Looking back at the 2007 NBA Draft to discuss talent identification

I found an old blog entry from 2007 that discussed talent identification in the lead up to the 2007 NBA Draft.

That is Eddy Curry, Kwame Brown and Tskitishvili. So far, so good.

Certainly missed on Conley, and everyone missed on Oden, but the other six remain in the NBA a dozen years later, which isn’t bad.

Not bad on Afflalo and Dudley (even nailed the Pistons drafting Afflalo!), although Young has had a great career, albeit not as a superstar.

In the lead up to the 2019 NBA Draft, I took issue with an article that described the NBA Draft as a crap shoot:

The NBA drafts players between 18 and 22 years of age. Despite youth coaches believing that they can identify talent in elementary school, these players are not finished products. Only the rare players enter the NBA as ready-made starters; almost every player has to improve to earn playing time and stay in the NBA. Therefore, when we look back after 2, 5, 12 years, some things appear obvious, but that is hindsight because we have learned more about the players in the subsequent years. Should we have known these things at the time of the draft? Sometimes, but not always.

I wrote this about Jeremy Lin during Linsanity:

What if this is really a story about a player who met failure at every step of the way with a Growth Mindset and responded with increased effort and determination to make himself into a better player? Poor Man’s Commish, the authority on the Jeremy Lin story, has commented several times about moves that he has now that he did not have at Harvard or about improvements to his shooting technique. Others have noted his improved quickness since his time at Harvard.

Maybe, just maybe, people made accurate evaluations of Lin at the time. Maybe Lin took note of those evaluations and viewed them as progress reports, not final grades. Maybe Lin heard about his suspect jump shot or need for more quickness and worked at those weaknesses.

The thing that differentiates Lin might not be his ethnicity or Ivy League degree but the way that he deals with criticism or rejection. Rather than losing hope when he went undrafted, maybe it fortified his will and determination and spurred extra effort in the gym. Maybe when he was cut by the Warriors and Rockets, it created an urgency to show more if given another chance.

Maybe Jeremy Lin is not the story of others who made mistakes, but an individual who believed in himself and created his opportunity through a re-dedication to perfecting his craft. While others settled with being pretty good, maybe he strove to be great. While others headed to Europe for a nice payday, maybe he maintained a single-minded focus on his NBA dream.

Maybe everyone was right all along. And, maybe, just maybe, Lin had the will and desire to hit the gym and prove them wrong by improving and stepping up his game at each step along the way. Maybe he persevered when most others would quit; maybe he did not allow others’ perceptions to become a self-fulfilling prophecy; maybe he grew from these experiences which tend to stagnate growth in others.

Maybe the narrative should be about a kid who likes to ball who didn’t let other people tell him what he couldn’t do or achieve and who believed in himself enough to put in the work to make an absurd dream (non-scholarship to NBA) into a reality.

Similarly, it is easy to look back and believe that we should have known that Steph Curry should have been drafted higher, but what role does the environment and coaching play?

With his astonishing success, it seems ridiculous to think that anyone would question his skill, success, decisions, or shot selection, but considering the rhetoric from a lot of NBA players, who I imagine share many feelings with a lot of the ex-NBA players who are now coaches, how would a coach have reacted at the beginning of last season before Curry became an MVP and World Champion? Remember, we’re talking about a player who many Warriors’ fans would have preferred to see traded to Milwaukee instead of Monta Ellis.

Would Curry be Curry without Kerr? On any team, with any coach, he would be a great shooter and scorer. But, in a different environment with a different coach, would he be more like JJ Reddick than Curry? How much of his brilliance is due to the environment?

This, then, changes the question. Rather than wondering why coaches missed out or did not recognize Curry’s talent and skills (since I and Tucker are arguing that it was recognized), the question instead should be: How many other players would move beyond their current status if they played in the right environment?

In today’s NBA, nobody would draft Greg Oden over Kevin Durant, but the NBA in 2019 differs from the game that was played in 2007. In 2006-07, Golden State led the NBA with 1967 three-point attempts; in 2018-19, the Spurs attempted the fewest three-pointers (2071), and Houston led the NBA with 3721 three-point attempts (stats from Basketball Reference). Similarly, Curry obviously should have been drafted higher, but it took him changing the geometry of the entire NBA to demonstrate that obviousness. He was drafted into a different NBA than the one in which he plays today.

