I am writing on this subject as a parent and not as an advocate or expert on basketball.
I started my kids in YMCA basketball program at 3 years old. The youngest kids practice 30 min before their 30 min little game on Saturdays usually at the YMCA. The fee for members is very minimal. You can participate even if you are not a member for a higher fee. I never expected too much. The coaches are volunteer parents. Some years you get great coaches sometimes not so much but this is true in all of life This is one things you have to keep in perspective with youth sports. At the end of the day this person is volunteering their time and we are a better community for those selfless enough to do so. The kids get reversible jerseys because they play each other and one has to be home and one away. The refs are usually high school kids. The rules are moderately enforced and it is definitely entertaining. You can tell those who will dominate almost immediately and some just get their daily jog following the crowd back and forth. It is a good place to learn, not a lot of pressure, and there is room to make errors. We participated in YMCA for a few years with all 3 boys. My oldest we started in another recreational program but a little higher level in 2nd grade.
In 2nd grade we switched to Fairfield Township basketball (ftybl.com). This is still recreational but they play in age groups with 8-10 teams in each age usually. They are co ed that first year but then go into boys and girls teams. They have paid refs that are adults (at least over 18 years old). The coaches are volunteer parents. The league starts at kindergarten and goes through high school. We were impressed by how it was ran, scores were kept, traveling was called, and it felt like a real game of basketball even at the younger ages. The other two kids followed suit the next year. All 3 boys played for years in this program until my oldest decided to quit in 7th grade and my youngest decided he wanted to wrestle as his winter sport. You would think that winter would be slower time in our household but all of the boys also participated in indoor training and leagues for soccer as well.
Basketball was still just one practice a week and games on Saturdays (except for the tournament). Games were played at the local schools against other Fairfield Township teams. Uniforms came with a shirt and shorts combo. They do end the season with a tournament. The Championship game is usually played at the High School in the big gym with score boards, National Anthem, an announcer, music, trophies, and cutting down of the net! It is sooo cool! My middle son just completed his 7th grade year and was actually undefeated the whole season and tournament champs!
This year I was able to take an active role on the Board and did score keeping for additional games. I was able to do this with my son who learned how to do scoring and got paid for it! It was a great time to spend with him and to give back.
The older they get the more even the playing becomes. They have a small tryout in the beginning of the season. This isn’t to see if you make a team. If you sign up and numbers even out you make a team this just gives coaches a very quick opportunity to see how you handle the ball, what you look like, and who they may want to draft. The league we are a part of has a “select” arm of it as well. They are called the Warriors. There is an actual tryout for this team or teams. Some ages have more than one team. If you don’t make a team no problem you are still able to play for one of the other teams in the league.
Of course even in my community there are other leagues in Upward (upward.og) or i9 sports (i9sports.com). I have friends who have kids in hose leagues as well and are definitely worth looking into.
The higher level or select groups are AAU leagues are found around here and everywhere as well. I have friends who coach and have their kids in those leagues that you could get information about. I could even get some additional information for you if you reach out to me at [email protected].
I am sure you may have a community center or city teams that have leagues for basketball. Googling the youth basketball and the city you live is a good start! A lot of time flyers come home from schools. You can ask your schools as well. You can find information when you sign your kids up for camps held at local high schools for the youth programs they know about or support during the year.