Today’s players need backyard basketball to hone skills

How many of you played backyard basketball? A hoop attached to a garage in your neighborhood where you played 3 on 3, 2 on 2, 1 on 1, or just worked on your shooting or played Long and Shot, 21 or Copy Cat with a buddy or two.
I can remember growing up in the 1950s and being lucky enough to have my dad put up a hoop off the garage with a four-foot extension so we wouldn’t run into the garage. There was a big tree at the end of the driveway with a big branch extending over the yard in line with the other basket.  My dad put a backboard off that big branch.
It was great to have two hoops and clearance under each basket. The court was about 50 feet long and 20 feet wide. My dad put a big light off the house so we could play at night.
I spent countless hours there working on my shot. Basketball is the one team game that you can practice the main objective by yourself. You, the ball and the basket.
You build skill by repetitions and we certainly got a lot. By yourself, you could work on your dribbling skills, ball handling, coming off screens (chairs) and  your passing skills by bouncing the ball off the side of the garage.
The court was just right for 3 on 3. How many times did we shovel off that court in the winter just so we could play more basketball?
How many times did we cover the backs of our hands with Vaseline so they didn’t crack and bleed, just so we could not have to play with mittens or gloves?
Back in the 50s in Bangor there were only a few gyms. The old original Bangor Auditorium, the old Bangor High Gym on Harlow Street, the 5th Street and Garland Street Junior High gyms, the old Bangor YMCA gym on Hammond Street, the Bangor Seminary gym on Hammond Street and the Mary Snow Elementary gym off Broadway
There were four elementary  schools, Abraham Lincoln, Mary Snow, Larkin Street and Hannibal Hamlin. Each team had a  teacher as a coach. The only gym available for those teams to play or practice was at Mary Snow and we got to practice there once a week and played our games on Fridays and Saturdays.
The only other place we got to play inside occassionaly was at the Y.
The two junior high schools each had a school team and also intramural basketball for those who did not make the school team.
In high school we had intramurals for those who did not make the JV or varsity school teams.
Back then basketball was the only winter sport for boys at any grade level. We would have more than 100 boys try out for 12 varsity spots and 12 JV spots. It was very competitive just to make one of those teams.
The only other place to play indoor organized basketball was at the Bangor Y on Saturdays in the Church League for junior high and high school boys who were not on school teams. The Y sponsored vacation tournaments during Christmas and February vacations.
I was fortunate enough to play on school teams all the way through my basketball years, but that didn’t mean we didn’t play on Saturdays or Sundays in the backyard if we didn’t have school games or practices.
Today, you seldom find kids at any level playing backyard basketball or working on their game,  in the spring, summer or fall, let alone in the dead of winter.
They usually only play inside on organized teams, they don’t get the repetitions that we got by playing all the time in the backyards. Players don’t shoot the ball as well as we did back in the 50s and that is because we played so much and shot around so much. We didn’t have computers, cell phones and video games to monopolize our time.
Five of the first seven players on the 1954-55 Bangor High School team that won the state title, finished third in the New England tourney and went 22-2, played  regularly in my backyard all the way through grammar school to high school.
In fact, we used to play on Sundays when we were in high school during the season, until one Sunday during my senior year, the coach came by and saw us playing and asked my father take  the rims down  for the winter.
Ah, those were the good old days — I guess I am showing my age.
Yes, today’s players are better athletes playing basketball, but they are not better basketball players playing basketball. They haven’t spent the time playing enough backyard basketball where we learned from our mistakes and then could make good basketball decisions — especially when it was winners stayed in, to play again.
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