The idea - in fact, the need - for UP Basketball came to me as I was winding down a multi-year stint as the President of a local youth basketball club with some 400 players (and, if my shaky math serves, about 800 parents). The kids - ages 5 to 18 - were almost always wonderful and, even when they weren't, never posed a problem that couldn't be solved with direct, honest communication.
That's always the way it was... until an over-wrought mom or dad would get involved. Then, all bets were off. As I liked to say to my fellow club exec members, "There's never a problem with a kid that cannot be fixed quickly, and with little drama. But as soon as parents are involved, it is rarely easy."
During my tenure as a volunteer Prez, I dealt with some doozies. And they were almost always related to the moment when a parent sees their son (usually daughters were exempt) enter adolescence and start to show athletic ability (that parents often mistake for giftedness), and not make the 'Division 1' team or not get enough playing time. The resulting issues were something akin to an extended episode of Survivor. Truth and fiction being strange teammates, my pal Mark, a successful TV writer, claimed it was a comedy that pretty much wrote itself. Atbest it was a tragi-comedy.
I grew disheartened. But I would not be defeated.
These few but foul incidents served to crystalize what I'd been thinking for years: Namely, that kids need 'free play' as much as they need plenty of sleep and proper nutrition. And, I knew, they need a whole lot less involvement from parents (including me). We adults love to drive our kids to and from games and practices, advising our young athletic charges in both directions. It's exhausting - for the kids. As for the parents, we seem downright indefatigable in our efforts to coach our sons and daughters to the NBA (keys in ignition... seat-belt on ...drive... blah, blah.... sip of coffee... blah, blah, blah...check the rear-view mirror... "Johnny, are you listening to anything I've just said?!"), advise the coaches, and (when the Saturday-morning java has really kicked in) berate the opposing team's fans.
It had to stop. At least, I thought so. So I launched Ultimate Pickup basketball. A few t-shirts, some donated gym time, snacks & water, a few folks around to keep the kids safe. It's my little stone tossed into the ocean of amateur athletics. But every stone makes a ripple, right?
If you want to know where the idea for UP got its true start, I'd have to go back to 1979 and a guy name Terry Symonds. Or even further back and farther away, to New York City and the Harlem legend Holcombe Rucker. But that's another story....
Come back if you want to hear it.