I was reading the Sports Illustrated article Inside the Lakers’ Disaster and came across some interesting tidbits from Kobe Bryant regarding player development in basketball. Kobe grew up in Italy during is his youth basketball years. Apparently, Select Basketball (called AAU) has the same problems that Select Baseball does and soccer too. Kobe states:
“I feel fortunate that I was over in Italy [from ages six to 13] when AAU basketball [got big] over here,” says Bryant. “They stopped teaching kids fundamentals in the United States, but that didn’t affect me. Over there, it wasn’t about competition and traveling around and being a big deal; it was about fundamentals, footwork, spacing, back cuts–all those things. Look at Pau Gasol. Look at the skills he has compared to the guys who grew up playing AAU ball.” Inside the Lakers’ Disaster, Sports Illustrated (February 25, 2013, page 39).
He mentions Gasol because Gasol is a 7′ player with ball skills. Kobe’s statements seem directed to youth coaches who place more importance on winning than on development. As a parent, the question we should be asking ourselves is “is my child progressing” rather than focusing on the win-loss record of your child’s team. Consider this video from Jeff Van Gundy. He was coach of the Miami Heat (NBA team) and is addressing high school and youth coaches.
Van Gundy questions the coaches: do you want to teach kids the fundamentals of basketball or just focus on winning games. In youth sports, he advocates player development, not team success. This sounds a lot like the Curriculum from US Youth Soccer and what we are trying to accomplish at Gusher United.