Over Dribbling (My Not-So Brief History of…)
Recently I received a text from one of my college coaches of a screenshot from a tweet. It was from Chris Knoche, the head coach when I was at American University. He still loves to give me a hard time and bust my chops anytime he can. The tweet read: “PLAYERS: Only 19% of field goals in the NBA last year came after 3 dribbles… but keep doing 10-12 dribble combos with your trainer”. OUCH, even when joking, Knoche knows how to dig deep! But he’s not wrong and neither is the tweet. There’s definitely a trend out there for kids these days showing them ways to make move after move after move. The recent rise in “trainers” has proven to show that some people (not all) are teaching kids what is cool rather than what is good quality basketball.
I’m proud to say that we (Evolution) definitely do not partake in this mindset. If anything, I know we’re probably known as the boring trainers because we never teach flashy and our online videos really aren’t that much fun in comparison. We’re like the San Antonio Spurs of the training world, emphasizing things like one dribble pull ups and shell drill defense (things that will make your HS coach happy). I’m proud to hold strong to the best advice I’ve ever been given about training and basketball… When I first started as a trainer my High School asst coach, Bill Whitaker, told me “Just remember to keep it simple”. He’s never given me another piece of advice about my business and he doesn’t need to, three words said it all.
Of course as the competitive that person I am, that tweet has bothered me for over a week now (thanks Knoche). Where did this rise in over-dribbling come from and how has it come to be accepted? How do we fight back and get more people on board to teach the game the right way? How can we show kids that winning is the coolest move of all?
So as my brain has been racing for a week plus on this topic, I started to realize a few things that make A LOT of sense. To fully explain why many coaches have gray hair and YouTube trainers that can juggle cones and dribble basketballs at the same time can get 1.5 million views, I would like to present my Not-So-Brief History of Over Dribbling:
Que the Harlem Globetrotters theme song… I can hear that whistling in my head right now (but in case you can’t listen here). When I was growing up, the Harlem Globetrotter were the ABSOLUTE COOLEST thing I had ever seen. I went to their show when I was in the 4th grade and I even got a beach ball that had the red, white, and blue stripes all over it. Within a week of seeing them, I taught myself how to spin the ball on my finger and can still do it pretty darn well today.
Fast forward to roughly the mid to late 90’s and the And One Mix Tape Tour started gaining momentum. It was the raw street version of the Harlem Globetrotters and it meshed well with the rise in rap music and the fascination with an urban street culture. And One was a small startup company that was trying to compete with Nike, Reebok, and Adidas in the shoe and apparel game by appealing with a flashier more urban vibe. For those of you who don’t know the And One Mix Tape Tour, here’s a preview. Right around that time is when I got to American University (1996) which was the start and nearing the peak of And One and the Mix Tape Tour. We were even sponsored by And One with the ugliest uniforms you’ve ever seen, which I still blame Chris Knoche (head coach) for agreeing to that deal.
The Harlem Globetrotters were and still are harmless fun. It’s really a comedy entertainment show with a basketball theme. Even as an impressionable 4th grader I knew without a doubt that I was NEVER to do any of this stuff in my basketball games, it’s only for show.
The And One Mix Tape Tour was different, it was real, real guys, real outdoor courts, and even really accessible for the general public to go see them live or on a VHS (possibly dubbed from you teammate). I even remember working a summer camp and after lunch the kids requested to watch And One Mix Tape instead of the NBA Superstars Tape. That means Skip To My Lou and White Chocolate just became cooler than Charles Barkley destroying people to “I am the warrior”. If you don’t get that reference, please watch this. And if you do get that reference, you’re welcome!
The problem that began to arise is that those impressionable kids couldn’t tell the difference between entertainment (Globetrotters) and what was intended to be entertainment (And One). Players began practicing and using these flashy ball handling moves and passes in games under the watchful (and critical) eye of their High School and College coaches. Go back to that And One link above and find 9 mins 14 secs… Here’s the quote:
“Got me in a lot of trouble. Had me in Louisville practices throwin’ crazy passes and Danny Crumb was like, hold on son, that’s not what we do here.”
This was all happening right around the time of the boom of AAU when you were seeing more teams, more opportunity, more coaches, and unfortunately many under-qualified coaches. There were more kids who wanted to play on teams than there were really strong coaches available, and this opened the door to many of these under-qualified coaches who may just be good recruiters. This is not to say that there were not any good AAU coaches and teams out there, there were then are still are now. But with the sudden popularity of AAU there were plenty of options for players to jump ship to another team even if a coach did choose to try to hold them accountable for flashy play. Funny enough, this was the same generation of kids who requested the And One tape at summer camp!
When these same kids go back to their HS coaches or got to College it becomes a battle of stylistic approaches to the game. Kids want the flash and excitement of what they think is real, and the coaches just want the boring basics of the game and true team basketball. Then comes the transfer boom forcing High School and College coaches to choose accountability or allowing what they believe is bad basketball.
Let’s fast forward to today and start to tie all of this together. If I was working a summer camp in 2000 and an impressionable teenager of 13 years old was requesting the And One Tape after lunch, that kid would now be 29 years old in 2016. That is probably the rough age of many of the new wave of trainers who are teaching how to make “10-12 dribble combos” like mentioned in the original tweet that got my rant started in the first place.
“No one doubts that teenagers can act impulsively or use poor judgement at times, making parents and teachers sometimes question the processing (or lack thereof) occurring in young people’s brains.” from, Smithsonianmag.com
So if you take the timing of the And One Mix Tape Tour, the concept of impressionable teenagers, the rise in low-accountability AAU teams, the increase of the training industry, and lastly the easy and inexpensive access for these millennial trainers to post videos for kids on social media… BOOM! You have an explosion of people who grew up not knowing what truly-real basketball actually looks like. You have an entire generation of kids, who now adult trainers, have taken what used to be entertainment (Globetrotters) and turned it into what today’s 13 year old thinks is real and put it in their pocket. You have changed the game possibly forever from what I grew up learning, loving, obsessing, and now trying to teach. No wonder it’s an uphill battle for myself as a proud old-school trainer along with every HS and College coach out there trying to teach kids to play the game the right way.
So the only conclusion I can come to right now is that trainers who choose to try to grab the attention of the youth with social media posts teaching the 10-12 dribble combos are just today’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters and the And One Mix Tape. They are basketball entertainment and though they may appear to be a legit source of basketball knowledge, the whistling Globetrotters theme music may as well be in the background of each of those videos they post online.
The reality is that we are all ROLE MODELS whether we want it or not. What we do as trainers (and coaches) will be replicated by impressionable kids regardless of if we even realize that. I do like Charles Barkley most of the time, but his Nike commercial back in the day saying that he’s not a role model could not have been more wrong. You are always a role model as an adult, it’s more just a matter of if you care enough to be a good role model.
The more I think about it, the more it scares me because we are raising a generation of players who are caught in between two cultures. The flashy trickle down effect from the And One Mix Tape and the old school coaches who are going to force kids to play the right way. How are they supposed to know who is right if their cool, young, hip trainer is telling them one thing and their old frumpy High School coach is telling them the opposite?
The only thing I can hope is that this blog goes viral, I get 1.5 million people to read it, Good Morning America invites me on to tell the story, and we begin the swing back to influence the next generation to play the game the right way. Just in case that doesn’t happen… I’ll be back on the court this afternoon teaching one willing player at a time the importance of a strong triple threat!
As always, I value all of your thoughts and opinions. Feel free to reach out to me directly at email@example.com with your comments on this blog.