Monday, May 16, 2016

Is Steph Curry Ruining the Game of Amateur Basketball?

I am going to pose a question that may not be of popular opinion:  Is Steph Curry ruining the game of Basketball?  Some people are going to think I am ridiculous to even write something of this nature, however, lets take a look at the evolution of Steph Curry and the current state of youth basketball.

Steph Curry is an amazing story.  Steph went from a marginal shooting guard, drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2009, to a two-time MVP in 2015 and 2016.  He has captured the hearts of both adults and youth players, giving hope for undersized guards who weren’t the typical fast, athletic, above the rim type player.  Steph, made the game fun again, bringing the "little guy" back into the NBA game.   Lets get something straight, I am a huge fan of Steph Curry.  He is the star for my local team, and an absolute joy to watch as a basketball trainer and coach.  There is no lack of respect here for his game or as him as a person.

Because of Steph's recent successes, it has directly led to a style of play transformation by youth players.  My son Jayden plays, on a competitive 10 and under team in Northern California.  Because of that, I get to travel just about every weekend to support my son at his games.   After 6+ weekends on the circuit, I came to the conclusion that a lot of youth players (and their parents) feel they can become the next Steph Curry.  Normally, having a role model is a good thing, however, Steph Curry’s style of play that is most appealing to his audience are fancy ball handling and his ridiculous long distance shooting range.  A typical Steph highlight is as follows - constant over-dribbling (burning a lot of energy), followed by a very difficult step back (or multiple step back) move to an unbalanced long-distance shot.  Usually well behind the NBA 3-point line………”Splash”.

The word I hear a lot on the youth circuit is “Splash”.  This word is usually preceded by a young player who is pounding the ball way too many times with their head down, followed by an extremely difficult freeze move, or step back move to a shot that is too far for the player to realistically make.  Unfortunately, the crowd feeds the player but making gasps such as “Got em” or “oooooooh”, even though 9 out of 10 times the ball jams to the side of the rim or the back wall of the gym.   However, the one time the ball does go in, the player makes the "3-ball Ok" sign with his fingers, and points to the sky.  Sound familiar?

I do not actually blame Steph Curry for this.   Steph has mastered his craft, spending thousands and thousands of hours mastering the game of basketball.   Steph Curry isn’t a basketball player, he is a basketball artist!  I put Steph Curry on the same pedestal as Picasso, Michelangelo, Archimedes, etc.  These types of individuals can never be imitated by the common folk, because they are one in a million. I can look at my 5 year old daughters drawings on a paper and quickly make an observation that she will not be the next Picasso.   I have personally invented some of the top basketball shooting aids in the world today, J-Glove, J-Strap, and I would never say that my products will make you shoot like Steph Curry.  That would be a complete lie.  

What the media needs to focus on is how brilliant of an all-around player Steph Curry has become.  Rarely do you see ESPN focusing on his unmatched basketball IQ, perfect timing cuts, precision passing, and his much-improved defense.  Furthermore, it has to noted how much of a good teammate he is for the GS Warriors organization.  Steph is the type of player that you to follow as a teammate, and you want your daughter to marry as a parent and fan.   Those are the qualities that make the Golden State Warriors a consistent championship team.

So, back to the question posed in the title.  Is the success of Steph Curry, killing the game of youth basketball currently at the AAU level?  I am blessed to be the founder of Prolific Prep Academy, coaching some of the top high school basketball players around the world.  If one of our players tries to perform one of these “Steph Curry highlights”, I would hope my head coach Billy McKnkight would make him a new assistant coach on the bench.  Why?  Cause Steph Curry isn’t real, he is a once in a generation type talent (artists).  The odds of being able to mimic his game are as realistic as Donald Trump winning the Presidency (oh wait, that may not be a good analogy).  

I got another question.  Was youth basketball in better hands back in 2000 when every youth player in the country was trying to mimic the Allen Iverson crossover? At least that led to more youth players driving to the rim for a much higher percentage basketball play.     Something to think about.........until next blog. 

Jeremy Russotti is the founder of Prolific Prep Academy (Napa, California),, Green Room Training, and inventor of Global Sports Innovation, LLC product line.  Thank you for reading my blogs. Please send your comments and topics to talk about for the future.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Knee PRE-HAB and Hip Strengthening Exercises

I have been wanting to make this video for a while now to give to each of our clients to start working on.  Your knee joint is the weakest point of everyone's skeleton.  For basketball players, it is your lifeline and has to be taken care of.  High level players tend to travel a lot and play a lot of games.  That is great, but only if you pre-hab your knee joint (and others) constantly to prepare for the grind what basketball brings.  Think of your knee joint as a piece of machinery with bolts.  With usage and over time, the bolts tend to loosen or come undone when their is lots of impact and vibration.  You have to tighten those bolts up every so often so it doesn't come apart.  The same is with your knee.  If you constantly jar it (play lots of games) without strengthening it (tightening the bolts) then it will eventually give out.

