Two springs ago a mother called the office and said, “We’ve heard really good things about your program. We’re looking for the right team – do your teams travel?”
“Sure, we travel – up to Harlem sometimes, and across town and down the street to our gyms in our neighborhoods.”
“Well we want travel – real travel – with a lot of games. My son loves basketball – all he thinks about is basketball. He has so much potential.”
“OK, that’s great. But how do you know that he has a lot of potential?” I asked.
“Well, everyone tells me.”
“Who tells you this?”
“Look, I’m not saying he’s going to play in the NBA, but he’ll definitely play in college.”
I wasn’t sure if I heard her right — maybe her child was in high school? An all-state player?
“What grade is he in?”
“How can you be so sure?” I asked.
The mom fired back up, asking about our program and I harped on the teaching and practice hours and also the fact that DNA and genes and aggression (see all articles below) play a major role in a basketball player’s current and future career. I asked if either parent played college sports.
“No, but we played high school.”
“Just out of curiosity, how tall are you and your husband?”
“I’m about 5’8 and my husband is 6′ 1″.”
I mentioned that I did play college ball in a Top 25 program (and did not say that I played against many pro and Olympic players at the Olympic training facility–just in case they don’t know a) where Northwestern is and 2) that Northwestern is in the Big Ten).
But my opinion didn’t matter.
Maybe I’m too old or I wasn’t that good, or I’m just a female – female ex-college and pro basketball players don’t work as men hard, they’re not strong enough, and they basically don’t know what they’re talking about.
When I get these calls from parents who make these predictions or from parents who ask me to make predictions about their child’s ability, I say to myself I’ve got to put together that list of articles so the parents can read what they don’t want to hear from me.
Below is a list of articles that are good reads. The only one that is missing is the one in the NY Times that reported on a study of WHY KIDS PLAY. The study revealed that kids grades K-8 play sports for three main reasons – TO HAVE FUN, TO BE WITH THEIR FRIENDS, TO LEARN AND IMPROVE (and ultimately feel better about themselves). Nowhere in the study did the kids play sports to 1) WIN or 2) FULFILL THEIR PARENTS TOTALLY INSANE PREDICTIONS. Winning didn’t even appear in the top 10 reasons why they play. (There’s nothing more to take away from that article, which I remind myself of all the time, particularly when I feel like I’m being too intense and demanding.)
The articles back on our rule of thumb, even for our grade 7-8 advanced players in our Motion X program (games year-round in moderation — read here for the blog about the thought-process behind X).
The rule is this: the talent is practice, the practice is talent. The proof? College and high school teams play during the WINTER only (the rest of the year they’re training individually and as a team and in pickup and summer leagues). These athletes spend 3 weeks of practice 6 days a week – 20 hours per week – practicing for their first game. So the ratio of practice hours to game hours is about 60 hours for their first 2 hour game or fairly close.
Over course of the season, in thick of Big Ten basketball – January-February when coaches must lighten up — we practiced about 3 days for our Friday game, then practice on Saturday before our Sunday game. Monday off. Practice hours about 10-12 – lighter during season not counting weights and video tape sessions. Game hours during season = 4 to 5 max. Ratio: 12:4
Why are so many teams and programs making grade 3, 4 and 5 kids play in more game hours than practice hours? Why aren’t they constantly assessing their practice hours: game hours ratio? Why are parents not seeing their kids repeating the same mistakes and not improving as much as players who are following this mantra: “Make practice your masterpiece.” (John Wooden)
For now, here are a few good reads that support Motion’s approach and philosophy.
HOW TO RAISE A SUPERSTAR … The 10,000 hour rule has become a cliche. This is the idea, first espoused by K. Anders Ericsson, a pyschologist at Florida State University, that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice before any individual can become an expert. The corollary of this rule is that that differences in talent reflect differences in the amount and style of practice, and not differences in innate ability.
THE RAW INTENSITY OF NEW YORK’S ELITE BASKETBALL…(Note: Make sure you read far into into this long piece until you read what the experts are saying on game hours vs. practice hours, particularly as they pertain to shooting the ball properly and effectively over time – basically all those game hours are eating up practice hours and kids are making the same mistakes over and over in games instead of fixing them through rote practice routines.)