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Kids in the Game Coaching would make Kobe Proud

Earlier this year, Kobe Bryant, star forward of the Los Angeles Lakers, gave some controversial comments on youth basketball and skill development in the United States.

"I just think European players are just way more skillful,” Bryant said. “They are just taught the game the right way at an early age. [...] They're more skillful. It's something we really have to fix. We really have to address that. We have to teach our kids to play the right way." Addressing the way that kids scrimmage in the United States, Bryant stated, “It doesn't teach our kids how to play the game at all so you wind up having big players who bring it up and do all fancy stuff, yet don’t know how to post. They don't know the fundamentals of the game.”

Although Bryant’s comments come out of frustration, we at Kids in the Game believe that he is on to something, and have set out to change the way that sports programs are run throughout New York City. We have also found that the lack of skill development is not limited to basketball, but common to almost every team sport we teach.

Michael Murphy, President and Founder of Kids in the Game echoed Bryant’s comments during a recent Q&A interview, “I was tired of watching clinics that would spend over half of their time running scrimmages. Although scrimmages have their place, they develop bad habits at a young age. As a high school coach in Manhattan, these bad habits are a pain to correct. I saw the potential for our program to run the right type of clinic, focused on fundamentals and footwork that will make them a better athlete.”

The process of changing the culture of sports camps in NYC has been long, but we are making progress. Below are two of the biggest obstacles in sports development that we deal with, and solutions that Kids in the Game and King Hoops NYC programs offer.

The Need to Scrimmage

This is easily the biggest obstacle that we face at Kids in the Game and King Hoops NYC. When kids walk in our clinics, they assume that much of the session will be spent playing games. As coaches, we are constantly confronted with questions such as, “Can we play now?” or “When does the scrimmage start?” They associate the skill development portion of the clinic as a warm-up for the scrimmage. We try to change this perception. Our trained coaches facilitate lead-up games. For instance, for dribbling, we do “Dribble Dragon,” a dribbling-based game. Children have fun AND learn the fundamental skill. Hence, they work harder to further develop that particular skill.

The Lack of Footwork

Kids are used to “sports practices” as opportunities wherein balls are preset and they are free to dribble and shoot throughout the gym. Hence, if a child walks into a soccer clinic, and doesn’t see soccer balls, he gets confused. Based on our observations, it is unfortunate that even the word “footwork” is not even mentioned.

On the contrary, if a child walks in his first day at one of our clinics, there would be no preset equipment. At the onset of the clinic, we ensure that we have a systematic way of teaching and building skills. In our soccer clinic, the lesson begins with the basic kicking movement (which is the support leg and the kicking leg). We find that taking 15 minutes to work on footwork dramatically improves children’s understanding of the game. Seeing that they know and understand the concept by demonstrating the movement, the lesson progresses to more complex motor movements, eventually with the use of soccer balls.

If you’re interested in training with Kids in the Game coaches, check out our KinG Hoops NYC page for upcoming news on clinics and private lessons. We have basketball clinics starting in March in Park Slope, Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. Contact Ben Schornack at 515-210-5674 for more information.

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