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The Talent Code: Building a Program Through Teaching


“Basketball is the most over-coached, under-taught sport in America,” Pete Newell


Teaching skills by breaking them into parts will yield results across your program over the years, primarily because it provides such a solid foundation for youth players.

When I look at a successful high school program, a successful youth program usually precedes it. I have no doubt that your high school program starts when the kids are in second or third grade—not when they walk through the door for freshman year classes. By then, it is too late, unless the kids have already received a solid base of fundamental skills elsewhere.

I realize that several schools in the city do not have much of an opportunity to have a feeder program. There are opportunities, however, to run programs despite knowing beforehand that you might not coach those kids in high school.

Let’s also get one thing straight. When I talk about a program, I mean the entire program, third grade through varsity. It drives me nuts when someone says, “our high school program is going to be down this year.” To me, that means they don’t have a coordinated program, and that person is really saying our team is going to be down this year.

Consistency with a solid youth program usually means consistency with a high school program. Do coaches sometimes step into a great situation where their freshman and sophomore classes are skilled? Absolutely. But people don’t realize it was developed since third grade. That is the huge difference between teaching and coaching.

Teaching means developing skills, both offensive and defensive. Coaching is managing the game, substitutions, and calling the right set at the right time or adjusting your defense during a timeout. But coaching has severe limitations in the absence of teaching. You can’t coach a kid mid-game to square on his inside foot and sweep the basketball.

If you want to build a successful high school program, it starts in second or third grade. Yes, you might lose kids here and there to other high schools in the future, but don’t let that stop you. In order to be successful, you need to have skilled players. It’s sad how recruiting has replaced long-term skill development in some programs.

If you build your program around teaching specific skills at the youth level, it will result in a homegrown varsity team you can be proud of. It will also establish a reputation for your program as a strong developmental environment for players.

Mike Lee Basketball Services trains thousands of middle school through NBA players across the country each year in their skill development training, camps and coaches Academies.  The owner, Mike Lee, is also a former Nike Girls Skills Academy instructor and former assistant director for the Stephen Curry Skills Academy. Recently the company has authored 7 skill development DVDs and created miSkillz Online Basketball training.

Click here for more information on Daniel Coyle and The Talent Code

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