What a life changing year! Immersed in one of the most famous youth basketball programmes in Europe….now that I’m back in the UK it’s time to recap and reflect.
The last blog I wrote was the day we finished 3rd in Madrid and qualified for the Championship of Spain. We had two weeks of training to iron out any kinks, to cross the T’s and dot the lower case J’s. We played 5v5, shot the ball and left, no physical training and shorter sessions. Due to injuries we pretty much wrapped them in cotton wool- a game a week for 10 months, plus 7 hours or more training per week had taken its toll. As part of the preparation, a week before the Championships, we had a 4 team tournament in Olmedo, which included ourselves, Real Madrid, Valladolid and Barcelona. Which saw us lose to Barca by 1, then beat Valladolid to come 3rd behind Real and Barca.
The Championship of Spain was being held over 7 days, with 32 teams fighting it out in Guadalajara, just a bit of a drive outside of Madrid, luckily we didn’t have to uproot and go away, but then again, the girls Championship of Spain for the same age group was held in Lanzarote…maybe it would have been nice to go away! The venues change each year so not to favour one region.
Walking into the arena, there was no surprise about the the standard of the facility, a tiny town that you could walk from one end to the other in no time at all, with two amazing facilities. Standards that are rarely seen in the UK. Every town has centre or two like this, every team we played this year had an arena with seating for 500-1000. Even the small clubs!
We were in a tough group, granted our first 2 games were easy wins for us against La Solana and CANTBASKET04, but the third and final game in the group stages was always going to be a tough one. Top 2 go through, but a win against CB Hospitalet would mean avoiding the mighty Real Madrid in the first game of the next round. A big game for us. This video stirring a lot of emotions during our pre game talk….showing highlights of the Estu Mens team winning Championships and clips of our players doing what they do best!
A tough game that we would have to play without our starting big due to a broken foot. Good for 10-15 points, athletic, long, quick and at 1.98m was good for a few blocks. We had major match up problems, that we didn’t figure out until the last quarter and we made a great run and got within 4 but it was just too late.
We just had one kid who couldn’t match up with anyone on their team. He was our rebounder, got a tonne of put backs, was strong, good outside shot, but….they were all quick and all but one could shoot from range and all could go 1v1. The one player who couldn’t shoot, was strong and very quick in the low post. Our guy just couldn’t stay with him. In the end we took him out, went with speed and this is when we made our run, we gave up a load of rebounds but we had a 5 that could shoot, run, handle the ball and play defence. Taking out the inside presence we were used to. As I said before we came close but 2nd in the group and through to the next round was where we were at.
Here is the second half…
So a day later we had Real Madrid. Our Head Coach dubbed the game our “Cup Final”, because if we could beat Real Madrid we could be anyone. New arena, new start…again, a fantastic facility out in the sticks.
We went in with confidence, as when we played them in the Championship of Madrid, we saw blood, when we fought them and didn’t back down, we were at their level. Our players had played against these guys for 2 years and were ready to fight! We put our toughest player on their star man and he was all over him, pushing back after fouls, squaring up to him and going at him on offence. The rest of our guys needed see that and the energy and confidence was spreading.
Again we had match up troubles, especially inside, they had two highly skilled bigs that we found it difficult to stop. As well as the highly rated Luka Doncic. But to counter him we have the highly rated Ernesto Sanchez.
In all fairness we have a lot of other players with high ability and flair, that they had trouble with too, we broke them down off the dribble and hit lay ups on numerous occasions.
Here is the 2nd half…
In the end we finished 9th in Spain for 2 years work. Luck of the draw would have seen us higher, but I suppose you get what you deserve. The game we dropped, that saw us come third in Madrid gave us a big challenge.
On reflection, this is where Estudiantes cut their cloth. A lot of that Real Madrid team won’t be around next year as they ship them out for bigger and better. We saw teams come in with strong players, 1.82m, that played inside, those players got them to the Championship of Spain but that player will not be back next year or make a national team. Estu seem happy to be 3rd in Madrid and 9th in Spain or as with the Seniors, bottom half of the ACB, because they spot talented kids and make them into stars over 5-10 years. Estu has players in the National team every year. Where as some clubs above us will never come close to that! Here are 3 of the players I worked with this year with the Spanish National Team. Ready for the BAM Passerelle Euros!
Ernesto #6, Oscar #7 and Alberto #8 are big talents….and all going well we will be seeing more of them over the years.
As for me developing as a coach, being a part of Infantil ‘A’ (as discussed in my blog all year) was a learning curve as well as an honour, I am very proud to have been on the staff of such a great team.
Watching ACB training nearly everyday, studying their offences, studying how the players make those offences their own and seeing how sessions are run at that level has been a great education. A lot of notes taken!!! A unique education for an english coach. To be in that environment daily, for a full season, is one I won’t forget.
Having the time to pick the minds of the best coaches in Madrid helps a lot too! To watch a great coach, with a great team- at work, discuss the session before and after and watch them play on a weekend, then breakdown what is going on, is a great way to learn your craft. Clinics are great- DVDs too- brief chats, but I feel this is a path towards “Chauffeur knowledge” …. If you want to know, you need to live it and be a part of it.
As I have a penchant for technical skills, I wanted to be as efficient as I could with my year in at Estu, so I selected who I watched very carefully… of course watching ACB was a no brainer but the youth team I chose to watch taught me a lot about putting all technical skills into context. e.g. this is an option we run in our offence, this is what the defence could be doing, here are 8 technical skills I would like you to use in this situation, pick the ones that fit your game and lets work.
A team I watched for a season last time I was at Estu in 2009, had a basic pass cut and fill. They ran it for 8 minutes v zero. Afterwards, they played 3v3 for 8 minutes. Then for the next exercise they put passive defenders in playing 3v1 plus a passer, the pass was made, the cut followed, then the player filled around with his defender, at first- the defender denied the pass, so the offence back cut, second -the defender would be chasing behind so the player would receive the ball but without catching, spike the ball down to the floor, in motion without stopping, attack the basket and finish the lay up…third- they would catch, the defender is in front, but, momentum takes him slightly off the driving line, so the ball was ripped through/reverse pivot/behind the back and taken to the basket. Then they would also work on 1 dribble pull ups and step aways etc. Then 8 minutes of 3v3 again. This group was U14, so it was the perfect step into tactical 1v1 within a global situation.
All in all a great basketball experience, one that I will never forget. It’s been a pleasure to work with such a high level of talent, to be able to show kids new tricks, footwork, finishes and they look like they have done it all their lives. Then make bets with them to use it in the next game, haha. 1 donut for an attempt and 2 if it comes off cost me a bomb this year!!! Great bunch of kids!
A gift from the kids and an ACB player talking to our kids before the Championship of Spain!
So thats it! The last blog….What is next for me…. Answers on a postcard! Available for camps!!!!
I have enjoyed writing this blog… I would like to thank you for reading….I hope you learned something!
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“I swear that there are basketballs beating inside my chest…”
Chuck D- Crossover- A Worldwide Basketball Odyssey