Youth Basketball: What is Your Purpose?

I’ve found myself in a lot of conversations lately about different philosophies surrounding developing youth basketball players. Some of those have centered around “The HUD,” a new travel basketball team starting here in Hudsonville. Having been at the Ludington Gus Macker this past weekend, I’m always talking hoops with current coaches, past coaches, active parents, and basketball junkies. 

For those of you that might not know much of my past, I’m going to state some of it here.  When you are going to talk about something like this, whatever your “basketball resume” looks like, should matter. The time and effort you’ve put into the kids and the game should matter. I’m not going to comment on football or baseball, as I simply haven’t played or coached the game at a high enough level to comment intelligently.

* I’ve coached basketball at some level for the past 21 seasons.  14 of those years were at the varsity level including 12 seasons as the head coach. I was fortunate enough to be around good enough coaches and players to win over 15 championships and helped to put kids at the D1, D2, D3, NAIA, and JuCo level. I’ve coached both local and club travel teams.  I was responsible for designing the drills, structures, practices, and development of players in our youth program (grades 3-6) for over a decade. As a parent, I’ve had both of my kids (one is 14 and the other is 11) play on all levels of teams in an out of season.

Recently, I’ve heard and observed debates between parents about “what is right” when it comes to different choices they have for their young basketball player. A discussion turns heated when talking about AAU or local travel teams. Strong opinions are shared regarding which summer camp to go to, the organization to play with, tournaments to enter,  and whether or not playing in a Macker is good or bad. When we talk about our kids, it tends to be intense. However, I think people are missing a pressing question that should be discussed before even word one is uttered,

“What is the purpose of youth basketball for your child?”

Before you even get into stating your opinion, to which you are sure you have the “right” answer, be sure to answer that question. Have both parents answer it. My guess is the person you are engaged in this heated conversation with, has a completely different purpose for what youth basketball holds for their child. That doesn’t mean you are right or he is wrong, it’s just a different purpose and end game for you both.images-1.jpg

I think you can break down the purposes that parents have for youth basketball into these 8 things.

1. Get the kid a college scholarship

2. Become a better person through sports

3. Improve their individual skills to become a better player

4. Learn to #PTRW (Play The Right Way)

5. Have fun

6. Compete at the highest level against the best competition

7. Receive the best possible coaching

8. Play with kids from their school to develop a bond/chemistry towards high school


Don’t get me wrong, it can be more than one.  I think it’s near impossible to do all 8 and even parents that I’ve seen try, they have to prioritize some over others.

For my 11-year-old son, I can share my priorities for him very quickly and those are (in order) #2, 3, 7, 4, 8, and 5.  That doesn’t mean that 1 and 6 aren’t important. But it’s very unlikely he will play the next level. If he gets a whole lot better, 1 and 6 increase in importance as he moves into high school. Therefore, a parent who has #1 and #6 at the top of their list, is going to have a different purpose for youth basketball than I am and that’s OK. But we aren’t going to see things the same way. Because of my past experience and where my kids are as players, this is how my list looks.

– #2 is important because nothing is more important than my son becoming a great person. Sports run out at some point and the type of impact you have on the world is what matters most.

– #3 matters because you have to optimize skill development. Players get better at practice and during individual work when no one is looking. Just playing 100 games a year doesn’t make you better. It’s what you do when no one is watching and how you attack the weaknesses to your game that makes you better.

– #7 can make or break the sports experience for young kids. Having a quality coach who teaches, motivates, and inspires kids to be their best, can light that spark. Coaches who don’t measure their acumen by mythical 4th-grade championships but instead the development of their team and individuals, are harder to find than you might think.

