Our perceptions of coaching and what it means for player development

by on February 16, 2016
in Practice Design

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are two pictures of very different camps in Africa. In the top picture, you have a sponsored camp directed by an NBA player. In the bottom picture, you have a grassroots camp sponsored by a nonprofit grassroots program in Africa.

Most people associate the top picture with a well-coached drill, and the bottom picture with children running around out of control.

When I look at the two pictures, I see that every player has a ball in the top picture, but only one player is involved in the drill. In the bottom picture, I see 6 balls for 25 players, and every player is involved (I also happen to know that the one ball not being dribbled was flat).

In the top picture, I cannot be sure of the purpose: Maybe shooting, dribbling, triple threat moves. However, it does appear that there is no defense, and the players stand in a line at least 9 players deep between turns. In the bottom, I know the purpose was dribbling.

In the top picture, at least two players are doing their own thing while in the back of the line, and those in the front watch the one person who is going. In the bottom picture, I count at least five players laughing and smiling.

Again, most people would characterize the top picture as an ideal drill, and chastise the bottom picture, but what do the pictures show? One person doing a drill versus 25 despite the top group possessing one ball for each player. Lots of smiles in the bottom group. Unopposed practice in the top versus a form of opposed practice in the bottom.

This is an issue in coaching. The top picture is deemed to be good because it is organized, supervised, and orderly, whereas the bottom picture is denigrated for being out of control, lacking focus, and just playing around. But which environment really provides more opportunities to develop skills that will transfer to the game? Dribbling around a cone with no defense once every 10 turns or dribbling amongst a number of players and chasing other players while attempting to tag others?

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