By Matt Santangelo, Executive Director of Spokane Hoopfest Association
When I was in 7th grade, I hit what I thought was the game-winning 3-pointer. Until a guy on the other team went down and hit the real game-winner. What did I do? Punched a wall mat and broke my shooting hand. Clearly, this is not something I am proud of.
I had to learn how to shoot left-handed in order to be effective — to take my weak hand and make it my strong hand, until the fifth metatarsal in my right hand healed.
And it was one of the most embarrassing and best things that ever happened to me.
Spokane AAU was crafted to give kids a great opportunity with the sport of basketball. With opportunity comes adversity.
Life doesn’t always go your way. One of the most valuable lessons in sports is the ability to lose and pick yourself back up. If you haven’t learned how to lose, you don’t know how to pick yourself up. This is where basketball comes into play. As cliché as it sounds, the philosophies are real. Spokane AAU is a real platform where you’re tested not only as an athlete, but also as a person.
We drafted rules and policies mirroring the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association, which is unique to many AAU leagues around the country for one main reason: to give kids the realest form of basketball.
The league is deliberately structured on how teams are put together, whether it’s add/drop dates or league policies, it’s so teams can learn how to win together and lose together, without a constantly-fluctuating roster. With Spokane AAU, we maintain that learning the importance of improving over a complete season ultimately trumps exposure.
The development of young athletes both on and off the court lies at the core of what we here at Spokane AAU stand for.
This method presents kids with adversity, and more importantly, how to overcome hurdles as a team.
Current Warriors coach Steve Kerr summed it up well in 2012.
“What troubled me was how much winning is devalued in the AAU structure,” Kerr wrote back in 2012 for Grantland.com. “Teams play game after game after game, sometimes winning or losing four times in one day.”
Spokane AAU is structured specifically to avoid that. We place tremendous value on a league season, the ups and downs, the good and the bad. In this way, young athletes will gain the most value from their relationship with the game.
That being said, basketball is not about the win and loss column — it’s about the journey. At Spokane AAU we want to foster a successful relationship with basketball. Not everyone devotes their life to the game and we’re okay with that. If we can create an environment that combines competitiveness, enthusiasm and sportsmanship, we provide our athletes with characteristics that are beneficial in every sport, every class and every job.
Each step of life we make sacrifices for basketball. In 7th grade I chose to focus solely on basketball. For those whose lives lead them in a different direction, our hope is that you always carry basketball with you.
But when sportsmanship comes in to play, it is our responsibility as parents, fans, coaches and policy makers to keep the bigger picture in mind so that our young athletes fall in love with the game … that is the worst thing that should happen, right?