What I tell people is to have a plan of attack with the whole process. Too many of our young players are given bad advice or just don’t put much thought into their player development plan. For a player, this whole process is a long journey that needs to be thought out years ahead and not weeks.
There is a big argument in the basketball community about playing games vs. getting in the gym and getting better. Both sides weigh in heavily on what is needed for a player to get better. I feel as though that both skill development and playing games play big factors in a player getting better.
The biggest mistake that players are making these days is that they neglect skill development at the most formidable years. From grades 6-9 is when players need to get in the gym and spend most of their time on skill development. In this 3 year window is when a player will learn how to shoot the ball correctly as well as developing some of the most important skills that they can.
A name that come to mind as far as conversations that I had with in developing his skills is Kobe Bryant. Kobe as most of you know spent most of his childhood living in Italy. Going through a non traditional youth basketball program spending it under the tutelage of great coaches in Italy, Kobe developed a very high skill level. I remember him telling me of the emphasis his coaches and instructors had on doing things the correct way and going through thousands of repetitions. This was invaluable to him developing into the player that he is today. He didn’t grow up playing hundreds of games a year and never working on his game, the stress was skill development first and when he started to grow and his athletic ability took over it was a perfect storm.
I would say that 80% of basketball for a player in grades 6-9 should be skill development. It isn’t very important to be trying to travel around the country to play against the top players. The emphasis should be trying to build a foundation of basketball skill to put them on a course to maximize their ability. The big problem with the majority f players is that they try to add skill development too late in the process which leads them to underachieve. It isn’t impossible to improve as a shooter or improve your skill past the 10th or 11th grade, but without the proper mechanics early you can’t maximize your triue potential as a player.
Take a look around at all the players that you come in contact with. Notice players with funky shots when they are a junior/senior in high school. Very rarely do they ever fix the shot completely. Same thing with ball handling very few ever improve dramatically past their junior or senior year in high school. There is no question that you can still improve at these things, but without a foundation of good habits there is only so much that one can improve on.
During a player’s sophomore year is when they should start steadily increasing the amount of games that they play. They should try to now start the process of playing in events that scouts and college coaches attend. They should still be at a 50-50 split between skill development and playing games. All of the hard work that a player has put in is ready to star being put on display. It isn’t life or death to play in every big event, but there should definitely be an increase of the events that they participate in.
The off season entering into a player’s senior year is the most important of all. That is where you should be at a 30-70 split between player development and games. Being able to play as many tournaments, camps, showcases,etc is crucial to a player. This is most likely your last off season being able to play in front of coaches so it is important to take advantage of it. All of your planning and hard work should pay off for you at this point.
Senior year is not as busy for a player as there are very few events for club teams, but there are showcases and camps for unsigned seniors to participate in. Some seniors take advantage of great senior campaigns to help their recruiting stature, but you should never rely on a senior campaign to increase your recruiting. For most by the fall of their senior year they are who they are as a player recruiting wise.
The important thing for a player is to have a plan. Treat the process like a professional. Create value for yourself. Don’t skip out on the skill development part as you need to create value for yourself. Here are some of my thoughts on skill development trainers, club teams, camps, etc.
Club teams are one of the most scrutinized parts of grassroots basketball. They get a bad name for all of the negative press that they receive year in and year out. Like anything else there some really good club team programs and there are some not so good programs out there.
Google the program that you are thinking of playing with. Ask other coaches and players about the team. Try to go to tournaments and watch the team play. Take a long look at the coaches and see how they treat their players in. Take a look at their schedule as far as what events they play in. One sign that the program isn’t for you is if the coaches coach with flip-flops, hat on backwards, with a blue tooth in their ear.
The team should practice at lease 1-2 times per week, with some type of emphasis on player development. They don’t have to be great teachers, but at least make an effort. Selecting a club team is a very big step, make sure to take the time to make sure they are a good fit.
