How to Make ihoops Effective

In November 2010, I suggested ways for ihoops to change the culture of youth basketball, as was its stated mission when it was founded. This was an expansion of my original ideas which were outlined in the original edition of Cross Over, and included the Elite Development League and High Performance Centers. While I have yet to see anyone outline an alternative that is more practical or effective, I continue to hear from people who believe my ideas are flawed or impractical. As an example, here are excerpts from an article on the German Bundesliga.

In 2000 a Bundesliga report highlighted the major problems within its league.

In 2008, the NCAA and NBA agreed that there were problems with the development of youth players, which was the impetus for ihoops.

Clubs must now meet certain requirements in order to receive a licence to play in either of the first two divisions. For the Bundesliga, clubs must have development groups at all ages and a written development programme. This ensures that the clubs are providing their youngsters with a specific and effective football education.

This is similar to the Elite Development League proposal. “Forty-eight EDL organizations presently (30 NBA, 16 NBDL and 2 affiliated with the High Performance Centers).” Basically, this would mean that the teams in the top two leagues (NBA and NBDL) would sponsor youth teams. The original EDL proposal suggested u18 and u16 teams. The EDL could go further than my original proposal and require a written development program as well as programs for all ages, not just two teams.

There are currently 121 football centres around Germany, and at one stage €70m was being spent on youth development per year.

USA Basketball, according to Tom Farrey’s Game On, spends less than $150k/year on youth basketball development programs, while it is hard to see where the $10-million investment by the NBA and NCAA has been spent. The U.S. has no basketball centers comparable to the German football centers, and the investment by the NBA, NCAA, USA Basketball, and ihoops certainly is not 70-million Euros per year.

In my suggestions for ihoops, I argued that the money that starts at the top (NBA and NCAA) should filter down to the grassroots/amateur levels, as these levels (youth, parks & recreation, AAU, high school, etc.) develop, coach, and provide facilities for the future professional players without any compensation, beyond the nominal sign-up fees. My proposal would provide youth organizations who consistently develop players into college and NBA players the funds to start a basketball center. A school like St. Anthony’s that regularly worries about closing down and running fundraisers to support its basketball team would have a revenue source: the matriculation of its student-athletes to the NCAA and NBA. Why not reward those organizations and coaches who work with athletes at their most vulnerable ages and the age when most development occurs?

One of the biggest changes though, in my opinion was how clubs changed the training routines of youngsters….This lead to German clubs adopting the “4v4” method, in which kids under the age of 14 were not exposed to the more tiring version of the game. This saw players play on smaller pitches allowing them the freedom to use their skill, giving them more touches and more shots on goal. Tactics and positioning were thrown out of the window, and kids had the opportunity to develop and perfect the technical side to their game.

Similarly, I have suggested that young players begin their careers in 3v3 basketball leagues rather than 5v5 leagues. To that effect, I have started the Playmakers Basketball Development League  for like-minded coaches and administrators to use, and am engaged currently in two studies that examine the differences between 3v3 and 5v5 basketball games. 3v3 creates a more manageable game for young players to learn and practice skills to prepare for the 5v5 game, and a 3v3 league makes it easier to get every child involved in more action and more hours on the court.

Thanks to all of this German football is now thriving, with some of the most exciting talents on the planet currently plying their trade in the Bundesliga.

Once the NBA returns, it’d be hard to argue that the NBA and NCAA are suffering from a lack of talent. However, coaches grow more critical of players’ game awareness and fundamentals every season. Some of that could be normal “grass is greener” type stuff. However, there is some truth.

If ihoops, USA Basketball, the NBA, and NCAA are seriously interested in changing the culture of youth basketball, as they say, these are the types of changes that need to happen. The filtering of money from the top to the bottom would allow the organizations at the top (NBA, NCAA, USA Basketball, and ihoops) to have some authority over the organizations to push through the reforms. If an organization wants to be eligible for the money, for instance, the superpowers could dictate that for 8-10 year-olds, children only play 3v3 leagues. Other leagues outside of the power structure could choose to run leagues as they want, but they would be ineligible to receive the payouts should any of its players make the NBA or NCAA Division-1. The financial incentives could also be used to ensure proper coach education programs for all coaches, and the financial payouts could help finance these programs, as the organizations could pay the youth coaches or pay the coaches to attend a coaching clinic.

Right now, the NBA, NCAA, USA Basketball, and ihoops exert no influence over the game at the grassroots level. By using its television riches, and rewarding the coaches and organizations who do the best job, the superpowers could improve youth programming throughout the country, push through reforms that benefit the players and the game, and create ways for organizations to reduce the up-front cost of programming for children. Instead, schools, community centers, etc. lose money on athletics with poorly-paid or volunteer coaches and virtually no quality control while developing future NCAA and NBA players for free.

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~ by Brian McCormick on November 18, 2011.

5 Responses to “How to Make ihoops Effective”

  1. Thanks for using my article! And yeh I agree with you, these changes have made a massive difference. I’m sure if implemented into other sports it could also work a treat!

  2. Hi Brian,

    Great article and I agree with you on the logic behind the NBA and NCAA getting behind grassroots development. Every time I see this arguement though I reminded of the passage by Jacques Barzun in his book’From Dawn to Decadence’. “Institutional self-reform is rare, the conscience is willing, but the culture is tough.”

    The question that I would ask you and others is what can be created that would so greatly impact grassroots basketball to provide the financial need for the NBA and NCAA to get involved in a real way? As it appears logical best interest arguement is not strong enough to drive self-reform in their operating practices.

    • I don’t believe that we’ll ever come to the point where the NBA and NCAA have to get involved to promote their best interests. I think they will have to be convinced that it is something that they should go because it is the right thing to do.

      They constantly have ads promoting their activities, like the NFL with its Play 60 initiative. While it’s great that they do something, one time events do not solve problems. A one-time event does not get children physically active every day. If the professionals league want to have an impact, they need to assist with the funding, so there are more affordable options for children to use parks and schools after school, and more coaches or recreational assistants to ensure a safe environment.

  3. I’m more into the soccer aspect, so love the fact your crossing ideas about youth coaching that way. As long as the kids are getting the best possible outcomes, it doesn’t matter where the ideas come from. I would love to talk with about the small sided soccer concept I have. I believe it would well as a cross over to your 3v3 league. Would you agree that the concept should be more play, more skill development, growth in confidence, better individuals?

    • Yes. I believe the game is ultimately the best teacher. However, a typical game does not provide enough repetitions or ball contacts, which is why small-sided games are valuable. Ultimately, the best players are the ones who make the best decisions and can execute the requisite skills. In soccer, if kids only play 11v11, how many players touch the ball consistently? If the coach tells the fullbacks to boot the ball out of trouble, how do these players develop? A midfielder or forward who touches the ball more often, dribbles at defenders, makes decisions on the ball, passes, etc. is going to improve more through the course of the season.

      Same goes for basketball. I just coded a game for an assignment. The starting PF for a section semi-finalist did not receive a pass during the first half of a play-off game. How is this player going to improve? The player inbounded the ball and grabbed a couple rebounds. If more players touch the ball on each possession, they have more opportunities to improve. The discrepancy between good and bad does not grow as the season progresses, but gets smaller, which should be the goal.

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