– #4 ties directly to 7. Kids who play the right way know what to do when they don’t have the ball, make the extra pass, dive for loose balls, take charges, are coachable, and great teammates. My son needs to be taught what to do when he doesn’t have the ball on offense or defense. He doesn’t need to learn 75 combination dribble moves in 1 on 1 skill sessions with individual trainers. There doesn’t need to be 5 James Harden clones on an 11-year-old team. There is one ball on the court at a time. The other 4 players serve an important purpose when they don’t have it and need to be taught what to do when they don’t. That is tragically missing from today’s youth basketball experience. My son needs to know when to space, when to screen, when to get in position to rebound, when to be down and ready to shoot. He also needs to learn proper shooting form and rep that out so he can make shots. That way, when the kid with 75 dribble moves keeps shooting bricks because all he does is practice 4 different euro steps that he can’t finish instead of repping out jumpers, someone can put the ball in the hole. On defense, he needs to know what to do when his man doesn’t have the ball, when to be in a gap, in deny, how to communicate, all the things that make up great team defense. If he’s going to play the right way he has to give up his body for the team, whether that’s taking a charge or diving for a loose ball. He better listen to his coach, respect the officials, and understand that the team is always bigger than him. Get out of your selfish individualized bubble and see when your teammates need a pat on the back or a pep talk.  #4 matters a lot.

– #8 carries weight because you are developing a band of brothers with the kids you will play with in high school. There is something special about playing for the name on the FullSizeR.jpgfront of your jersey. You get one chance in your life to play for your hometown but that strong belief likely comes from 30 years around public schools. Developing a trust and camaraderie with those other kids takes thousands of hours in practices, games, and tournaments. That doesn’t mean you can’t play AAU. I believe you can certainly do both.

– #5 means something. Having fun is important. But hard work isn’t always fun. Getting better is fun. Practices and drills, games where you get beat up, let’s not act like it’s all fun.

I think most of the time parents have the best interest of their child in mind. I’m certainly not going to mock, demean, or scrutinize how another parent might prioritize their list. That would be small and narrow-minded. Before you get knee deep in a debate over youth basketball next time, make sure to ask that question first.

“What is the purpose of youth basketball for your child?”

















Principals: Survey Your Stakeholders to End the Year

As the school year winds down, I begin to solicit feedback by sending surveys to staff and parents.  I ask them about the performance of our school and also my work.  The first couple of years as an administrator, I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing such a thing.  I’m not sure I was confident enough in my role and I was probably nervous about the kind of feedback I’d receive!  Looking back, I wish I would’ve had a formal structure to get the thinking from others that would allow me to improve as a principal.  Since I’ve started doing this, it’s been very helpful to sit back on a June day when the students are gone and see our school through a different lens.  It makes me consider different perspectives and

By administering these surveys, I hope to send the message that I welcome the thinking of others, that I have a growth mindset and a burning desire to get better at my job, and that their voice matters.  With the data, I make an action plan of how I will address the issues that surface.  I also share the results and/or the action plan with the people who took the time to fill out the survey so they can see some of the summative results.

Below are the surveys that I sent to parents and staff last week.  I have tweaked them over the years based on how often I have been in the building, areas of focus for our school, or specific thinking I was hoping to receive.  I use SurveyMonkey because it’s free, easy, and anonymous.  If you need a format, feel free to use or adjust these as you’d like.


1. How would you rate Andy’s effectiveness as a principal this year?

Highly Effective
Minimally Effective

2. Andy has helped to create a positive culture at JU for staff

Strongly Agree
Strongly Disagree

3. Andy has helped to create a positive culture for students at JU

Strongly Agree
Strongly Disagree

4. I feel “valued and appreciated” by Andy

Strongly Agree
Strongly Disagree

5. JU has a collaborative culture with shared ownership and voice

Strongly Agree
Strongly Disagree

6. JU is an enjoyable place to work

Strongly Agree
Strongly Disagree

7. I see Andy’s areas of strength as:

8. Areas I think Andy can improve are:

9. Areas of strength for Jamestown Upper are…

10. Areas of growth for Jamestown Upper are…

1. The curriculum my child is learning matches what they need as a learner

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
The curriculum my child is learning matches what they need as a learner
The curriculum my child is learning matches what they need as a learner Strongly Disagree
The curriculum my child is learning matches what they need as a learner Disagree
The curriculum my child is learning matches what they need as a learner Neutral
The curriculum my child is learning matches what they need as a learner Agree
The curriculum my child is learning matches what they need as a learner Strongly Agree

2. The instruction my child received this year was effective

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
The instruction my child received this year was effective
The instruction my child received this year was effective Strongly Disagree
The instruction my child received this year was effective Disagree
The instruction my child received this year was effective Neutral
The instruction my child received this year was effective Agree
The instruction my child received this year was effective Strongly Agree

