- Illustrate the issues undermining the development of youth basketball players in the United States;
- Outline a philosophical solution to these problems through Long Term Athlete Development.
After publishing Cross Over, I started a web site dedicated to its central issues: player development, coach education, long term athlete development, skill development, periodization and more.
In 2008, I published the 3rd Edition of Cross Over. Cross Over is now 207 pages focused completely on the long term athlete development plan with teaching instructions and age-appropriate drills broken into four stages of development and three major skill groupings.
I want Cross Over to be a guide for coach and program leaders looking to reform their approach to youth basketball and player development.
Also in 2008, I took nine of the 14 chapters from the 2nd Edition and put them online. These chapters have been edited and expanded based on blogs written over the last year, but the following manifesto is essentially the first section of the original Cross Over: an illustration of the issues affecting youth basketball from the lack of unstructured play to early specialization to the constant AAU vs. High School arguments. The manifesto includes the Elite Development League and High Performance Centers proposals which represent a more involved structural change to youth basketball development.
However, Cross Over remains my grassroots’ solution to the issues outlined in the manifesto. Cross Over presents a philosophical change to youth basketball which runs counter to the philosophy exhibited by many coaches, teams and programs. I wrote Cross Over for the coach or program director interested in a different approach to youth basketball. Cross Over proposes a system to take a player or team from 8 to 18-years-old rather than the current hodge-podge of organizations.
When developing a system or a process of development, we start with the end goal and move backwards. For youth basketball development, I pose three questions, as youth basketball is a dynamic activity with various goals and participation levels:
- How do we as a society view youth sport?
- At the end of a youth development system, what do we want players to look like?
- To accomplish these goals, how can we assist coaches, many of whom are volunteers or inexperienced as coaches or in basketball?
The youth basketball development system covers players from six to 18-years-old. This wide spectrum includes players with varied interests and abilities. How can we create a system which maximizes the experience for a six-year-old and for an 18-year-old? How can we create a system which affords equal access and opportunity for a recreational athlete and a potential professional athlete?
When viewing youth sports as a development system, what skills do players need when they complete the development program? Are some skills easier for players to learn and master at different stages in their growth and development? What is the end product of such a system and how do we create the system which develops this model?
Since the needs, motivations and abilities of the athletes differ greatly from the beginning to the end, how can we prepare coaches to meet the athletes’ needs? When viewed from this perspective, a youth coach faces a far more complex environment than a college or professional coach. A college or professional coach has a fairly homogeneous group in terms of skills, ability, talent and goals. However, a youth coach has a wide spectrum of skills, talents, abilities and goals within a single team and from season to season, and often the parents have different objectives and perspectives on their child’s team and recreational activities. Since few coaches make a living coaching youth sports and basketball in particular, meaning that few if any youth coaches study to become a coach, how can leagues, clubs and organizations prepare coaches for this environment?
The solutions are related and return to philosophy. Currently, there is no unifying thread within organizations or throughout the country’s youth basketball system. Leagues, organizations and teams rely on the individual coach for their success or failure. If an organization like the local Parks & Recreation or YMCA organizes a great league with great uniforms and a great facility, but a player has a lousy coach, the player likely has a bad experience and the organization looks bad. On the other hand, if an organization uses hand-me-down uniforms and a hot gym with bad floors, but the coach is a master coach who gets all the players excited about basketball, the player enjoys the experience and the organization looks good.
Therefore, identifying, nurturing and supporting excellent coaches is the first objective because the coach has the most direct impact on a player’s experience. However, most organizations set up leagues or teams as one-year teams: players sign up and play for one season and re-enter the player pool the following season. Therefore, if a player has a great coach during the first year, he typically has the same expectations for the next season. However, if he plays for a different team with a different coach who has a different approach, the player may not enjoy the experience or learn as much. Therefore, the second objective is to create a unifying thread from season to season.
Cross Over uses the idea of long term athlete development as the unifying thread. If an organization uses the Cross Over-model, players learn specific skills during specific age groups. Therefore, if I coach 10-year-olds, I have an expectation for the skills that the players learned during the previous season, and I understand the skills that players are expected to learn while playing on my team. This year-by-year progression creates a unifying thread from season to season and helps each coach.
The final objective is to illustrate to coaches and parents that elite athletes start their athletic careers in the same manner as average athletes. A superstar-in-training does not need an elite U7 team or personal trainer. There are general developmental steps and each athlete goes through each stage regardless of talent, potential or future success.
When we reconcile these objectives, we have an athlete-centered system (put the athletes’ needs and motivations first) based on long term athlete development that is driven by programs which support and educate youth coaches on their role in the team and athlete development process.
Buy Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development as a paperback or as an e-book. 207-page book divided into four major age groupings and four major skill categories (Athletic, Psychological, Tactical and Technical).
“Brian McCormick hits a home run with his book on youth basketball…This is one of the few sources that is a quality book that hits the mark for players and coaches. I recommend it highly.” – Jerry Krause, Nat’l. Assoc. of Basketball Coaches Research Chairman