Duke's Diary: Lack of Skill

As a kid I would get up and washing my face and brushing my teeth was mandatory and the first thing to do. Shower, of course, was next. Put some gear on and maybe a bowl of cereal to get me going for the day.

Those things were repetition and became a routine. I did not lack the skills to do those simple things.

Now it was time to grab the rock (basketball) and hit the block and see who could come out and play. Once we got together, we started a game or two or three, or really all day. We played all day because we didn't want to go in the house and do house work. Smart kids!

We played at a neighborhood friend's house until he kicked us off the court, then we played in Grandma's back yard on the court until the ball went into the garden and smashed a few veggies. So after that episode, off to Washington Park. Eastside of Indianapolis was the short five-block walk to go and work on our skills "training."

This was not the form of training that many youth get today. Today's youth have personal trainers, etc. (much respect to the basic fundamental trainers out there). The training that myself and my friends received came from the older heads on the court who made us earn our way on the court first. This piece is about lack of skill in today's youth basketball players of America.

Lack of skill at Washington Park would have you looking at the games all day from the sideline. So if we were not playing we would run around and dribble, dribble, dribble, go shoot, shoot, shoot and do the things that might get us on the court with the older guys. We would also sit and watch to see what they would do and try to add it to our game.

With all of that information we had to practice because we wanted to play with the older guys before it was our time to really play. We had a sense of pride about ourselves that we belonged on the court with them. In reality we did not stand a chance. We were smaller, not strong enough and not old enough.

Hey if you could halfway play you might have a chance if one of the older guys had to leave, or was finished early. Back then no one got tired and quit before the sun went down. Play all day long out there in the sun. Wow, those were the days. Players had skills. I mean BASIC fundamental skills.

So when the competition was tough and your skill level was not on everyone else's level, you could not play, no exceptions unless the teams were uneven and needed a player. Now days kids play with anyone whether they can play or not. Where is the pride?

So in return you have one skilled player with a few kids that lack skill playing and the game ends up looking like a story out of the peanut gallery. Complete mess! Young players now days lack the skills of the game, which are simple dribble, pass, shoot. Many kids can not dribble the ball without palming or carrying the ball.

In return many youth refs don't call the game correctly because they know the game would never end. Is that right? Kids need to learn the basic fundamentals of dribbling the ball with their hands on top of the ball and not under it. They should find film on the greats like Pistol Pete, Isaiah Thomas, and Magic Johnson and watch how they could handle and dribble and control the ball with a HIGH skill level.

Kids need to learn how to shoot the ball properly, and learn how to pass the ball correctly as well. Today's youth need to own their skills, the basics. Many of them are talented, but lack fundamental skills that will make them a well-rounded player. Perhaps if the skill level is high, they would be a more recruitable player while in high school (Gotta have the grades to go with it, though).

The Magics, Birds, Barkleys, Jordans, Pistol Petes, and the NBA legends who paved the way for today's players had high skill level and were prepared once they got to the college level. Too many college coaches have to teach more skills than planned because the high school product/player is not on a high skill level.

Who's fault is that? Player? High school coach? Parent? Non-scholastic coach? I blame all of the above. Kids need to work on their skills. Parents need to encourage their kids to work on their skills just as much as they encourage them to learn in school. Non-scholastic coach should push the kid more to work on their skills instead of playing more games for "exposure." Kids, parents, and coaches need to be careful of the "exposure" thing because there are two kinds. You can get exposure or you can be exposed.

High school coaches should take back ownership and increase kids' skill levels. It is not by default that the legends all had a high IQ of the game and their skill level was high.

Larry Bird was very skilled and most of his learning of the skills of the game came from his high school coach. He then practiced it to become a better basketball player. Larry Bird is a great example of, if you practice on your skills and increase your skill level you can become a champion. He was a player that was slow and did not have "crazy" athletic ability, yet once he stepped on the court he had skills in shooting, passing, and dribbling. He understood he had to make up for the lack of athletic ability against more talented players. His had skills and it showed. NBA championship skills! He had NBA legend skills! He had Olympic gold medal skills! Larry Bird refused to lack in the skills department of the game of basketball. He is a true example of hard work, fundamental work, repetition, and owning his skills.

Quick note: Larry Bird had a drill that he had to make 50 jump shots in a row before he could leave the gym after practice. No one can ever say he was one to lack in skills.

Sum it all up: young players today do not practice the fundamentals of the game enough. They need to practice more, and more, and more on the FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS of the game. The end result.....A BETTER SKILLED BASKETBALL PLAYER......through the great teachings hopefully a better person.


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