3. I received timely and accurate information about my child’s academic and social/emotional progress

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
I received timely and accurate information about my child’s academic and social/emotional progress
I received timely and accurate information about my child’s academic and social/emotional progress Strongly Disagree
I received timely and accurate information about my child’s academic and social/emotional progress Disagree
I received timely and accurate information about my child’s academic and social/emotional progress Neutral
I received timely and accurate information about my child’s academic and social/emotional progress Agree
I received timely and accurate information about my child’s academic and social/emotional progress Strongly Agree

4. I feel like my child is safe at Jamestown

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
I feel like my child is safe at Jamestown
I feel like my child is safe at Jamestown Strongly Disagree
I feel like my child is safe at Jamestown Disagree
I feel like my child is safe at Jamestown Neutral
I feel like my child is safe at Jamestown Agree
I feel like my child is safe at Jamestown Strongly Agree

5. Being bullied is a problem for my child at Jamestown

Always Sometimes Neutral Rarely Never
Being bullied is a problem for my child at Jamestown
Being bullied is a problem for my child at Jamestown Always
Being bullied is a problem for my child at Jamestown Sometimes
Being bullied is a problem for my child at Jamestown Neutral
Being bullied is a problem for my child at Jamestown Rarely
Being bullied is a problem for my child at Jamestown Never

6. The principal is effective in his role as the building leader

Ineffective Not yet effective Neutral Effective Highly Effective
The principal is effective in his role as the building leader
The principal is effective in his role as building leader Ineffective
The principal is effective in his role as building leader Not yet effective
The principal is effective in his role as building leader Neutral
The principal is effective in his role as building leader Effective
The principal is effective in his role as building leader Highly Effective

7. The Jamestown staff cares about my child

Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
The Jamestown staff cares about my child
The Jamestown staff cares about my child Strongly Disagree
The Jamestown staff cares about my child Disagree
The Jamestown staff cares about my child Neutral
The Jamestown staff cares about my child Agree
The Jamestown staff cares about my child Strongly Agree

8. My biggest PRAISE and/or THING TO CHANGE for Jamestown would be…

9. Share anything about the principal’s work you do appreciate or don’t appreciate

10. Any additional information about Jamestown or your child’s 2017-2018 school year that you’d like to share


Next year, I’d like to extend the surveys to our students.  While I do exit interviews with each 5th-grader, I have not surveyed them in the past.  If you have student surveys you use with elementary students, please share those with me.

Best wishes on the final weeks of school with your students.  Enjoy all the end-of-the-year moments, smile, laugh, and be grateful to be part of the greatest profession in the



Secor Family Milestones and Serendipidty

I spent part of the weekend reading the recently released Path to Serendipity by an educator and person I admire, Allyson Apsey.  At the same time, our family hit a few milestones that were very meaningful.  Those things happening simultaneously meant some reflection for me and usually what follows reflection is

Once I have a chance to reread and process more of what Allyson wrote, I’ll share a blog post devoted completely to her book.  My first impressions are that it’s real and authentic, just like her.  I connected with many things she wrote, even some that were slightly embarrassing.  The book encourages you to embrace the imperfect journey we are on in this thing called life.  Like the Philadelphia 76ers, it’s about embracing and trusting the process.  When I finished reading, I wanted to not only become a better educator but a better person.  Allyson’s words made me want to listen to understand, give grace, discover myself, seek the positives, but more than anything, take control of my own destiny each and every day.  While it’s still too raw to pinpoint how this will translate into my daily life, I can assure you that it will.  This book holds that type of power.

As far as the milestones, the Secor’s hit three fairly significant ones in the last 3 daysdownload.jpgFirst, my daughter was asked out on a date.  Well, I say it was a date.  My wife says it was a date.  She is pretty non-committal.  I think if someone asks you to go play golf, and it’s just the two of you, it’s a date.  My son had the reproductive health, “boy to man,” video at school.  That meant we need to have that father/son talk.  You know the one.  Finally, I took my daughter out to practice some driving around the parking lots by the school where I work as driver’s training is getting closer.  

So, how do those two things connect? 