At the time, maybe NBA GMs should have known more about Durant, Lin, and Curry. As I wrote in 2007, rather than following the adage that you cannot teach height, NBA teams should draft for the psychological skills and intangibles that predict success (competitiveness, focus, discipline) that author Marcus Buckingham argues are equally innate. If a team had identified Lin’s tenacity and grit and drafted him, would it have allowed more time for him to realize his potential?

For youth coaches and parents, there are three primary take aways:

  1. The game evolves. A player who thrives today may not have a role in a decade if he or she cannot evolve and improve. The ability to and willingness to learn and improve is as important as any skill, quality or talent.
  2. The psychological and mental skills ultimately trump the physical gifts. In any sport, there is a minimum physical threshold; a 5’8 male is going to have a very difficult time making the NBA, and a 7’0 male likely will be exposed on a soccer field. Once the minimum threshold is achieved, it is the psychological characteristics that will determine one’s success: Resiliency, grit, mindset, adaptability, work ethic, and more. If you plan to prepare your child for athletic greatness, focus on these skills and characteristics before worrying about his or her jump shot.
  3. The environment matters. Does the environment allow for the player to thrive, like Curry with Kerr or does the environment limit the player(s), like Curry under Marc Jackson? By focusing only on what a player cannot do, do we miss what the player can do? Is there a way to exploit the positives?

Yes, NBA GMs make mistakes. However, many mistakes are obvious in hindsight only because a player improved, the environment changed, the game evolved, or an injury occurred. Decisions are made with imperfect information, but to improve one’s odds, more emphasis should be placed on the psychological traits and the fit with a team’s environment (which, of course, is difficult when coaches change every 2-3 years, which is one reason that organizations such as the Spurs and New England Patriots have an advantage).

Coaching a European Club – Week 1

I arrived in Europe on Tuesday, and we practiced on Wednesday. I have three teams, essentially, but we practice as two teams. I am coaching a men’s team in the first division and a second men’s team that plays in a local division (rather than a national, domestic league). The third team is an u20 team, but all of the u18 and u20 players play for one of the other two teams, so they get enough practice through those practices. I also coach, along with the women’s coach, the basketball college, which is an option for high-school players who wish to train, since there is no high-school team. Most of the u18 and u20 players train with the basketball college too. Read more

A Coach’s Impact on the Fear of Failure

At the park, I watched as a young boy ran all over the place. He tried to play with other young children or he played with his dad, running after his ball and hiking it to his mom. One time, he ran toward our group and picked up speed. All of a sudden, he face planted. He got to his knees, giggled and said, “I fell.” Then he got up and started again. He did not slow down. He was not embarrassed. He did not think twice about running again. He laughed and continued moving. Read more

Is Perfect Practice Really Perfect?

Originally published in Los Angeles Sport & Fitness, June 2009.

Everyone has heard the popular coachism, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Nobody questions this logic. Intuitively, it makes sense: to learn something new requires practice and the execution in the practice should be the same as the desired execution.

When you learn to hit a tennis ball, you hit hundreds of balls attempting to use the perfect technique so when you play a match, your forehand technique is perfect. You develop the proper habits so that when you play a match, and performance is important, you do not have to think about the execution; you rely on your habits. However, is that how we learn? Do we learn perfectly?

When a child learns to walk, nobody teaches him. Nobody insists on perfect practice. The child crawls and tries to stand up to mimic others around him. He intuitively notices that other people move much faster, and they move on two legs, so he copies them. Inevitably, he falls. So, he tries again. He falls again. Eventually, he takes a couple steps before falling. Before too long, the child is walking.

Did he learn through perfect practice? Heck no. He learned through a series of mistakes.

In many sports, parents and coaches insist on perfect skill execution before the player plays the actual game. Golfers hit at the driving range until their stroke is perfect; tennis players hit thousands of ground strokes before they play a match; basketball players shoot thousands of shots before they play a game. Is this necessary? Is this the best way to learn a skill? Or, are we better off learning by doing, much like when we learned to walk?

When you learn to hit a tennis ball, you hit hundreds of forehands in a row. As you begin, the ball machine, your partner or an instructor hits balls directly to you so you concentrate strictly on the technique. This is called block practice.

During block practice, your practice performance improves. After hitting hundreds of balls, your technique is better. You see the improvement and you feel like you spent your time wisely. After hundreds of shots, your practice is perfect. Now that you have learned your technique, you believe that by engaging in more of the same practice, you will continue to improve and improve.

However, the demands of tennis differ from a block practice session. The forehand is a different shot when running to get to a ball that is slicing away from you.

