Over the years, I have had the topic of "open gym" brought up every year by parents with students of all ages.
The concern usually comes up with 7th - 12th graders who just joined the All-Stars and are getting familiar with our academy as well as my position on the topic.
Here are my thoughts & recommendation:
Wen it comes to attending Academy training vs. Open Gym there is no comparison. The Jr. high coaches at open gym are normally teachers assigned to coach and simply are at open gym to watch the kids play basketball. If the student is not highly skilled, the student is simply showing off his lack of skills and thus displaying his weaker skills of today rather than fully developed skills when it counts which is during the official tryouts. The student could be improving his skills quicker at the academy rather than showing his limitations at open gym.
Attending the open gym is more of a political move to try to establish a relationship with the school coach. It has been my experience that the best players get on the school team whether or not they attend open gym. It is all about being highly skilled. Being political is not a bad thing but doing it too early without the student being fully prepared with well-rounded skills is a recipe for a really bad and lasting first impression.
I recommend to be up front with the school coach. Let him now that your child is at academy training and committed to the club team as well. Usually, the school coaches understand since they experience the same situation with most high level club players. Normally these club players don't show up at all during open gym. If they do show, its every so often because these players stay focused on getting better and competing with their club peers with the higher level of play competition and then show up for tryouts to simply take their spots on the team based on dominating their positions thus proving that they are the best. Period.
What to do?
Simply attend open gym sporadically with more frequency as the tryout date nears. This way you get the best of both worlds. Jr. high ball is normally a weaker venue for basketball skills development. Not much learning and only 8 games in less than 30 days. It is great to be on the team and to experience what it is like to represent the school, but the players in the academy that went on to become high school stars stayed focused on the academy/club and succeeded.
On every occasion throughout the 12 years that I have been coaching, the players that paid attention to Jr. high school open gym at the expense of Academy/Club usually fizzled out in high school and became bench players or not on the team at all. High school ball is a bit different, but not by much. The coaches are much more experienced but are limited by AIA rules and thus are not allowed to conduct official training so they end up watching players playing full court and forming very lasting opinions. If the player is limited in skills, he could be ruining his chances of making the team before the tryouts happen months later. Not good to form a bad impression too early.
At the end of the day, it is your choice and a very important one. Attend open gym once in a while and don't miss academy training at all if you can help it. Your student-athlete will be better off in the end. It is like a job interview. Show up when you are at your best, not your worst. If you make your team at the Jr. high level, play in the school games while going to the academy training as well. Do not compromise academy/club development.
This is my feedback to you based on my experience as both a former high school coach and an academy/club coach as well. It is still an opinion so use your best judgement in your decision on how to allocate your child's time.
The wrong decision can have a long lasting effect that determines whether or not a positive high school basketball experience happens or not.
Surveys show that on average 50 students tryout for their 7th and 8th grade Jr. high teams respectively, but only 12 or so players make their teams. It becomes even more difficult to make a school team as a high school incoming Freshmen since all the Jr. high feeder schools combined send their experienced players as a large new wave of students to their feeder high schools. In addition, there are many students who did not make their Jr. high teams but who did take the time to train appropriately for their high school teams and who will be ready to compete for 12 spots on their high school teams. Bottom line: Making a team is very difficult due to the high number of student-athletes trying out!
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