What is Player-Centered Development?
Player-Centered Development places the athlete at the center of the focus, with the coach's primary role being to develop the player as an athlete and as a whole person based on the player's needs and goals for performance, and for their life.
Player-Centered Development is what Grassroots Basketball was originally built upon, developing the athletes to allow them to compete at the highest levels, and returning each year to further advance their skills, abilities, and knowledge.
As the AAU Circuit and Grassroots programs place a heavy emphasis on national travel teams and more games, the athlete is falling behind. Athletes enter the prep hoops circuit with limited skills. The players lack the basic fundamentals, the ability to dribble, pass and shoot. The athletes are conditioned to play up to 5 games in a day, but struggle to breakdown a defender in a one-on-one situation, score with their back to the basket, or hit the open shot - to name a few.
Why is Player-Centered Development Important?
Just in the last decade, professional basketball players speak out negatively about AAU Basketball. Steve Kerr, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and Dwight Howard highly criticize the AAU Basketball Circuit for it's lack of responsibility towards teaching players the game.
“I HATE IT BECAUSE IT DOESN’T TEACH OUR PLAYERS HOW TO PLAY THE RIGHT WAY, HOW TO THINK THE GAME, HOW TO PLAY IN COMBINATIONS OF THREES….. I THINK THAT IS JUST BY LUCK IN THE GENERATION THAT I GREW UP IN,” HE SAID. “MY GENERATION IS WHEN AAU BASKETBALL REALLY STARTED BECOMING S—. I GOT LUCKY BECAUSE I GREW UP IN EUROPE AND EVERYTHING THERE WAS STILL FUNDAMENTAL, SO I LEARNED ALL THE BASICS.” - Kobe Bryant
“CERTAIN PLAYERS PLAY FOR ONE TEAM IN THE MORNING AND ANOTHER ONE IN THE AFTERNOON. IF MOM AND DAD AREN’T HAPPY WITH THEIR SON’S PLAYING TIME, THEY SWITCH CLUB TEAMS AND STICK HIM ON A DIFFERENT ONE THE FOLLOWING WEEK. THE PROCESS OF GROWING AS A TEAM BASKETBALL PLAYER — LEARNING HOW TO BECOME PART OF A WHOLE, HOW TO FIT INTO SOMETHING BIGGER THAN ONESELF — BECOMES COMPLETELY LOST WITHIN THE AAU FABRIC.” - Steve Kerr
"They got parents fighting, teams getting disqualified, teams cheating. Older players are being brought to play against younger groups just to win the trophy. What are you teaching your kids?" - Kendrick Perkins
This is why Player-Centered Development is important. We are losing the efficacy of the game slowly. Players at all levels want to be Steph Curry and shoot from the logo without putting in the reps, the time, and paying their dues. We watch teams playing one-on-one basketball and losing four or five times in one day without any recourse. Where is the accountability to teach these athletes the game?
What Does Player-Centered Development Look Like?
In a nutshell, player-centered development is taking the athlete's strengths and maximizing them for the greater good of the team - while developing the weaknesses and turning them into additional strengths. That's it. No more. No less.
We aren't just talking about skills. We're talking about how the player interacts with teammates, coaches, opponents, fans, their parents, siblings and extended family members. We must realize that sports are meant to teach life lessons. The game of basketball doesn't end when the buzzer goes off, the game of basketball has a set of universal principles that extend into every day life; personally as well as professionally. As the athletes leave the game and go on with adulthood, those universal principles reside within them.
The aspects of teamwork, team building, camaraderie, mentoring, leadership, and citizenship. All of these universal principles are taught in the game of basketball, and utilized and executed in the game of life.
Player-Centered Development goes beyond trophies and medals, wins and losses. Player-Centered Development places the focus on the player to become the best version of themselves, on and off the field of play.
The Five Pillars of Athletic Success
The Rising Stars Basketball Club strives to ensure that we're teaching the five pillars of athletic success:
Attitude stems from learning how to win, as well as learning how to lose. Win with grace and respect, as well as losing with grace and respect.
Respect comes in many forms, respecting your teammates, coaches, officials, the fans, your family, and friends.
Technical comes in the form of learning the fundamentals, how to execute a pass to a teammate for a winning basketball, or sliding your feet to cut off an opposing player.