The same is true in golf. Players hit hundreds of drives on the practice range and believe they have fixed their stroke. Then they shank a drive on the second hole. Their practice performance improves as they hit hundreds of shots in a row, but during a round of golf, the performance changes. The demands of a tennis match or a round of golf are variable or random.

Because the game is random, random training transfers better from practice to games. However, when players engage in random training, their practice performance does not improve as quickly.

Rather than hit hundreds of forehands from center court, random training would mimic a game and force you to hit different shots at different speeds and with different spins. While engaged in this practice, your performance likely will not be perfect. You will make mistakes.

However, just as we learned to walk, mistakes, in the right frame of mind, present learning experiences. A baby does not judge himself poorly when he falls down. He does not know that he made a mistake. We view the fall as a normal experience. Nobody tells the baby to stop and wait until he can walk perfectly before trying again.

As the baby gets older, he learns to avoid mistakes. Making a mistake in class means a giant red mark and a bad grade. Mistakes amongst other kids elicit laughter. Mistakes in organized sports translate to less playing time. We hear coachisms like “Perfect practice makes perfect,” so we try to practice perfectly.

The problem is that, like the baby, we have to make mistakes to improve. If the baby feared mistakes, he would never learn to walk. He would feel content to crawl forever. Fortunately, our fear of failure does not occur until later in our maturation.

However, when we learn a sports skill, this fear of failure is often present. Many baseball players aim the ball rather than throwing it because they fear the result. Tennis players try so hard to get the ball in the court that they do not take a hard swing through the ball. Basketball players short arm shots because they try to place the ball in the basket rather than shooting it.

Rather than fearing mistakes, we need to encourage these mistakes. There is a time for perfect practice but down the road. At the beginning, players have to make mistakes. Without mistakes, players stay the same.

When I train young players, I encourage mistakes. I tell players that if they are not making mistakes, they are not working hard enough. They may be able to do a ball handling drill at a slow speed without making a mistake, but does that perfect practice help them improve?

The key, however, is the player’s mindset. Before a player can learn a new skill or improve a skill, he must overcome his fear of failure. This means changing his outlook.

Rather than emphasizing perfection or the execution, emphasize the effort and the process. After watching your son play, comment on his effort and improvement, not just his result. If you congratulate a Little League player for a great game because he had four hits in four at-bats, and you say something like, “Wow, you’re quite a talented player,” he develops what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls a Fixed Mindset. However, if you say, “You had a great game. All your practice is paying off!” he develops a Growth Mindset.

With the Fixed Mindset, he protects his talent. He fears making a mistake because it might expose his lack of talent. With a Growth Mindset, he learns that success is a product of his effort, so he is encouraged to work harder. When he makes a mistake, he sees it as part of the learning process, not as an indictment of his skills or talent.

When players have the confidence to make mistakes as part of the learning process, they move more quickly to perfect practice. They concentrate on the process, not the result.

When learning to hit a forehand, they concentrate on the perfect execution of the skill, not the perfect result. You may use the proper technique and hit the ball into net, but during the learning process, that is preferable to using a strategy to hit the ball in the court without the best technique. Some players rely on a slice to keep the ball in play rather than learning a proper swing. They concentrate on the result, not the skill execution or the process.

Aiming for perfection often hinders skill development. Instead, aim for small improvements day by day and accept mistakes as a part of the learning process and without judgment, just as a baby learning to walk.

By Brian McCormick, M.S.S., PES
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

Parent’s Guide to Talent Development

Talent development is a process and developing the proper psychological skills and mental approach is as important as developing one’s vertical jump or shooting mechanics. Unfortunately, when evaluating talent, recruiting players or drafting prospects, one cannot accurately measure a player’s mental and psychological skills and talents.

How do you measure a player’s work ethic? How do you ascertain his stick-to-itiveness? How do you gauge his motivation? How does the talented player react when the game is no longer easy? How do young athletes handle the pressure of early expectations? How do players handle mistakes and criticism?

At the highest levels, the physical differences are minimal.  Elite performers separate themselves through their work ethic, competitiveness and mental and psychological skills and talents.

The following five steps offer parents a guide to navigate the complex talent development process.

1. Work Ethic

Magic Johnson says, “The best players are almost always the hardest workers.” Natural talent, size and athleticism can take a player far, but nobody reaches an expert level without a tremendous work ethic.

“Deron [Williams of the Utah Jazz] was the type of guy who always worked extremely hard,” [Cleve] Ryan [Williams’ middle school coach] goes on. “Every day in high school he was the last one to leave the gym. He made himself into a great player by putting time and work into it.”

