We are often radically unaware of our own intellectual assumptions. In fact, it takes a lot of thought and reflection to clarify what it is we actually believe about things. It also typically takes a community. This includes what we believe about the game of basketball–and youth development.

If you listen carefully to television commentators, you will hear specific beliefs about how the game should be played. What are good shots? What are bad shots? These are not just comments in isolation. Beneath them are assumptions about the nature of the game itself and how teams should approach it.

I find that I often radically disagree with these assumptions. I especially hate it when they talk as if there is only one way to play the game. Certain shots are always good or always bad. But who says? You? I’m not buying it.

Many approach the game as if it is something you can control. As if you just have to form the right habits and stick to the script. Know your lines and say your lines. Know your notes and say your notes.

Don’t get me wrong, you can play the game like this. But should you? I think it’s more fun to approach the game with some soul, some personality. I prefer jazz band basketball to orchestra basketball. Free-flowing, spontaneous, personal, responsive. Fun. You may have the same beat, but you don’t have the same notes.

We need more ballers with soul. More fun. More spontaneity in the game. If you believe this, you have to do things differently. Teach differently. Play differently. Encourage players to play their game their way. Give them a consistent beat, sure. But then let them ball. At any age.

Remember, how you teach the game to players of any age always flows from your deepest beliefs about how it should be played. And who you want them to be. Do you want them to ‘know how to play? ‘

Jazz requires a different process. It’s more creative. And young players need some space to learn. Let them play.

If you give them enough time and space, you may be amazed how good they can get.

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