2019 Jr. NBA Youth Basketball Leadership Conference

2019 Jr. NBA Youth Basketball Leadership Conference

On May 17-19 the Jr. NBA held their 3rd Annual Youth Basketball Leadership Conference in Chicago, IL. 

We, at Pro Skills Basketball, were lucky to be able to bring 14 of our PSB leaders, including City Directors, Office Staff, and Coaches, to the event where we got to listen to guest speakers and panels, participate in workshops, network, and attend a couple of socials. All in all, it was once again an outstanding event and we’re honored to have been able to take part.

Below are the thoughts, key takeaways, and favorite parts of the Jr. NBA Conference according to some of our PSB team members!

Jordan Kelley – PSB Denver, Girls Division GM

I recently attended the 2019 Jr. NBA Leadership Conference in Chicago. What a great time with our PSB team and other professionals at the conference. Even though I only attended the first day, I took a lot of useful things away from many individuals.

Here are the top 5 highlights and learning points from the conference:

#1 Mental skills training can take athletes, coaches, people in general, etc. to the next level

I was fortunate enough to listen to Dr. Tiff, President and Owner of X-Factor Performance, in our first breakout session. She stressed the importance of understanding our own mental state and being able to understand our athletes. As a Doctor of Sports Psychology, she expressed how much feelings and thoughts affect the performance of athletes and coaches.

I will definitely be implementing some of these strategies with the girls’ teams. Mental health is so important and I think teaching the girls about their own mental health and ways to control their state of mind could be very beneficial.

#2 “Do not forget why you’re doing this!”

In my second breakout session, we talked about developing a coaching philosophy. I took a couple of things away. 

Coach Katrina Merriweather, Head Coach of Wright State University Women’s Basketball, consistently mentioned “BE YOU”, “REMEMBER WHERE YOU CAME FROM”, and “BE HUMBLE”.

This really resonated with me. I am not there yet but I think it is really easy for some people in youth basketball to forget exactly why we are doing this and what our culture is

We are trying to create a great competitive and learning environment for kids to learn and have fun playing the game we all love. Do not get caught up in the madness.

#3 We need more females involved in men’s/women’s basketball

This topic was talked a lot about at the conference. However, the biggest problem with the discussion was actually “how to fix it?” or a “plan of action”. It’s one thing to say “we need to hire more female coaches” but it’s another thing to make sure that male/female coaches are constantly getting development to be better coaches.

Only 23% of coaches in college women’s basketball are females. This statistic was a complete eye-opener for me. I knew there were more men in the coaching field but this means that 1 in every 5 coaches in women’s basketball are females. 

So how do we fix this?

In my opinion, the solution is pretty simple but it may take time. First, more youth programs need to look for female coaches and help them develop as coaches. This will keep more girls playing and give young females the ability to connect with female coaches.

Second, women’s college basketball programs (at every level) need to offer more opportunities for women to get involved in coaching after their playing careers. I’ve never understood why most men’s programs have multiple GA positions but most women’s programs will rarely ever offer GA spots. This is a great way to introduce more young females to coaching and to help them get their foot in the door

Finally, for anyone who is coaching in women’s hoops they need to understand these 3 main things:


  • Make it fun and enjoyable while still being competitive.
  • Be sensitive to the emotions of others.
  • Confidence is huge – don’t kill it!


#4 Listening over talking

One of the best forms of communication is listening. I did not sit in on any communication sessions but I did try to listen closely to every person I talked to. The speakers on the panels also mentioned numerous times about listening to others.

One thing I really appreciated was when I talked to Coach Rick Carlisle, Head Coach of the Dallas Mavericks. I interrupted a conversation he was having to briefly introduce myself and mention my connection to his assistant coach, Larry Shyatt (former head coach at Wyoming). 

We probably chatted for less than a minute. After talking to other people, he found his way over to our PSB table. He had remembered by name, story, where I came from, etc. We even took a selfie. I enjoyed this interaction because it showed me that Coach Carlisle was listening to me as I was to him.

#5 “Right or wrong, make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.”

This was a quote that Dr. Tiff had expressed. It stuck with me because I think it revolves a lot around confidence, which is huge in women’s basketball. Whatever decision you make, stand by it and know that you are making the best decision at that time.

Throughout my PSB experience as a Girl’s Director in Denver, I have had to make a lot of decisions about life, work, tryouts, teams, and other things. I am confident that the decisions I made have put me in a great position supported by an awesome team at PSB. I am also confident that the decisions I made have affected our youth in a positive way. It allowed them to keep improving on a daily basis and have fun playing the game I love.

These are just some overall thoughts on what I had learned from the conference.

Now what to do with it all? 

I am in the process of coming up with a plan to implement the new information and ideas I learned.