It just happened this past week with a top 25 player that I work with in high school.  I decided I needed to make it a video and help others immediately.   The exercises do not need equipment and can be done in a hotel room. There is no excuse to not prepare for the major grind their bodies will be going through this summer, but also when we start in the fall. This is high importance.

I gave you a ton of exercises.  Start with just a few and work yourself up. Obviously we do not expect you to do them all in one day, but pick a few of them and perform a few sets of them to start. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Should I have my child skip Algebra 1?

Recently, I went into the principal’s office, Mr. Belding, at my daughter’s school to complain about the slow development of her daughter academically within his school.   Keep note, I have worked at same school for the past 13 years as a teacher but that didn’t stop me.  See, my daughter is academically gifted and has far more superior intelligence and potential then her peers!  I stormed into Mr. Belding’s office asking him why my daughter has to take Algebra 1 when she can clearly handle Geometry and Trigonometry!  Falling on deaf ears, Mr. Belding gave me the run around on how it was developmentally appropriate for her to stay on an academic progression, and it was ok for her to master her grade level as part of her progressive development.  What am I to do? Well, hell with him! I am going to pull her from the school and put her in a school that will challenge her!

Was the above story true? Well of course not.  I would never do that to my daughter, or have the audacity to disrespect an educator and question the years of mastery in their education field.   The reason why I made up that story is because the above example represents a metaphor of a more common problem that is occurring with grassroots basketball, primarily with AAU traveling teams.   Parents are becoming way too involved!  Parents have always been involved, however, now they are overstepping their roles and trying to force their players to play at a higher grade-level then they should be currently performing at.  Therefore, players are skipping important steps of learning time/score situation, how to run a team, how to make interior passing, making proper reads, how to control a press, how to compete and dominate, etc.

I am all for players practicing and training with players that push them out of their comfort zones, allowing them to work harder.  That is called an increase in OVERLOAD.  The increase in overload causes a reaction to the body, forcing it to break down, so the body can rebuild it with rest.   The key word here is rest.  What is happening on the AAU circuit is parents are forcing too much overload on player’s minds, ability levels, and bodies, not allowing them to grow naturally.  This can lead to players losing confidence in their skill; lose confidence in their mental game, burnout, and expose weaknesses too early for those players that are more highly ranked.  Players then begin to chase rankings, or players ranked above them by increasing the OVERLOAD or their competition level.  A great analogy to my point is the 1-Rep max for the bench press.  If a person cans only bench press 135lbs, then it doesn’t make sense to try and increase the overload and bench press 150lbs when obviously the person wouldn’t be able to do it.  That person would need heavy doses of progressive weight and repetitions, followed by adequate rest for the muscles to grow and adapt.  Please tell me I am starting to make sense?

Why do parents get involved so frequently?  Well part has to do with ego but also because of the dreaded parent peer pressure.  Parents become more worried about what other parent’s kids are doing, or what people will think of their kid if they do not.  This has caused an epidemic of families forcing their kids to play up, or they will pull them from the team.   Little Johnny has to play Varsity as a freshman or played 17-Under as a freshman or he “will never make it to a D-1 Scholarship”, or “make it to the league”.  They honestly believe their child will be developmentally falling behind, or will be publicly looked down upon for not playing one, two, or three grade levels above their age.  

As I look back to my basketball career, I didn’t start organized basketball until the 6th Grade.   Travel basketball…….It didn’t exist, so my dad always pushed me to train on my skills and go play against competition at my school.   Sounds appropriate right?

It is ok to dominate your age group. I tell players repeatedly to learn to dominate your age group before moving up to the next age level.  It is great to train and practice above with moderation, but to fully master certain skill levels; you need to have success at performing those skills.  Once you develop success in a game situation repeatedly, you will now have the confidence to try more skills and patterns against better talents.

In regards to a highly ranked player, competing at your age group will allow your ranking to increase or rise since you will be dominating your age level.  The talent scout will then see what you CAN DO WELL, rather than evaluate what you DO WRONG.  Dominating your group level will leave a much better impression; therefore, players should use their grade level for their own marketing purposes.
Just because your friend is 5 inches taller, 20lbs heavier, and has a 5 o’clock shadow, does it mean you need to mimic his development because you DO NOT WANT TO BE LEFT BEHIND?

