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.” […]

Monotony, pickup games, and free play

My newest book, 21st Century Guide to Individual Skill Development, features a chapter on pickup games and a section on free play. I argue that these environments are ideal for skill development, and I use examples from my development, as well as research, to make my point. Of course, most basketball people (such as Stan Van Gundy and Kobe Bryant) argue against games for skill development, and many people view the number of games during the developmental years as the problem with skill development in the United States.  […]

Whose game is it anyway?

This weekend, I refereed three under-9 boys soccer games (6v6) in a local tournament. At one point, there was confusion between the tournament rules and normal rules, so I stopped the game briefly to clarify with a tournament director. After roughly 10 minutes, the tournament director returned and changed the rules again. […]

The evolution of basketball, play, and practice

Kobe Bryant’s comments earlier this season about the lack of skill development in American players highlighted the angst felt by many who are involved with basketball in the United States. Whether right or wrong, basketball has changed over the last generation. I find it hard to argue that the U.S. cannot produce skilled players anymore when I watch NBA games with Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and others, but when I watch recruiting videos of 18 and 19 year-old non-elite players from the U.S. and Europe, I find myself favoring the European players (Of course, part of the argument that is missing is that I am comparing players who play for the junior national teams in their home countries to players who would be ranked well outside the top 250 players in the United States).  […]

The cost of overcoaching

When I was younger and nobody took me seriously (before my books, PhD, and professional experience), I made two comments on a Yahoo! coach’s forum that generated plenty of derision from the other members. The first was that we should coach players as if we were preparing them to play pickup games on the playground. The second was that many coaches would have a more positive effect on their teams if they walked into practice, dropped a ball at center court, and left the building, allowing the players to organize themselves and scrimmage.  […]