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DocDrew’s Swish Issue 6, Volume 4

By Dr. Paul Drew

Welcome to the sixth issue of volume four of Swish, a weekly periodical with recaps and photos of Santa Monica YMCA youth basketball games, and other pertinent info such as announcements and updates from the program.

The past two weekends featured exciting summer league action with Santa Monica YMCA teams going up against YMCA teams from Culver-Palms, Westcehester, and Collins and Katz of West LA.  As we ended the YMCA Summer league, all teams were clicking and gelling, featuring fun games for all of us to watch.

Last week, the Santa Monica YMCA had Fall season skills evaluations for new players and those who are returning but didn’t play this past Spring season.  It’s always wonderful to see new youth players giving basketball a try for the first time. Special thanks to Pete Arbogast for coming to help with the player evaluations, and guiding me through the process in my first full season trying my best to emulate what he has done for this program after resurrecting it in 2011.  I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him, thanks Pete.

Kids’ Gaming Obsession Isn’t Really About the Games | Psychology Today

It’s about unmet psychological needs.

Nir Eyal

Automatic You

Many parents are concerned with their child’s seemingly obsessive video game play. Fortnite, the most recent gaming phenomenon, has taken the world by storm and has parents asking whether the shooter game is okay for kids.

The short answer is yes, Fortnite is generally fine. Furthermore, parents can breathe easier knowing that research suggests gaming (on its own) does not cause disorders like addiction.

However, there’s more to the story. A comprehensive answer to the question of whether video games are harmful must take into account other factors. Fortnite is just the latest example of a pastime some kids spend more time on than is good for them. But parents need to understand why kids play, as well as when to worry and when to relax.

Addiction, Really?

The word “addiction” gets tossed around quite a bit these days. It’s not uncommon to hear people say that they are addicted to chocolate or shoe shopping, but if it isn’t causing serious harm and impairment to daily function, it isn’t an addiction. It’s an overindulgence.

This isn’t just semantics. An addiction involves a lack of control despite adverse consequences. Parents may worry that their kids are addicted, but if the child can pull themselves away from a game to join the family for a conversation over dinner and shows interest in other activities, like sports or socializing with friends, then they are not addicted.

Generally, parents panic when their kid’s video game playing comes at the expense of doing other things, like studying or helping around the house. But let’s be honest, kids have been avoiding these activities for ages. Equally true is the fact that parents have been complaining about their unhelpful children well before the first video game was plugged into its socket.

In fact, moderate video game play has been shown to be beneficial. A study conducted at Oxford by Dr. Andrew Przybylski revealed that playing about one hour per day enhanced psychological well-being, while when taken to an extreme, playing over three hours per day, was correlated with less well-being.

The real question should be what is it about the special draw of gaming that makes it the preferred pastime of so many millions of kids? What makes it so difficult for even non-addicted kids to step away from video games sometimes?

The answer has to do with the way games address basic psychological needs.

What Kids Are Looking For (And Not Getting)

Fortnite, like any well-designed video game, satisfies what we are all looking for. According to Drs. Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, people need three things to flourish. We look for competence — the need for mastery, progression, achievement, and growth. We seek autonomy — the need for volition and freedom of control over our choice. And finally, we strive for relatedness — the need to feel like we matter to others, and that others matter to us. Unfortunately, when considering the state of modern childhood, many kids aren’t getting enough of these three essential elements.

School, where kids spend most of their waking hours, is in many ways the antithesis of a place where kids feel competence, autonomy, and relatedness. There, kids are told what to do, where to be, what to think, what to wear, and what to eat. Alarms and bells orchestrate their movements with farm-chattel precision, while teachers opine on topics students couldn’t care less about. If they’re bored and want to go, they’re punished. If they want to learn something else, they’re told to be quiet. If they’d like to go deeper on a topic, they’re prodded to stay on track. Of course, this isn’t every student’s experience, and different countries, schools, and teachers use different approaches to educate kids. But while some argue that discipline and control provide structure, it’s clear why teachers and students might struggle with motivation in the classroom.

Gamers feel competence when they practice strengths to achieve their aims. In a game, players have the autonomy to call the shots, do what they want, and experiment with creative strategies to solve problems. Games are also social outlets where players can feel relatedness. In Fortnite, for example, players often meet in the virtual environment to chat and socialize, because doing so in the real world is often inconvenient or off limits. Whereas previous generations were allowed to simply play after school and form close social bonds, many kids today are raised by fearful and overworked parents, who insist their kids either attend a regimented after-school program or stay behind lock and key at home.

