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GUEST BLOG: Youth Development by Alan Keane

As national team U16 head coach I have a strong interest in the youth development in the UK. 
Each year we observe players and coaches in action particularly in the Regional Development tournaments held in various venues throughout the UK.

The one thing that is very reassuring is the style of game, the level of performance and the coaching seems to be improving year to year.

The Regional Development system has reaped the benefits of the Regional Performance Centres (RPC) that involves one session each month for 6 months 10am-4pm in all regions throughout the country.

Here the invited kids (sent through their clubs) learn and develop the fundamentals of the game. From footwork to off ball defence to movement off the ball to shooting, the RPC player gains a great opportunity to develop the key skills necessary to grow their game.

The RPC has also been great in term of identifying talent for future national teams and gives us the perfect opportunity to monitor their development and feedback to the players and coaches in attendance.

With regards to youth development I believe the players are very eager to develop and grow their game and also I believe they are especially eager to please their coach and those around them.

Therefore I find it somewhat frustrating when the player is punished, humiliated and berated by the coach, sometimes in full view of the public. I am not taking away from the fact that coaches must hold their players accountable and demand high standards when pursuing excellence. I am more referring to U12-U15 basketball.

In this country we don’t have the luxury of all kids simply falling in love with the sport from a young age.

We as coaches need to plant the seed and make provisions for kids to enjoy basketball. This is a never ending process for all coaches.

When players reach a certain level of ability and performance such as regional or national team level then I truly believe being more firm with the player.

However I find it very distressing when I see a school U12/13 player being shouted at during practice or games for making mistakes. I recently read an article by Brian McCormick that really sums it up - players make mistakes for 1 of 3 reasons; 1. the don’t fully understand what you want them to do, 2. they are simply not good enough yet to do what you ask them to do, and, 3. the player just doesn’t care.

Therefore why do we need to punish the player. If we as coaches fall victim to the first 2 points then we need to reflect on ourselves and the quality of our coaching and if point 3 is the answer then the solution to that is simple too.

Not to go off on a tangent but I feel the biggest tool we have as coaches is reflection. If we honestly reflect on what it is we are actually doing each and every moment we are with our players we will be better coaches, we will deliver better sessions, we will develop our players better.

Us coaches are asking our players to be better everyday. However and in conclusion, we as coaches are doing a disservice to our players if we don’t develop ourselves first. 

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