Everyone talks about working hard, and everyone knows that to reach a high level he must work hard, but why do some people develop the necessary work ethic while others never do?

Parents influence the future expert performer through the values they exhibit daily (Bloom; Csikszentmihalyi, et. al). Most expert performers learn values of hard work and always doing one’s best from their parents.

Children learn from their parents, and when parents exhibit these values consistently and early in the child’s life, the child adopts these values. Allowing their child to slide, complaining about a coach or accepting mediocrity shapes the child’s personality.

Children see parents who always work hard and who never accept anything but perfection, whether doing the dishes or making a million-dollar deal, and adopt these attitudes and values. The greatest consistency between expert performers is their work ethic, and in nearly every study, they note their parent’s expectations of doing one’s best and working hard.

2. Encourage a Learning Goal Orientation

Stanford University professor Carol Dweck classifies people as Growth Mindset or Fixed Mindset. People with a Growth Mindset have a “Learning Orientation.” They view learning as a process and believe they can develop their talents over time. A setback does not indicate a lack of talent, but a need to work harder.

People with a Fixed Mindset have an “Outcome Orientation” and believe that talent is fixed or innate. A setback indicates a lack of talent and creates doubt, often leading to the person giving up, rather than working harder.

Individuals develop a Learning Orientation or Outcome Orientation early in life and their parent’s and teacher’s comments affect their orientation. When a parent, teacher or coach concentrates on the result, the individual identifies with the outcome.

When a teacher or parent praises an “A” and credits the student’s intellect, the student values the “A” and equates an “A” with intelligence. A subsequent “B” questions his intelligence. However, if the teacher or parent praises the student’s study habits or effort when he receives an “A,” he views the “A” as a reward for his effort and hard work, not his natural intellect. A subsequent “B” signals a need for more effort, not an assault on his intelligence. As Dweck notes:

“Students for whom outcome is paramount want to look smart even if it means not learning a thing in the process. For them, each task is a challenge to their self-image, and each setback becomes a personal threat. So they pursue only activities at which they’re sure to shine – and avoid the sorts of experiences necessary to grow and flourish in any endeavor. Students with learning goals, on the other hand, take necessary risks and don’t worry about failure because each mistake becomes a chance to learn.”

A Learning Orientation encourages growth and improvement. A young player with an Outcome Orientation is unwilling to step outside his comfort zone.

When I instruct young shooters, I ask them to concentrate on the shot’s feel and not worry about makes and misses. The goal is not to count makes, but to improve the technique. I direct my comments toward a Learning Orientation because growth and improvement supersede success.

Unfortunately, coach and parent expectations often pressure players into an Outcome Orientation, as comments pertain to makes and misses, not signs of improvement.

The way a player reacts to his success or failure affects his motivation and work ethic. Motivation increases if the athlete believes the factors are stable, internal and in one’s control (Gould).

A player can explain a successful shot by saying, “I made the shot because I am a good shooter,” (Stable) or “I made the shot because I was lucky” (Unstable).

He could say, “I made the shot because I work hard every day shooting 500 shots after school,” (Internal) or “I made the shot because it was an easy shot” (External).

Or, he could say, “I made the shot because I used proper shooting technique and shot inside my shooting range,” (In one’s control) or “I made the shot because the defense played poorly” (Out of one’s control).

If a player believes he made a shot because he was lucky, it was an easy shot or the opponent played poorly, the basket does not improve his future expectancy of success. He attributes his success to factors outside his control, which easily change. Therefore, this success does not improve his motivation or his confidence.

Fixed Mindset people believe talent is stable. This increases motivation as long as one is successful, but when one faces the inevitable hurdles, the person questions his talent.

A Fixed Mindset person believes success is out of his control and determined externally. When he is unsuccessful, he is not inspired to work harder, but instead gives up because the failure means he lacks talent.

Growth Mindset people believe their effort determines their success, not their inherent gifts or traits. Maximizing their potential is within their own control and determined by their effort and opportunity.

Nobody reaches any level of success without hard work, so parents must encourage a Growth Mindset through comments targeted at the player’s effort and improvement, not just the outcome or result.

“Research has revealed that in a motivational climate of mastery or task goal [learning] orientation, there are more adaptive motivational patterns, such as positive attitudes, increased effort and effective learning strategies. In contrast, a motivational climate of outcome orientation has been linked with less adaptive motivational patterns, such as low persistence, low effort and attribution of failures to (low) ability” (Gould).

