can control your attitude and how you move forward. We all know how useless it is to dwell on things that are out of our control. A fast-paced sports game is a great setting for kids to transition quickly from disappointing calls or mistakes and look to what they can accomplish next. “The main thing is to move on, focus on what you can control, and never give up,” Lance says.
This leads to the third lesson: keep trying! Perseverance is critical as kids are learning to interact with one another and committing to the team’s success as a whole, not just scoring their own baskets. It's natural for them to want to quit when they don't see immediate success or are frustrated. Learning to stick with a skill and with your team when times are tough is a lifelong habit to build.
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These three ideas can be second-nature to adults, but they are concepts that have to be learned and nurtured as a child develops. By being part of a team, kids can grow through their mistakes (which they will face on the court) in a healthy and encouraging way, with mentors like Lance to talk them through.
Our volunteer coaches aren’t just focused on winning games; they are focused on making sure that individual players find personal successes. For some kids, this might mean a first basket or a successful pass. For other kids, it might be a social success—like coming out of their shell or meeting kids outside of school for the first time.
Do you know a child who could benefit from being part of a team? Our youth basketball program is a great way to get started. Learn more at ymcamidtn.org/youth-sports.