“ON THE BALL: Putting club before school”

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In this edition of On The Ball, NATION sports writer Justin Marville analyses the Barbados Amateur Basketball Association’s new policy on the schoolboys’ programme.

IN MY TIME I’ve committed some really selfish acts.

I mean so selfish to the point that serving my own interests was to the detriment of many.

But an entire sport? Even my talent has its limits.

It’s in this regard I can only applaud our local hoops coaches – at least some of them – whose self-serving skills apparently know no bounds while forsaking basketball’s future development in favour of their clubs’ “oh so” crucial survival.

Just in case you haven’t heard by now, the Barbados Amateur Basketball Association (BABA) is trying to protect said development, having explored a policy similar to that of domestic cricket and volleyball where they will be “mandating” the best school-aged talent to turn out for the Combined Schools Tridents.

Of course, dictating the playing terms of eligible voters may seem somewhat severe.

Yet the opposition to such has been even worse. 

You’d think the BABA wants to sell these kids into slavery with the way these coaches were hooting and hollering at the actual thought of having inexperienced and underdeveloped ballers gaining valuable Premier League minutes without fear of demotion.

It’s not like the executive council is considering restricting access to these players either, as the juniors would be free to work with any coach they choose once they play for the schoolboys and attend their practice sessions during the domestic season.

That’s it.

Nope, apparently that just won’t be good enough for particular signal callers who clearly are under the assumption that Barbados’ best ballers belong to them and their clubs if they are the ones that managed to discover such talent.

But then what good is that talent if it isn’t given an opportunity to grow?

In a totally hypothetical situation, let’s say Tridents swingman Joel Hunte decided to forgo his last three years of “schoolboy” eligibility and left the programme early to play for a contender like, um, Station Hill, for example.

Now he’d be turning down a situation where the gifted southpaw guard would be getting around 30 minutes a contest to instead fight for playing time at a position probably loaded with quality players like his older brother Darren Hunte, Saeed Norville, Jason Smith and Kevin Sealy.

Then, because of the Cavs’ championship aspirations, their head coach, whoever he or she is this season, may not be as willing to live with Hunte’s youthful mistakes as much as a Tridents team that isn’t geared towards winning.

And no matter how much practice a young player goes through there’s just no substitute for playing time. Especially playing time against high-level competition.

How does it serve Barbados’ best interests when one of its best juniors is sitting down on the bench more than he’s actually running about on the floor and learning from trial and error?

Come to think of it, wouldn’t the club be better off in the long run by letting their kids develop in a stress-free environment, then profiting from a more developed product when those players inevitably return?

Apparently, though, the argument is the juniors aren’t developing in that National Sports Council-run setup considering simple basics like pivoting and dribbling seemingly still have to be taught following the kids’ tour-de-force with the Tridents.

However, if that’s the norm more so than the exception, then why are most clubs still so eager to snatch up a lot of these said juniors before their time is up with the “schoolboys”?

And if other coaches outside of the National Sports Council ambit readily admit to “unearthing” and “coaching” those players then isn’t their supposed lack of development an indictment on them too?

What we need to understand is there are hardly any qualified school coaches working with young players before they get to the Tridents programme, meaning these players are coming even less prepared than in the sport’s heyday of the ’80s and ’90s.

Kids are starting the game a lot later, too, plus the rise of technology and increased standards of living have resulted in young players getting instant gratification via video games, cellphones, cars and overseas trips.

How many kids are willing to work hard in a sport when everything else is given to them so easily?

Yet some coaches will still expect schoolboy players to be vying for senior national duty in these crippling circumstances, fingering the Tridents programme for the absence of such juniors on touring teams.

Not that this should be seriously used to quantify development as the best Barbados squads – you know the one that captured the regional title in 2000 and then the other that went on to the 2006 Commonwealth Games – didn’t feature a single schoolboy.

No, this is justification for the development of clubs, not basketball.

This is for the ability to say that this coach developed this player. This is to say that this club has more titles than the next.

And in the end all of this self-serving gains nothing.

Well, nothing but my applause.