“There is no greater blessing than to appreciate the gift of love and life.” 

Allyson writes that on page 52 in the midst of a touching story about her mom’s battle with cancer.  I read that quote about ten times before I realized why I was reading it over and over again.  It was because of those 3 milestones.  One could approach those milestones in many ways.  I could realize how old I’m getting.  Nah, let’s ignore father time a little longer.  I could shed a tear because of how big my kids are getting.  That’s really not how I approach these special moments.  I could wonder out loud where time has gone.  People who have heard my “time is a constant, not a variable” rant laugh at the thought of that. download.jpg

The way I choose to live out these milestones aligns well with Allyson’s quote.  I feel fortunate to experience that talk with my son.  My Dad never sat me down for that one and partially because of that, I wanted to have it with Myles.  He’s a pretty open book and we shared information and a few laughs.  As my daughter Ally nears the age of 15, I’m blessed to see her grow into a young woman someone would want to date.  She is thoughtful, kind, and caring.  Sitting with her in the car as she shifted the car into drive for the first time is a memory I feel blessed to have made with her.  I won’t ever forget it.  So many Dad’s don’t get to experience those 3 milestones with their kids.  Many kids don’t have their Dad around for those milestones.  I’m not sad those milestones happened, I’m grateful to have experienced them with my family.  

I feel appreciative that I was able to read Allyson’s book.  I am grateful to have the 3 milestones in our family this week.  As life goes on with milestones coming at us all the time, I choose to welcome them with open arms and make the best memories possible out of each and every one.





Principals: Advice for Leading Successful End-of-Year Teacher Reflection Conversations

I know many of my administrative colleagues are preparing for their end of the year meetings with teachers.  This year, I will be facilitating around 40 end-of-year teacher evaluation conversations.  I see those meetings as a great opportunity to look back, reflect, and also plan forward.  I truly look forward to sitting down with staff to discuss, laugh, and celebrate their 2017-2018 school year.

images-1.jpgBelow, is the format I use for those conversations.  Feel free to use any parts that might be helpful to you.  My goal is to start big picture, shut my mouth, and truly listen.  Allow teachers the time to frame the school year through their eyes, not yours. 

From there, I really try to accomplish three things.  First, I want to join them in celebrating.  There are amazing accomplishments in each classroom and within each teacher.  I never want to miss a chance to thank them for all they do for our students and school.  This is a great time for me to recognize and applaud that.  Second, I want to start planning forward with them collaboratively.  I want just a little part of their brain to be thinking about goals, new ideas, or different paths for next year.  Finally, I want to us both to push, press, extend, or challenge each other’s thinking.  As we collaborate and brainstorm, we both grow and new ideas are pushed to the forefront.  As we grow together, we build trust and ownership towards a common vision.  If we’ve accomplished those three things at the end of a conversation, I feel like our time has been productive and supported their learning.     

Here is the outline I use as I facilitate those conversations.

5D+ End of the Year Year Evaluation Meeting

* Use “EOY Post Inquiry Conference Planning” page as a guide during the conversation

* Share outline  for the meeting

  • Analyze student data
  • Examine teacher’s focus areas and their impact on student learning this year
  • Review and update the growth plan.  Discuss growth in the 5D+ rubric within the focus areas and initial scoring thoughts
  • Discuss potential focus areas/PLC options for next year
  1. Big Picture – Celebrations and challenges over the course of the year
  2. Student Data
  • Noticings, trends, patterns, in classroom and grade level data
  • Present any data relevant to your student achievement goals for the year
  • How were these impacted by your focus areas?  What other factors significantly impacted student achievement in your classroom
  1. Reflection on Areas of Focus
  • What changes have you made in these focus areas from past years?  
  • Which of those has been the most positive or impactful for you and students?  
  • What is still a work in progress?  Sustainability — How do you carry over work in this focus areas into next year?
  • How has the work you have put into your focus areas impacted students?

          – What evidence do you have to support that?

          – What student data sets can you point to?

  1. Admin shares thinking/Scoring on focus areas — notice, wonder, next steps
  2. That is a summary of your learning for this year.  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

         – Discuss “PCC” dimension/staff can bring examples of work in that dimension 

         – Discuss indicators where the administrator has collected the least evidence 

         – Review self-assessment from the fall and discuss then vs. now (JU)

* Do you think the focus areas should remain the same?  Why or why not?

