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“The youth of today …”

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“Today’s youth is lazy …”
“Today’s youth doesn’t know how to persist …”
“Today’s youth is bored quickly …”
“Today’s youth doesn’t have the same love for the game …”
“ … “

Do these quotes sound familiar? 

You can pick them up at the bar by some frustrated basketball coaches after a game or practice.

Honestly, I really don’t know what to think about such quotes.  The only thing I know is, that today’s youth is different than when I was young.

Which shouldn’t surprise.  

They grew up in a completely different society.  With a different education, distractions, expectations, … Everything has evolved. 

Just as our basketball practices should.

I’ll start off immediately with an example.  Everybody knows the “Classic 11 man drill”.  It’s a 3-on-2 fastbreak drill where 2 defenders are waiting in a tandem in the paint.

The drill is at least as old as I can remember and it reminds me of the only videogame I had when I was a kid on Nintendo: SUPER MARIO.

Super Mario is:
Repetitive: every time you have to start over in Level 1 and the same mushroom/bomb will come at you at the exact same time and spot
No decision making: because of the above, you can teach a monkey to play the game and make it to the next level
– It’s not a challenge to make it to the next level after so many time the same level with the same surroundings
Not very realistic

The Classic 11 man drill is a lot like the Super Mario game.  It’s not very gamelike (how many times in your career did you run a three men break where two defenders were waiting for you?) and the decision making is very limited (defenders programmed by the “tandem” concept).  Are you surprised that it doesn’t challenge young people if you keep repeating this exact (unrealistic) situation over and over again?

Maybe it’s better to get inspiration from what actually CAN retain the attention and motivation of youngsters nowadays?

Take for example FORTNITE, a worldwide known modern videogame with many addicts.

The idea behind Fortnite is very simple.

Fortnite is a short game where in realtime 100 players are dropped on an island where the goal is to kill everybody else till you are the last survivor. Every game is different because you play against 99 different players who will make different choices and use different tactics. And every couple of weeks, Fortnite changes the “environment”, the looks of the island. 

By definition, Fortnite
– incorporates decision making by the 99 co-players.  Never you will play twice the same game.
– is way more realistic
– is refreshing because of the changing environments

I am convinced that basketball is one of the most complex sports there is.  Being a coach, it is impossible to prepare our players for every single situation that can occur during the game. We can only teach them a better DECISION MAKING on the court, to prepare them for inevitable new situations that pop up during games.

When we complain about “today’s youth”…  Isn’t it possible that our practices look too much like Super Mario back in the days?  Booooo-ring!

How can we give a touch of Fortnite to our practices?

In a coaching clinic I did in Valencia, I proposed my version of the 3-on-2 fastbreak drill, which you can see in the video below:

The idea is simple.  Like most effective drills rarely require any rocket science.  ..

Instead of two defenders waiting in the paint, we want to have defenders in gamelike situations. 

That’s easily achieved by having the 2 not-shooters of the possession sprint back in defense.  Just as how it happens in a game.  Sometimes they will be late, sometimes ahead.  Often running back in the middle of the game, sometimes starting off out off balance.  Just. Like. In. The. Game.

In more general, my best advice for adding some Fortnite flavour to your practices would be:

  1. Add a defender.  Any drill you use right now 1on0, 2on0 or 3on0 can be upgraded with decision making by adding one or more defenders.  Which can be programmed or not.
  2. If the drill by definition is different for every possession, it becomes a reference drill which you can use often.  An example is the 3on2 drill I provided in this article.  The exact same situation won’t occur twice.  Reference drills make you save time on practice by not having to explain anything, just some focus points or slightly changed cues.
  3. Change the “environment” of the drill often.  For example, to work on finishing at the rim you often start off with a one-on-one situation where the offense has an advantage.  Don’t use always the same drill.  One can easily come up with 10-20 ways and situations to give an advantage to the offensive player in a 1on1 drill.  For the players, it’s a whole new game, but we’re working on the same skill.  Players like to mix up environments.

My message for coaches is NOT to stay away from the bar. 

It’s important for our job to keep connecting and talking basketball with colleagues and lovers of the game.  To share knowledge and ideas.  And to inspire. 

But instead of complaining about today’s youth, think and talk about how we can change our practices.  How we can incorporate decision making and add different variations while working on the fundamentals of the game. 

To make the kids understand that playing basketball is more fun, addictive and challenging than any videogame in the world … 😉

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