Tactical falls into the strategy of the game, how to read a defense, or helping your teammate when their player beats them off the dribble, or simply understanding the team defensive concepts.
Work rate is the output the athlete is able to produce, whether that comes in the form of effort, utilizing skills, or picking up teammates when they get down on themselves.
Team practices, individual workouts, games, or team outings should include all five of these pillars to ensure that the athlete is undergoing a player-centered development approach.
5 Reasons to Adopt a Player-Centered Approach
Let's first analyze the coach-centered approach. The coach is the focus. During competition, the coach wants the athletes to correctly assess the situations and respond with the proper decisions and skills. The system simply allows the athletes to function as part of the coach-centered approach, and operate in a sequence of A, B, C, to X, Y, Z. Unfortunately, this doesn't always fit the group of athletes on that given team. Most practices include mindless repetitions of a given offense, over and over to the coach's liking.
The player-centered approach dishes up autonomy and empowers the athletes to use their skills, abilities and operate within their teammates skills and abilities to find the most successful approach. Therefore, it is the coach's responsibility to design a training program to allow the players to develop these skills, abilities and decision making processes which they can execute in the field of play without thinking, and using pure reaction.
1. Improve Performance During Competition
The athlete is only as effective as their confidence in their own abilities. Often times we find ourselves telling an athlete to "sweep and attack", or "Go up strong with that" - yet, very few times do we put athletes in a position during practice to make an attempt to sweep and attack a defender, or go up strong with a defender draped over them. It is through repetition and competitive drills that allow players to develop the confidence to sweep or go up strong. If you want your players to hit the back door cut, your player-centered drills should include a period of time when a ball handler is pressured, and has to make a read on a defender overplaying a teammate to made the read, and deliver the pass.
2. Improve Feedback from Athletes
In a coach-centered approach, the coach provides a set of parameters the players must follow in order to be deemed successful. Those athletes are rewarded with more playing time regardless of finding success within the game or overall development of the athlete. In a player-centered approach, athletes are interacting with one another on the floor, they're able to make reads, they're able to work through challenges together. If we look at some of the most successful coaches on any level, we don't see them screaming at athletes the entire game. These coaches realize that coaching takes place during practice, and not during the game. This approach puts responsibility and accountability into the hands of the athletes, allowing them the freedom to work through challenges together as a group. Ownership is a huge part of overall team development.
3. Improves Coachability in Athletes
This one may be more of an opinion, but it is something I think is worth discussing. When an athlete is learning their strengths, weaknesses, and areas that need improvement or areas they thrive. Athletes start to define their own role within the team strategy. This comes through freedom within the team concept to make plays. Allow the athlete to attack the rim, attack a gap, take the open shot, or make the tight needle-point pass. These opportunities take place during practice in competitive drills. Help the athlete understand why that step-back three is a bad shot, because they shoot 7% when they shoot the step back, they shoot 41% when they take the catch-and-shoot shot. Your team shoots 6 more free throws a game when that tentative athletic guard attacks the paint. In this context, athletes start to identify where they fit into the grand scheme of the game, thus improving overall coachability of the athlete.
4. Improves Athlete Confidence
Athletes improve through a player-centered approach during each session at their own pace. The athlete going 100% will improve quicker than the athlete that goes at 70%. The athlete that goes 100% in practice but gets 5 minutes a game can only improve if they're getting in shooting reps, working on their finishing moves, working on their feet in individual defensive drills - aka the player-centered approach. The player-centered approach, eventually lift the athletes at the end of the bench and improve their confidence in their abilities.
5. Builds Strength in Your Program
If we take a step back and look at the overall program, in some schools that is grades 6 through grade 12 - in others it is grade 3 through grade 12. Regardless of how your program is structured, having each level start with a player-centered practice, you're only enhancing the overall skill level of your athletes coming up through the program and advance into the high school and varsity levels. The biggest detriment to any program is having a 3-5 program running sprints and rehearsing inbounds plays and a 6-8 working on skill development drills, then Frosh, JV and Varsity focusing on rehearsing plays. One sign of this occurrence is that a strong frosh team comes full force, then the players level off quickly in the JV and Varsity ranks.
Rising Stars Basketball