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Christian Laettner Basketball Academy
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Check out this raw footage of a recent interview Christian gave - it includes some advice for today's young athletic talent!

http://www.fox19.com/clip/11128342/raw-interview-christian-laettner-at-st-x?clienttype=generic
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The Importance of Lay-Ups

Scoring a basket in the game of basketball comes most easily and most often to young players via the lay-up. Until players are 9 or 10 years old, the lay-up is usually the only way they can score because most, if not all, 5-8 year olds are not hitting too many 15 foot jumpers or 3 pointers in a game. Am I right?!  So, since this is truly the case and since even the NBA team that can score the most points in the paint (mostly lay-ups and dunks) wins 85% of the time…let’s focus on the importance of lay-up for the young developing player. 

I often am very blunt to the young players that I coach, and their parents, when I say, “Don’t worry about their jumper yet!” Instead I say, “Let’s focus on getting your child much better at their lay-ups because that is the primary way they will score and put the ball thru the hoop at this young age!” For instance- parents and coaches- when you watch your youngsters play a game, how many 15 ft jumpers or 3 pointers are made in that game?! I would guess very few 15 ft jumpers and 3 pointers are made in their games. Admit it…almost none! Maybe 2 or 3 shots from outside of 10 feet are made in youth games. With that said, it is crucial to get them highly proficient at their lay-ups---which is the way they score at this age 90% of the time in the games. I know you all realize this already, but the young player REALLY wants to be able to score a bucket in the game of basketball. And getting good at their lay-ups is THE WAY for them to be able to score! They do not get much fun out of the game if they can NEVER score a hoop. 

Whereas Dennis Rodman found plenty of joy in the game while playing in the NBA and not scoring the ball very frequently, a young player really wants to score some points. What’s the first thing their little friends are going to ask them after the game? Well, most of the time, it’s not even, “Did you win?”  It’s usually going to be, “How many points did you score?” With all that said, let’s talk about how to get them good and better at the main way they will score---- and that is via the lay-up!

http://www.theclba.com/#!The-Importance-of-LayUps/cu9t/D12A7B8D-3216-4DFF-8180-1B20EDDE183B
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Check out this awesome article on duke.rivals.com about Christian and his CLBA camp last weekend in Richmond! 

https://duke.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1734274
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Catching Drills Pt. 2

The last fun drill/game a youngster can play is one they can do all by themselves. Grab a tennis ball and just play catch against a wall. Have the child throw the tennis ball, like a baseball throw at the wall and let it bounce back to them and have them catch that ball with two hands. Remember to emphasize the point of two arms to the ball and two hands will follow. Once they can catch the tennis ball very well with two hands off of the wall, then have him or her progress to trying to do it with one-handed catches. The one-handed catch is not only desirable for football and basketball, but also it is great for young, aspiring baseball players for when they put on a mitt and catch the baseball with their glove. 

So, in this one instance (a developing baseball player), we will allow them to work on the one-handed catch of the tennis ball when it bounces to them off of the wall. Remember the game of “sick, dying, dead” that the youngster can play here against themselves—they should give themselves three chances at potential drops of the ball/catch before they start to feel like they are failing. It is also a good way to challenge themselves. I cannot even begin to tell you how many thousands of hours my family, brother, and friends would play all of these silly little games while I was growing up. Some of them I would do all by my lonesome when no playmate or my older brother was not around. I am positive all these games made me a good catcher of the ball, someone with great hands---especially for when I was 22 years-old and NEEDED to catch that ball, that pass from Grant Hill.

Next week, I will be moving onto the next fundamental skill- lay ups!

http://www.theclba.com/#!Catching-Drills-Pt-2/cu9t/5EB12A26-5A64-44FF-B5A7-A10AE7C5FFFF
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Catching Drills Pt. 1

Now let’s talk about some fun catching drills a young player who wants to develop great hands for all their sports that they are trying to get better at. The first drill is “playing egg toss” with a friend or parent. This is an old pastime, backyard fun activity that can be used to develop good hands. Just bring some eggs out from the fridge (eggs that are raw- not hard or soft boiled) and play the game of egg toss. And boy….if you can toss that egg back and forth a few times without it breaking in your hands, or missing the egg catch entirely, I promise…the player will definitely develop a skill for catching anything, any ball that they want to catch! They will develop good, soft hands. 

Another good, fun drill/game is the “water balloon toss game.” This is another backyard, old time fun game that will help the young player acquire good catching skills and soft hands. Simply fill a balloon with water and stand back from each other and play water balloon toss. And besides, this game is not as messy as the egg toss game.   In order to have success at both of these fun, backyard games, the catcher will learn to make their hands soft, by providing a little bit of give to their hands and arms as they try to catch the egg and water balloon!