Skill trainers have come on the scene in full force the past five years or so. Back 15 years ago players just went to the park or hit the gym. Now there are hundreds of skill trainers across the country.
Many of them have different styles and philosophies on how they train players. Like picking a club team selecting the right trainer is almost as important. Every player is different some like fast paced and intense workouts, while others want more instruction and slow teaching.
It’s important to watch the trainer work and so your homework. Don’t be afraid to try out a few different trainers to see if you fit or not. Make sure that the trainer that you are working with teaches you not only individual concepts, but also team situations as well. It’s more important to have a trainer that stops and corrects you than it is to just put you through drills and get tired.
I think the camp circuit is great for players at all levels. It’s important to have players at younger levels experience being away form home and playing with other players that they don’t know. It develops character and gets them used to playing with other players.
Good instructional camps are hard to find. One of the best that comes to mind is Snow Valley Basketball School in Iowa and Santa Barbara. It is without question the top instructional camp going where most of the day is revolved around skill development. In the development phase 6th-9th grade I think having players go to as many instructional camps as possible is important.
As they get older finding exposure camps would be a welcomed change as it will get them used to playing in front of college coaches and scouts. The issue there is most of those camps don’t teach you anything and there is no passing or team play in those things. I don;t mind them for rising juniors and seniors, but really not important for younger players.
Here is where players get caught up in a disaster. Don’t worry about exposure, rankings and ratings get in players and parents heads and it is like a cancer with no cure. No one cares where you are rated and ranked. Worry about developing our skills first at a young age. Developing value is the most important thing for a basketball player to have.
Playing on teams or camps with scouts and college coaches are not important until you are a sophomore at the earliest. I get calls form parents all the time with sons and daughters worrying about their lack of exposure for a 7th-8th graders.
There are so many camps and teams that prey on parents and players to participate events and get them rated. What rankings and ratings do is get people fixated on attending events instead of working on their game.
I’ll say it a million times what is the sense of spending thousands of dollars for an 8th-9th grader to fly across the country when they aren’t ready. Spend the time early to develop your skill level so when you are at these events you give the scouts and coaches something to look at. Too many people think that one good game will put you on the map. I can’t lie as sad as our system is that’s all it takes in some cases.
Exposure is very important for a sophomore, junior, and senior. Before that there is no urgency for it. Don’t get caught up in exposure. With the increasing numbers of scouts, websites, and technology there is plenty of opportunity to be seen, but develop something that they want to see.
The process of a high school basketball player and/or parent can be very stressful at times. All I can tell you is be prepared and have a plan and stick with it. First thing is first make sure the player’s academics is in order. Unless a player is an elite player having poor academics will force schools away. Just as you need a plan for your basketball development you need one for academics. Make sure that you are in compliance of NCAA guidelines for academics.
Make sure that you get as much development at a young age as possible. The longer you wait the tougher it will be on you. Develop the product first and then worry about development. Club basketball is fine, don’t be afraid of it. Don’t worry about how many events they go to or where they go to. Make sure they are a good program and play a competitive schedule. As the player gets to be a sophomore and junior make sure that you are attending events where scouts and colleges are at.
Have a good mix of skill development and games throughout the process. Drills are a great source to improve, but without getting minutes in games it’s hard to improve as a player. Think of yourself as a rookie in the NBA that doesn’t play. It is a lot better for a player to play 40 minutes down in the NBDL to work on carrying a team and be put in game situations to improve rather than to stay with a team and not play and just practice.
Make the experience an enjoyable one. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself as you will be burned out. So many players go into the process without having a plan in mind. Not every player plays basketball in high school to play college and that is perfectly fine. But for the serious player treat this as your job. You want to make yourself relevant and keep it that way. 70% of players that play on the spring/summer circuit have no idea what they are doing.
You only get one shot at this and there are thousands of new players that pop up on the scene trying to take what you want. Get the edge on them and have a plan as you can be on top today, but forgotten tomorrow.
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