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By MIKE MARSEE, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kentucky coach John Calipari took time Monday during his satellite camp at Boyle County High School to talk to the parents and other adults in the audience about body language and what it can say about young players, using his son, Brad, as an example.
“My son’s 16 years old, he’s a good kid, a good student. But we all think they know, and they really don’t until they get in situations,” he said. “With my son, I watch him one day, this is about three weeks ago. He sleeps over with a friend, it’s a 9 o’clock in the morning game, he didn’t sleep, and he’s got, like, an attitude and a body language on the court.
“Now, I don’t say things at (his) games. I don’t speak one way or another. I’ve probably got a camera on me. … I don’t say anything. But on that morning I got up, walked the baseline, his coach was done talking to him, I said, ‘Come here, son. You’re not going to have that kind of attitude on the court. I will take you immediately off the court.’
“Then I talked to his high school coach, who I’ve not spoken to, and said, ‘Coach, if my son has that kind of body language or attitude, if you don’t take him off the court, I’ll embarrass us all and I’ll take him off the court.’ I say that to you, (because) that’s my son and you would think, ‘Boy, he would know better,’ and I’m going to tell you, he’s a good boy, Now, every game he plays, he says, ‘How was my body language?’ He didn’t know what that looked like.
“Body language screams; it never whispers. When a baby is hungry or is frustrated, what does it do? Screams and cries. Well, how about when a 13-year-old is frustrated or anxious? They cop an attitude, the body language goes bad. So then you have to figure out, ‘What is going on here, because you’re a good kid, and you’re acting like … a knucklehead, and you’re not.’ Well, there’s something happening there.
“As you see your son, it’s normal. They cop an attitude or put their head down or pout when they make a mistake … that is a normal thing that we all have to correct as parents.”
Calipari also said players and their parents shouldn’t be concerned with shooting when they’re young.
“My hope is that you took things away from here that you can go back and work on, whether it’s ball-handling stuff that we talked about. Understand now that shooting is the last thing you need to work on as a player. Shooting is the last thing you should work on, because at this age, how do they shoot the ball? They launch it. You have a big ball that seems like a beach ball, shooting at a big rim that seems like it’s 29 feet up in the air to them, and they heave it. That’s nothing to do with how you learn to the shoot the basketball,” he said.
“What you should be spending 90 percent of your time on is getting their feel for the ball, bouncing it with their head up, so that they can go (with) both hands with their head up. Then all of a sudden they’re on their way.”
Calipari said young players who are committed to the game will probably be committed to the other priorities in their lives as they grow older.
“The thing about this great sport is you see improvement really quickly. That helps young people commit to it and fall in love with it, because it’s easy to see improvement. What I’m proud of Brad about, I don’t know how good he’s going to be, I really don’t. But I do know how committed he is to getting better. I live with him, and I know how emotionally attached he is to basketball. I’m happy, because you and I know, if he can take that commitment that he’s showing to this sport into the real world, he’s good,” he said. “If he loves something, he’s committed to it, he understands the ups and downs of this sport or any sport.
“So I would tell you, if your child is into this, it’s a great thing. It’s also a great thing for you to teach them about commitment, every day we’re going to get better, and then when you see him emotionally attached.
“Some of you right now will tell me, ‘My son is emotionally attached to this game right now.’ Well, let’s say he stays emotionally attached to this game for the next 10 or 12 years. The minute he’s going to give that commitment to loving something else, he can do it because he knows what it feels like. … Use basketball; don’t let it use you.”