Youth coaches... you have probably run up against teams that have a player who developed early and has some athletic gifts that allow him/her to dominate. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, Malcolm discusses the unbalanced distribution of birth months among NHL players. Because youth players are registered in leagues based on their year of birth, the biggest and strongest players tend to be those born in the first few months of the year. Some times we see these kids peak early in their sports careers, if they don’t continue to work on their skills, and only rely on their natural athletic gifts
This phenomenon is not limited to youth basketball. There are athletic freaks at all levels. The higher the level of competition, the more freakishly athletic those players are. I’ve seen players that have never lifted a weight nor worked on their vertical and they look like they were genetically engineered and have 30 plus verticals.
Who knows how skilled Dwight Howard is? I’d love to see him in some skill drills. I do know this; he doesn’t have to employ a full skill set to achieve his success. He doesn’t have to have great handles. He doesn’t have to have great defensive technique. He doesn’t have to be able to create space to get his shot off. He doesn’t have to be a great passer. He may have all of these aspects in his game, but to do what he does, he does need to be very athletic. Howards stats for last season include.
Now keep this in mind. I’m all about the skills. I’m a skills coach, but how many times have you seen skilled kids passed over for athletic kids. Perfecting your footwork will make you smoother and faster. It will give you an edge, but you can’t ignore becoming more athletic. Perfecting your shot mechanics will make you more consistent, but you still need to have your feet get you to a spot, where your hands can take the shot.
When skilled kids are passed over for athletic players, it often boils down to two things:
1) Coaches see the body and believe they can teach that kid to be better skilled.
2) Its about right now, not tomorrow, and not what potential and kid has, it’s more about kinetic. The higher the level, the more true this statement is. Coaches at higher levels are putting together teams that may need to compete in the near future. They are not looking to develop players; they are interested in moving the chess pieces around the board.
Take stock of what you have as weapons. Become a Triple Threat player.
1.Are you working on skills?
a.Do you think Steve Nash is an athletic freak? Believe me compared to you and me, he probably is, but not on the stage he plays. Become more skilled, work on your ability to pass, ball-handle, shoot, rebound, read the floor
2.Are you working on athleticism?
a.Don’t let the fact that some people are more gifted athletically disappoint you and make you be a defeatist. If you are
working on that aspect of your game then you are getting better, and getting better is progress and moving forward. Moving forward is success!
3.Are you working on conditioning?
a.Everyone can shoot when they are fresh. Can you shoot when you are tired? If you are not in great shape, then you will find it hard to play full-out defence.
Imagine where you can take your game if you are working on this three pronged approach to your game.
If you are having a hard time imagining it, have a look at Chidi Majok. A player I had the pleasure of coaching for three seasons. When he started playing for me he only had a 18 inch vertical. Watch him throw this put back down.