A few months ago, our staff went out to lunch at a local restaurant as we often do. This lunch was different, at this noon hour we were entertained (or at least I was) to a story of big dreams on the hardwood.
A few tables over three dads were discussing joining forces and creating an "all-star" basketball team.
Now, I don t want to come off as an eavesdropper, but one of the dads was really loud and the guys I work with I listen to talk all day long.
"Why do we keep on beating each other up and struggling in tournaments? Let s take the best two from your team, the best three from your team and my couple guys and form a new team."
While I got a kick out of my lunch that day, it was quickly forgotten, until of course – "The Decision" aired on ESPN a few weeks ago. In case you have been living under a rock, LeBron James wasted an hour of primetime television to tell everyone that he can t win a title on his own and needed to be Dwyane Wade s sidekick in Miami.
Obviously, you can tell how I feel about "The Decision." However, what struck me more was some of the stuff I read after. That LeBron was setting a bad example for kids everywhere that "if you can t beat ‘em, join ‘em" and that taking the "easy way out" was the way to do things in life.
Newsflash people, it is LeBron that has been influenced with this mentality his whole life, not the other way around. LeBron played on the top traveling teams his whole life. He went to a private school in his hometown with the best players that lived in Akron. He not only won at every level and every game he played, the games most of the time weren t even close.
On the summer basketball scene in Wisconsin, this has been happening with frequency ever since I started paying attention nine years ago when we started WisHoops. Vicious battles over getting the best kids on your traveling team have left many in the space as bitter rivals. So bitter, in fact, that they won t even play in the same tournaments.
It s not even hard to see this mentality happening at the high school level in Wisconsin. Over the years you can look in a Basketball Yearbook and see the top 50 seniors & top 50 juniors in the Milwaukee area and take note of how they are all on the same 2-3 teams. In recent years, Madison Memorial cashed in on a solid group of homegrown talent and since the stars of tomorrow have come from Middleton, Verona, Greenfield and even Canada for their chance to be part of a winner. Furthermore, rumors of players flocking to the best teams are also at the crux of the entire private/public school debate for years.
Mind you – I am not saying there is anything wrong with parents wanting their kid to play for the best teams. Each parent has to make a choice that they feel will give their kid the best opportunities and experiences. I respect that and have no problem with that.
I am more so just showing examples that the "play with the best" phenomenon is nothing new to the world and extends all the way down to the youth sports levels.
And what about the Dad summit at the restaurant a few months back?
I can probably with good accuracy tell you how it all plays out over the next few years. Their newly formed all-star team gets in some bigger tournaments and starts doing well. The kids on the original teams that are left behind most likely give up basketball. The all-star team is enticed to join an existing summer team program. The increased exposure results in 1-3 kids from the all-star team to join bigger and better all-star teams with other programs. The 1-3 kids that are recruited to play on the bigger, better all-star teams are recruited over and now sit the bench for the better all-star team.
But, I didn t want to spoil anyone s lunch so I kept quiet.