We shouldn’t be surprised when the confinement kids find themselves in today often yields behaviors we don’t understand and don’t like. Games satisfy psychological needs that other areas of life are not satiating.

Of course, none of this is to say video games are a good substitution — quite the opposite. While a well-designed game attempts to satisfy these needs, it can’t come close to the deep satisfaction that real life and real human connection can provide.

No game can give a child the feeling of competence that comes from accomplishing a difficult task or learning a new skill on their own accord. Fortnite can’t compete with the exhilaration that comes from the autonomy of exploring reality, where a child is free to ask questions and unlock mysteries in the real world. No social media site can give a kid the sense of relatedness, safety, and warmth that comes from an adult who loves that child unconditionally just the way they are, no matter what, and takes the time to tell them so.

Some kids suffer from gaming disorders, but such dependencies are often coupled with preexisting conditions, including problems with impulse control. This, of course, does not abdicate companies from their moral responsibility to help problem gamers. It’s time they implement policies to identify and help those with disorders.

For most children, however, parents understanding the deeper truth behind what kids are getting out of games empowers them to take steps to give their children more of what they need. It also helps parents get into a state of mind to talk rationally about overuse, instead of succumbing to the hysterics and moral panic that our parents used to try and force us to stop listening to rock ’n’ roll, watching MTV, playing pinball, or reading comic books. Video games are this generation’s outlet, and some kids use them as a tool to escape the same way some of us use our own flavor of dissociative devices to tune out reality for a while.

Instead of repeating the mistakes of previous generations with heavy-handed tactics, let’s understand the psychological source of the problem. Ultimately, the parents’ goal should be to help kids learn strategies for coping with overuse on their own so that they do what’s good for them even when we’re not around. By teaching self-regulating habits, promoting intentional gaming, and helping kids find suitable alternatives, parents can help kids find what they are really looking for.

Be Vulnerable and Give up Some Control

As studies show, there’s nothing wrong with a moderate amount of gameplay. Looking out for symptoms of excessive use, while opening a dialogue about how much is too much, can empower kids to take control of their habits for themselves.

One suggestion is to make time to watch them play and try playing yourself. Become their biggest fan, and let them be the expert at something. Letting them coach you through a game will give them the feeling of competency they crave, while strengthening your relatedness.

Be vulnerable. Show them you struggle with tech overuse at times as well. Try letting them set their own limits for how much game time is healthy, and help them find ways to stick to the time limits they set for themselves instead of imposing yet more rules.  

If kids see their parents are on their team and not just an obstacle to their needs being met, the all-too-common adversarial relationship begins to change. When kids see their parents are not trying to stop them from having fun, but are rather helping them keep things in perspective and in the right proportion, they become allies instead of enemies.

This article was originally published on NirAndFar.com

Nir’s Note: This post was co-authored by Andrew Kinch and Nir Eyal. Andrew is the founder of GameAware, and Nir Eyal is the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

6-7 year olds

Photos by Casper Casparian

The two Santa Monica 6-7 year-old teams (team #5 Stars vs team #6 Stars) faced off.  With AYSO fall soccer season kicking off the same day, #6 Stars were missing at least a couple of their key weapons, but this was a fun game nonetheless.  Team #5 Stars came out swinging with fast breaks, and easy baskets with #6 Stars failing to transition back on defense quickly enough resulting in a 2nd quarter 16-4 deficit.  It wasn’t until the 2nd half when #6 Stars decided to rise from a seeming sleeping slumber. Benjamin Saunders hit an 18 foot jumper from deep to energize #6 Stars and trigger a run.  Luke Steelman had a series of steels and fast break conversion layups that put them within a 4 point striking distance.

By the end, team #5 Stars were able to secure their lead with strong play on both ends of the floor.  Sylvie Levitt, Laila Elliot, Teddy Franklin, Arya Nawathe, and Elliot Israels all chipped in on both ends of the floor for #6 Stars in a valiant effort, but in the end #5 Stars prevailed 26-17.   Submitted by Coach Holden Hayes 

In an end of the summer showdown, both Santa Monica Summer League teams matched up at High Noon on Saturday.

