The lack of fundamental development in youth basketball is alarming. Over the last few months, I’ve watched more bad basketball than I ever care to watch.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care that players are either good or bad. That is irrelevant. What bothers me is the lack of teaching, development, and accountability that goes on.

The first and most fundamental skill is conditioning. Too many players aren’t in shape. It’s more than extra running or lifting more weight. It’s how they take care of themselves. Today’s athletes are so much more susceptible to injury because of their lack of sleep, decent nutrition, proper training, and an overabundance of playing. It’s not just bad for the game. It’s bad for their health now and in the future.

It’s amazing to me how these most basic needs are the first to get ignored.  We’ll spend thousands of dollars for this trainer, that AAU team, this camp, or whatever else.  But we won’t make sure we eat and sleep right.  So because we don’t take care of the first thing, it becomes even harder to take care of the more basketball-specific things. Players can’t move well. They can’t focus and they absolutely can’t execute skills as a result.

I could probably stop right here since it seems like the most important thing is completely ignored in so many situations.

I won’t though because coaches can only have so much of an impact on what happens when players aren’t in the gym. So let’s address what coaches can control and either can’t or don’t.  I don’t know if it’s because they think it doesn’t matter much, or if they don’t know how to do it.

There are too many players who can’t get open, pass and catch, dribble, make open shots, play defense, make layups, or any of the other basic skills that we work on daily.  If players were only in the gym one day a week, I might understand.  The problem is that they aren’t.

They are with this trainer, AAU team, and high school program for hours and hours each week. They are probably spending time with a parent, sibling, or other relatives “working on their game.” The money isn’t the issue either.  It’s the time that they are spending “on the grind” and getting nothing out of it. They can’t be doing anything truly productive, because if they were they would be better. When you compound all of this wasted time with a lack of proper sleep, nutrition, and fitness, the result is athletes who are physically broken down and mentally broken down too. They already aren’t taking care of themselves, so all the extra time and reps are wearing them down even more both physically and mentally.

The fact that I watch some of the players that we work with be so unsuccessful bothers me.  What are we doing wrong?  But the truth is if we weren’t working with them, their role on the team would probably be less than what it is if they even make the team.

We say it all the time.  The environment matters.  And there are a lot of really poor environments out there. It only hurts the players, the only people that really matter.  Forget scholarships or anything else.  Their experience is terrible. It’s not fun.  They don’t get better and I can’t imagine there’s much winning either.  So now they pay for more trainers, more recruiting services, and waste more time because the environment is terrible and they think it has to be that way. They don’t really know that it’s bad, because they’ve never been around anything that’s really good.

The thing that I also know is that players aren’t stupid.  They know if they are learning and getting better or not.  The problem is that they feel trapped.  What else are they supposed to do?  They are kids.  Who is going to have their back?

If they say anything to coach, it’s disrespectful. What are the parents supposed to do? Switch teams again? Throw away the money that they paid and pay for another team or trainer. If it’s school related, transferring really isn’t an option for a lot of players, and for high school sports, maybe it shouldn’t be.

Athletic directors aren’t in practice every day.  Even if they were, would they even know how to evaluate what’s going on?  We have to do better. Some coaches think they know it all. Some coaches don’t care. How many coaches are out there that truly want to help players get better and can admit they need help to figure it out?

So many people play basketball growing up.  Whether it’s as simple and basic as the driveway or professionally, basketball is a very popular sport.  Just because you have played at any level doesn’t mean you can teach someone else how to play.  There are too many “Captain Obvious” coaches out there. It does no good to yell “make a layup” or “don’t turn it over”.  Players aren’t stupid.  They know when they mess up.  As coaches, it’s our job to help them get better; as a whole, we are failing miserably.

I can’t identify a problem without a solution.  So here it is.  Coaches of basketball teams must complete certifications.  These certifications must go beyond the basics of “don’t abuse children”. Coaches must show an ability to evaluate an athlete’s skill set and teach them how to improve.  They must show the ability to meet the athlete where they are and help the athlete improve.  They must be able to connect to different mentalities and approaches.  They must be able to identify different learning styles and how to help each athlete improve at the fundamentals of the game.

These are not combo moves.  This is not the fancy stuff.  Until players have absolutely mastered the basics, they can’t be held accountable for the fancy stuff.  Until coaches have mastered the basics, they shouldn’t be allowed to do the fancy stuff either. If you can’t teach a 5-year-old, you shouldn’t be allowed to coach.  Not that you can’t teach and show players the fancy stuff to help make the basics more difficult. But at the end of the day, can they perform basic skills in competitive situations?  That takes a lot of time and patience.  It’s something that many coaches don’t have.  They want the finished product.  They don’t want to take the time to develop players.

While everyone is looking for the finished product, we’re building basketball players from where they are.  One day at a time, one hour at a time, and one rep at time. If you are willing to really put in the time and effort that it takes to be good, come see us.  if you want to learn how to help build basketball players from the ground up, we can help you.

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