Fall Events in Context

Anytime we create a new program or enter a new season of the year, I go into re-evaluation mode. I start asking questions about all our programs. What is their place? Should they exist? Should they change? Are they best for the kids we are seeking to serve? 

As we enter into the fall season, these questions cannot help but spring to mind. But in asking these questions, I am forced to return to some key convictions. I figure it may be helpful to put our fall programs in context. So here you go. 

First, make sure it’s fun. 

The fun I am talking about shouldn’t be shallow. We always tell kids that the biggest reason they want to improve is to have more fun. True fun requires a certain degree of challenge and ownership. It also requires a certain degree of learning. Kids want to learn new things and to be challenged on the court. Ideally, you do both at the same time. 

The younger the age, the more loose you can be with these items. The older the age, the more precise. Sunday night clinics focus more on the development of specific skills. There is a still a focus on game context, but not as much as 3-on-3. Clinic time gives you the chance to introduce a specific move or specific footwork. 3-on-3 offers you the chance to introduce more team concepts that can be immediately applied in a game setting. 

Clinics are the time to learn new things on the specific or the individual front. 3-on-3 is the time to learn new things on the general front or team front. Or even the game front. Both should be challenging and engaging and fun, but in different ways. 

Second, switch it up. 

One of my goals is always to make sure our programs compliment each other. Research overwhelmingly shows that if you want to develop great athletes, you must diversity their athletic experience as much as humanly possible. So it is if you want to create great basketball players. 

You must switch it up. There is a time for free play like the summer, a time for more intensive team learning like the winter (and early spring). And a time for everything else. Clinics are the time for picking up on specific new moves or skill sets. 3-on-3 is the time to pick up more team-oriented concepts (and terms) in a free play environment. It’s not that you have to do this in the fall, but at least for us, it’s the only time we offer it, because I want to switch it up. Diversity of experience is essential. 

Third, know what matters when. 

We live in a day-and-age where everyone seems to be in a rush to get to the specifics. But the general always comes first. In education, teachers talk about scaffolding. Put the big, general principles in place first. Then build upon them. The same is true in basketball. Play, play, play. Pick up the concepts and principles and feel in general. Then move to the specifics. 

In you come to Sunday night clinics, you will see Grades 1-3 more or less play an hour of games. Even the dribbling drills are games! But if you end the night with the high school group, you will kids working out. There is a gradual movement towards ‘getting to work.’ A little bit more introduced with every hour. That’s because we know what matters when. 

The same is true in 3-on-3. The older group can handle more than the younger group. More instruction, more precision, more clarification. Not a ton. Not overdoing it, but still, more. They will be in High School in a few years, so it’s time to introduce more and demand more. And yet, it’s still essential to make sure they are at play. Which leads me to number four.

Fourth, the best learning happens ‘under the hood.’

One teaching principles I come back to often is “Talk less, show more, do most.” 

Younger or more inexperienced coaches tend to talk way (way, way, way!) too much. They think their talking will lead to more learning. But that’s not how it works. Showing is more important than talking. And doing is (by far!) more important than both! 

Kids need to do in order to learn and stay engaged. It is because of this that the best learning happens “under the hood.” It is almost hidden. The best teachers find a way to sneak in the learning. Particularly in basketball, they find a way to do so while also challenging their limits and empowering them with ownership. Physically, mentally, conceptually. It should all be the ‘just right’ challenge every athlete desires.

In a clinic setting, this means moving from the more controlled environment of no defense to the introduction of defense through the hour or so together. In 3-on-3, it means introducing a specific action with specific terms and using that action as a launching pad for play. Kids are still learning, but they don’t realize how much they are learning. And, typically, neither do we! It’s happening under the hood. And that’s exactly what we want. 

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