As Flash embarks on a journey to reshape what 'competitive basketball' looks like for our players, I'm asked often why we feel a change is needed. From the outside looking in, Flash has a successful recreational program with 400+ players, a competitive basketball club that is one of the largest in the State of Oregon, and we are embraced by the community. So why change something that is not broken?
The simple answer is that it is necessary. When we remove the external appearances of success, I knew that something was missing. In our growth, Flash slowly became just like any another AAU club, trying to keep up with the other programs with the predictable format of weekly practices, weekend games, and trying to win as many games as possible.. We do this in an effort to stand out so that somehow we convince others that our club was better so that other players might choose to play for Flash instead.
We play so many games because we feel like we have to--to make our clients feel like they're getting their 'money's worth' and to prove that we are 'good'. For players towards the end of the bench, we justify them not playing as much because we are a 'competitive' ball club and we play to win and they should just accept that as a reality of what 'next level' basketball looks like. Players end up staying or leaving our ball club based on their role on the teams. In other words, if your son/daughter's role resulted in significant playing time, you stayed. If not, you'd leave to find a better 'fit'. Simply put, we allowed games to control us--from how we set up our season to player's perception of progress or lack thereof.
What we need are not more games. What we need is an environment for players to truly develop their skills at the foundational level. Players can make up the number of games they'll play later on in their careers. What they cannot make up is the learning/repping of the fundamentals when they're young. The ratio between practices and games highlights this problem. In Europe, young players practice roughly 6 times to every 1 game that is played. It is not surprising then that investment in practices has produced more well-rounded, versatile, and overall skilled players than ever before. Compare that to the AAU Club basketball in the US, where teams practice once or twice a week (if at all) to play 4+ games every weekend, that practice to game ratio is reversed. We believe that to be a detriment to the players.
You can find coaches everywhere. Every team has one on the sidelines. What is hard to find are coaches who truly value the role they have as teachers of the game. Most want to jump straight into coaching because that's what they think will produce the results everyone wants to see - wins. At Flash, we ask our coaches to be teachers first, coaches second. We believe that you can't coach something that has not been taught first. Teaching means slowing things down--not speeding it up, explaining instead of dictating, and understanding that mistakes are a prerequisite to success.
This is what this journey is about and the reason for our renewed vision at Flash Basketball to have fundamental development at its core. While the journey will be bumpy and met with various obstacles and challenges, we believe that by playing to a different scoreboard we will serve our players in the long run.