Because I have coached in Europe, people tell me that the United States should go to a European model. I don’t know what they mean. In my experience, there is no single European model.
However, if the model is academies, such as the famous soccer academies like La Masia with F.C. Barcelona, who should pay for these academies? In 2010, I proposed an idea that would allow money to filter from the NBA and NCAA into grassroots clubs and high school programs. This is the way that European clubs finance their academies and youth teams.
According to Youth Development in Football: Lessons from the World’s Best Academies (Nesti & Sulley, 2014), AJ Auxerre (France) invest up to 20% of their gross turnover on their academy; each Bundesliga (Germany) club spends over 2.5 m Euros annually on their academies, and Barcelona invests 16 m Euros annually into its academy.
If the NBA wants to make a difference with skill development in the U.S., why not ask the NBA teams to open their checkbooks like European soccer teams? Three-million dollars per team ($90 m) annually could create significant changes to the infrastructure, skill development, and coaching of the game in the United States.
The public wants more certified coaches. At $100 per coach, $90 million could pay to certify 900,000 coaches per year.
That is just one use for the money. What about starting elementary or middle school programs at every public school? I have had several people email me about basketball losing players to other sports, especially females. If the NBA funded basketball programs at every public school, it would increase the number of participants by thousands and attract many children away from other sports because a free school team is more affordable than a pay-to-play club team in another sport. More players starting the game in late elementary and/or middle school would create more depth and hopefully rectify the problems that I have seen lately in girls basketball.
There may be better ways to use the money. However, the point is that right now, the NBA and NCAA make billions of dollars in ticket and television revenue, and the organizations, clubs, and schools that assist with the development of the talent that draws the public’s interest see almost none of that money. In Europe, clubs fund their academies and develop their own talent. If people in the U.S. are concerned about the state of skill development of today’s players, rather than criticizing AAU or the volunteer coaches, maybe we should ask why the NBA and NCAA cherry-pick their talent without having to reward the organizations who did the hard work of coaching and developing the talent (individuals and families obviously have a lot to do with their own development, but they are rewarded with scholarships and NBA contracts).