When the FIBA World Cup comes around, people often talk of an elusive quality to European basketball players, particularly Spanish players. The ‘European flair’ that enchants fans and is almost mystical to the traditionally minded outsiders.
What if I told you: their elusive quality is much closer than you think.
Through watching hundreds of hours of coaches at the highest level of youth development in Spain and coaching for a premier club, I’ve deconstructed their unique methods into digestible PDFs to transform your coaching and introduce you to the progressive evidence-based methods of the Spanish basketball system.
My journey started in the United Kingdom, when I was coaching at a grassroots level. I noticed the coaches around me, regardless of experience, all had a similar ideas of what needs teaching to each age group from a technical/tactical perspective, and the same philosophies on teaching and ways of coaching. The disciplinarian approach did not appeal to me and I wanted to get out of the ‘groupthink’ environment.
Curiosity drove me to look for other ways of teaching. I wrote to clubs across Europe hoping they would let me come and learn about their acclaimed methodologies.
This connected me with Club Estudiantes, the powerhouse programme in Madrid that developed Sergio Rodriguez, Carlos Jimenez and Felipe Reyes. When I visited, I was captivated from 3pm to 10pm watching a variety of practices from under 5s minibasket to Estudiantes under 20s. At times, I would sit in the middle of the gym to watch two practices simultaneously. I made short trips periodically to visit until making the decision to move to Spain and become a coach in the club.
Their approach was unlike anything I had seen before. The coaches’ liberal attitude to teaching was the overarching feature that made them so successful, their ‘magic dust’ if you will. It could be seen in all facets of practice. During skill development work, the players would choose which moves they wanted to learn, they would build their own identity on the moves they were taught. Some coaches like perfect practices with no errors but now the Estudiantes coaches actually encouraged mistakes because they know that this is where learning occurs. The coaches are process-oriented, focusing on building creative players in the long term. Other coaches are outcome-oriented and concerned that their 12 year olds are throwing behind the back passes and turning the ball over. Without the turnover-prone 12 year old, you cannot have the creative professional.
My experiences in Madrid, and its stark contrast with my previous experience in England, motivated me to share what I learned with coaches who aren’t able to access this invaluable knowledge. So that is why I started HOOPS EUROPE: to develop awareness of the modern way of teaching and share the game sense or games-approach methodologies used by the best youth development coaches in Spain.