Should you let your child specialize in one sport?

We asked Aaron Dickson, “Should my child do multiple sports or focus on a single sport?” … check out his response.

Keep in mind the research does present some cautions on specializing.

When it does come time to specialize, two suggestions:

  1. Make sure your child actually WANTS to specialize. Don’t make it YOUR priority.
  2. Create a balanced training program so your child’s body strength and agility develops in a healthy way.

Religion And Its Effects On Sport

“I play for fun” sounds pretty weak in comparison to the phrases, “I am a serious player” or “I play to win”! Whenever a “serious” sports family hears about a team that is JUST playing for fun, they overlook the players/team/league/tournament all together as though it is not up to their standards. Humanity has always been plagued with a comparative mindset, a mindset that allows for the determined, hardworking, superior to climb upon the shoulders of the best of the rest. Isn’t this what makes America great!? Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness! This mantra is powerful and has put us in charge of our own destiny. This place of freedom can be abused, especially when it trickles down to youth sports.

Play for Fun? Or Play to Win?

It isn’t just youth sports, it is part of everyone’s day in the whole world! Let’s talk about religion and irreligion. Think about it, there are three ways of looking at life: RELIGIOUS people who believe in a higher being who they try to appease through obedience, IRRELIGIOUS people who don’t believe in a higher power and believe themselves to be in control of their own destiny and finally people who believe that God stooped down and became flesh in order to serve those who He loved, ultimately to die for them in order to reconcile them back to himself. This is called the Gospel, the good news of Jesus. Youth sports simply reveals what is going on in the depths of our hearts. We want CONTROL and since sport has “time and score” we try to control it.

What do I mean by control? Well, it is that feeling when you win. Everyone knows that sense of accomplishment when you finish the dishes, make 10 jumpers in a row, save enough to take your family on vacation or lose another 5 pounds. These are tiny wins and stacking enough of them together makes us a WINNER! The opposite is also true: dishes piled up, utter failure as an athlete, loads of debt and no family vacation, obesity because of lack of self-control etc. all these tiny losses stacked together would in theory make you a LOSER. We tell ourselves every day that we can control whether we are winners or losers at life based on tons of tiny decisions and we spiritualize it. The religious person might think, if I am a winner, God will love me and if I am a loser, God will be sad at me while the irreligious person may operate here, If I am a “winner” then I will have better control over my life, health and finances then no one can tell me what I can and cannot do.

The Gospel states that Jesus’ perfection is the only perfection that satisfies God’s demand and that those who trust in Him alone will receive that gift of right standing before Him, unmerited favor. This gift is called Grace and it really does create a third camp entirely. When a person understands that they are pleasing (right now) to God because of someone else’s goodness, they can experience FREEDOM. Freedom comes when you don’t have to hide anything knowing that you are accepted by the one who matters most. This is a place where sport can be played, FOR FUN!

I know this is a MASSIVE stretch to go from serious vs fun to religion, irreligion and gospel, but I think it is worth our consideration. If you are someone who believes that you have to “do” in order to “get” and you live life in an “if then” paradigm, you probably live in religion, it may not be formal religion but all religion is the same and there is a good chance that you are a comparative thinker. If you are a comparative thinker, sport may be something you try to control, therefore taking it out of the “FOR FUN” category. If you have experienced God’s grace in your life and don’t have to live with a comparative mindset, sport may just be able to be played “FOR FUN”.

In conclusion, whether you are religious or irreligious, you live your life with a comparative mindset. This comparative thinking becomes a place of bondage because everything is categorized into a good, better, best system or a set of tiny wins and losses. This DOES affect your view of youth sports. Ultimately, God’s view of you matters, but He doesn’t want you living as comparative thinkers where winning or losing in sport or the status of your team (serious vs recreational) matters, instead He actually wants you to live in freedom and to be able to “play for fun”.

I think there is a way for it to be “seriously fun”, but that is for another post.



The Balance in being Highly Competitive in Youth Basketball – the “I GET TO” attitude.

We asked Aaron Dickson this question:

How do you balance being highly competitive in athletics (and wanting to succeed at the highest level) with values of teamwork, compassion, and humility?

We love his response. Continue reading “The Balance in being Highly Competitive in Youth Basketball – the “I GET TO” attitude.”

Make It A Game

When your kids are young it is important that you keep sport fun.

