What I have learned from summer league basketball


Courtesy of Flickr

The WJ boys basketball team maximizes its offseason time by participating in various local leagues, and holding weekly workouts. The general consensus is that playing on the summer league team gives players an advantage come December when the real season starts.

Before showcasing their skills under the bright lights, high school athletes begin the preparation process long before the actual season. It is common for WJ sports teams to participate in various leagues outside of their primary season. The boys’ basketball team is a year-round operation, playing in a fall, spring, and summer league in addition to the primary winter season.

Whether coaches want to admit it or not, it is a known fact that playing on the summer league team can increase your chances of making the team in the winter. But outside of that, the value of playing summer league is often a point of confusion. As someone who is currently playing in their third summer league season, I have found that playing summer league can be best understood as placing an individual investment into the team as a whole. This investment will ultimately pay off for the team in the long run. But as an individual, the harsh reality is that you may never reap the benefits of the work you put in during the summer.

From my experience, playing on the summer league team is more about team continuity than individual development, as is often the case with high school sports.

Having built trust with your teammates can go a long way when you get to the fourth quarter of a close divisional game during the season. With that being said, you spend much of your time during summer league buying into a system that you may not even be involved in once December hits. For someone who is trying to improve as a basketball player, playing summer league may not be the best option to fill this bucket. I can’t speak on other sports, but with basketball in particular, there are numerous ways you can improve on your own during the offseason, without the financial burden of AAU basketball, in order to put yourself in a position to make the team. For example, developing ball-handling and shooting ability on your own, and diligently working at these fundamentals for months on end. I can attribute much of my own success to this very process.

Some athletes fall into the trap of believing that summer league is a direct reflection of what their role will look like in the real season, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve learned this the hard way, and seen this process play out among teammates, to their deep disappointment. All it takes is a few transfers to show up for the whole team dynamic to change, which is exactly what happened this past season on the basketball team.

“By participating in summer league for both basketball and football, you can familiarize yourself with your future teammates and coaches. While it is very helpful, not playing summer league isn’t something to stress over as it doesn’t hinder your chances of playing when the real season starts. It’s just important to make sure you keep working and getting better everyday,” junior Daniel Kenvo said.

At the end of every summer league season, coaches usually address the team with something along the lines of “It’s great that you were able to play summer league with us. But just remember, once tryouts come around, everyone is on an even playing field, and what you did over the past few months doesn’t matter much anymore. Everyone has to earn their spot all over again.” I used to brush this remark off, but over time, I have realized that there is more truth to this idea than I was giving it credit for. Earning your spot can mean different things to different people.