We need to develop players like in Europe

People often discuss player development and European basketball with me. Often, I am told, and I read, that we (coaches in the United States) need to develop players like in Europe. I don’t necessarily agree with the premise, but I often will engage in the discussions. When I do, it seems as though the coaches want a magic potion, because every change based on my experiences that I offer, they dismiss as unnecessary or impractical. Possible changes based on my experience:

  1. Lengthen the high school season. (“We can’t do that; there’s football and baseball.”)
  2. Play with a shot clock. (“We can’t do that; it’s too expensive, players will take bad shots, or it’s not fair to the bad teams.”)
  3. Play one game per week on Saturday. (“We wouldn’t play enough games. We have to play during the week.”)
  4. Play for multiple teams at the same time. (“That’s against the rules. I don’t want my players playing for another team. What if a player got hurt?)
  5. Eliminate private trainers.* (“That’s how players develop fundamentals.”)
  6. Play on a lower rim with a smaller ball until the teenage years. (“Well, my players do not need a lower basket or smaller ball; they’re fine on a 10′ basket with a size 7 ball.”)

Whenever I offer these suggestions, coaches are disinterested. We cannot make these changes. They dismiss these structural changes as having any effect on skill development, despite the numerous advantages.

Instead, they want the magic drill or formula.

  1. Every drill ends with a shot.

In one of my first trips to Europe, a coach told me this. He said that was the difference between drills in Europe and drills in the States. In the States, we do drills just do drills; in Europe, they do drills to create a shot.

If coaches are hellbent on developing players like in Europe, there it is: Several structural changes that few if any people support, and one change to practice design that few coaches follow. There is no magic solution. The schedule is set up to promote skill development, and the emphasis in every drill is finishing with a shot because that is the purpose of the game. Common sense, really, not magic.

*This is changing as some countries are looking to the U.S. to see how we develop players and adopting private trainers to supplement practice time.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

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