Coaching the coaches is helping make Canadian basketball better
It’s early on a gorgeous summer Saturday morning but the steamy gym is crowded. It’s time to improve basketball skills — the hard work of personal development takes place in the off-season — and time spent around and on the court is invaluable.
But instead of kids working on ball-handling or shooting skills or doing the drills that will make them better players once the snow starts flying, the stands are full of coaches learning to be better coaches, a vital step in the progression not only of themselves but of the game in Canada as a whole.
Jama Mahlalela, the newly-minted head coach of the G League’s Raptors 905, enthralls the more than 100 coaches at the clinic. He and his staff and a host of speakers are taking the coaches through drills and presenting ideas that are just as important as any work any individual player might do.
“Basketball, we always say nothing hasn’t been invented yet, it’s all the same sport,” Mahlalela said during a break in the five-hour program at Mississauga’s Paramount Fine Foods Centre, the second annual Raptors 905 free clinic aided by Canada Basketball.
“You do the same three-man weave at the NBA level that you do at the grade-school level. It’s the level of instruction and the messaging that differentiates it … The drills may be exactly the same but I can add a level of complexity for university coaches … or simplify it for an elementary school coach.
“I think (Canada is) on the precipice of really being a world power in basketball. To me, our players are there and I think our coaches are there and this is a prime example of that. The fact they’re coming, they’re committed. This is not coming to just learn how to dribble the ball, these are coaches coaching teams who need some intel, who are trying to win games. It’s really quality coaching.”
Coaching the coaches has been an integral part of basketball’s growth in this country for more than a decade now. Canada Basketball has run “coaching schools” in conjunction with national championships, Raptors training camps and exhibition games in Canada, and it has truly elevated the craft across the country.
Coaches aren’t told exactly what to do, but having the same skills taught in much the same way assures a consistency that allows Canada Basketball talent assessors to have an even ground when they start seeking players for various age group programs and development camps that are integral to any worldwide success.
Canada Basketball will run more than 100 coaching clinics over the course of a year — as long as they can be funded, of course.
“In order to develop an athlete, you need to develop their training environment,” said Dawn Smyth, Canada Basketball’s coaching development guru. “To make a really, really strong athlete, you have to make a strong training environment for them. In order to do that, the coach needs to know how. Ultimately, it’s for the athlete, why we’re working with the coaches. But the coaches are the ones that create the environment for training for the athlete