For young women who play basketball in high school, the odds of going on to play Division I college ball are 88 to 1.
That’s why it’s so incredible that 100% of the girls playing with the 17 teams of the Northwest Magic got college offers. Vanessa Selden-McClendon, who holds the record as third all-time scorer at The University of Oregon, founded the premier league in 2009. She agreed to share some of what makes her Northwest Magic program so — magical.
“We have one goal, and really we strive to hit that ultimate goal in everything we do,” she said. “Our goal is to get all of our girls to the next level.”
Here are 4 ways the Magic Premier Youth Basketball Program is hitting its ultimate goal.
Skip What’s Expected; Focus On Your Goal:
The youth basketball industry can get pretty intense. The workload for players, coaches and directors — as well as parents, can be downright rigorous.
From coast to coast, some teams can play as many as three or four tournaments a month for three or four straight months. Vanessa questions this idea.
“At the end of the day, what’s the point?,” she asks. For us, playing in tournaments just to play in tournaments doesn’t help achieve our goal.” Instead, the Magic spend time training, scrimmaging, and prepping at Mike Flynn’s Blue Star Basketball Camps.
By spending more time with college coaches and scouts, and less time at local and regional tournaments, Vanessa says, Magic players are more exposed to colleges and better prepared to play in elite US Junior National Events.
Have a Strong Off-The-Court Plan — And Start Early
Putting the time on the court in front of college coaches and scouts is important. But it’s also important to design and stick with a serious long-term plan for off-the-court.
To help with some of the recruiting heavy lifting the majority of the players in the program use technology recruiting platforms, like Captain U, SportsRecruits, ConnectLax, NCSA.
“Players input their information, such as position, or year you graduate, and then that information is matched with colleges. It’s a great place to start and weed out schools very early in the process. Plus, it really helps the parents and the girls set more realistic expectations.”
There’s also a very specific, long-term plan for each girl in the Magic. They begin research on schools during the players’ freshman year. By sophomore year, they should have their selections down to 20 schools. By the end of their junior year, each athlete has narrowed it down to 10 schools. When a player’s senior year starts, she should be at five schools and be taking visits; by November, she should be ready to make her decision.
Build a Family Culture
The Magic’s success on the court and in recruitment is incredible. But Vanessa is most proud the girls’ off-court success. “We’re building good people. We have a saying here: Magic, Family, Together.”
To ensure family-like cohesion is built off the court, Vanessa surrounds herself with staff members, coaches and leaders who have a passion for girls’ basketball and are dedicated to teaching life lessons through sport. Everyone on staff must be focused on developing and highlighting the players’ game, growth and development.
There’s also a strong foundation of mentorship among the players. College players, home for summer or winter break, are usually the first ones to show up to the high school girls’ team practices. Some even guest coach for a limited time. The Magic recently hired a former player as a new coach, which Vanessa says she found really gratifying.
“It really feels great, when things come full circle. I’m proud of the way our girls have truly embraced the ‘pay it forward’ mentality. They feel like they are forever a part of this team and their passion for the Magic is clear years after they’ve graduated.”
Harness the Power of Technology
Technology has really helped scale the Magic and allowed Vanessa to focus on growing the game of women’s basketball in Washington.
Over the last three years, Vanessa experimented with several different technology solutions to solve some of the challenges she and her program were facing. One program she tried helped the Magic create a beautiful website, but scheduling and registration issues piled up. Another streamlined communication but wasn’t optimized for other areas the Magic needed to achieve their goals.
“I needed a technology platform to match the product on the court,” she said. “LeagueApps has definitely done that for the Magic,” Vanessa says. “I haven’t even scratched the surface yet with what’s offered. And everyone has been so amazing in getting us set up so quickly.”
Keep delivering that Magic Pride to the next level, Vanessa.