The NBA is bolstering its commitment to youth and basketball with innovative strategies to improve and increase youth involvement. The most recent high-profile effort was the league’s first Jr. NBA World Championship held in early August 2018 in Orlando. This tournament featured girls and boys divisions with American and international teams. The NBA secured an agreement with FOX Sports to cover the event for three years. The tournament is evidence of the league’s amped-up approach to youth sports under the guidance of Commissioner Adam Silver, an outspoken proponent of the NBA’s increased involvement in grass-roots basketball.
The 2017 Simmons National Consumer Study found that basketball is the leading team sport among American youth with over 20 million children participating. As the numbers continue to grow, the Jr. NBA program demonstrates the NBA’s focus on enhancing the basketball experience for young athletes, coaches, and parents. While the league has always implemented programs for children to connect with them and help them learn the game correctly, it has stepped up its efforts to ensure that everyone involved in youth basketball is having the most positive experience possible.
The NBA has collaborated with USA Basketball to draft rules and health standards for encouraging participation and making the game more attractive to youth. Currently, about 26 million youth around the world are playing in the Jr. NBA program, and more are anticipated to join. The league is not working to replace AAU and other youth travel sport programs; it hopes to partner with those groups to cultivate and protect the kids who play sports. The NBA is striving to provide guidance and improve the caliber of coaching.
In May 2018, the NBA held a Jr. NBA leadership summit in Chicago with over 300 attendees that included NBA team representatives along with tournament and program directors from many youth basketball associations. The meetings addressed management challenges such as building better programs, developing best practices, and ensuring that the USAB and NBA guidelines are applied properly. Participants also discussed and learned about running practices with excellence and managing issues that impact children regarding wellness.
The NBA is increasing efforts to connect with pre-collegiate basketball as well. Considering the league’s recent strides in youth basketball, it will be no surprise if the NBA employs the same methods to the higher, elite levels of youth basketball. The league is currently involved in intense discussions with the NCAA and other influential figures to determine what more can be accomplished there.