What are we doing in youth sports?

On Sunday, I was an assistant referee for an u13 girls soccer game in a local tournament. These were recreational players and teams masquerading as “select” or “comp” teams; none of the “elite” or “competitive” teams participated, as most are finished for the summer after regionals and nationals. These were your average community-centric teams similar to the teams on which I played at this age. Of course, when I played, we played 12 games in a fall season; now, these teams apparently play year-round (I knew the elite teams played year-round, although many – some – of the elite players play multiple sports – basketball in the winter, usually – based on what I learned as an assistant referee at a national tournament, but I did not know the local teams played year-round now too).  Read more

Andres Iniesta and Small-Sided Games

“I started off playing small-sided. Everything grew from there.” — Andrés Iniesta

Developing Successful Performers: Learning from Spain’s World Cup Victory

On another blog, I saw an interview with Seattle Sounders Strength & Conditioning Coach David Tenney. He has an interesting response when asked about soccer development in the United States:

I agree that soccer has developed to a good level in this country…However, there are still some real areas that we lag behind our South American and European competition. I think that if you look at the average high school age or college game, it’s an overly physical battle…The American game is about trying to play at a frantic speed for as long as possible. At times, it looks like uncontrolled chaos. When we start to get coaches that can slow the game down a bit, so players can think, then we will make progress.

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Elite Soccer as a Means to Teach Offensive Basketball

Many people overlook the similarities between invasion games like lacrosse, hockey, basketball and soccer. However, watch the series of passes and tactical skills which lead to Arsenal’s Sam Nasri’s goal against Manchester United (video has been floating around on twitter thanks to Clarence Gaines and Steve Nash, among others).

The series uses many of the same concepts that we try to teach on the hardwood:

  • The series starts with a corner kick (inbounds pass): Arsenal attacks the goal, but no shot develops, so theyretrieve the ball and set up to maintain possession.
  • After recovering possession, they use a quick give-and-go down the left side.
  • When nothing is open, they quickly reverse the ball from the left side to the right side to force Man. U to defend the entire width of the field.
  • Once the ball gets to the right sideline, they try another give-and-go, but the player is not open, so they touch the ball back to the right back filling behind the cut.
  • Eventually they move the ball with the dribble to the middle of the field and execute a dribble hand-off (to use basketball terms).
  • After the dribble hand-off, the player passes to Cesc Fabregas in a position not unlike the high post. He turns and faces the goal.
  • As he faces the goal, one player makes a diagonal run from the right side to the left side, which clears space for Sam Nasri’s cut toward goal (essentially a backdoor cut).
  • Fabregas leads Nasri perfectly into his shot.

This is not a play. This is the type of tactical understanding and game awareness that we should strive to teach on the court. If players understand the basic skills (give-and-gos, dribble hand-offs), they can combine these skills over and over to create an open shot.

The most important aspect, to me, was the cut from right to left that opened the space in the center for Nasri. Players – especially young players – need to understand that sometimes a great cut does not produce a shot for the cutter, but opens space for someone else. Also, the ball handler does not need to pass to the first cutter who is open, but needs to see the play developing and realize the second cutter is wide open in a more dangerous position. When you find a player who anticipates and finds the second cutter in a situation like this, you have an elite point guard, as few players at any level see the play develop in this manner.

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

  • What Is A Playmaker?

    Who decided that a point guard has to be small? More importantly, what is a point guard? We expect a point guard to be a leader and have a high basketball I.Q. Why don’t we expect or challenge all players to develop this game awareness? Why rely on only one player? Read more →
  • The PBDL Concept

    English soccer academies wait until players are 11 to play full 11v11 soccer; in Italy, youth basketball players participate in skill-oriented clinics at 6-years-old, but start competitive games at 12. In the United States, kids play 5v5 full court games and compete for national championships when they are 8-years-old.

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  • Starting A PBDL

    The PBDL emphasizes learning and development. Presently, players and parents have numerous recreation options - leagues based on fun and equal participation, typically for beginners - and numerous competitive opportunities - teams focused on strategy, game preparation and winning. There are few true development leagues - until now.

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