I grew up in Massachusetts and followed Fall River’s Chris Herren, mostly while he played for Fresno State and the Celtics. So for me, Jonathan Hock’s documentary “Unguarded”, which aired on ESPN this week, was a must see. Hock’s film did not disappoint and it was every bit as captivating as his other ESPN film, “The Best That Never Was”, about Marcus Dupree.
Herren’s story of addiction and redemption is garnering significant publicity, and rightfully so. But something else piqued my interest. Herren, who now runs a basketball school and various camps, has developed a clear idea of his coaching philosophy and the role that basketball should play in the lives of young athletes.
To paraphrase, Herren basically said that all kids deserve to play and feel good about themselves. He spoke of basketball more in terms of helping young people develop useful life skills than developing careers as elite athletes.
Intrigued, I also found an article by Sherwood Ross on OpEdNews.com that discussed Herren’s coaching philosophy and observations on youth basketball:
“I have a basketball camp with 100 kids,” he says, of whom 15 are good and the others really aren’t. “They’re just trying to stay busy and active and kind of fit in, and if a kid doesn’t fit into something I think things go sour quick for that child and I don’t want to start that process at a young age. I don’t want some girl never coming back to play a sport, because she had a bad experience at my camp. There’s no way that’s happening.”
Herren also discussed the role of parents and AAU in basketball:
“Parents are way too involved and the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) is way too involved, and I think that’s the problem.” He said his own sixth grader son had to travel two and a half hours to play for a weekend when he could have just played locally. Unfortunately, “there’s too much emphasis on success at an early age when you could (develop your talent) in your driveway, in your local park, that kind of stuff.”
Here is my favorite quote from Ross’ article:
The little 10-year-old girl with glasses is just as important, if not more, than the kid who already has a scholarship to Duke.
Herren offers an interesting perspective on the state of youth basketball. His story of recovery will surely inspire many, but his coaching philosophy may be equally inspiring to parents and coaches alike.