Csikszentmihalyi concludes that “what characterizes people who use their skills to the utmost is that they enjoy the hardships and the challenges of their task. It is not that they are more likely to encounter pleasant experiences but that they persevere when they meet difficulties that would daunt others and occasionally succeed in turning experiences that others find meaningless or threatening into highly enjoyable ones.”

Expert performers develop the proper motivational strategies for success because they cope with failures, whether a loss, a poor performance or a challenging question, and learn from mistakes without losing confidence. They view learning skills and improving as a challenge, not an admission of failure. These motivational strategies help the athlete maintain confidence when others lose it and persist when others quit. While those who lean toward outcome goals are afraid to fail, expert performers strive to get better and are unafraid of challenges and commitment.

3. Start the child in sports like any other child and support his or her interest.

Parents subtly, and purposely, influence a child’s pursuits. Press Maravich, Pistol Pete’s father, wanted his son to develop an interest in basketball, so he made basket after basket while his son watched in awe and then gave his son the ball so he could try (Kriegel). Press’ actions were calculated, but not overt, and he waited for Pete to show an interest before he started to instruct and push him.

Parents want their child to succeed, primarily for his happiness and self-esteem. In an effort to help their child, many parents push him into a competitive training environment before he is developmentally ready. They believe an early start gives their child an advantage, but elite performers’ introduction to the activity and their initial experiences mirror those of average performers (Bloom; Csikszentmihalyi, et. al). Future Olympians and professional athletes start their athletic careers just as other kids, playing recreationally and having fun rather than entering a professionalized training system.

Children start sports innocently and without expectations. A child shoots baskets with a friend or family member and plays at recess and P.E. Parents enter their son or daughter into a local league. Initially, the league’s competitiveness or coach’s brilliance is unimportant. Most important is the coach’s interest in the sport and the players. Most expert performers have a coach who shows an interest in their success at a young age.

Initial coaches must provide a positive, fun environment, and they must show an interest in each player so he feels special and talented. To develop a successful player, the initial experiences must be fun and motivating, as optimal development requires a passion for the sport.

4. Do not rush the process.

In other activities, from piano to chess to swimming, children gradually progress through three different phases – the Early Years, Middle Years and Late Years or the Romance, Precision and Generalization Phases (Bloom; Csikszentmihalyi, et. al). The transition from one phase to the next is indefinite, as a child gradually changes his motivations and needs.

In the Early Years, the child needs a safe, fun atmosphere with a supportive coach who makes the child feel special and generates enthusiasm for the sport. In the Middle Years, the athlete needs better instruction and an opportunity to master new skills. In the Late Years, the child needs to use the skills and enhance his performance. The progression from novice to expert performer is gradual. Rushing the process and missing essential steps along the way ignore the psychological needs and motivations of young athletes and is as a detriment, not an impetus for his success.

5. Find the appropriate coach/environment at the appropriate age or developmental phase.

When a child illustrates a desire to play the sport, as opposed to just playing, find better instruction to facilitate the athlete’s growth. Oftentimes, the initial coach recognizes the young athlete’s potential and encourages his parents to find a more advanced environment.

This transition happens naturally and gradually and signifies a transition from the “Romance Phase” to the “Precision Phase,” or a shift from a recreational player to a developmental player. The coach’s role changes to meet the player’s motivational needs. When the player enters the Precision Phase, he needs instruction and feedback from a skilled coach to enhance his skills and nurture his talent. He needs a coach who encourages his learning. At this age, players need to make and learn from mistakes. Without mistakes, there is no growth. Nobody develops perfectly; a baby does not walk on his first try. The goal is not perfection, but improvement.

Coaches must provide proper motivation and stimulation during this phase. These players require fundamental instruction, as these are the “skill hungry years,” (Balyi; Bompa; Grasso) where players most easily learn new motor skills. Winning has its place, but learning is most important to children during this development phase.

Unfortunately, I valued winning meaningless games over my own kid’s development. The things he is being taught to do in college are the same things that [L.A. Rockfish’s Dave] Benezra was trying to get him to do, ahead of time, so he would be prepared as a college freshman and could move on to still other more advanced skills. The trophies? Oh, they still look good, although they are gathering dust in the garage. And the wins? It seems like nobody really remembers them (Anonymous father posting on Socalhoops.com).