You might think, “Well it’s a game… it’s going be fun regardless.
This is simply not true. Continue reading “Make It A Game”

Travel Time Vs. Training Time

So let’s talk about how to get better as a basketball player, not how to get “exposure”, how to get better. Sure, playing with better players on a “better” team can be an advantage, but where do players REALLY get better. Getting better typically happens away from “time and score”. It happens when an athlete decides work hard, focusing their effort to achieve their desired objective. This focused work doesn’t happen at a tournament, in a vehicle driving to and from practice or games, it happens in the weight room and through skill training. A player doesn’t NEED a skill trainer, although it is a benefit, they need to break the game down into simple movements and focus on those movements over and over again until they build mastery. I like to call this putting “sweat in the bucket”!

“Sweat In The Bucket”

Water balloons of sweat!
Water ballons of sweat!

There was a study published by Professor Anders Ericsson in 1993 that Malcolm Gladwell made famous through his book Outliers and the study proved that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Ericsson is an expert on experts and studied how people improve regardless of their field. This study essentially tracked the most proficient individuals in their field and worked backwards to prove that if someone wants to be the best in their field they have to put in at least 10,000 hours of focused time. Basically, someone would need to devote 2.7 hours every day of the year for 10 years in order to master their craft. Though The Sports Gene by David Epstein tried to disprove this study as fact, I still believe that the process of hard work is effective for sport and for life. I mean, who can disprove focused effort as being a benefit to someone? We can all agree with Epstein that if someone wants to play in the NBA, they may need to be taller than 5’5”, but we can also agree with Ericsson and Gladwell that LOTS of focused energy toward our goal will help us get there. This life lesson will be hugely beneficial after athletics have moved from the focal point to the rear view mirror.

Regarding the “sweat”, my buddy and I decided to do a little study of our own and apply it to athletes. We researched how much an average person sweats when they work out and then applied Gladwell’s math.

Time can pass without maximum effort, but sweat doesn’t lie. The average person sweats 5 gallons every 20 hours. This means to build mastery, you need to fill 500 of these buckets with your sweat. There is no way to cheat the process.

“GROSS” you might say! Well, that is true. It is a bit gross, but it is also true!

I recently asked my dad what he thought about this process. Dad has been a high school coach for 37 years and was recently inducted into the coach’s hall of fame in the state of Washington. He said, “When someone works really hard at something and then is called upon to perform, they are more confident, hard work breeds confidence” – Dave Dickson. He went on to explain that over the years his guys who had put tons of “sweat in the bucket” were guys who had the confidence to make the big play or hit the big free-throw.

Jackie Chan famously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Like Chan, I am a huge advocate for focused training over travel time. Don’t get me wrong, I love tournaments and I love competition, I just don’t like when parents tell me that their kids is getting better by sitting in the car for 5 hours per week in order to get 2.5 hours of practice, or 5 hours of travel in order to sit on the bench and POSSIBLY get a few touches and MAYBE even a few looks at the rim. This PRECIOUS time could be allocated toward focused effort on repping the right stuff. You don’t need hard woods to do the right work, a driveway, park etc. will work just fine.

You might say, “well my kid is different!” My kid is going to play on TV and he or she needs to play on the “best” team, in the “best” league and in the “best” tournaments… maybe you are right and I completely agree that certain athletes will be playing on TV and making some university or shoe company a ton of money wink wink. That was the case with Terrance Williams and I can remember it like it was yesterday when he was throwing the ball of the backboard and dunking on top of me. But, you will probably know if your kid is ready for TV or for “exposure”. People will probably be trying to cut out of work early to watch your athlete workout or show up to their high school game an hour early just to watch what they do with the ball while they are in their street clothes etc. That was what I was doing when Luke Ridnour was in high school. Did he NEED exposure? NOPE… he was repping the right stuff and once he had really mastered it, everyone knew it. Less $ and travel time and more training, focused energy doing the right work and your athlete could get WAY better! Just one guys opinion.

So What’s It Like To Be A Coach’s Kid???

When my dad was in college he called his father (my grandfather) who had recently started what was a publically traded bank at the time and dad said, “dad, I know what I want to do with my life… I want to be a teacher and a basketball coach!” Dad had an opportunity to be involved in a very successful business and instead decided to pursue a career in teaching and coaching because he believed that it was RIGHT THERE, where he could make the greatest impact in this world. Then I was born…

Almost every childhood memory is in a gym. My siblings and I were homeschooled until we got to high school and I can remember waking up with dad’s alarm in order to get my day started, 5:30 seemed like a good time to begin the studies in order to be done by lunch time. What was the point of being done by lunch time you might ask? Well, if my brother and I completed our school work, mom would drop us off at dad’s practice and we would watch my dad on his hands and knees on the baseline watching his players feet, making sure that they did the little things right. The gym is a magical place and for our family it served as the place for late night family games, birthday parties, Thanksgiving hoops, we lived in the gym. Some kids have pro athletes that they look up to, but my brother and I looked up to dad’s high school players and would ask every away game for the chance that we might get to ride the bus with dad and his team. Dad made it a priority (even though I’m sure it took more work on his part) for us to be with him, at practice, on the bus, in the locker room, sweeping the floor, lowering the curtain, organizing uniforms, the list goes on and on. We were invited in to be a part!

