A critique of coaches and the misunderstanding of learning

Last week, a friend attended a college basketball practice. As he watched, and grew frustrated by what he witnessed, he sent me a series of texts. The texts began:

The poor skill level in WBB is sickening.

I should mention that he watched the practice of a program with many highly-rated players that likely will be a top-25 team this season. To provide some context, my friend played and coached college basketball and has trained at least two All-Americans. I value his insight. […]

Importance of play: Learning from kindergarten and Bonobo apes

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, October 2012.

In Robert Fulghum’s poem, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten,” he writes, “Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday school.” In our attempts to make sure that no child is left behind or to qualify our child for the right pre-school to ensure eventual college and professional success, have we created a society where these lessons from the sandpile are no longer learned?

Later in the poem, he writes, “Live a balanced life – Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.” Of those qualities of a balanced life, how many are emphasized in our society, whether with children or adults? How many children draw, paint, sing, dance, and play on a daily basis? How much do we emphasize work over the other qualities of the balanced life?  […]

Elite Athletes Build Broad-Based Foundations

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, September 2012.

While in Paris, I marveled at the subway system. In the United States, as cities on the west coast attempt to develop subway systems, local governments are caught in a network dilemma: A network improves as more people join the network, but local governments cannot justify the expense to expand without more users. In Paris, subway lines crisscross the city: There was no place that was not easily accessible through the subway and a short walk. This is a mature network; as more people use a particular line, more trains are added, and the line improves in quality and speed. In Los Angeles, the problem with the subway is that the lines do not crisscross the city: Plenty of locations are completely inaccessible by the subway. Due to the inaccessibility, fewer people use the subway; however, to build the additional lines, there has to be a demand: It’s a catch-22.  […]

Playing time and performance benefits

Games frequently are compared to academic tests, and practices to classroom teaching. In this analogy, practices are viewed as the learning experiences, and games as the performance experience. One aspect of Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is that she tests her children frequently. testing is not just an evaluative task, but a learning task. […]

Time and the difference between coaching in college and coaching youth basketball

I watched the end of a college basketball practice yesterday and spoke to a college assistant from a different program. At the practice, I saw the team play two one-minute games in the last 20 minutes of practice; the coach spent the rest of the time talking or instructing (I could not hear as I was at the opposite basket). When I spoke to the assistant coach, he emphasized the importance of repetitions and doing things (running the plays) over and over again so that the players learned. […]