The Basketball Podcast: EP155 Alex Sarama and Chris Oliver on Basketball Immersion

RELEASE DATE : 17/03/2021

In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Jen Oliver hosts a discussion between Chris Oliver and Alex Sarama who join the Basketball Podcast to geek out on Basketball Immersion concepts. Chris and Alex provide insights on keywords like games approach, constraints, BDT, random practice, zero seconds, and the Basketball Immersion membership community.

Chris Oliver

Chris is the founder of Basketball Immersion, The Basketball Podcast, and Immersion Videos.

As an expert in basketball decision training, he coaches, trains, and mentors coaches to maximize their players’ potential and enjoyment of practices and games. What he is most passionate about in his work is sharing evidence-based coaching ideas that can stimulate your coaching to get better results. The goal is to improve your players’ retention and transfer of the things you teach to their performance. You can learn more about concepts like messy learning, constraints-based coaching, maximizing active learning time, adding decision-making to drills, and much more in the numerous blogs he shares at Basketball Immersion Blogs.

After coaching for over 23 years, completing his Master’s degree, traveling the world to watch NCAA, NBA, and Pro teams from around the world, Chris saw the need for more education on a games approach to coaching basketball and training methods to support this. He created Basketball Decision Training (BDT) to bridge the gap between skill development and game applications of those skills. 

Alex Sarama

Alex shares creative team and player development ideas for basketball coaches, federations, and organizations around the world. Alex helps coaches apply Basketball Immersion concepts such as coaching with a games-approach, Basketball Decision Training, and much more.

During the season, Alex is based at Pallacanestro College Basket in Italy, while also traveling to deliver Immersion coaching clinics, camps, and in-person consulting. During the off-season, Alex focuses solely on Immersion events as well as working with professional players.

Alex’s coaching journey began as a 14 year-old in his hometown of Guildford, England. Alex started coaching the Under 12 team at his school, before then going on to start his own club aged 16. Over the next few years, the “Guildford Goldhawks” became one of the most established youth clubs in the South of England, producing over 10 National Team junior players, in addition to running major international events featuring coaches and players from all over Europe. Alex ran Goldhawks semi-remotely while also studying Modern History at the University of Nottingham, where he also played and later coached on the university team. 

Jen Oliver

Jen Oliver is the author of the international bestselling book, The Love FitMama Way: Transforming the Core of Motherhood, and is the creator and host of the FitMama Podcast (The Work IN to your Workout).

Jen has a true passion for helping people make a greater impact through sharing their passion, intellectual property, and wisdom with the world. Coaches help others constantly and give freely. She can help you create a business using your education, experience, and energy that you can share. She can help you clarify your expertise, expand your reach globally and create a business and brand you love.

As a Business Mindset Coach, Podcaster, and Speaker, Jen inspires, educates, and motivates entrepreneurs around the globe to begin all things with self-love. She has helped produce six and seven-figure launches, and campaigns, for entrepreneurs in a range of businesses.

Basketball Immersion

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CHRIS: “I got a chance to visit so many practices around the world, and gained tremendous confidence in the ideas I was sharing, and that there was a real need for me to be able to share more things on decision training and a games approach to coaching.”

CHRIS: “There are different ways to be successful, but what aligned with me . . when I did my master’s degree . . were these skill acquisition concepts revolving around decision training, and just realizing what an underserved thing that was . .  we spend so much time as coaches on developing skill and building it and then we expect players to be able to apply those skills in game situations without ever having them been coached within the context of those game situations . . I think a lot of coaches learn the most from their players.”

ALEX: “I think for me that the biggest thing I’ve enjoyed the most has just been connecting with hundreds and hundreds of coaches all over the world . .  the biggest thing I’m passionate about is making a difference and just trying to improve on coaching, delivery and the experience players are getting all over the world. I feel like we’re in such a privileged position with [Basketball] Immersion to be able to do that and have such a big impact on what’s being done in 1000s of practices across the globe.”

CHRIS: “BDT, basketball decision training, is a bridge between on air practice, which means practice without an opponent . . and playing live offense versus defense basketball, which obviously we support . . how do you incorporate decision making, without playing live? . . And how do you add or simulate an offensive or defensive player to be able to help your players connect, not just skill, but connect perception, decision, and skill together to be able to apply it?”

ALEX: “I was just going through things really small changes that coaches could do that have a dramatic effect on skill, retention, etc. and simply adding a defender is obviously . .  I think you see so many one on zero type formats, players doing finishes . .and even high level players doing that stuff. The coach . . just by standing in the charge circle can reduce the success of a layup attempt by like 40% in some cases . . It’s so so many small simple things coaches can do, which have a dramatic effect on how the players develop . . and I think it’s just accelerated development . . We’re really doing all the research for you, and presenting it in a really digestible manner to just speed everything up and make it as efficient as possible for coaches to understand.”

CHRIS: “An NBA assistant coach [who is a Basketball Immersion member] texted me the other day . . and just said, how valuable it was that they could get right to the point and they could find something that would stimulate what they do. They didn’t take exactly what I do, and do it with their players, but they took the concept, they took the idea, and they adapted it.”

CHRIS: “Why are we doing something that isn’t helping your players improve and helping your team win? And the part that coaches don’t necessarily connect with right away is understanding the value of perception.  What do I see before I actually make the decision? And then what decision I make leads to the skill application?”

