Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tom Browns Speaks!

When doing research on the girls youth basketball scene before moving here a few years ago, I happened upon a website of an organization that was ran by Tom Brown. He helped facilitate an initial team for my child before I even set foot in San Antonio. While attending the state tournament the first weekend of my local residency, I asked struck up a conversation with a successful Houston HS coach about San Antonio girls basketball. He told me to make sure that I talk to a guy buy the name of Tom Brown. "Tom Brown is a great guy" the coach continued. In a later conversation with the director of one of the most successful HS clubs in the country, he asked if I knew Tom Brown. This director was too from Houston and spoke very highly of Tom. Of course by this time, I already knew that Tom Brown is one of the more respected people in the San Antonio girls basketball scene. In an environemnt that is increasingly competitive(hostile), I have never heard any dispariging remarks about Tom. He is a man of respect and his efforts enable many youngsters the opportunity to play their first compettitive basketball. A quick Q&A with Tom Brown follows:

1. From your perspective, please describe the state of girls youth basketball in San Antonio.

TB:Basketball for girls in this city is under supported and its overall talent level lags behind Dallas and Houston. We simply do not have enough girls playing competitive-level basketball, given that the Alamo City hosts a WNBA team. I can fill an eight-team boys’ division for a tournament, nearly year-round, in a few days; it would take me weeks to achieve the same for a girls’ division. Young ladies here seem more interested in volleyball as a primary sport when, in fact, many have the attributes to better excel at basketball, the sport that offers nearly double the number of full-ride college scholarships by comparison. As for those girls who called themselves “ballers” or hardcore basketball players, most don’t place adequate emphasis on playing year-round club basketball. They typically play club and school ball for a few months each and vacation for the remainder of the time. Meanwhile, serious basketball athletes in Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, and many other areas are playing the sport at a demanding level almost 10 months a year. There is a reason why our top high school teams continually concede State championships to Dallas and Houston. You cannot necessary blame demographics or geography, because Dallas is smaller than San Antonio in population and land mass. The city’s largest basketball facility, Factory of Champions, typically does not host girls’ basketball events because demand is, sadly, low. Girls’ participation in competitive B-ball is very seasonal here. I think more parents ought to encourage their daughters to choose basketball over volleyball or play both.

2. Having also been involved in the girls youth basketball in Houston, please describe some of the differences between the cities in terms of development, talent, teaching.

TB:As I previously stated, girl athletes in places like Houston live and breathe basketball. They tend to play the sport at a more aggressive and fundamental level. They also can be found playing select ball nearly year-round in leagues and tournaments. Also, our girls start playing basketball competitively at a later age; we have fewer than 10 national-caliber girls’ teams under 14-years-old in San Antonio. Houston boasts that many in one organization. As a direct consequence of their greater commitment to and involvement with basketball, the Houston girls typically excel sooner and better. I have not discovered too much of difference between how coaches in the two cities teach the sport. Both focus much on fundamentals, although Houston coaches tend to push more man defense and less scripted offense. Also, you tend to find more post-oriented coaches in Houston, largely so because bigger athletes are more prevalent there. I do not know of any trainers in San Antonio who profess to be post-play specialists; teachers for guards can be found in abundance. Coaches’ clinics are rare in San Antonio, but fairly popular in Houston. To better mentor and train our girl athletes, San Antonio coaches need good, relevant instruction. Our city could definitely improve in this area.

3. In what ways can the youth coaches in San Antonio ensure that our future players are prepared to play against other basketball cities?

TB: First, our coaches must continually study and become masters of their trade. They must read, seek advice from others, and attend coaching clinics. Second, they must demand athlete compliance with fundamental skills, man defensive play first and zone as an exception, and motion offense to encourage basketball IQ growth via comprehension of taking what the defense gives you. Third, our club coaches must run active programs year round versus shutting down for most of the year. Fourth, our youth coaches must do a better job of working with public school coaches in order to acquire responsibility for coaching full or partial school teams year-round.

4. What is your opinion of High School ball in the city, and what programs are getting it right in your opinion?

TB:High school basketball here would be of higher caliber if its coaches encouraged players to participate in club ball throughout the year. Many school coaches view clubs as a threat to their programs when most would greatly enhance the overall value of the athlete to both the high school and club team. A lot of our high school programs don’t work hard enough to help the athlete qualify for college scholarships. Over the past three years, club programs have accounted for most of the scholarship offers extended to the city’s female basketball players. John Jay and Southwest are two examples of high schools that have demonstrated an understanding of the importance of its female athletes playing nearly year long. Both high schools have encouraged and enabled their varsity and junior varsity players to play lots of basketball via effective club programs.

5. Being that you are heavily involved with boys too, what are the biggest differences that you see between the genders in San Antonio.

TB:My opinions about the gender differences here apply to many other places nationwide. Boys’ basketball is played all year long; girls generally play on a seasonal basis. Girls start playing competitive ball about two years later than their counterparts. Girls shutdown in response to harsh criticism; boys use the same feedback to work harder. Girls avoid physical play, while boys welcome it.

6. Compare the youth seen today to five years ago. Youth today become more quickly bored with repetitive practice drills.

TB:They are more likely to give up if skill success cannot be quickly achieved. Today’s athlete feels like he can’t play or practice if the gym lacks air conditioning. Of course, there are ways in which our kids are better than those of five years ago. Nowadays, athletes participate more in specialty “velocity” training to improve speed, quickness or agility, jumping, and endurance. They tend to catch on a lot quicker to complex offenses and defenses, and seem better equipped to execute in the absence of set plays.