“Everyone involved in RiseUp! has a common goal to put the youth in our communities in a better position in life, keep them motivated, and expose them to positive situations that will help them make the impossible, possible,” Johnson explains.
Because of these goals, instead of joining an existing program, Johnson wanted to start his own program from scratch.
“The #1 key to starting a new AAU program is organization. This is the most important step because it encompasses all the aspects of your program and it determines the success of your program,” Coach Johnson says.
“The second key is being as transparent as possible with the parents and players. Let them know the expectations & cost associated with the organization.”
SIMPLE BUT FLEXIBLE GOAL-SETTING
“Our goals are simple but they change every summer,” Johnson explains. “Honestly, they may change during the summer season. You really don't know the talent level of your players until they start competing. Therefore, the goals at the beginning of the season will change.
“You want to set your goals based on the talent level of your team. Yes we want to win every tournament, but we are realistic and know that will not happen. With our players, a lot of them are new to the AAU scene, so based on our program our goals are simple:
Build confidence in all our players.
Build team chemistry. This is very important because the players and coaches will spend a lot of time on the road together.
Aim for the future and not for the present. This means we are building our youth up to prepare for the next level. We always compete in the next division up from ours. You can only get better if you compete against better, stronger competition.
“Wins are important but in our program, we are building character, developing skills, and exposing them to different environments.”
WINNING THAT FIRST TOURNAMENT
“The highlight of our summer thus far has been capturing our first tournament trophy,” Johnson says. “Just to see the excitement and expressions on our 13u Golden Knights team was priceless. At the beginning of the season, we were getting blown out by 40 and 50 points. The coaches and players kept pressing forward, and now both our 13u and 16u programs are looking extremely good.
“More than anything else, though, I have been impressed with our players’ attitudes and development. The majority of our players train with our RiseUp! Elite Sports Academy, and they have developed tremendously. That makes us proud and feel good about our program, but most importantly it shows us that it is working.
“We still have a lot of room to improve our basketball skills, though,” Johnson reminds. “The beautiful thing about basketball is you can take all your weaknesses and turn then into strengths, which in essence will take your game to an entirely new level.”