The following article is another example and great explanation of why you don’t need to specialize before HS.
Experience and Wisdom from a Basketball Parent was written by Athletic Development coach Tracy Fober who has a lot of experience enhancing the athleticism of basketball players. The article also has great advice from a parent when it comes to developing your child in a healthy manner and what to look for when searching for club teams.
Here is a great article about top surgeon Dr. James Andrews. In the article, he talks about too much specialization in youth sports causing overuse injuries and how the rate of injuries over the past 13 years has increased dramatically.
Dr. Andrews has worked on athletes such as Robert Griffin III, Adrian Peterson, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, and many more.
I know what you’re thinking, “Eliminate shooting drills from practice? Joe must have fell off his rocker again.” But please hear me out, because this could help the development of your youth team tremendously.
Do I think you should eliminate ALL shooting drills? Absolutely not.
Should you eliminate most? Yes! As a youth coach working with 5th graders and below (10 & 11 year olds and younger), you should NOT be spending 10 to 30 minutes on shooting every day.
Well, you’re probably thinking now… well why?!?
You need to develop ball skills first in order to be successful.
If you can’t dribble, beat the press, or take care of the ball long enough to even take a shot, what good does shooting and everything else do you? Nothing is worse than trying to run offense and all you do is turn it over. You are better off shooting a 20 foot runner, that way at least you have a small chance of making a basket or even more likely one of your players getting an offensive rebound near the basket and put it back up for an easy make. If you turn it over, you have zero chance to make a basket and the other team probably gets an easy one in transition.
They pick up ball skills faster than they would pick up shooting at this age.
If you watch players at games, practices, and camps, very few 3rd graders could shoot the ball as well as a 10th grader. However, if you watch them dribble the basketball, you will see a much higher percentage that can dribble the ball as proficiently as the older kids compared to shooting.
That’s because younger players can improve their ball handling at a much faster pace than they can improve their shooting.
As Bob Bigelow says, you should introduce the skills by gravity. Which means the skills that work with gravity would be the easiest and the ones that work against gravity would be the hardest. Since dribbling is completely with gravity and shooting is completely against gravity, it only makes sense that dribbling would be easier for younger kids to learn and progress.
Now, let’s say you worked on ball skills when the kids were in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. By the time the players reach 6th grade, they’ll be very good ball handlers. Now, you can adjust your practice priorities. You won’t have to spend as much time on ball handling and you could now allocate more time to shooting, because the players are strong enough and coordinated enough to take the instruction needed to be a good shooter. They will also improve their shooting at a much faster pace.
Well, why is shooting harder to teach to younger players and what can you do?
When it comes to younger players 5th grade and below, they usually lack the coordination and strength to consistently shoot the ball properly at a goal.
My advice would be to include some strength and coordination exercises at the beginning of every practice. Great drills for total body strength and upper-to-lower body coordination include:
Crawling is great for strength and creating coordination between your upper and lower body. You can do bear crawls, crab crawls, and inchworms. You can do them forwards, backwards, side to side, and in a circle.
Lunges and squats are great for lower body strength, mobility, and coordination. No barbell is needed.
After you get the basics of lunging and squatting, you can add pushes to improve lower-to-upper body coordination which is required to become a good shooter.
For the pushing aspect, you can simply use a basketball.
Squat with Push – You squat down, have the ball at your chest, stand up and push the ball over your head.
Squat with Out of Sync Push – You squat down and push the ball above your head, stand up and bring the ball to your chest.
Coach, if I cut out most of my shooting drills then how am I going to score points!?
Well, right now your team is probably shooting around 10% to 20%. If you work on shooting with the younger kids every practice for 20 minutes, you might improve their shooting percentage by 2%. To score more points, you’d be much better off spending 2 minutes every practice emphasizing to your players to crash the offensive boards.
So what should youth coaches do for ball handling, passing, and shooting during practice?
Depending on the length of your practice, spend 10 to 20 minutes on dribbling and ball handling drills and games.
Incorporate athletic development, footwork, and passing into your practices.
Spend 5 minutes every day shooting form away from the basket. Do wall shooting or line shooting. That way, they’re only concerned with their form and not whether the ball is going in the hole.
Don’t get me wrong, you might spend 15 minutes the first couple of practices to teach some of the shooting basics, but after that your time would be much better spent on ball handling, footwork, and passing.
Then each week, you can slowly progress them through shooting form where they eventually get to the point that they’re shooting at the basket within close range WITH PROPER FORM. Maybe you can even do some catch and shoot drills.
Also, I recommend smaller balls and lower hoops so they can shoot consistently with good form and just aren’t chucking the ball at the hoops. In baseball, we progress kids from shorter pitching mounds, shorter base paths, and shorter fences for strength and coordination reasons. But for some reason in basketball, we don’t use that same logic.
As a coach, it would help you tremendously to sit down and plan what skills you are going to focus on each year to help develop well-rounded players. By focusing on just a few things, this helps simplify your practices and helps you make big improvements in a few key areas. If you do this every year, then by the time they reach high school, they will be light years ahead of other players their age.
And of course, remember to include small-sided games and make things fun. That way, they’ll actually want to play when they’re older and won’t become one of the 80% that quit sports before the age of 13.
I first came across this a little over ten years ago while watching a Steve Alford shooting DVD. He mentioned that basketball players should never run cross country. He said it made you slow and that it didn’t transfer well being in basketball shape. Hence, the old adage “Train slow. Be slow. Train fast. Be fast.”