The Stars 1 team was designated the Away Team, so they reversed their jerseys for first time this summer.  The starting 5 of Stellan Haberli, Luca Samson, Kai Badat, Luca Anderson, and Rhys Scheflen got things going quickly when Rhys scored on a baseline jumper early in the 1st quarter.  Luca Anderson added several buckets and assists to the crowd’s delight. Luca Samson and Kai played their usual brand of strong defense and rebounding to close out possessions. Not to be outdone, Stellan Haberli brought his tenacity to the floor and recorded several steals and disrupted the offensive flow of the home team.  

After jumping out to the early lead, the Stars 1 had to withstand a couple of runs by the home team.  With 10 players in attendance, the mid-quarter substitutions brought in the 2nd squad. Dylan Geary, Ollie Harris, Miles Smith, Roman Gabriel, and David Casparian played a solid game together to keep the momentum going.  

Dylan, and Ollie both pulled down some clutch defensive rebounds to end an offensive run that closed the scoring gap to 3 points.  Miles showed off his improving passing skills to find his open teammates and even got a couple of shots at the basket. David really anchored the defense with his fearless rebounding and toughness.  But, he didn’t stop there. David went coast-to-coast on a few occasions to help extend the lead and put the game out of reach. Roman Gabriel added another basket to his season total when he banked in a long jump shot from 17 feet to close out the scoring in the 4th quarter.  Final Score: Stars 1 – 28 Stars 2 – 17. Submitted by Coach Charles Ellinwood

For the final game of the summer season, the Stars 1 Team matched up against Culver City’s Team 1.  

Culver City was strong from the start and jumped out to an 11 point lead.  Their energy and competitive spirit were much higher at the beginning of the game.  Good shots and extra opportunities were rare for the Stars in the first half. Then momentum started to shift.  A couple of shooting fouls against Team 1 yielded a couple of points on the scoreboard. 11 – 2 at the break, the Stars had their work cut out for them. The team needed to bring more effort and enthusiasm to be competitive in this game.  

David Casparian continued to provide a spark.  Leading by example, David was diving on the floor for loose balls, pulling down contested rebounds against much taller players, and scoring a couple more baskets in the paint helped to wake the team up and get the crowd involved.  Always agressive, Stellan Haberli was excellent on defense once again. His hustle in the first half alone helped keep Team 1 from adding to their score, keeping the game within reach. Kai Badat had a great all-around game; rebounding, defending, and scoring 6 points in the paint to close the scoring gap.  Roman Gabriel and Miles Smith brought extra energy in the 2nd half, helping to provide the defense needed to get the ball back and lead to some scoring opportunities. Theo Decordoba and Oliver Harris both contributed on the defensive end; grabbing steals and a couple of rebounds to keep the run going. 

Fresh off an AYSO match, Rhys Scheflen showed up in time to help his team.  The Stars’ energy was really good at this point and they were rolling. Rhys jumped in and made some defensive plays on the perimeter, moved the ball to open teammates on offense, and quickly scored a basket.  The game was getting close!  

Both teams went back and forth with the lead down to 2 points.  Down the stretch, Culver City was able to hang on and make a few extra plays.  A jumper in the paint to extend the lead back to 4 points, along with several offensive rebounds in the 4th quarter sealed the game for Team 1.  Final Score: Culver City Team 1 15 – Santa Monica Stars 1 11. Submitted by Coach Charles Ellinwood 

The final game for the Samo Stars Summer season was played vs Culver team 6.  Culver brought a tough group of girls and Stars had a couple tough girls of their own in Catherine Casas & Laila Eliot who played tight defense and aggressive around the basket pulling down numerous rebounds. Ben Saunders, Adam Norman, and Elliot Israels grouped together to agitate the Culver team’s offense as much as they could garnering a steal or two with a few rebounds.  Logan Cappiccille was a beast on defense with multiple blocks, rebounds, and connected for a basket and at least one assist. Tristan Hayes had a few baskets early and was active on both sides of the court grabbing rebounds and holding off Culver’s offense best he could. Luke Steelman lead the stars dropping many baskets including a couple coast to coast steal to layup conversions including tough defense the whole game for another excellent showing for this young guy.  Stars prevailed over Culver bringing a fun Summer season to a close. Submitted by Coach Holden Hayes