ALEX: “I think coaches will see how in everything we do . . that perception action coupling processes is integrated . . I think it can be sometimes very confusing, especially for younger coaches, thinking that absolutely everything has to have a defender and absolutely everything has to be live . . in certain situations, especially with novice players,  I think just getting the balance and getting the perspective is critical.”

CHRIS: “For so many of our coaches, especially consulting [with] NBA and college coaches and pro coaches overseas, the one thing that I constantly ask them is, ‘Can players do this without you?’ Player-led development has got to be a huge part of it . . Our value [as coaches] is helping them understand those progressive ways to be able to load and develop their skill on their own, that’s player-led.  Coach-led should be the connection of what we want to connect and transfer to the game.”

ALEX: “We tried to move more to, instead of just having individual players working with a coach, having small group sessions, because the value you get from that and what you can actually do is just so much greater.  I’ve been working on reframing all my player development ideas recently. And I’m working on this idea of kind of grouping of checklists, and grouping things into create, keep and convert . . it’s all linked to the idea of creating an advantage.”

ALEX: “Traditionally, as coaches, we rely on hand-me-down methods as opposed to actually going off empirical evidence and then combining that with our own experiences.”

CHRIS: “One of the most cohesive ways to bring a team together is through shared struggle, that they have this shared experience . . For coaches in our community, we have people that have gone through the struggle, and that’s such an important part of this community that we’ve created. With the new website, we have this ability to be able to connect and collaborate and network directly with coaches from around the world at different levels . . Again, that takes bravery. but that’s the process.”

CHRIS:  “We load so that they continually challenge themselves, they struggle, and they have to fight for their learning. But also that this leads to progressively giving them [freedom].”

ALEX:  “I think the problem is when sometimes players associate particular drills with particular things that they know you want to focus on. Instead, we want to have our practice environment a little bit more complex and chaotic . . I don’t really have many transition drills, but I load in transition to a lot of the things I’m doing. And it’s way more random because players always going to be in different position every time. And then we can really check for understanding of the different phases of the game.”

CHRIS: “The thing that I do the most in consulting is helping coaches with their practice evaluation about how to improve their time on task, the active learning time for athletes, and then the coaches’ feedback pattern of delivery.”

CHRIS: “It’s almost impossible to truly meet the needs of your athletes, and your community or whatever it may be without being open minded, without being curious . . because I think we all go into it with our preconceived [ideas], and if we remove those, we’re a lot better off.”

ALEX: “Everything we do at Immersion is about how players can learn best. And I think with the new website, the way we’ve designed it is really tailored to how you as a coach can learn best. I think the big change we have is a lot of our content has been put into online courses.”

CHRIS: “Alex already talked about the course based learning, which was a huge priority for us so that we can add words and images and video together to be able to help a coach progress through our learning and to have it kind of in a one stop shopping area . . the other part is, coaches wanted more networking and collaborating. Now we’re hosting that all in our own online community where we’ve created our own opportunity for coaches to be able to have discussions within forums and to be able to create groups where they can connect with each other and collaborate and network.”

CHRIS: “We [also have] the XPS platform, where all members get the integrated XPS platform as well . . where you can get a team package or you can get individual coach package as well . . with this ability to be able to get modernized learning where it’s gamified, you can track your progress, achieve some certificates, and different things like that.”

ALEX: “I’m actually going to be using XPS a lot for my program here next year, to push things such as surveys to our players so that every day they answer a survey, How good was their sleep? What’s their mood? You can do nutrition logs, strength and conditioning. So it really is incredible, the whole scope of that XPS platform.”

CHRIS: “I know many coaches are tired of simply consuming more content online . . We need specific outcomes as coaches to be able to improve.  There are many websites that will provide you ideas on what to teach with a massive content dumping. Our Basketball Immersion membership community shares what to teach, too, but with a focus on how to teach and clear strategies and direction.”

ALEX: [On the Basketball Immersion camp in Poland] “We just want kids to be able to come to this camp and say this was the best camp I’ve ever attended. And we want it to be a transformational experience for them. We have two weeks of residential camp. The first week is going to be open to players 13 to 19, from all over the world. And then the second week is a bit more focused on elite prospects aged 15 to 23, especially young players here and here trying to make that break into the pro ranks.”

CHRIS: “You can do really amazing things when your passion and effort align . . And the part that I’ll say about coaching coaches is that we know the greatest player development is coach development. We support and stimulate changes in you as a coach. And I think that’s the piece that people invest in is they invest in player development through their own development.”


1:00 – How Basketball Immersion Started
4:00 – Concepts Around Basketball Immersion
7:30 – Basketball Decision Training
9:00 – Practicing on Air vs 5-on-5
12:00 – Implementing Learning Concepts
17:00 – Creating an Advantage
24:00 – Absolutes are Important
28:00 – Idea of Constraints
35:00 – Time on Tasks
39:00 – Burst Concept
44:00 – Be Open-Minded
48:00 – Meeting Alex
51:00 – Course-Based Learning
1:03:00 – Creating a Prep Program
1:06:00 – Running Basketball Camps
1:12:00 – Support System
1:17:00 – Mindset of Showing Up Consistently
1:20:00 – Coach Development

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