I recently attended the Basketball Manitoba Round Table discussion and AGM. The bulk of the discussion around the room was trying to solve a riddle of basketball in our fine province. Without a doubt, basketball in this province is growing. The number of people playing, watching, officiating and coaching the game has increased dramatically in the last 8 years. The incredible popularity of Winnipeg Minor Basketball, fall and spring Rising Stars Leagues, the emergence of several club programs and the recent expansion of Steve Nash Youth basketball league are all evidence that game of basketball is thriving in this province.

The last 2 years of graduating high school seniors were the first group
of WMBA athletes. That is to say that they were the first groups of
kids to have really grown up playing basketball from a very young age. 

The question that many people at this meeting had was: Why then has the level of play in the province not improved?
We have more people playing than ever before, more organized
basketball, more opportunities to develop and play year around but our
elite teams do worse or no better nationally than they ever have. This
seems to make no sense. 

The problem in my opinion can be summed up in one word, said best by Allen Iverson in this famous clip .... Practice!

We are at a time where players are playing more games in more leagues
than they ever have before. But, what they are doing less of is


We talkin' about Practice!"



Problem # 1 Gym Space

On the surface, basketball may be better suited to the club system than the school system, but
what the clubs do not have is gyms. This leads club teams to have 1 practice
a week while playing at least 1 or 2 games/week. The high school
system is not much better. My high school team last year practiced 45
times and played 36 games. A better ratio, but still not good enough. I can
only imagine how much better my team and all the teams would be if we
had at least a  2:1 Practice to game ratio. Basketball is game that is
highly dependent on motor skills and quick decision making. The only
way to improve this is by repetition, repetition, repetition.


"Practice?... We talkin' about Practice?"  


Problem # 2  Perceived Value to Parents

Club teams can be very costly. Parents will often pay several hundred
dollars for their child to play on these teams.  Parents want to see
value for this money. A game has obvious value, there are referees,
score keepers, uniforms, gym time and possibly even travel costs. All things they see their money
going towards. A practice has much less perceived value. Their child goes to
a gym and does a few drills with a volunteer coach. The bottom line:
parents want to see value and that means GAMES not practices.


"Not a Game, Not a Game, Not a Game...a Practice!"


Problem # 3 Athletes only look for the run.

There is only one way to get better at shooting, passing and
ballhandling fundamentals. Go to the gym or your driveway or the play
ground and practice with proper technique, over and over and over
again, every day for many years. Long-term athlete development people
will say that in order to have a chance of being a world class athlete,
a person needs to practice for about 10,000 hours. For those you
keeping track at home that works out to 3 hours/day, 7 days a week for 10 years. These experts will also say that the most effective time to put in this time this is between the ages of
14-17 years old. There are fewer and fewer athletes of this age willing
to just go to gym and take 1000 jump shots per day. They look for some pick up
basketball, go to the gym and just play.


"What are we talking about?...Practice?"


Problem # 4  Too many adults

Adults go hand in hand with problem #3. The only basketball that young
athletes play is highly structured programming run by adults. This is
not always a bad thing. However the presence of adults does not allow
kids to grow and develop fully. As adults, we do much of the decision
making, problem solving and leadership for the kids. These valuable
experiences are lost when kids are constantly in structured adult lead
environments. Even worse, the fun is often taken out of the sport experience by adults.


Problem #5 Lack of coaching and teaching resources.  

have the utmost respect for the many parents out there who are
struggling to coach their child's team not necessarily because they
want to, but because no else wanted to do it. For most of these new
coaches putting together a quality practice, teaching proper
fundamentals and habits can be very difficult given their limited
training. Games are much easier for these people to work. Just make subs, shout
words of encouragement and have fun. Practices have to be planned,
organized, structured, players might ask questions and you might have to
demonstrate some of the skills you trying to teach. That can be scary.
These coaches need as many drills, hints teaching techniques, and gym
management strategies that can get to try to get the most out their
limited time with these young athletes. 


Problem # 6 Under-Coached Technically, Over-Coached Tactically

It seems like more and coaches are modeling themselves after the NBA. Play calls every trip down the floor and teams that use 5 different defenses, all of them executed poorly. The problem with all of this sophistication is the time that is needed to implement all of it. Time that is usually taken from practicing fundamentals. A former coach of mine had the mantra: "Don't teach them plays, teach them HOW to play."


"We not talkin' about games, We talkin' about practice!"



Disagree? Something to add?  Think players are better today then ever? Think we should play more games? Think A.I. had it right? I welcome your comments or criticisms below.  Register or login at the top of the page to leave your comments below.

Kirby Schepp

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