Northbrook basketball lessons built on fun
John Karzen, left, and two of his coaches, Mike Brual and Ken Prebble, are among a staff of more than 20 instructors who love the game of basketball | Jackie Pilossoph~Sun-Times Media.
John Karzen Basketball
2860 Old Willow Road
Updated: October 9, 2012 8:50AM
NORTHBROOK — John Karzen describes himself as “not the most mature person in the world,” and said that’s one of the reasons he’s been so successful in his career as a kids’ basketball instructor and coach.
“I know what kids are scared of, I know what they like, and I know what motivates them,” said the 43 year-old owner of John Karzen Basketball, a business he started out of his brother, Jerry Morse-Karzen’s tennis club, North Shore Racquet Club, located off of Willow Road in Northbrook.
John Karzen Basketball offers a variety of indoor and outdoor basketball and combination soccer and tennis classes for kids from age 4-14. The youngest players are the Little Dribblers, who get basic instruction and drills in a weekly one hour class. Karzen also offers an in-house league, pre-travel classes and a travel team that competes in tournaments all around Chicago.
It started in 1999, when North Shore Racquet Club began offering tennis camps for kids. Owner, Morse-Karzen came up with the idea to add basketball instruction as an option for campers, and asked his younger brother, John, who at the time was in graduate school at Northwestern University to help out.
“I’ve been teaching tennis at my brother’s club since I was in high-school,” said Karzen, who played tennis at the University of Michigan, but who has only played basketball socially in leagues and pick-up games.
“I learned how to be a teacher when I was teaching tennis, and I think I’m a really good teacher,” said Karzen. “Kids respond to fun, and if you’re really into it, they sense that. You can’t fake it.”
Julie Nimesheim has three boys who play at John Karzen Basketball.
“This is a phenomenal program that offers kids the chance to compete in a very positive environment,” said Nimesheim, “There’s a huge emphasis on good sportsmanship and fair play.”
“John teaches life skills as well as basketball,” said Jill Factor, whose 12-year-old son, Michael, has been in Karzen’s programs for years. “He can motivate them and help them develop both as players and as people.”
“You make it funny and fun and approachable on their level,” said Karzen. “And then you sneak in the teaching.”
Karzen employs three other full time coaches, and 20 part-time assistants, who he said all love the game of basketball.
“I look for people with energy, and passion,” said Karzen of his coaches. “I tell them, ‘You’re the adult but that doesn’t preclude you from being on their level and competing with them, even if you beat them.’”
“Every teacher we have had has been patient and very enthusiastic,” Nimesheim said.
Karzen is known for using prizes to motivate his students, and said kids respond to material rewards. He gives away stickers, hats, Steak and Shake gift certificates, jerseys, wrist bands, and Gatorade. He once gave one of his kids two tickets to a Bulls game.
“My classes are about three things: getting better at basketball, getting exercise, and improving sportsmanship,” he said, “Fun is involved in all three of those.”