For the first time since it was founded in 2006, Ultimate Hoops has introduced a youth basketball league. Starting at the Life Time Fitness in Alpharetta, GA this past May, players ages 13 and under have the opportunity to play and experience the game as the adult Ultimate Hoops League players: full box scores, league leaders, and photos.
But the league's founders insist it's more than just the professional treatment that makes the UH Youth league unlike any other youth basketball league in the U.S. It’s the culture, high-level experiences, and opportunities it delivers.
“We wanted to give kids the opportunity to learn things here that they wouldn’t be able to learn in any other youth league,” says David Votta, Ultimate Hoops Regional Coordinator in Atlanta, who worked with UH trainer Kent Buckner to make the idea of a Ultimate Hoops youth league a reality.
Ultimate Hoops trainers serve as coaches in the league, most having college and professional playing or coaching experience, which is rare for most youth leagues which often have volunteers or inexperienced parents filling the coaching duties.
“There are very few places where you get to learn from paid professionals who have backgrounds in elite levels of basketball outside of the NBA, even fewer in youth basketball.” says Votta, “It also eliminates the politics and drama that can surface from having parents for coaches.”
Votta also expressed the importance of introducing kids to elite level expectations at such a young age.
“Getting kids introduced to using skills in game-situations are vital to improvement. Not only do we want to teach them the game through our trainers, but we want them to be able to use the skills in a game under the coaching of our trainers.”
The biggest concern Votta and others had was how players and parents, in an already hyper-competitive youth basketball culture, would respond to the league's full stats and box scores. Would this lead to overbearing parents hovering over the scorer's table to make sure their son or daughter was credited with an assist or a rebound? Who knows, Duke's Coach K could be surfing the leagues website to find his next big recruit?
“The players and parents actually like having full stats results after games. It shows where there is success along with where there is room for improvement,” says Votta, “It keeps the kids and parents accountable too.”
Votta also spoke how the trainers and stats build a link to becoming coachable and developing life skills. When the stats are in plain site and the player is able to see them and interpret them, it is then up to the player to come up with a solution and plan for improvement.
“With [statistics] and the guidance of our trainers and coaches, this makes the youth league the ideal place for player development, along with gaining positive life experiences for the players and the parents.”
Votta says the main goal for the new league is to make sure the kids have the time of their lives and keep their love for the game alive.
“A lot of kids get cut, don’t make the team, or quit basketball because of bad experiences or because it wasn’t in a fun environment. We want to avoid that at all costs. Basketball should be played for a lifetime."