Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"In Europe I've experienced the bulk of my practice time focusing on timing, angles and concentration" Mathis says

Basketball Telegraph is happy to announce that veteran pointguard Donte Mathis comes on board: Donte starts his collaboration with BT drafting this article in which he analyzes the different coaching styles in the United States and Europe.

From being a fan of the game to being a player, I've witnessed the game of basketball evolving right before my eyes. The game I grew to love as a kid is being taught, played, and followed throughout the world with each country leaving its culture and mark on the game as we know it. The coaching styles I've closely witnessed are the American and European style, which have put aside their egos and self-supposed superiority and have taken positives from each other benefiting the sport hugely.

Legendary coach Bob Knight
Listening to American coaches as a youth I often heard quotes "there is no substitute for speed", "no substitute for strength or height". Early emphasis on physical attributes led coaches to favor the more athletic, physically blessed athlete. Even outside the United States years ago we were seen as athletic, but not highly skilled. The norm is America was to play at a high pace, above the rim and in your face... if you couldn't keep up... then you lost. Coaches felt more comfortable figuring to mold the "athlete" into a complete player rather than solely develop his basketball IQ.

Upon arriving to Europe I didn't know what to expect as far as the style of the game. I knew a few of the rules were different... but it all came down to putting the ball in the hole. My first question to all of my coaches throughout my professional career in Europe was "What are your personal expectations of me?". Early in my career I heard "score", mid to later in my career I heard "Get everybody involved and make your teammates better". European coaches and the Euro game in general are focused on TEAM. The biggest task with coaching in Europe is developing cohesion, trying to mesh the foreign and domestic, experienced and inexperienced. Chemistry is valued more than talent or athletic ability. European teams are basically a huge puzzle... pieces have to fit in order every game throughout the season to be successful. Some pieces are bigger and more valued, but every piece is viable. In Europe I've experienced the bulk of my practice time focusing on timing, angles, and concentration, while playing back in America I remember errors were considered by the number of shots you missed, the personal challenges won or lost within the game... on the contrary the greatest thing I learned while playing in Europe was the biggest mistake you can make is not being focused. Concentration and focus are the biggest assets in being successful in the European game. European coaches stress concentration and focus, they both have an ability to control what your body thinks it can or can't do.

Euroleague: coach Ettore Messina
Fast forward to today... and you will witness something very strange. American players can shoot, and European players are tough as nails. A result of espionage? ... Not at all. The worldwide spread of the game of basketball has offered the coaches of the world the opportunity to observe and exchange ideas. Coaches haven't sold everything they believe in but have instead carefully picked and implemented the things that can make their brand of basketball more efficient, or harder to guard. More emphasis today is put on player development. Coaches are getting the most out of player's ability by thinking outside the box and getting right to the things that will give their players the opportunity to be better on the court and in their system. I have personally stole everything possible from everyone of my coaches in the past trying to get the most I could out of my talent. I don't lean to any side particularly more than the other, but I take what works and helps me and use it the best I can.

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