8-9 year olds

Stars action shots by Tom Chambers

In their second to last game of the season, the SM STARS played their best overall game of the Summer League this past Saturday. With all but two of our team’s players suiting up, the thirteen Stars players that played used their many weeks of intense practices together to display youth basketball at its finest. Moving and sharing the ball, playing swarming defense and grabbing numerous rebounds, the team got off to a fast lead that they never relinquished. Ryan Chambers sweet shooting and Joseph Zak’s driving layups led the way with 6 points each. Not far behind, Annika Cook, Jordan Blum, Dylan Kravitz, and Vaughn Elliot contributed 4 points respectively. Gavin O Brien, Ben Steelman, James Cook, and Miles Franklin each had 2 points, while Ryan Etemadia nailed a clutch free throw. Bella Karigar and Dominic Drew both had many steals, assists and rebounds.. Final Score 37-19.  Submitted by Coach Bill Kravitz

Santa Monica Stars enjoy receiving their medals for a great season.  Photo by Julie Elliott

9/14/19.  In the last game of the season, the Santa Monica YMCA Stars went up against one of the West Los Angeles YMCA teams that we had met before.  It was a great game with back-and-forth action. West LA jumped out to an early lead; however, the Stars were able to catch up and the game went back-and-forth throughout the second half.  In the final couple minutes, both teams traded shots, just missing the basket and the game ended up in a 19-19 tie, a perfect way to end the season for both teams with everybody happy. Baskets and points were had by Gavin O’Brien, Bella Kariger, Annika Cook, Jordan Blum, James Cook, Ryan Chambers, Vaughn Elliott, and Miles Franklin.  Assists were dished out by Dominic Drew, Dylan Kravitz, Ben Steelman, and Rayan Etemadnia. A great all around team effort by both teams. Special thanks to my co-coach Bill Kravitz for setting up the defense and offense, while I set the rotations. Submitted by Coach DocDrew 

Terrific photos of the Stars by William Steelman

9/14/19.  Team 5 closed out the season with a close 15-14 win last Saturday.  It was competitive throughout, with a balanced offensive attack by the Samo squad counteracting excellent long-range shooting by Culver.  Samo was down 3 points with 2 minutes to go before orchestrating a final comeback. A strong put-back basket by Sean Saunders cut the lead to one, and Theo Haberli hit a long off balance 2 pointer to put Samo ahead for good.  Great full court team defense shut down Culver’s offense in crunch time. It was a great team win, and highlighted just how much the team has improved during the summer session. Submitted by Coach Ralph Haberli 

Photography by Kurby Kariger

12-14 year olds 

9-7 A barn burner for sure. The Lakers played a very skilled and big Westchester team Saturday afternoon. The Lakers were down 12 in the first half but as usual showed great character on the defensive end of the floor and started to mount a comeback. The Lakers cut it to six at the half with huge contributions from Shiloh, Sebastian, and Rama on the defensive end. Sebastian was also rebounding everything in the paint against much taller players. The second half started and our zone press was clicking and now we were starting to hit three pointers, Nifty made three of them and had the crowd roaring with his free movement and confidence against the much taller players. Estevan and Dash were leading us as usual and were starting to pour in baskets while anchoring the defense down low. Milan, Luca, Taylor, and Noah all contributed as well but the Westchester team was very good so the lead they enjoyed remained at four with three minutes to play. We called a time out and went with our best five Nifty, Eli Levy, Estevan, Dash and Sebastian. I told the boys I was riding them to the finish line and that we needed to be very focused and poised to pull this game out. Sure enough we got a stop and a bucket from Dash cutting the lead to 2 with two and a half minutes to go. Westchester scored on one free throw, tough call, to go up three. Dash flew down the floor and was fouled with a minute left. Dash made two clutch free throws to cut the lead to 1. We desperately needed a stop and a bucket. Sebastian got the steal and feed Dash flying down the wing for a layup that just lipped out but he was fouled again! Dash again made two more huge free throws to put us up one with 30 seconds remaining. We called time out to discuss our defensive pride and once again our defense which has been our signature all year forced another loose ball and after a mad scramble on the floor, with kids diving all over the ball we gained possession and called our last time out. With four seconds left on the clock and a one point lead we inbounded the ball and the game was the Lakers 62-61! A true barn burner that left us all exhausted and exhilarated. This was truly a great contest that both teams deserved to win but our will to compete was the difference. I was very proud of all the boys especially those on the bench that cheered for their teammates to the very end. A very good Saturday for all.  Submitted by Coach Mark Ulrich

