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Why the USA has Fallen Behind in Basketball Supremacy
The comment I hear all the time is “what happened to the USA in basketball.” Even the most disinterested basketball fan knows that America has slipped quickly in the world basketball race.
Why is a good question because most people don’t get it.
The answer is simple, yet I could write about this topic for days. The plain truth is that the European coaches do a better job than our coaches. When I say our coaches, I include myself in that group. We have been coached out in a vital area of the game.
Essentials! These basic skills of passing, catching, shooting, rebounding and playing together as a team came from the early days of James Naismith and the peach basket. OK, so what’s the problem, you say.
The problem is that the Europeans have NEVER gotten ahead of themselves and NEVER put an individual above the team. They remained committed to basic skills and drills. They call it training sessions while we call it practice. Our misfortune is that we often “practice” parts of the game that require mastery of the fundamentals of the games. We go too fast and try to learn “the whole game”, as we fail to adequately develop players’ skills and knowledge along the way.
When 4th graders cannot pass from point A to point B successfully, the necessary skills of timing, passing and catching have not yet developed. This is natural for 4th grade students. The mistake lies in coaches not spending the time needed to develop these simple skills. The inpatient trainer spends time on basic skills BUT does not commit to mastery of every skill. What happens next is a simple check next to pass and catch on the exercise plan. “Well let’s see, we’ve been in this drill for 5 minutes, let’s move on to something else. Let’s work on our diamond press or amoeba protection.” Too often the coach is eager to give plays, schemes and presses. are you kidding me
During the 1990-91 season, I watched the Detroit Pistons practice under the direction of Chuck Daly. What I saw that day shocked me, but it left me with a powerful lesson. This championship team spent an hour on pass, catch and set! Can you imagine Joe Dumars, Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Vinnie Johnson and Bill Laimbeer passing and catching for an hour straight. “Okay guys, now work on the bounce ticket!” Well they did and I was there to see it. I wrote down on a piece of paper, “Never sacrifice the fundamentals of the game,” as I briefly visited with the legendary coach after practice. By the way, that team was 50-32 during the regular season and lost to the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern conference finals.
Here is the ULTIMATE test:
Would you turn your teenage son or daughter loose on the open highway before learning the “basics” of driving?
Would you sacrifice vision knowledge and application, pedal control, steering, speed, road familiarity for some fancy 2-wheel turns or a Starsky/Hutch powerbrake move?
The answer to both questions is no! Then tell me why we disregard the necessary fundamentals in our basketball game for the sake of advanced skills and tactics. Coaches, we are slowly ruining the game we know and love as the European coaches have a lock on teaching the game.
I’m not sure about you, but this makes me furious. What about you?
We can talk about the Olympics and pick on a USA head coach or player all we want. These things will not make a difference. The difference maker is a no-brainer. A serious renewed commitment to learning the game the right way, one skill at a time.
I commit to doing my part from this moment on and I hope you will join me.
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