I was a derelict parent!

I’m Shishir, a parent of a kid playing in the NJB West San Jose this season.

By sheer chance, I also got roped into volunteering – not just any volunteering – but joining the board of our NJB Chapter! This is my first tryst with volunteering for my almost 12 year old son.

The big lesson learned? My wife doesn’t consider ‘derelict’ too harsh an adjective!

I also learned about the dedication of the parents who make NJB happen for the vast majority of us who want to check-box our volunteer time. Hey, before you complain about being dragged into this, remember – I made my *wife* click the checkbox, so I could live guilt free. For 12 years!

Honesty is hard business.

The NJB season is off to a great start. There are still things to do, but the dust is settling on a very large volunteer effort to ensure that all our kids have an enjoyable season of basketball.

In my newly assumed role, I got a insider view into how an idea like “love of the game” gets translated to the reality of 3 hours of practice and a Sunday game with guaranteed play time for our kids.

It was eye opening for me – and while a bit early to tell – has cured me of my dereliction. Read on to learn the inner workings of how your kid gets to play basketball three times a week.

Volunteer roles

There are generally three kinds of volunteer roles –

First, the parent coaches – head & assistant – without whom the rest is meaningless. They take on the responsibility of helping develop 9 kids in addition to their own. For ~6 hours a week. One can only thank them and wish all the goodness of life their way. I mean, who but the noblest of humans, volunteers to care for 10 kids?!

Then there are the touchpoints that you experience as a parent – registration, evals, uniforms, gym schedules, practice, games etc.. Based on feedback, most of you can think of at least one improvement in this area – hint, hint, help us fix it.

Finally, there is an equal if not greater amount of volunteer effort that happens behind the scenes – team drafts, gym and game scheduling, handling significant amounts of money, ensuring compliance to letter and spirit of the law/rule, logistics, and many more.

Parents who do all this are the unsung hero(ine)s of your child’s basketball journey.

Some interesting facts I learnt – With 430 kids (43 teams!), the West San Jose chapter is among the larger ones in the Northern California league of the NJB. It takes ~80 parent volunteers, $200,000+ (~80% is gym costs!) and many 1000s of hours to make this happen.

The statistics, while impressive, do a disservice to the passion, commitment and professionalism exhibited by the parent volunteers who ensure your child has a great basketball experience – as fair and as close to the rules of the game as possible.

The story of how your child got drafted

As a parent, it’s most exciting to learn your child got drafted into THE team, THEIR team.

The season start

Before the season begins, there is a call for parent coaches. Based upon the available coach pool, size of divisions is estimated. There are 10 kids to a team – ideally, we need 20% participation (head and asst coach/team). Reality is a bit lower. The Board does what it can to augment with non-parent coaches and high school students. But this has it’s limits.

We use a service to provide for the registration process itself, so that’s kind of smooth. The procrastinators among us create the most excitement at this stage. However, as long as we can find the coaches, it’s not too bad.

The Evaluations

NJB is a volunteer league, providing for a supporting environment for all kids to get a fair amount of play time. But don’t let that fool you – we are still playing basketball. Winning is where it’s at.

The coaches get it. Being privy to the insider view – I can tell you, regardless of the age group, the coaches are dead serious about winning. Short of getting into fist fights, they do everything possible to get a strong team.

Evaluations are where that process begins.

We collect some basic stats – age, school-grade, height. Give the kids a penny (numbered vest) and get them on court with their peers to evaluate their basketball skills.

Initially, I didn’t appreciate how serious this process was. The coaches are quietly observing the kids as they work through the drills and then the scrimmage, making notes and rating the kids relative to each other.

Once the coaches have rated each child in the division, the evaluation process forks into two parts – The first is anonymous, and attempts to treat each child fairly and aims to arrive at balanced teams that have a reasonable chance of winning. This leg attaches average scores across coaches to a penny number and associated data to rank-order the kids.

A second, completely personal journey of a coach, aims to draft the best possible team they can, to garner every advantage they can, with a goal of composing a “winningest” team.

The Drafts

Once the kids are rank-ordered, it’s published (as the Master Draft List) to the coaches and It’s time for the Drafts.
Armed with a list of each child, being represented by

  1. a pinny number,
  2. height
  3. school grade
  4. average rating
  5. photograph
  6. a coach’s personal opinion/notes (skill evaluation breakdown and notes)

The number crunching begins.

On draft day, the coaches for a division gather in a room, along with a few officials from the chapter – the player agent, the division coordinator and some others. A lottery is held to decide draft order among coaches. The coaches get to trade their drafting positions. From this point on, strategy rules. To ensure fairness, the coaches pick in snake order – illustrated below.

Draft in snake-order
Draft in snake-order

As expected, kids ranked higher get picked early. The coaches are also guaranteed their kids on their teams. To ensure balance between teams, the coaches get assigned their kids at the start, but skip their pick in the projected round in which the kid would get picked.

Between this and the snake order, it ensures fair balance between teams.

Once the draft gets going, the coaches fight hard to get a strong team – moving up and down the draft to pick a special player they want – be it for height or speed or strength or skill. Remember the personal notes they took? It’s incredible how much the coaches start relying on those past the first two-three rounds.

With the draft completed, the coaches have one last chance to trade players. Once settled, the officials present sign off on the roster and the teams are locked in.

THAT, dear parent, is how your kid got to being on a team. Exciting ain’t it?

