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  • Jack Fleming

The Goldmine Effect Part 2: Secrets of Youth Talent Development

If you haven't read part 1, it is linked here.

Part 2: The Talent Hotbeds Played More Games & Did Less Drills

Credit - Chris Oliver @ Basketball Immersion

"There's no better way to get better at playing basketball, than playing basketball." - Chris Oliver

Why are we addicted to drills?

  • They give lots of repetitions.

  • The players look and feel like they’re getting better.

  • They are structured and organised.

  • You learn the technique first, then we put it into the game.

  • It’s what we have always done. It’s how we were coached.

One problem with drills = the reversal effect.

Subjects trained under highly structured bottom-up conditions achieve high levels of success early, but falter later when the stress of competition mounts.

Why we should play more games?

  • They are more fun — lots of players stop playing because they are bored. We want to keep as many in the sport for as long as possible.

  • It transfers to the game, more retention.

  • You practice the skill within the context that it would be practiced.

"You can't adapt to an environment you don't inhabit." - Professor Keith Davids

Case Study — Futsal in Brazil

Futsal is regarded as the incubator of the Brazilian soul, all the top Brazilian players have played thousands of hours of futsal. Example: Juninho, the great Brazilian soccer player had never kicked a full size ball on grass until he was 14.

It was discovered in 1930, but in Brazil because of the accessibility to be able to play it within small spaces it spread like wildfire. Brazil dominates the world of soccer, thanks to one little street game.

How does Futsal work?

  • The ball is half the size and weighs twice as much, it hardly bounces.

  • Play on a basketball court sized patch of any surface.

  • Each side usually has 5 or 6, versus 11 in a full sized game.

  • Rhythm replicates more like basketball where it is fast from end to end.

Why is it effective for development?

“No time, plus no space equals better skills. Futsal is our national laboratory for improvisation.” — Dr. Emilio Miranda
  • Compresses all the essential skills into a small box.

  • Players touch the ball 600% more often.

  • Smaller ball rewards more precise handling, sharp passing is critical.

  • Problem solving — generating solutions that the game presents unprescribed by any coach or parent.

Want to read more about Futsal? Check out The Talent Code By Daniel Coyle

What can you do in your basketball practice to create Futsal-like moments?

  • Play FIBA rules 3v3 at practice — eventually alter your constraints to emphasise the skills/tactics you want to challenge them with. Here are some examples, but the possibilities are endless.

Development Opportunities

  1. More touches, less players.

  2. Less space, half court.

  3. Less time, 14 seconds.

  4. Creativity — endless possibilities.

Ways to Play It

(a) Free Play

(b) No Screens

© Must make a ‘first touch’ decision

(d) Double points for a left hand score

(e) Offence gets another go if defence doesn’t pressure the ball.

Beware with every constraint you can be limiting the creativity of your players, so use them intelligently and don’t put them all in at once!

Have dialogue along the way about what they’re struggling with, think of yourself as a game designer.

The most important question for currently is — what would I be doing at practice with 12 year olds if I’m trying to create brilliant 20 year old players?


The beauty of Covid-19 has been driving past outdoor basketball courts seeing our own little futsal hotbeds. I hope we can continue to cultivate those environments within our own structure for the best needs of our athletes.

This is a very small piece of the picture, but I hope it stimulates some thought!

I am not anti-drills, but as coaches we can all be better at not just doing it the way it has always been done.

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