PSB Coaches and Directors Join the 3rd Jr. NBA Youth Basketball Leadership Conference

Ross Schraeder – PSB Denver Director

Favorite Quote: 

Mastery of others is strength…mastery of self is true power.” – Lao Tzu

I believe this applies to every aspect of building a business, being a successful coach, being a successful player, and overall just living a healthy and balanced life

So many times, we are drawn towards looking at others’ faults or mistakes to define our own shortcomings as an individual or as a team. However, those shortcomings can only truly be embraced and improved upon when we look inward and fix what is inside of us first. 

Once we all learn to accept personal responsibility, we are then allowed to flourish to our maximum potential within the group or team.

Favorite Concept from Learning Lab:

The brain is plastic and use-dependent.” 

This came from the workshop “More than an Athlete: Supporting Total Wellness and Mental Health.” The main theme of the workshop was to allow coaches and leaders to focus more on just the physical characteristics of a basketball court or team and look at the whole person when dealing with the youth

Supporting the mental health of the youth is more important in their development so they can truly enjoy what they are doing on the court. The concept of the brain “being plastic and use-dependent” shows us that we are in a constant state of learning

The more we challenge our brain with uncommon (and common for that matter) tactics, the more we can find a sense of achievement and comfort in our performance within a group. We must train the brain as we would train any muscle in order to have more thoughtful, sharp-minded players who don’t play with a “stressed, reactive brain” but shift into a “proactive brain.”

Favorite overall aspect of the conference:

Simply being around hundreds of people who are passionate about teaching and coaching the youth of the country in a positive manner was the most encouraging and fun aspect of the conference.  

Many times, we hit roadblocks in dealing with the youth and trying to help them become better. However, we know that there are many others who are going through the same issues and figuring ways to get through those blocks. This gives me comfort to know that we are moving in a positive direction with what we are trying to accomplish at Pro Skills Basketball. 

We are not only making better basketball players but better leaders and members of the community as well!


Lena Estey – HR Director

The afternoon learning lab for mental health addressed issues that are rarely talked about openly and in-depth, as it relates to youth athletes. 

The way we were taught may not necessarily be the best way.

One of the points made by Sports Psychologist and consultant to the NBA, Dr. Derick Anderson, was regarding our own upbringing, specifically, the way adults were coached in their youth

In order to change the cultural landscape of sports and treat a young player as a whole person, we must accept that the way we were taught might not necessarily be the “best way”. The argument of “I was taught that way and turned out ok”, could be more accurately phrased as, “I turned out ok in spite of the way I was taught”. 

Pressure and Stress of Our Youth Today

The panel also spent time discussing the pressure and stress youth are faced with today. Expectations from parents and educators to overachieve, as well as the constant presence of social media, is compounded by pressures to treat sport with the same levity as school and family. 

At its best, sport is a major source of stress relief. When the source of stress relief becomes the stressor, young people lose what should be a healthy outlet and may struggle with anxiety and depression

Diversity in Age, Race and Gender

Both the attendees and the panels were diverse in age, race, and gender. This was an encouraging reminder that basketball is still one of the most accessible sports

It can be available to anyone who can get their hands on the ball and get to a park or a gym. Being reminded of the potentially broad reach the sport can have made me more aware that as parents, coaches, and administrators, our responsibility is to provide a fun and safe environment for youth to play without stress


JD Ey – Recruiting Consultancy & Assist Camp DIrector

I was most impressed by the Sports Innovation: Staying Ahead of the Game breakout lab.

The presenters were from Matt Mueller from Hudl, David Shapiro from Pixellot, Stefanie Lemcke from GoKid, Alex Wu from HomeCourt.  The panel was moderated by Jeremy Goldberg of LeagueApps.  

Key Takeaway: 

While youth sports are often (fairly) considered by others to be chaotic and unorganized, the expectations of consumers are increasing. These new and ever-changing technologies are enabling athletes, facilities, event operators, and youth basketball clubs to provide and enjoy a better overall experience. In order to meet consumer expectations, organizations need to continue to invest and technologies need to continue to innovate.

Hudl makes it incredibly easy for anyone to watch, cut and edit film – they are also entering the film capture space

Pixellot allows schools, facilities, and programs to capture and stream video with zero manual filmings.

GoKid is making the commute and carpool to practice and games as simple and fast as possible.

HomeCourt tracks shooting statistics – makes and misses, arc, leg angle, etc. and provides drills to improve your game, all from an iPhone. 


Overall, this was another great year of the Jr. NBA Youth Basketball Leadership Conference. In our opinion, this is one of the best events of the year for youth basketball leaders and coaches.

We’re excited to do it all over again next year!

If you want more information on the Jr. NBA, you can visit JrNBA.com and check out the conference you can click this link here.

Download the Ultimate Guide to College Basketball Recruiting

Click on the button below, enter your email address and zip code. We’ll send you the PDF of this guide for free.