Club Basketball is a little like Windex. The cleaning agent. Sounds strange, but allow me to explain. As a young kid, I grew up thinking there was only one product used to clean windows, Windex. After all, that’s how my mom would always refer to the popular blue cleaning solution. “Can you add Windex to our shopping list,” my mom would scream, as we climbed into our 1987 Ford Aerostar minivan. It wasn’t, Grab the glass cleaner. It was, Grab the Windex. You can imagine my surprise when I grew older to learn that there were actually several types of window cleaning solutions lining the grocery store shelves! “Windex” was just a catch-all term to which my mom referred all things window cleaning.

Club basketball, and its cousin, AAU basketball, are kind of like that bottle of Windex. Many would argue that too often club basketball is lumped into that one-name-does-not-fit-all-but-is-often-used (and overused) category.

What is club basketball?

Club basketball can encompass many things. Often, however, if a youth basketball organization defines itself as a club team it means that the organization is more competitive, operates year-round, has coaches that might receive some kind of compensation, and, the team probably requires a monthly fee of its players. A club basketball team might also travel to play tournaments, and, most importantly, a club team will probably dictate higher expectations of its players in terms of skill level and player commitment. Another distinguishing characteristic of many club teams, they may also be a registered AAU basketball team, or, registered with other nationally certified organizations, which largely enables it to participate in higher level tournaments with exposure to college coaches and scouts.

Shooting For Success, located in San Antonio, Texas, home to the legendary Spurs, is a competitive basketball club team. In fact, it has several teams in various age divisions within its training-focused organization.

Shooting For Success is a registered AAU organization and is also a subscribed member with the Jr. NBA organization. But when it comes to how it prefers to refer to its teams, Shooting For Success Founder and Coach, David “DJ” Jones, says his organization is a competitive club team with a unique structure and approach to club ball.

Shooting For Success’ teams practice and play year-round. They practice multiple times a week and players are expected to attend open gym hours too. In addition, coaches are compensated for the time, energy, and professional player experience they bring to the program. With monthly club dues come some pretty nice perks though, like discounts for its seasonal camps and clinics.

But here’s the thing that many say distinguishes Shooting For Success from other competitive club teams: They don’t cut. They develop.

At Shooting For Success, Jones has an underlying philosophy which guides how he runs his club teams: He rarely turns a player away. Makes sense for this former professional player turned trainer whom nicknamed The S.A. Shot Doctor after he “fixed” Jeremy Lin’s broken shot, helping to catapult him into the NBA.

“If I see potential, I will develop it,” Jones says.

For that reason, Shooting For Success has structured its competitive club teams into multiple levels allowing for each and every player to get ample play time and the opportunity to develop.

SFS Club Teams

SFS Select

On the SFS Select team, players must be invited. The team is highly competitive and travels often during open AAU season to compete in ranked tournaments. Also, on SFS Select, play time in games is earned. That means a player may play the whole game or he may play two minutes. In addition, most players on Jones’ select team are basketball-first or basketball-only athletes. Players are expected to train, in some capacity, nearly seven days a week. They attend three to four team practices weekly, and, they usually hit Jones’ open gym on their own time too.

SFS 11U Club Team Wins ACA League in San Antonio, TX and competes up to semi-finals
SFS 15U Club Team Places in Adidas Gauntlet Qualifier in Dallas, TX

Also, many of Jones’ “select” players have lofty basketball goals. Goals like playing basketball in college or professionally someday. These are dreams that Jones not only believes in full heartedly but supports by assisting (Varsity) select players with the NCAA recruitment process and ensuring players are on top of opportunities for exposure such as attending camps and showcases.

SFS Black

Players who are on Jones’ middle-tiered club team can expect to experience huge growth. And here’s why. The SFS Black team not only plays very competitive league games and may play an occasional tournament, it also practices and scrimmages often with Jones’ Select Team.

For players like twins, Ty and Cruz Kirwan, who are two-sport high school athletes, being placed on Jones’ Black team has been a great experience, according to the boys’ father. Both boys made their high school Freshman ‘A’ team and held starting positions. Nate Kirwan credits their achievements on the court to playing competitive club ball under Jones in an environment that has continually challenged them.

“We have watched Ty and Cruz’s game grow immensely playing basketball with Shooting For Success” Nate Kirwan says. “By placing the boys on the SFS Black Team, Coach DJ has given the twins an opportunity to step up, lead, and be true contributors. They have gotten to multiple positions and gained tremendous confidence in their game as a result.”

Cruz (left) and Ty (right) Kirwan play for Jones’ Black Team and Johnson High School

SFS White

SFS’ White Team is a developmental team, and proudly so, Jones says. Jones acknowledges that some club or AAU basketball teams will not or cannot take players whose basketball fundamentals or IQ need more work. Jones doesn’t like this. Coach Jones says he believes in creating a basketball and training environment where, if a player demonstrates SFS’ core values and has potential skill-wise, he or she deserves an opportunity to grow and play ball. “As a coach, there is nothing better than to nurture and develop a player,” adds Jones emphatically. “When you get see how far that athlete can go over time, it’s great.”

On SFS White, players will work on fundamentals as well as have the opportunity to scrimmage against SFS Black and SFS Select teams in a full-speed environment. When SFS White beats or outplays the Black or Select team in scrimmage play? “Oh, there’s nothing better for the team’s morale,” smiles Jones. 

At SFS, player potential is huge

Here’s what is key in the set up of Jones’ competitive club teams: All club players have an opportunity to move teams. Jones may move a player up to a higher level team. In addition, he may choose to move a player down.

“No position on a team is etched in stone,” says Jones. “Players have to work hard, be dedicated, and perform to keep their spot at any level.”

With all three levels, Coach Jones says his goal is to introduce players to healthy competition so they can ultimately improve their game as individuals and as a team. Jones constantly searches for the right balance and level of competition that challenges players but also doesn’t leave them totally overwhelmed.

Why club basketball?

Jones says the idea behind playing competitive club basketball is two-fold. First, it gives a player an opportunity to play a lot of basketball. This develops a player’s skill, game IQ, and the all-important core values Shooting For Success is built upon, such as; leadership, commitment, respect, confidence, perseverance, work ethic, and the ability to handle wins and losses with dignity. Second, club basketball, at the higher level, offers players an opportunity for exposure. This is huge for players looking to play college or professional ball. When Jones deems his team or players are ready, the team will enter ranked tournaments often attended by recruiting scouts and college coaches.

In the end, no matter a player’s level, the sport of basketball has a place for everyone, somewhere. Whether that is competitive club basketball, C-Y-O ball, school ball, or simply playing a pick up game with friends at the park, basketball is a vehicle for good health and staying out of trouble. It is an opportunity to grow not only basketball skills, but life skills.

Erin Kirwan is a former broadcast news anchor and reporter and Founder of Savvy Media PR. She shares stories, information, and more for Shooting For Success.