Young players should also attempt to become good at juggling if they want to get better at catching things (balls). Start with two golf balls, super balls, or tennis balls and try to juggle two balls in one hand first. Once they can do two balls at once in their right hand and two balls at once in their left hand, then they can move onto three balls at once in both hands. Juggling is a sure fire way for youngsters to develop great hands and very good hand-eye coordination for all their sports. 

Playing the game of ping pong is absolutely wonderful for developing great hand-eye coordination and hand-eye quickness. It also helps with picking up moving objects that are traveling at a high rate of speed and judging those moving objects. Many sports come down to judgment and reading of balls that are moving around in space at a high rate of speed. I don’t know of many other sports better than ping pong at developing all these crucial aspects of sports that a budding athlete needs to acquire. And the best part is….the young, aspiring athlete, who is trying to improve and get better at all these skills and concepts (great hands and great hand-eye coordination) won’t even know or REALIZE they are truly developing and improving their skills by playing all these silly, little, backyard games---because they will be having too much fun doing the egg toss, water balloon toss, playing ping pong, etc.

http://www.theclba.com/#!Catching-Drills-Pt-1/cu9t/46AA1234-29EF-475E-B755-DD298FAB8750
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Catch the Ball with TWO Hands!

The second rule is that the player MUST go after and attempt to catch the ball with TWO HANDS! Too many times I see young players go after the ball and attempt to catch it with one hand--- this is a recipe for disaster and a very bad habit. The best and easiest way to teach and reinforce these good techniques and catching habits is to tell the player, “Go after the ball with two arms and thus your two hands will follow… and thus you will attempt to catch the ball with two hands always.” I will say it again- “go after the pass/ball with two arms, and your two hands will follow.” 

Now here comes the tricky part…..a player that is lazy or not schooled properly in this fundamental rule of  “two arms to all passes” will have the tendency of going after a ball that is on the right side of their body with only their right arm. And this, as parents and coaches of the young player, must not be allowed to happen! We must teach them to go after every ball, whether it is on the right side or left side of their body, over their head or below the waist, with BOTH arms and thus BOTH hands!

The last two teaching fundamentals to develop great catching ability is:

1) Have soft elbows ---meaning, the elbows must not be locked and stiff when going after the catch. The elbows should have a slight flex to them which provides a little bit of “give” to the arms when the ball hits the hands. 

2) Have soft hands---meaning, pretend/act like you are catching an egg when the ball is coming into your hands. This pretending, acting, like you are catching an egg will also provide a degree of softness and “give” to the hands while in the act of catching the ball!

http://www.theclba.com/#!Catch-the-Ball-with-TWO-Hands/cu9t/2A22E5CD-8F63-45C7-B6BB-AA2B5C18B366
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Catching the Ball

This may seem like a rudimentary aspect of the game of basketball, but in actuality, being highly proficient at catching the ball and having good, soft hands may be one of the most important fundamentals for a young player to develop while they are young. I mean, where would I be if I didn’t “catch” Grant Hill’s pass to me in the 1992 Duke /Kentucky game?! If I didn’t catch his great pass and get that ball in my hands…..then the thing I am most well-known for never even happens!
 
You can look at it this way if you want…wide receivers and wide outs in the game of football are great at simply catching the ball, and they get paid a lot of money because they are great at that skill. Did you know that if a wide receiver in the NFL can touch the football with merely a fingertip that he is expected, by NFL standards, to be able to reign that ball/pass in and catch it?! That is saying a lot! So it is safe to say that having great, soft hands that can catch any ball thrown near them is a huge skill to have for many different sports including baseball, football, basketball, and soccer (if u are a goalie). Also having great hand-eye coordination is another critical skill to possess for practically every sport on the face of the earth! Just think of how great hand-eye coordination is needed for all the sports I mentioned above, but also add sports such as golf, tennis, ping pong, lacrosse and many others. So, to put it very plainly, developing great hand-eye coordination and great hands at catching the ball, any ball, is vitally important for a young, developing, emerging athlete.
 
Now…while there are not many fundamental mechanical concepts to teach with developing great hands and great hand-eye coordination, there are a few I would like to talk about here. The first is, and this is especially true for a youngster, is that the player must watch and follow/track the ball that they are trying to catch in their hands with two eyes ALL the way to their hands- until the ball hits their hands. They must never take their eyes off of the ball until it hits their hands. Therefore, the man in the picture is exactly what you do NOT want to happen!
 
