Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cultural Short Comings

At a recent exposure event, I struck up a conversation with a former college coach. This coach was familiar with the entire state of Texas since he regularly recruited the state for players. During the discussion , he expressed his admiration for Dallas area basketball. I then asked him to send me his opinion as to the differences between Dallas and South/Central Texas Girls Basketball. He assessment follows:

"As a former college recruiter I have had the privilege of observing practices and games all over the United States. There are vast differences in style of play, and the way the game is approached from region to region, and even city to city. In my time as a recruiter it was easy to see the disparity in the basketball played in the DFW area, as opposed to the rest of the state. I think that it is far too easy to chalk this up to merely a gap in the depth of talent. Instead, I think that it is much more of an institutional and mindset problem. Here are some examples: In the highly competitive schools in the DFW area it is not uncommon to see a campus with college level facilities. The schools have beautiful competition gyms, practice facilities, locker rooms, weight rooms, film rooms, etc. This might not seem like a big deal, but when schools are willing to put that amount of time and money into their athletics it is evident in all aspects of the athletics department. The athletics departments are willing to hire a greater number of PE/Health teachers, thus making it more appealing to teach & coach at the high school level. Because of this the coaching jobs are in much greater demand (and with great coaches applying), and the leash is shorter for poor coaching performance. Because of this coaches are far more demanding of themselves and of their players. The coaches demands on the players are quite obvious when you enter a practice. Coaches don’t tolerate a lack of effort and execution. They understand that it is a sink or swim business, and if they don’t DEMAND the most from their athletes, then they will sink as individuals and a team. The coaches are also far more demanding of themselves. There is a constant hunger to gain new ideas and to become better as coaches. This is shown quite clearly by attendance to coaching clinics. Coaching clinics that are held in the DFW area consistently have great turnouts, where as those held in San Antonio and Houston suffer from a lack of numbers.

Another institutional shortcoming with regards to the game of basketball comes from DFW area kids starting to play competitively at a much younger age. Not only are there far more opportunities to play, but these opportunities are taken much more serious. Even Middle School programs are taken serious. The coaches for middle schools are knowledgeable, driven, and in most cases, picked by the high school varsity coach. This allows for consistency in what is being taught, as well as a sense of accountability for the middle school coaches to make players better. This is a great contrast to middle school programs in other areas of the state where youth sports continues to feel like intramurals.

Unfortunately, these are not the only two factors that have allowed DFW to dominate girls basketball in the state in the past. Another contributing factor is a tendency to shy away from competition. In the DFW area, practices are held with numerous teams in attendance. The Varsity girls get beat up by boys in the school, then they beat up the JV girls, then the JV girls beat up the freshman girls. In each rung of this ladder there is not a concession of acceptance to remain where you are. All players and all teams are scratching and clawing to climb that ladder and move a head of those who are now on top. Somewhere along the line the rest of the state has gotten away from that mentality. It has become acceptable for parents and kids to either say ‘Oh yea, Suzie Q. is the best player here because she has been given chances that others don’t get,’ or just to pick apart the flaws in her game without ever setting foot on the court. Instead of this method, it’s time to start going back to the court to ‘prove’ who’s best. And if it doesn’t happen to be you, fight and scratch in the gym until it is. If it is you, go out and find somebody who you can’t beat, then fight and scratch to take them down. This is the only way that basketball in the state will catch up with the basketball in the DFW Area."

As in most cases, there will be exceptions to the rule. This coach was offering an unbiased opinion. He is not from Dallas in fact, I learned that he was born and raised in a different part of the country. I think we all benefit from learning from the successful practices of others. While this current 2010 class is one of the deepest in terms of talent and college bound players in the history of this city, we still have a long way to go.