ELITISM - IS EYBL BAD FOR BASKETBALL?
Elite Youth Basketball League, better known as EYBL, is Nike's attempt to put a stronghold on girls basketball. The concept in its purest form makes since, put together the best teams possible, play in a national league where each game is important to your standings, have a playoff system to crown a true champion. Sounds great right? There, however, are some inherent flaws with the system and it's not necessarily Nike's fault.
The major problem is with Nike's competitors, there are none. Nike didn't create a monopoly on girls basketball it was handed to them. Nike's chief rival was Adidas until 2008, that's when Adidas parted ways with Michael T. White without a plan. White, their point man in girls grassroots basketball and one of the most influential people in girls basketball that many would say that White paved the way for girls club basketball as we know it, attracting many teams and players away from the AAU circuit. The biggest miscalculation by Adidas was not reading their contract and realizing that White owned the rights to the Deep South Classic, Top 10 All-American Camp and (Adidas) Nationals. Adidas now without any teams, tournament or point man tried to bring all three together with some strong arm tactics and a little trickery, they miserably failed with poorly ran tounaments and subpar teams lacking the top players who had scattered. Meanwhile, White maintained success holding his tournaments, but had a bit of up and down with the apparel, namely shoes. Starting with his own signature shoe the Michael T. White's (on the Reebok platform), then moving to a partnership with Fila, both failed as the shoes where not very fashionable and were extremely uncomfortable. White has gotten out of the apparel business and is back to doing what he does best, running quality events.
Back to EYBL, with Adidas out the way and some half hearted efforts by Under Armour to outfit some girls teams, Nike seiged control keeping it's core teams and adding a few high level defectors into it's stable with funding and gear subsidized from it's boys programs. The result, many of the top teams and players in the country are on an EYBL roster.
So is EYBL a good thing? The argument can be made on both sides, as on Wall Street for the 1% it is wonderful, but for the 99% (actually more like 90:10) it is the worst thing out there. You may ask "what's the downside?" Well to start off, events and teams become watered down as an EYBL tournament is going on, many major level division one players are playing on those teams, college coaches know it and that's where many head. Another drawback is that many evaluators "follow the money" and park at EYBL games on the main court and fail to see many talented EYBL level kids playing in other events. The third and probably most damging issue with EYBL is the need to win games. This becomes a problem because everyone won't be able to play every game. Because of the inherent competitive nature of EYBL a team with a 12 player roster may play 8 players in its big games with the lights on and coaches watching. Players 9-12 who are not only good enough to play but good enough to start and star on many teams can only sit and watch, secretly hoping for a teammate to get in foul trouble or get injured. They are caught in a catch 22 as they can't really leave and go to another EYBL team because of either NCAA boundary rules or EYBL transfer rules and going from EYBL to non EYBL would be a culture shock. So what happens to the 9-12? They sit and wait for for a mid major to offer as it is widely assumed that if you are on an EYBL roster you are good enough to play division one basketball.
The issue in the DMV is that there are theoretically 6 EYBL teams that can draw from the DMV pool BWSL, Fairfax Stars, Philly Belles, Team Takeover, Carolina Flight and New Jersey Sparks. All of these teams are either in the DMV or boarder one of it's states. Another local issue is that these teams will not play each other in local events and will only meet if mandated by EYBL in one of the tournaments.
So, with everything said if your child has an opportunity to play with an EYBL team, should she? Obviously it should be considered, if just for increased exposure or for certain monetary aspects. If your child has an opportunity to sit on the bench for an EYBL team, should she? This is a business decision each parent will have to make individually to see what's in their childs best interest. At the end of the day some kids will benefit from EYBL, some will benefit despite EYBL, but most will take the more conventional route and still be successful. In a few years will EYBL benefit the game as a whole or will it leave a hole?