This certainly is not ground-breaking by any means. Many athletic development experts have been preaching this for years. According to Vern Gambetta, “many training experts and coaches confuse building a training base with developing an aerobic base.” Aerobic base would be referring to the slow, continuous long-distance running.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you like cross country, by all means, go out for it! This is directed towards the athletes who run cross country to get in shape for basketball season. I believe that your time can be utilized more efficiently.
Rather than going to a 90 minute to 2 hours practice for cross country, I believe it would be better to follow a well-designed program for basketball and athletic development during that same time span. If you went to the gym and worked on your game for 45 minutes to an hour, then spent another 45 minutes to an hour on athletic development, you will be better prepared for basketball season and more efficient with your time compared to attending cross country practice then going to the gym to work on your game afterwards.
What legendary strength coach Al Vermeil has to say about endurance training:
A few years ago, I was listening to an interview from Complete Athlete Development with Strength & Conditioning coach Al Vermeil. Al Vermeil has trained the best football players like Reggie White to the best NBA players like Michael Jordan. He was the strength and conditioning coach for the Chicago Bulls championship teams.
He stated that there was an Italian researcher by the name of Camelo Bosco that studied training of kids from ages 14 to 18. Bosco found a group of kids with the same muscle fiber type. People who have more fast-twitch muscle fiber tend to be more explosive. People with slow-twitch muscle fiber tend to be slower and have better endurance.
Bosco took the young athletes with the same muscle fiber type and split them into two groups. The first group did explosive training through more explosive sports. The second group did more endurance training through endurance-type sports.
After some years of training, he tested both groups in both explosive events and endurance events. The group who trained explosively did everything better than the group who trained endurance. They ran faster. They jumped higher. They even did better in the endurance events, because they were naturally faster and it was easier to train endurance to the athlete who was already fast than it was to train more speed to the athlete who already had endurance.
During the interview, Vermeil also mentioned U.S. runner Jim Ryun. Jim Ryun was the first U.S. miler to break the 4-minute mark. Vermeil said that Jim Ryun was timed around 11 seconds for 100 meter sprint. It’s not Usain Bolt speed, but it’s still very fast. That time will win many events around the U.S. at the high school level. If you watch the world events, you’ll know that the athletes who win the 800 & the mile have fantastic speed. All of those athletes can run sub-50 second 400s.
So even if you were serious about cross country during your teenage years, you may want to avoid excessive long-distance running and train fast.
Well, my kid got stronger and faster running cross country!
If you have a good coach, this is a strong possibility. A good coach will work on speed and power development. As Vern Gambetta said in reference to long distance events, “Very quickly I saw that those who could run forever, but could not run fast were not going to be competitive in races.”
Another possibility is that any training would help. Due to the running, leg strength could have developed and the athlete got faster and quicker because they could apply more force against the ground. However, I still believe that a well-designed plan would be much more beneficial.
Drillz and Skillz/Breakthrough Basketball “Attack and Counter” Skillz Clinic in Chicago Area
The Drillz and Skillz/Breakthrough Basketball “Attack and Counter” Skills Clinic held in Libertyville, Il (40 minutes outside of Chicago) is history and was a great success.
Held in the Libertyville Athletic Complex, the clinic welcomed 60 players and at least 2 dozen coaches for the weekend clinic. The Libertyville Athletic Complex is an unbelievable facility. Indoors it houses a fitness center, boxing center, 2 soccer fields, multiple volleyball courts and too many basketball courts to count. We used 12 baskets to work out 60 players.
Friday we started with footwork and looked at it from several different angles. A good 3 hour evening workout that introduced the footwork and the mentality that have worked so well in improving players. The rest of the weekend was spent applying that footwork and mentality to basketball situations.
On Saturday, we worked on shooting, coming off screens and ball screens. Sunday was the day for post drills, fast break drills, ball handling and a few games of 1 on 1. All in all players took between 800-1000 shots for the weekend.
The players were extremely hard workers and were great to work with. Players continue to amaze me. When they give themselves to you, it is incredible how quickly they improve.
Not lost in the shuffle were the coaches. Many of them came to watch but when I invited them to come on the court and help out, many of them did so. The weekend could not have been a success without them.
If you have followed college football this season, you have probably heard the name Ndamukong Suh. He was a consensus First-team All-American and earned consensus First-team All-Big 12 honors and was the Associated Press National Player of the Year, Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year, the Defensive Lineman of the Year, and a Heisman Trophy finalist.
According to “experts”, what separates Suh from other players isn’t necessarily his strength, even though he is quite strong, it’s his superior footwork. As we know, footwork is probably one of the most important, yet undertaught skills in basketball.
A recent article on ESPN states “He (Suh) really credits his soccer background for his uncanny footwork.” Suh played soccer at a young age all the way through his 8th grade year.
If arguably the best d-lineman in the country, played multiple sports as a child and credits that for his superior athleticism, don’t you think that it would be a good idea for other youth athletes as well?
If you’ve read any of our past articles about athletic development, you’ll know that we preach for youth athletes to play multiple sports and avoid specialization at least before age 15. Some say 18.
Soccer, flag (or touch) football, & tag are a few great games you can play to improve footwork & athleticism.
Dribble tag and the jump stop drill are a few great ways to incorporate a basketball while working on footwork.