I will talk about the second fundamental rule next week! 

http://www.theclba.com/#!Catching-the-Ball/cu9t/1D5B1920-84E8-4918-A90A-849047F7D688
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Passing Drills Pt. 3

Once the players achieve proficiency with their sliding passing drills, then they need to move on to running up and down the court and perfecting the chest pass and bounce pass to each other. By running, I mean that the players are now NOT facing each other (as in the sliding drills) but now they are facing forward, running/jogging up and down the court. This adds another level of difficulty to the drills and passing because now the players have to twist their upper body in order to throw the passes to each other. But still, they need to become very good at the “facing forward, running passing drills.” 

Have the players jog to begin with and do the chest pass first. Next have them do the bounce pass, and finally have them increase their running speed to where they can almost sprint and make good passes back and forth to each other---with absolutely no missed catches and no bad passes. The tempo and rhythm of these drills should remain smooth and with no breaks of tempo and rhythm due to bad passes or catches. 

The last moving passing drill is a very challenging drill but it CAN be done by young players. This drill is the “2 balls at once sliding drill.” It is just like the “standstill 2 ball drill” but now they are sliding (moving) up and down the court playing catch with 2 balls at once. Remember that the 2 players should be facing each other and sliding, like a defensive slide, while they pass the 2 balls back and forth to each other. This drill is very advanced for the young player, but, can be accomplished and done successfully! Remember to tell them that sliding speed is not the most important thing, but rather, good catches and passes are most important with this drill, as all drills. Reiterate the importance of a smooth rhythm and tempo that is not broken by a bad pass or catch or a pass that is too far in front of or too far behind the receiver of the pass.

This concludes our section on passing drills for the young player---standstill and moving drills!

Remember to incorporate the game of “sick, dying, dead” into all of the young players’ passing games and drills to make the drills more fun and challenging to them. It also gives the kids a winner and a loser to each game or drill—and we all know some young players want to feel like they won at the drill (if they are anything like my children, siblings, or myself ). And for the loser….it may push them to try harder and win the next time they play the game or do the drills. 

http://www.theclba.com/#!Passing-Drills-Pt-3/cu9t/F4FF60BE-7557-409A-A890-F167FA236DC1
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Passing Drills Pt.2

Now let’s talk about some good passing drills these youngsters can work on ONCE they have somewhat perfected all four of these types of passes from a standstill position. Now they can, and should, start practicing and doing drills that incorporate movement AND good passing! By movement, I mean while they are running or moving up and down the court. 

The first drill I would like to tell you about is the “sliding chest pass drill.” In this drill, have two players face each other with 15 feet of space between them. Instruct them to “slide” (like a defensive slide) up and down the court while they throw chest passes back and forth to each other. We start with the “slide” first because it is easiest for the youngster to do this moving, passing drill while they are facing each other. Tell them it is not a race and they need not slide up and down the court at breakneck speeds. The most important thing for them to focus on is not the speed at which they slide up and down the court, but rather that they accomplish the drill while making good passes back and forth to each other without any dropped or missed catches. 

These drills while moving up and down the court add an extra level of difficulty to their development as basketball players. Since the game is played on the fly and not from a standstill position, we must start getting them proficient at the 4 main categories of improvement while moving up and down the court. Remember to re-emphasize the correct fundamentals and bullet points of the chest pass while they are doing the moving drills. Such as: aim at your target’s face while passing the ball, catcher of the pass must show a target to the passer, throw a line drive pass that is firm with some zip on the pass, etc. 

The next movement passing drill is the “sliding bounce pass drill.” Everything is the same as the above chest pass drill, but now have the players throw bounce passes to each other. This drill is a bit more difficult for the player because now the youngsters have to aim their bounce passes a little bit in front of their moving (sliding) intended target while they themselves are moving. Remember to have them not go so fast in their slide (I suggest a 50% slide…nice and slow) so they can work on “leading” their partner with the bounce pass a little bit. The goal as always is 100% proficiency at every catch and pass and ALSO where the slide (movement up and down the court) is smooth and in rhythm----you don’t want to see the players have to slow down or speed up or readjust their slide tempo to counter for a bad bounce pass that is too far in front of their partner or not leading their partner enough.

How far the passer leads their partner depends on the speed with which they are moving up and down the court---and also comes from many hours of practicing because it is a “feel” thing. I cannot really explain how far to lead the moving target; they just have to get out on the court and practice the drills and get a good feel for how far to lead the moving target. I will say this though….lead the moving player by 1-3 feet according to how fast they are moving, running up and down the court. To simplify, if the target is running or moving very fast, lead him by 3 feet with the bounce pass. If the intended target is moving slowly, the passer only needs to lead him by 1 foot with their bounce pass.

I will share more passing drills with you next week!


http://www.theclba.com/#!Passing-Drills-Pt-2/cu9t/66259008-D706-4996-BC30-3D1E65ECF4DD
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