The Cleveland Cavaliers Youth Basketball program has come home. With its mission to inspire future generations to grow the game of basketball and to motivate the youth of their fan base to make championship choices on and off the court, the Cleveland Cavaliers have brought their three-tier youth basketball program in-house, a move that has added benefits for youth participants.
“We want to be good stewards of the game for our fans, wherever they may be,” says Seth Roberts, Senior Manager of Organizational Group Sales for the Cavaliers Operating Company. “Our youth basketball program gives parents a place to send their sons or daughters to learn basketball fundamentals from accomplished coaches who teach elements of the same training program provided to Cavaliers players.
Learning the Cavs way
The newly reimagined youth basketball program is broken into three parts.
The Junior Cavs Program is a league affiliate program that partners with programs like the YMCA and other youth athletic programs in the community to support and enhance their existing programs. The Jr. Cavs platform provides instruction and training opportunities to parent volunteer coaches through Coaches Clinics and curriculum guides, and also provides perks such as Cavs jerseys and tickets to Cavalier games for the youth participants.
Cavs Elite offers groups of 50 or fewer participants a program that emphasizes competition, but also provides opportunities for advanced players to show off their skills in 3-on-3 match ups. The Cavs Elite program also serves as a foundation for a “High School Hoops Series,” which hosts Ohio High School Athletic Association sanctioned high school matchups at Quicken Loans Arena before Cavs games. High School athletes are provided with the experience of dressing in the Cavs’ locker rooms, playing their own game on the Q Arena hardwood and then staying to enjoy a Cavs game.
Considerable focus has been put on the third youth basketball platform, Cavs Academy. Cavs Academy is the organization’s official youth basketball camp and clinic arm, which hosts on average between 150-200 youth athletes at each event.
“We’ve run seven clinics since October and each of them have sold out,” Roberts says.
Cavs Academy curriculum is developed in part by the Cavaliers Coaching Staff. Cavaliers Director of Player Development and Assistant Coach Phil Handy has taken elements of drills being taught to Cavs players and incorporated them throughout the programming taught at camps and clinics.
“Some of the drills are exactly those run by Cavs players, and the concepts and philosophy behind them are also being passed along,” he says.
Camp curriculum begins with warmups and station work that emphasizes different skills, such as shooting, dribbling and passing, before moving on to more advanced skills, adding slightly new elements each day to each station. The afternoons reiterate the skills & execution, then test the players to see what they’ve learned through gameplay, working through 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 competitions. The structure provides an element of fun with a focus on skill development.
Aimed at boys and girls of all skill levels ages 5 to 14, the clinics occur twice monthly from September through May and are one-day events that typically last three hours. The Cavs Academy Summer Camps take place during the summer from June thru August over five days from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with children getting dropped off each day in the morning and picked up in the afternoon.
Ohio’s basketball ambassador
Part of the recent success to the new platform is the effort by the Cavaliers to turn youth basketball from a program that lives mostly in Northeast Ohio into a program that encompasses the entire state. With the Cavs being the only NBA team in the state, they take the duty of becoming an ambassador for the sport for all of Ohio very seriously.
“We’ve gotten many requests for camps and clinics from local communities as well as those located throughout the state. They want the Cavs to be the home of basketball for youth of all ages and all levels of ability in Ohio,” Roberts says.
No matter what a child’s skill level, there’s always something for them to learn. Those just starting out and more advanced athletes each have skills and drills tailored to them in a way that’s fun and helpful, building confidence along the way. Throughout the program, each player’s progress is charted and feedback is provided. Athletes also come away from each clinic and camp with a Cavs-branded drawstring bag, a Cavs Academy jersey and a basketball.
“Developing basketball fans and young athletes is a priority across the entire Cavaliers organization,” Roberts says. “We’re looking forward to improving on the youth sports program and continuing to provide fun and educational growth opportunities for young people as they develop their skills and learn to play ‘Cavaliers Basketball.’”