* What other areas may interest you? What inspires, energizes you or intrigues you in the field of education?  Possible PLC areas?

* Hand-out the summary scoring page in a separate, 1 minute, meeting




Educators: You Can’t Possibly Do it All

Sometimes as I sit down to write certain posts I wonder if what I’m about to write really impacts others or if it’s just me. Writing this was one of those instances. Let me share a couple examples to see if you can connect with this thought process at all.

* You are a teacher and a friend who teaches in a different district tells you about an amazing thing they are doing in their classroom that you hadn’t considered

* You are a coach who reads on social media how another coach is building program consistency with a certain practice structure for teams of all levels

* As a principal, you are at a conference and the presenter shares with you a method for building staff culture. You consider yourself competent in that area but there idea is above and beyond something you’ve ever considereddownload.jpg

What’s Wrong with That?

So, what’s the problem? You are hearing new ideas that impact and expand your thinking. Twitter or Facebook gives more options to consider for your classroom or school. Educators are often friends with educators in other districts and that allows for a great exchange of thinking. Educators attend workshops or conferences to hear experts in various areas. Those should all be good things, right? Shouldn’t that allow us to grow in our work? Yes, but. Yes, but I think there can also be a downside. I’ve certainly have felt it before and want to share that in this post. 


Seeing, listening, and talking about different ideas has turned into a challenge for me as a varsity basketball coach, teacher, principal, and even a parent. Social media has made it even more difficult. As your professional network grows, the possibility to hear all the amazing things happening in other schools grows as well.

Here’s the Challenge

The challenge is that you can’t do it all. You especially can’t do it all at the same time. When I hear something another educator is doing that is really good, it brings out a couple different feelings and I’ll share those honestly. Part of me feels insufficient and that I’m not good enough at my job for the parents, students, and teachers of our school. Part of me wonders what I hadn’t thought of it. I do think how awesome it is that others are positively being impacted. I wonder if and how the idea might fit into what we are currently doing. I’ve also made the mistake or hearing an idea somewhere and going back to immediately implemented it. That has often failed. As your network grows and the scope of social media grows, there are more and more opportunities for this to happen to educators.   

My Advice

1. Be confident in what you are doing. I don’t think this has to do with insecurity but instead knowing what you believe in and how it impacts your current practice. What you’ve developed has been well-planned, thoughtful, and successful for a reason. Know that the base, the foundation, is strong. Understand that we all have our strengths and growth areas as educators. The person who shared the program you haven’t implemented is likely not doing something you are doing well. The confidence in ourselves allows us to accurately self-assess and know we have those clear strengths. 

2. Be reflective and willing to grow. Always be on the look-out for something that can improve the educational expereince for parents, students, and staff. Never think you know it all or can’t possibly improve more. Being open to new ideas doesn’t mean criticizing yourself for not implementing it already nor does it mean you have to develop each one you hear into a new initiative.

3. Implement changes carefully. Go slow. Collaborate with others. Consider how many new initiatives you currently are introducing. Think about how a new idea might or might not fit with the current focuses in your school or classroom. Keep a list of potential ideas or journal and put them into a short, medium, or long-term timeline for implementation.

This is coming from the guy who loves the term #ChaseIt and is obsessed with the journey and process of trying to be great at anything. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing it all. Remember the power of growth mindset and the strength of “not yet.” However, trying to do everything at once or feeling insufficient for not having it all going right now gets your further away from greatness, not closer to it.



How Players Act on the Basketball Court Matters…A Lot

Most of you know that I’ve spent the last 20 years on the basketball sidelines as a coach.  That has been at the youth level, 18 seasons at the varsity level, and helping out at the college level.  Over that 20 years, I’ve noticed a lot of trends.  One of the worst trends is the behavior and actions of players on the court.  Not how they play, but how they act while they play.

During the last couple of weeks, I have attended around 20 basketball games at all levels.  I’ve been to 5th-grade boys basketball, freshmen girls basketball, varsity boys and girls state tournament games, MSU clinching the B1G regular season title, and Ferris State winning the GLIAC tournament championship.  When it comes to on-court behavior, at all levels, I’ve seen a little bit of everything.