“…becoming a GREAT coach happens when you turn the corner, rearrange your ledger lines from Ws and Ls being connected to the score board and seeing your success being tied to the number of weddings that you are getting invited to.”

Dad was recently inducted into the coach’s hall of fame in the state of Washington and has made a HUGE impact on the lives of young people, many of which are dads, coaches, leaders in their community. If dad isn’t coaching, you can probably find him in his brown arm chair correcting test, watching game film or spending time with his wife, kids or grandkids.

If you are a coach, don’t coach for YOU. At some point you will start coaching for the KIDS alone, but why not start now. Dad tells of his coaching journey, how that was the case with him as well as so many coaches. Every coach feels the need to prove themselves, which is natural and also what makes them a great coach, they are competitors. BUT, becoming a GREAT coach happens when you turn the corner, rearrange your ledger lines from Ws and Ls being connected to the score board and seeing your success being tied to the number of weddings that you are getting invited to. When we reevaluate time and score we start truly making a difference.

Finally, if you are a coach and you have kids… don’t neglect them as your first calling. Your wife is your first priority and your kids are next in line. Only after those are in order should you begin taking on MORE LIVES to steward. Don’t buy some lie that trading your time with your family is worth it as long as you are impacting the community. This world, parents, administrators, fans, business leaders, other coaches, even your players will pat you on the back and tell you that you are God’s gift to this world, but it is ALLL for nothing if your marriage is falling a part. Grow a pair and get home. Learn to say NO.

I remember when my dad QUIT COACHING, he gave up his head coaching job because I was in 7th grade and he didn’t want to have to coach me at the high school level. He quit and became a fan so that he could be a DAD first. Now THAT is the stuff that makes an impact, obviously… it’s what I’m writing about right now. Coach – make the impact at home. Someday your children may be writing about you and you only get 1 chance.

“becoming a GREAT coach happens when you turn the corner, rearrange your ledger lines from Ws and Ls being connected to the score board and seeing your success being tied to the number of weddings that you are getting invited to.”

How To Help Your Athlete Through Adversity

I can see it so clearly in my mind’s eye, one of the players on the team with the HOT green uniforms is sitting at the end of the bench with his head hanging low and his back slouched. For some reason he isn’t in the game and has NO idea why. His parents told him on the drive down that he needed to produce when he got in the game and that the way to do that was to get a good look at the rim. They told him that there were going to be college coaches at this tournament and that this was his time to make a great appearance, that this was what he has been working toward his whole life. Obviously, based on his body language something hasn’t gone right. He hold his body as if to say, “I am a failure”, “I’ll never live up to my parents hopes for me”, “my coach doesn’t value me”, “I don’t know my role on this team” etc. This is a very, very common situation for middle school and high school athletes. Maybe I can shed some light on some things to think about that could help.

First of all, let’s start by acknowledging that adversity is a GOOD thing. Famous John Wooden said, “Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.” Life is full of adversity and how we handle it is very important. As parents, we have the ability to help our children grow in the understanding of who they are and why they play the game, that’s right… GAME. Hoops is a game that somehow we have twisted into a way to pay for college. Secondly, remember, blame shifting is the most common response when we are struggling, so PARENTS – DON’T SHIFT THE BLAME. If you make comments like, “that ref…” or “your coach doesn’t…” then you are modeling blame shifting and not teaching your athlete how to deal with adversity. Recognizing failure is a good thing, we are all failures. Your athlete needs to know that you believe love him or her and that you expect great effort and great attitude, things that they can control.

We can’t control the refs call or a coach’s opinion; one of the most decorated athletes of all time spoke to this, “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” – Muhammed Ali

Can you identify the mountains in your life, the things that are out of your control: whether or not you are short or tall, suffer from injuries, challenging circumstances, upbringing, your boss’ attitude, the referee? Can you name the “pebble” in your own shoe, the simple things that you DO have control over: what time you wake up, how hard you work, saying “thank you coach” for giving of your time to serve me, less ice cream, a bit less screen time?

Adversity is a fantastic place for growth to occur
– athletics do not build character, they reveal character.