“Basketball is the only sport where all you need is a ball and a hoop,” said Don Ruedlinger, president of Youth Basketball of America (YBOA). “You don’t need three or four people to do something.”
While true, YBOA is over 130,000 strong, so finding a game is rarely a concern. Ruedlinger founded the developmental organization in 1989, and has been striving to teach young people the game of basketball ever since.
“We’re for the everyday player, and the youth come first,” Ruedlinger said. “Our mission is to teach basketball and improve their skills. That’s what we’re all about. To bring them in and see their skills increase as they go along. And as they get better some will go on to high school, some will go on to college and some will make it to the pros.”
Derrick Rose, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Jason Williams and Jarrett Jack are among the former YBOA players who have advanced to play in the NBA.
“The cream is going to rise to the surface, and those who are going to achieve and move on, a lot of them have come through our program,” Ruedlinger said.
YBOA is a 501c3 non-profit organization that trains these young athletes through clinics, tournaments and leagues in 32 states and 23 countries.
“The reason we’re in other countries is because they have a real need,” Ruedlinger said. “We try to provide them with information about how to start programs. In a lot of cases we will send them T-shirts, cash or basketballs.”
In addition to basketball skills, the worldwide organization aims to promote personal growth, self-confidence, self-esteem and the ability to excel off the court.
“We do something that’s kind of unique in addition to just coming in and playing games,” Ruedlinger said. “We are the only ones who have what we call academic awards. We also have a humanitarian award, for a youngster that is active in his community, his church or his school.”
Vince Carter Sr. is an example of one of the high-profile and well-respected coaches that the organization employs to help achieve its goals.
“A lot of it is through the leadership, the coaches that we have who work with these kids,” Ruedlinger said. “That’s the one area that we’re always hoping to improve and teach because its difficult to get volunteers these days. We are looking to help build organizations that will continue to support the youth in their area, and will continue to develop more and more players.”
YBOA also supports other basketball and youth organizations in the U.S. and around the world without looking for retribution, knowing that they are all working towards the same purpose.
“We do a very good job of supporting these organizations,” Ruedlinger said. “We do more to support them than what they do for us financially, but we feel there is a really need to serve these youth around the world and develop basketball.”
So while it’s possible to shoot hoops with just a ball and a basket, it’s a lot more fun for the world’s youth to play on a team and learn as a team.
“We’re most basically a program that wants to develop youth,” Ruedlinger said. “We want them to enjoy it and have a good time playing basketball.”