The evaluations and the drafts are two places which can seriously impact how the kids experience the basketball season – any hint of unfairness will render unbalanced teams. I am really happy to report that these two sub-processes are squeaky clean – More than one person at every stage, clear chain of custody of all data, well-defined hand-off points and great traceability should questions come up.

Considering that this is all a volunteer effort, one can only marvel at the smoothness of it all.

Thank the coaches next time you see them – we all owe them. They fought hard to have your kid on their team!

Fun fact #1: if you have ever wondered why carpool and friend requests are not supported as team formation criteria, this is it folks. It messes with the balance of the teams.

Fun fact #2: You can completely (and totally legitly) game this system by signing up to be a coach/assistant-coach. Think about this – you get to control the team composition, get brownie points with your spouse, kids, neighbors AND be called a noble human being by ~400 sets of parents. How many times does life give you a deal this good?!

There are many such behind the scenes episodes one could get into – however that’s a race between me running out of jokes or you getting tired of me. Both are real, neither is fun. But you know what, you can volunteer and next season, use your own jokes and insight!

Why you should volunteer for the NJB

The great thing about volunteering – YOUR kid gets better at Basketball!

While causality is hard to establish, it’s statistically improbable that so many of the parents who volunteer have kids doing really well in the NJB. Whether it be an extra training session outside the NJB they learn about, a relationship with a coach they can foster, other benefits of belonging to a close knit community – parent volunteering is highly correlated to the kids playing better.

Leave the checked-out parent behind and unleash the “tiger” parent inside of you! You know you want to!

The NJB makes it really easy – you don’t need to know basketball, or make large commitments of time, in some cases, you don’t even have to get out of your jammies (for real!).

Ever wanted to know if you can balance the books for an organization? Ever wanted to manage events? Organize teams of people? Or just make stuff happen? NJB provides opportunities for all of these. Heck, even your social circle will expand. Just do it so you have a bigger holiday party!

You can start small and see what best interests you.

How can you help?

By now, I know you are chomping at the bit to get involved. Here’s are some immediate and longer terms roles that our chapter needs help with. Make the next level of commitment to your child’s basketball game

For any of these positions, please reach out if you have questions. We’ll happily hook you up with current/past incumbents to get a deeper understanding of each role.

Become a Coach

We need as many coaches as we can get. Kids have had to be turned away because of a lack of coaches! Especially in the Rookie league.

NJB hosts coaching clinics for free. If you are even slightly interested, please sign up. There is no commitment required. The worst case, you help coach your kid in your backyard!

Best to sign up as an assistant coach and grow into a head-coach position. You’ll be well prepared for the next season.

Basketball knowledge: High.

Basketball skill: medium to high – depends a bit on the age group.

Time commitment: ~9 hours/week during season. ~6 hours for eval/drafts.

Nobility Level: Highest. You’ll be in the running for a spot in Heaven (eventually, not because!).


There are multiple positions open for this season and next. 

2017 Season

For those of you who can’t wait to get started.

Gym Scheduler [URGENT NEED]

Does the scheduling for gym-times based on various constraints – coach preferences for time-slots, availability of various gyms, holidays and such. Typically bursty time requirements – needed once or twice a season. Can work from home. All communication done via a spreadsheet.

Basketball knowledge: none.

Basketball skill: none.

Time commitment: 8-16 hours beginning of season, <1-2 hours/week

Easy points: – the promised jammie role!


Game Staff Coordinator

Starting with existing lists, recruit staff for all games – referees, score-keepers, gym managers. (Referees only for Rookie games). Record the time worked and submit necessary forms to treasurer for payment.

Basketball knowledge: low – can be learnt on the job.

Basketball skill: none.

Time commitment: 8-16 hours beginning of season, <1-2 hours/week.

Easy points: 500,000. One has to get dressed, but otherwise, it’s easy


Gym Operations Coordinator [x3]

We are spread across three gyms this season –

  1. Monroe Middle School
  2. Rolling Hills Middle School
  3. Campbell Middle School  (Ideally a Rookie Division Parent)

Each needs a Gym Operations Coordinator. They manage gym logistics – game and offices supplies needed for game-days. Point of contact for any gym issues.

Basketball knowledge: low – can be learnt on the job.

Basketball skill: none.

Time commitment: <1-2 hours/week.

Easy points: 500,000. Easy. Beginning & end of day monitoring, can be done remotely once things settle in.

2018 Season


Voting board position. Responsible for all internal chapter operations.

Basketball knowledge: not necessary

Basketball skill: none.

Commitment: Among the most serious commitments. Great leadership opportunity.

Easy points: 0. This is one for passion


Voting board position. Manages all chapter finances.

Basketball knowledge: not necessary

Basketball skill: none.

Commitment: Serious. Requires managing the books.

Easy points: 0. Great for testing your financial accounting MOOC in real life

Girls Player Agent

Voting board position. Manages the Evaluation and Draft process during team formation. Works with division coordinators, coaches, parents and players. Helps resolve any persistent player issues.

Basketball knowledge: low.

Basketball skill: none.

Commitment: Medium ~30 hours, mostly at season start.

Easy points: 500,000. Requires some periods of intense work, but otherwise easy.

Please reach out to president@westsanjosenjb.com for more details. If in doubt, please talk to existing/past incumbents to get a better feel for the specifics of a role.