Players and Parents; you will not be left behind.  We all mature and develop at different ages.  Basketball is a journey and not a sprint.   Players need to quit sprinting to 17-Under AAU basketball and learn to dominate your age group first.  In the long run, it will be better for their career going into middle school, high school, college, etc.   

In summary, a parent would never force their children to pass needed steps in education and parents in grassroots basketball shouldn’t be any different.  Let’s get real parents and players! Please do not quit your teammates cause you want to play above your grade level.  Please do not skip Algebra! You will need it, especially when working a 9-5pm job like the rest of us in the future.

Friday, December 6, 2013

New Training Video

Here is another great Green Room Training Video. I thought I would share with all of you. The workout included: Stephen Zimmerman: (7-0') #1 player in the country (2015) Chase Jeter: (6-11") #5 Rated player in the country (2015) Ray Smith: (6-7") #10 player in the region Marquese Chriss: (6-9") #60 Player in Country (2015)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

GRT Tip #3: Rondo Arms

You guys are going to love this little training tip.  Cost pennies to make and can elevate the functionality of your training/practices for your coaching staff.  Check out the video below.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Company GSI is having a 25% BLACK FRIDAY SALE.  See details below.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

How the SIZE of the basketball/Height of Rim can affect shooting development

Now that I have a blog, I am sure I will be writing a lot in the near future about becoming a good shooter with my philosophies.  With that said, I think it is perfect to start with an area of development that very little people address - How the size of the basketball and height of rim and how it affects the development of becoming a good shooter.

Before I started working with my own children, I would have never thought the size of a ball and height of the rim would affect if someone can become a shooter or not. I always trained high school or college/pro players, who were naturally strong enough and had decent form.   However, there is no doubt it is the most important first parts for youths in becoming a consistent shooter.

Most people force their children to grow up too early.  We want them to mimic adult basketball players, act like them, play like them, dress like them, and use the same equipment. However, forcing them this way would be eliminating the important aspect of youth development - PROGRESSION PRINCIPLEThe Principle of Progression implies that there is an optimal level of overload that should be achieved, and an optimal time frame for this overload to occur. Overload should not be increased too slowly or improvement is unlikely. Overload that is increased too rapidly will result in injury or reduced outcomes.

If you go to any Youth CYO or even AAU league, you notice that by 5th grade (sometimes earlier) they have the boy's teams using a regular 29.5" basketball and playing on 10-foot rims.  In 3rd-4th grade, they have them using a 28.5" (woman's ball).  I recommend a player use a 27.5" basketball regardless of age until they have built a proper shooting base (tempo and form) that will allow them to progress to a 10-foot rim.   When my son was in 1st grade and until present 3rd grade, I forced him to play and shoot ONLY on a 9-foot rim (sometimes less) and with a 27.5" basketball.  I wanted him to learn proper technique, eliminating the bad habits that come with using a larger ball and higher rim.  When he would go to his CYO team, or Boys and Girls club team, they would use a larger ball.   Every kid (including my son) would be shooting with a two-handed push shop, usually from the side of their hip.  Their body would completely turn, as if they were trying to throw a pumpkin through the basket.  This goes against anything any of us learned about child development in relation to basketball shooting.  This would be like trying to teach a young person algebra before teaching them addition and subtraction.  Or having a young person learn how to play golf with adult size golf clubs.  It just doesn't make any sense.

This same concept applies to ball-handling.  Very recently I put a video up of my son Jayden performing a simple ball-handling drill (4-3-2-1-0 Drill).  That is a 27.5" ball in the video.  If I were to have him use a 28.5" ball, he wouldn't be able to do that drill. Why?  His hand size isn't large enough to control and dribble the larger ball with fluidity.  Can he still do it? Yeah, but he cannot control the ball with because of the maturity.  

I want players to have success when they are skill training.  If kids have success, they will continually want to get in the gym and train (Intrinsic Motivation).  If we (Coaches/parents) continually allow these leagues and coaches use improper equipment, we will have a negative counterproductive effect on these players.  Shooting a basketball is an art form and there are very few players that can really shoot as you move up the ranks.  Would this number be increased if proper child development were implemented in these leagues or by parents/coaches?  ABSOLUTELY! 

Lets quit worrying about how many wins and losses our 6-13 years olds are having in these leagues, and really give the proper resources to make them better players that will continue into high school and hopefully college.

Below are training videos for Jayden when he was 4-5 years of age, and another when he was 6-7 years of age.  Both videos he is using a 27.5" ball.   Going back, I probably should have had Jayden using a 26.5" basketball when he was 4 years of age.   Hopefully these videos will be used as motivation for your young players.