9-8 Blowout city. The Lakers came to gym for their last game ready to go and absolutely crushed a Culver City team that was not prepared for their aggressive nature. All ten of our players scored with Taylor closing the show with three beautiful baskets. Dash and Estevan each scored 16 in only playing half the game. Milan, Shilo, Sebastian, Rama , Sy, Ely Eng, and Eli Levy were all moving the ball and playing great defense. The game was never close and we pulled our press off after the first five minutes when we went up 15 points. We won 65-20 but trust me it was not that close. Our kids beat this team earlier in the year but it was much closer showing the kids that they have really improved. It was a great summer and the ice cream party we had after to celebrate was all the better with the big win. Personally it was very difficult to say goodbye to this group of kids who were so kind, light in attitude, and hardworking competitors while on the court. All in all a great summer for all of us.  Submitted by Coach Mark Ulrich

This Week’s Profile

Each week, Swish has a profile of a coach, player, or someone in the program who inspires all of us involved in Santa Monica YMCA basketball.  

This week’s profile is of two of our players and their parents that share a special bond between all of them.  Veronica Machala and Oliver Kowalczuk are veteran players to the Santa Monica YMCA basketball program. They are good friends that come to the YMCA to shoot around together, and have their parents meet to play with them and converse with each other.  

Veronica’s parents(Izabela and Wesley) and Oliver’s parents(Aneta and Peter) did not know each other prior to their children playing basketball at the YMCA.  Upon meeting each other at the YMCA, they all discovered that they had all immigrated from Poland, and a special bond was formed. Both families celebrate their heritage and their new found love for this country, by attending events and festivals together.   It’s amazing to see how it really is a small world after all, and how youth basketball at the YMCA can help bring families together, and make us all one big happy family.

Veronica and Oliver, and their parents were kind enough to answer my questions for the Swish:

DocDrew:  What do you enjoy most about playing basketball at the Santa Monica YMCA?

Veronica:  What I like most about playing basketball at the YMCA is being in a team with other players and having lots of fun.

Oliver:  Meeting new friends!

DocDrew:  Which are your favorite memories or moments during your playing career at the Santa Monica YMCA?

🏀

Veronica:  My favorite memory is when I joined my first team ever in the YMCA , and the excitement that it brings me playing basketball  

Olivier:   3 pointer buzzer beater, and my first season when he won my first championship.

DocDrew:  Who are your favorite players and why? 

😆

Veronica:  My favorite players are Marcin Gortat called the Polish Hammer ( Clippers no longer playing ) and Stephen Curry  from Golden State Warriors. Marcin Gortat is a Polish Basketball player who played for the Clippers, I’ve seen in some amazing games and watched him hustle. He’s the most successful basketball player from Poland, and he has such a big heart, and done so much good, even open a school in Poland and many basketball camps for kids and did lots of charities.  Steph Curry, because we have a lot in common ( we both love popcorn) … also because he is a great shooter and he inspires me.

Oliver:   Stephen Curry from GSW because he is a great shooter.

DocDrew:  What do you enjoy most about your child playing basketball at the Santa Monica YMCA ? 

Machala family:  Mostly that she has so much fun at the games and seeing her grow with her teammates as a team, knowing that she belongs to a great program that the  YMCA provides. It’s a blessing, we are looking forward to a great season and fantastic memories.

Kowalczuk family:  There are a lot of things we enjoy about Olivier playing at YMCA.  We love the passion for basketball and engagement he builds with every season here.  We enjoy watching him meeting new friends and getting socialized along with playing basketball at YMCA.  We love this way of spending a free time by him. He also improves his basketball skills and understanding of the game.

Polish Heritage Day Marcin Gortat number 13 with Clippers .  Photo by Izabela Jakuc
Oliver Kowalczuk with parents Aneta and Peter 
Veronica Machala with parents Izabela and Wesley

The Santa Monica YMCA basketball program isn’t just about helping kids to develop skills, it also helps to bring families together that lead to lifelong friendships that make all of us, one big happy family!

Thank you very much, 

Dr. Paul Drew, youth basketball coordinator at the Santa Monica YMCA,  editor and publisher of Swish

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