Below is an email I shared with the parents of our players in our fall half court 3-on-3 league.

Hello everyone,

We have one more week of our half court 3-on-3. We have enjoyed working with your kids and have learned plenty ourselves by teaching them. I wanted to share two thoughts with you that have really stood out to me over the past few months. 

Although I am sure their favorite part of the hour is the last 30 minutes where they are free to play, one of the designs of this league is to increase their ‘language learning.’ This is true in two senses. 

The first is literal language learning. Terms. Words. Descriptions. As you have probably noticed, I begin the hour by introducing certain terms and actions. We then play in a controlled way, so that they hear and run through those actions as much as possible during that time. 

This is important, because a part of basketball education is an ability to speak the language. I was actually encouraged last night when I asked them what terms we have talked about during the 6 weeks together. They covered most of them. Slip screen, ball screen, cut, fade screen, L-cut, double ball screen, go over, contain, help, recover, Horns, elbow, spacing, screen way, curl, twist. We have used all these terms. And though they may not remember them all, that’s how learning a language works. The more you are exposed to it, the more it sinks in. In order to play, you have to know the language. 

The second focuses more on the language of play. The actions themselves. The design is never to create rigid players who only know how to do what you say when you say it. Or when you make a call. The goal is to create players who are able to move through the game with confidence and comfort in the same way someone who is proficient in Italian feels comfortable or ‘at home’ in Italy. The actions we introduce are not what you have to do, but what you can do. They are options. They are various sentences to use when it makes sense to use them. 

Naturally, the more you repeat these sentences, the higher the probability that they will come out in the conversation of the game. The more you run through the actions time and again, when you are free to play (think the last 30), the more your brain will make connections in the game itself and apply those actions in a real, meaningful, game-like context. Think immersive language learning. You need to practice and practice, but you also need to get off the plane and start trying things out in the homeland. The classroom along won’t cut it.  

That’s plenty from me, but I thought that would be helpful to point out. As always, the goal is to make it fun while sneaking in the good stuff! 

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