Making sense of generational arguments about skill development

I don’t understand the following argument:

“Players from previous generations had more skill.”

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“Players from previous generations were three-sport athletes.”

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“Players from previous generations played more pickup games.”

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“Players need to specialize earlier and train privately with individual coaches to improve their skills.” […]

Deliberate Play and Old-School Development

Originally published in Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletter 5.26. Now available in Kindle and paperback. Subscribe to the weekly newsletter here.

Basketball has split down the middle. Trainers and those who believe there are too many “meaningless” games, and players should spend their entire offseason doing drills represent one side. On the other side stands the status quo, an environment of weekend tournaments for 52 weeks a year, often with one practice for every three to five games. The old-school approach is forgotten: nobody combines workouts with open gym runs or pick-up games at the park. Regardless of whether a coach or trainer is pro-training or pro-games, he or she favors a coach-centered, structured environment. […]

Searching for elite athletic talent

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, January/February 2016.

During a recent u14 girls soccer game, I watched the younger brothers play 3v3 tackle football between the fields. The parents were invested in the soccer game, and they never bothered the boys who ranged from 8 to 12 years old. The pickup football game was more interesting. There were no parents shouting directions or intervening when there was an argument or an injury. The boys figured it out on their own.  […]

Movers to athletes to specialists

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, October 2015.

As their 13-year-old daughters played in their first soccer game of the spring season, the mothers discussed their dedication to their children, and their children’s dedication to the game. One mother spoke about her older daughter, a high-school sophomore, who missed the fall soccer season because of knee surgery. This caught my attention, and I scanned the field: Four of the 22 players – 12 and 13 years old – on the field wore bulky knee braces indicative of some form of injury.  […]

Youth sports: What has changed and what needs to be fixed?

Every day, I read another article that is critical of youth sports. Identifying the problems is easy, but few articles suggest real, practical solutions, and I am unsure whether the suggested solutions would make a practical difference and alleviate the problems.  […]

Grassroots basketball development and the escalation trap

Grassroots basketball is a dynamic system, and as with other systems, it is susceptible to certain traps. One trap is the escalation trap:

 “Escalation, being a reinforcing feedback loop, builds explonentially. Therefore it can carry a competition to extremes faster than anyone would believe possible. If nothing is done to break the loop, the process usually ends with one or both of the competitors breaking down,” (Meadows, 2008; p. 125).

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Early Specialization Too Soon

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports and Fitness, May/June 2013.

As a seventh grader dribbled around his back and attacked the basket during a middle school championship game, the parents commented to each other about the quality of play. One mother explained that several players played on a year-round competitive team in addition to their school team. The year-round play likely helped their team win the game and the championship. Their skills were a little more advanced than their opponent; they made some free throws, and they made better decisions in 2v1 fast breaks. Of course, they also may have won because one player had more facial hair than I had when I graduated from high school or because they had the tallest, most coordinated player on the court. They also may have been lucky, as this was the first time in two seasons and four games that they had won against this opponent.  […]

The Importance of a Long Term Athlete Development Approach

Originally published by Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, January/February 2012.

When I coached a professional women’s basketball team in Sweden, I assisted my best player with her u15 girls team. When I returned to the States after the season, I assisted an u14 girls’ AAU team. The teams were vastly different. The U.S. team was bigger, faster, stronger, and more skilled. The team went to AAU Nationals and finished pretty well, top 12 if I remember correctly. They were a good team, and the core of the team had been together for several years and attended the same school. […]

Play Multiple Sports to Build Athleticism

Note: Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, May 2008 We generally do not allow sports science to interfere with our deeply held beliefs, even when the beliefs are more myth than reality. When I coached in Ireland, the young Irish players believed that basketball greatness was not in their genes. They felt that Read more about Play Multiple Sports to Build Athleticism[…]