In this basketball coaching conversation, Alex Sarama of NBA Europe asks questions, and discusses, a games approach to coaching concepts with the creative mind behind Basketball Immersion, Chris Oliver. Chris and Alex discuss the value of 1-on-0 drills and adding a defender can change skill development.
Alex Sarama has been working for the National Basketball Association (NBA) since 2016. In his current role as Associate Manager, Basketball Operations, Alex manages NBA initiatives across Europe, Middle East & Africa. Alex’s role involves working with stakeholders, governments and Federations to grow the game of basketball across three continents. He travels frequently throughout these regions to deliver NBA clinics for coaches and players of all levels, in addition to supporting marquee NBA events such as Basketball without Borders, NBA Global Camp and NBA Global Games.
Alex grew up in Guildford, United Kingdom, where he attended St Peter’s Catholic School. Following High School, he studied History at the University of Nottingham, graduating in 2016. Whilst at Nottingham, Alex was the Men’s Basketball Head Coach competing in BUCS Division 1A. Prior to joining the NBA in the summer of 2016, Alex was the Managing Director of Goldhawks Basketball from 2011 – 2016.
“From a youth level, getting skilled on offense is the most important thing.”
“I hear the debate all the time, ‘players don’t know how to play,’ well, we don’t put them in situations where they learn how to play.”
“The game is far messier than how we construct drills . . technique is always tactically and context specific . . practicing skills in isolation does not lead to transfer.”
“Drills tend to encourage a coach-driven expectation of what’s supposed to happen.”
“There’s no form of practice more specific than playing basketball.”
“If you don’t have a defender, you don’t have a decision.”
“Decisions are also skills . . I believe I would teach almost all youth skill development from 2-on-1 situations.”
“Basketball is . . a thinking game and that’s why the games approach is so important . . because it makes players think in practice.”
“As coaches, you definitely have to embrace the messiness . . that messiness is where all the learning happens for the kids.”
“You can have practice fun and engaging from the first minute you start by using the games approach.”
“For some coaches it can be difficult to get buy-in from the parents or the program administrators if you feel like your practice is looking disorganized but I think just the results . . being able to show the development and improvement of the players . . people will see the benefits of taking a more 21st century approach.”
Click below to listen in if you listen on:
0:00 – Introduction
1:21 – Role in Helping the Growth of Basketball Overseas
4:40 – Context
6:00 – Coach Driven Drills
7:30 – Progression in Practice
9:14 – “If you don’t have a defender, You don’t have a Decision”
9:30 – Game-Like Drill
10:43 – Skills over Decision Making?
11:30 – Developing Perceived Confidence, Coaches Comfort and Tradition
13:00 – Evaluating Traditional Teaching
16:00 – “Without Technical Ability, It is Harder”
16:30 – Solutions
17:10 – Signals and Player Decision-Making
20:00 – Decision Cues
21:00 – Playing 1-on-1 at the Rim
22:00 – Live Defenders
23:41 – 1-and-0
24:10 – Practical Value
25:00 – Top of your Head Layups
26:00 – Clean Drill Gap
27:00 – Knowing the Advantage
28:00 – Drills and the Purpose
28:45 – Isolated Shooting Practice plus Decision Making
29:40 – Player Learning and Optimal Challenge
31:00 – Finding the Best Solution
32:30 – Discussion about 1-on-1 Drills
35:00 – Dribble and Direction Limits
38:37 – Specific Scenarios
41:00 – “Decisions are also Skills”
42:37 – 2-on-1 Situations
44:00 – Emphasis on Defense and Offense
46:00 – “Just add a Defender”
48:00 – Playing 5-on-5 to start Practice
49:00 – Spin Dribble
50:00 – Messy on Purpose
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