But it was a game I attended on Thursday night that compelled me to write something.  The Hudsonville girls basketball team lost to Muskegon in overtime of the regional finals.  It was that electric environment you come to expect in March.  I was talking to my family on the way home and I told them that in my 30 years around the game I’ve never seen a team maintain their composure like the Hudsonville girls did.  It really is the entire team and modeled by head coach Casey Glass, but it really shows in Kasey DeSmit, Arinn King, and Sydney Irish.  In this game, those three were tested physically and emotionally by a strong, physical, and athletic Big Red team.  Not once did I see one of them hang their heads – never disrespected an opponent or an official – not even when their high school careers were coming to a close.  Time and time again this year I looked over to my 14 and 11-year-old children and told them to watch how they act on the court.  Watch how they represent their family, the basketball program, their school, and the community.  I can be a little bit of a maniac on the sidelines.  What I’ve seen over the past couple of weeks has helped me better understand how my players acted when they played and what things I modeled or didn’t model very well.  Those are things you can learn when you sit back and watch a game and aren’t engulfed in it.

I’ve been away from the high school game for a few years but I’m sure it won’t be much longer before I’m back on the sideline in some capacity.  These couple of weeks have helped me to develop a checklist, almost a report card, of how I will want my players to act.  During all of those games, I’ve seen players like Tum Tum Nairn or the Hudsonville girls team showing me just what those characteristics should be.  Here’s my list.
1) Body language

2) Respect for opponents

3) Respect for officials

4) Positive towards teammates

5) Composure and poise during adversity

It’s ironic how things change as you get older.  I used to always tell my kids to watch the best player on the court.  Now I find myself telling them to watch the players on the court who act the best. 


5 Things All Educators Need to Stop Saying

I probably don’t need the disclaimer that obviously ALL educators don’t say these things, but I will lead with that anyway.  Clearly, not ALL.  However, each of these things I believe cripples our amazing profession a little bit and we would be much better without them.  Here they are and some brief thoughts on how they hinder our work.

1. “That student is low” – Stop labeling kids based on an arbitrary timeline of learning and expectations that have significantly changed over time.  First, is this professional and kind?  If that was your child, is that how you would want others talking about them?  A more accurate phrase might be, “the learning acquisition levels of this student, which are individual and developmentally unique to them, have not yet matched the random timeline and skills we have decided they should have mastered at this time.”

2. “They need to learn that for (or by) the M-STEP” – This one makes me shudder to my core.  Students need to learn for the love of learning.  They need to learn because learning builds on learning and what comes next may depend on what is being learned now. They need to learn it because education is the key to unlock so many doors in their life.  But not because of a standardized test.  Students need to learn your guaranteed and viable curriculum.  I also don’t care if the M-STEP is in April and they learn it in May.  Making sure they learn it for a standardized assessment isn’t my job.  Making sure they learn it, is.  Those two are not the same.

3. “That idea won’t work” – Not all ideas are good ideas.  Not all ideas can come to fruition.  I’m not saying that.  But too often in our profession, I’ve seen close-mindedness shut down a potentially really good idea.  Listen, ask questions, dig deeper, mine out any possible issues and help the person to move the idea forward.  Don’t shut down thinking, explore possibilities.

4. “If we just collaborate we will all do it the same” – Collaboration means to work with someone to produce and create something.  It doesn’t mean we will all agree and it doesn’t mean we will all do everything the same.  Share ideas, discuss, look at all perspectives, and make agreements.  But also allow a district, building, or classroom to have their different takes on it.  Let’s not turn collaboration into compliance.

5. “His learning will increase if he just does his homework” – I think we can all agree on what research says about homework and it’s correlation to student learning.  At parent-teacher conference time of year, we sometimes make a mistake of guaranteeing to parents that increase homework will increase student learning.   Yes, for some students additional independent practice without teacher support can be an asset.  However, let’s not rely on that to have a major impact on student learning. 

We are part of the greatest profession in the world.  I think if we can keep some of these words and phrases out of our vernacular, it can be even better.