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Player development planning workshops

Pictured above: Plan for Brent Hank University of Albany (D1 NCAA America East Conference) commit for 2017. Most, if not all, of this can be ticked by Brent now.

Having delivered coach development sessions for our peak basketball body in the state of South Australia for the past few years, one of the purposes of this site is also to educate even more coaches on some things that I feel have worked well with developing basketball talent. In the process I am getting lots of great feedback from a lot of people and constantly learning and improving myself too. I'd welcome any guest bloggers registering their interest to add any blogs to this platform anytime, or shoot through any ideas or feedback.

This blog will take you through the idea of player development planning workshops, also referencing other player and team development ideas already blogged about. It should appeal to players, parents, coaches and Coaching Directors alike. If your club does not get involved in these kinds of processes I highly suggest that players and their parents can still undertake this process, as best as they can, on their own. In my experience players that don't have a realistic vision and guidance will rarely achieve high levels or their potential, as soon as it gets too tough they will quit or worse still stay involved but checkout mentally.

When you are one of the coaches that have worked very closely with quite a number of division 1 college prospects, in a short space of time, out of a small town (such as Adelaide), including 5 in 1 club team people abroad tend to ask - How? This question came up again recently when a college division 1 coach was in town whilst we were having dinner with a few other local coaches. I explained to the effect of;

The difference is mostly in what we do off court, it is nothing too clever, it just takes a little bit of effort into the players we coach. There is definitely nothing too special we did on the court, albeit our game style did encourage extreme confidence and quick decision making by players - maybe this helps (??). The off court processes and practices put forward in this blog and others related to athlete development I feel are the things that helped. The athletes I am lucky to coach have had great coaching with most of their coaches throughout their junior careers at state level, their clubs, they had great basketball IQs and were inherently very determined from the beginning, with great support from family and carers. They had the great skillsets to be able to achieve in our high risk, high reward playing style and all the pieces of the puzzle were already in place. The concepts I put forward here helped them with the mindset to put in the work to advance and, with effort, any coach or supporter of the other athletes can follow these methods too. I am lucky to have worked with great families that bought into these methods and embraced them and that was also important to be successful.

I hope others working hard to develop junior talent consider applying some of these ideas too, and watch how quickly your athletes improve, relative to their peers.

Top 2018 prospect, Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence @ Australian Institute of Sport Scholarship holder Alex Mudronja took part in these processes, he bought in, he owned the process, and he is renowned for his insatiable work ethic. I am confident this process helped him envision his future to work towards.

What we have done with the players in our teams (I say "our" because it was only possible with the help of my coaching staff, Coach Directors and the players in the teams helping each other and believing in the process) is the following:

- Build an environment where significant, individual work pays off. A style of game that encourages individual risk and advanced skillsets, also rewards players who work harder to excel. No point in working on super-advanced skills and moves on the rim or step back 3s for example if you cannot put it into practice in game situations. One player I coach individually mentioned to me the other day there was no point working on stepback 3s because their coach had told them they "did not need them being James Harden". I found this comment to a kid counterproductive. Role modeling on the superstars in the game is a powerful tool and developing the skill sets like their idols is something that is surely positive. I feel this coach had a "risk mitigation" mindset not a "risk encouragement" mindset and is counterproductive. See What is Janx Ball which describes this style of game in more detail.

- Ensure our players have individual, personalised goals and vision for their success. Set personal goals then roll out a realistic plan for players to achieve those goals. Continually work with the players in order to review their goals. See Importance and process to individual goal setting.

- Strong interpersonal relationships and peer to peer accountability through team building; vision and goal setting. Players understand that team success ultimately will lead to achieving individual goals too, develop stronger relationships with team mates and make the process of playing together more rewarding. When the team fails each individual fails in their goals too. See Establishing your team vision, values and KPIs.

The biggest advantage our sport has over others is the international pathways and opportunities available. For a club and its coaches to attract, retain and develop talent a lot of effort needs to be put into helping their athletes develop their own goals and vision for their success. Clubs that don't do this simply sell their kids short as they will not be striving for improvement, wanting to climb the sports pathways, a very healthy endeavor for young athletes to undertake in learning what it takes to strive for excellence in all aspects of life. Often kids, and their supporters (parents and caregivers), are just not aware of the pathways and opportunities in the sport, or where they might fit along the pathways, and as coaches we have a duty to help educate them.

I have taken a lot of ideas for these processes from local coaches like Paul Mesecke, Liam Flynn, Tony Casella and Sean Carlin (former Olympic athlete and President of Central Districts Lions Basketball Club) and others I have worked with.

Rather than rehash the previous blogs, today I wanted to focus on development planning workshops for a player. At some point in time we have ran these for each of the 7 featured athletes on, often multiple times. I would typically involve the parents/carers of the player, the club Coaching Director and I always felt it was important to distribute the outcomes of these sessions to various other coaches working closely with the athlete, that were valued by the athlete; school coaches, national coaching staff, private skills coaches, state coach etc.

These sessions were often undertaken well after the formal individual goal setting process had taken place that is mentioned above and was more of a review of their personal goals and weekly timetables. These reviews often take place after a key tournament, such as national championships.

I always try to do the process on a whiteboard. I make sure the athlete understands they own the process, I explain what we are doing, the agenda for the session, make sure they are happy to do it and ask them for any suggestions or improvement.

Here are the steps:

1. Review the current situation. Review the rough numbers at each step of pathway and help the athlete understand how good they, where they are at, relative to all the other kids playing basketball. Based on the tournament what were their strength and weaknesses relative to the other top talent in the nation. Also, we would review roughly where they feel they ranked in their position in the nation. We also would ask them to assess where they felt they ranked a yr or 2 yrs prior. The key is not so much where they rank now but what their improvement was in that period. We then ask them to think and project where their improvement could be in a yr or 2 time.

Pictured above: Part of the current situation review from quite a few years ago.

2. Breakdown short, mid, long term goals. Short term goals could be 6 mths, mid term could be 18 mths and long term could be 3 years for example. Make sure the goals include some measurable, process driven goals that the athlete has a lot of control over (number of sessions per week, made 3 pt shots in 5 mins, assist to turnover ratio in games etc), others that are subjective assessments by others (making a state team for example) and team goals (not always entirely in the individuals control).

More recently these planning sessions have also included practical goals, milestones to towards their goals such as:

- SATs timing

- Grades in the 16 core subjects

- How many college contacts for the athlete and at which levels?

- How many workouts per week?

- KPIs trackable game stats or other measurables such as sprint times, shooting tests etc.

3. Setup a weekly planner. There are normally up to 21 slots per week for a player to do basketball activities in; IE early morning, afternoon and late evening. The plan should include 1 day off any strenuous activity (use the day to do stretching, yoga, beach swim etc.) and 4 windows a week (at least) for homework and study, depending on the athletes needs/desires. The number and type of sessions need to take into account the athletes goals, what they need to work on (IE skills vs strength vs conditioning vs explosiveness). Other variables to consider in setting the weekly plan:

- all the formal team, squad commitments the athletes need to do in light of their goals.

- any injury management the athlete needs to do (in some cases having light days and heavy days for example where the athlete has an injury or is coming back)

- time of year and how close they are to any key events

Ultimately, successful achievement of their goals comes down to the individual player. We have to ensure they have ALL the support they need and want, otherwise that athletes chances for success are mitigated. In my experience players, their families that buy-into, believe-in and work extremely hard towards these processes have greater chance of achieving their absolute best.

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