SBJ/May 8-14, 2017/In Depth

Growing Jr. NBA turns focus to youth play, coaching standards

Steph Curry, a member of the Jr. NBA Leadership Council, leads event participants in a drill.
Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
After a successful relaunch, the NBA is adding to its Jr. NBA program as the league looks for a deeper reach into youth sports.

Since the Jr. NBA’s October 2015 relaunch, more than 7,000 youth organizations in the U.S. and Canada have signed up to take part in the free program that reaches 5 million kids.

The growth has been swift. Globally, the Jr. NBA program now is in 53 countries and in 2017 is expected to reach over 18 million kids through the various participation programs.

“The core objective is to build up a group of youth basketball organizations from boys and girls clubs to schools and AAU teams,” said David Krichavsky, NBA vice president of youth basketball, who was hired to lead the Jr. NBA relaunch. “It’s been a very productive relaunch.”

Since unveiling the new program, the NBA has rolled out a steady stream of new offerings ranging from youth leagues and coaching programs to a set of youth basketball guidelines developed in partnership with USA Basketball.
Aided by the NBA’s deep resources and a Jr. NBA sponsor in Under Armour, more programs are on the way.

“Our focus is on setting standards on how the game is played and taught at youth levels,” Krichavsky said. “We will continue to create age-appropriate standards for the game and look at rules and equipment such as the height of the hoops and size of the ball.”

Another major piece of the program is the continued emphasis on providing volunteer coaches an online resource.
In January, the Jr. NBA created a robust teaching curriculum available on Jr.NBA.com that emphasizes fundamentals with 48 separate practice plans and 250 pieces of video content.

But it’s not just playing and coaching guidelines that are part of the Jr. NBA’s agenda.

This month, the Jr. NBA, along with its partner in Discovery Education, created a virtual field trip aimed at students to help connect sports with math. The 30-minute virtual field trip features a visit to NBA headquarters and to Madison Square Garden.

On Friday, the NBA will hold its first Jr. NBA Youth Basketball Leadership Conference in Chicago presented by Under Armour.

Tied to the NBA draft combine, the conference will bring together coaches, administrators and other basketball leaders to discuss the state of youth basketball and how the game can be improved at the grassroots level.

“We think we have a role to play in bringing together leaders in youth basketball to talk about issues and opportunities,” Krichavsky said. “We’ll have 150 or so leading coaches, administrators and league organizers and have a dialogue about where the game is at.”


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