As the athlete moves toward the Late Years, he needs a coach to enhance his performance and refine his skill level. Expert performers spend as much time involved with the activity as other players, but expert performers spend more time in deliberate practice. Deliberate practice requires a well-defined task with an appropriate difficulty level for the particular individual, informative feedback and opportunities for repetition and correction of errors (Ericsson).

While today’s players practice more and more, this practice is less and less effective because the skills become autonomous – the player no longer thinks about what they are doing to execute the skill – at earlier ages, often with immature skills. Young players “master” skills at a junior high level, which proves successful in junior high school, but not so much in high school or college. However, without concentrating on the skill performance, they cannot alter its execution. A 55% free throw shooter does not show marked improvement from shooting more free throws; this practice ingrains poor shooting mechanics. Instead, these athletes need repetitions and feedback aimed at improving a specific flaw. They need to go beyond their comfort level; they need to change.

The key challenge for an aspiring expert performer is to avoid the arrested development associated with automaticity. The developing expert performer actively counteracts the tendencies toward automaticity by deliberately constructing and seeking out training situations in which the set goal exceeds their current level of performance (Ericsson).

The rushed development process creates an early automaticity. Normal practice will not change his shooting mechanics. He needs deliberate practice with a skilled coach who can direct the player and offer feedback so he re-learns the proper shooting mechanics to shoot successfully at more competitive levels.

The expert performer expends the required energy and concentration to expand his skill level through deliberate practice. He is also able to find and work with a coach who provides adequate feedback to ensure efficient learning and improvement. Proper development requires patience. Players in this phase require a coach who can take their game to the next level and utilize their skills in a competitive system.

Conclusion

Last month, I spoke to a high school coach who lamented one of his player’s academic difficulties. The girl fell too far behind early in high school, and despite interest from colleges, needs junior college to meet college admission standards. Naturally, the coach echoed a common refrain: tough family life, no parental support, no guidance, single mother, poverty, etc.

Parents make a huge difference in a child’s success. I followed a team from 7th grade to college. As 12-year-olds, this group was among the nation’s best; of the eight players, three play Division I athletics: two play basketball and one soccer. One quit during her junior year of high school, one played through high school, one dropped out of high school, one stopped playing in high school and one plays at a junior college. Ironically, the least talented 12-year-old is the most successful college performer (Atlantic 10 Conference), and the one considered to be the best plays soccer.

Two things stick out about this group. The three Division I players played multiple sports during high school. The others played only basketball. Secondly, these three had the strongest parental support. Their parents were around, but not overly intrusive. They attended games, but did not berate officials or the coaches. They supported their daughters, but did not make excuses. The others lacked the support, had family problems or had overbearing parents who made everyone’s business their own.

Balance, perspective and parental support made a difference in their lives and their successful pursuit of a college education and athletic scholarship. Maybe these three were the most naturally gifted, the toughest mentally or the most determined. Maybe they were lucky to have parents who cared and a stable home environment.

With myriad reasons to explain success and failure, pinpointing just one factor is impossible. However, I suspect the stable home environment and the parental support created an environment which led to success, and I do not believe the influence of parents, positively or negatively, can be overstated.

The path to talent development illustrates the importance of long term athlete development. Those who eventually develop into expert performers possess a happy confluence of genes, environment, support, values, opportunity and work ethic. The path to talent development illustrates the importance of a competitive outlet for blossoming expert performers to train and enhance their skills through more competitive play and deliberate practice with competent coaches.

Cross Over, 3rd Edition front CoverCross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development incorporates physiological and psychological phases to propose one model for development and to encourage parents, coaches and league administrators to demand a better product which benefits children of all ages and abilities, not just the elite. The new system should give every child the opportunity to maximize his potential, not set up a survival of the fittest, childhood-long scholarship quest. The goal is a better journey, not to sacrifice the journey for the destination. Basketball is not merely a scholarship pursuit, a career or a season-long quest for a championship. It has the potential to be a microcosm of life:

Each time a father takes his son or daughter to the playground to shoot baskets for the first time, a new world opens — one full of values that can shape a lifetime. In my experience, the feeling of getting better came with hard work, and getting better made victory easier. Winning was fun, but so was the struggle to improve. That was one of the lessons you learned from the game: Basketball was a clear example of virtue rewarded.

– Bill Bradley, Values of the Game

Can he win gold?

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, October 2008.

Athleticism is a heated topic because it gets to the root of our humanity: are great athletes born or are they made? One’s answer to the question suggests a great deal about his personality and outlook, but the answer boils down to an important topic covered expertly in Carol Dweck’s Mindset: Do you have a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset? Read more

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