Lessons From My 10th Year at Willamette Pro Hoop Camp

I just finished my 10th year of working at Willamette University’s Pro Hoop Camp. This camp was founded by Jack Ramsey as “Pro Classic Hoop Camp” and then passed down to former Willamette University head coach Gordy James. It is now directed by current Willamette head coach Kip Ioane. It’s amazing how much things have changed since I was growing up. Camps are no longer as popular as they once were. There are many factors to this. I believe the primary reasons that camp attendance has declined is the growth of AAU and the increase in the use of private training. There are too many youngsters playing year-round AAU basketball. Even at the high school level, I would say that 90% of the kids playing on a traveling team are wasting money on unfulfilled promises of college scouting while also limiting their improvement in regards to fundamentals. Much of the camp population from about 10 years ago has now gone to AAU teams. Each year in July I learn things from other coaches and the players I coach at camp. Here are three things I took away from camp this year.

Players STILL don’t want to use their off-hand

After over 100 years of basketball, 9 out of 10 young players can not effectively use their off-hand at game speed. It boggles my mind that this has not changed. I think it’s more of a human problem than an athletic problem. We are born with a dominant hand. However, with all that we know through the game of basketball and all the resources players and coaches have, I am amazed that we are still coaching players who can’t use both hands by the time they graduate high school.

Sharing the ball is hard to teach young players

Every year at camp, the games are played a similar way. In the youngest age group, the most talented player dominates the ball, players try and launch three’s, and 3 out of the 5 on the floor rarely get to touch the ball. Even as you get to the middle and high school groups, you are lucky to see more than 2 passes before someone gets a shot up. Players are reluctant to play the game the right way. Each kid wants to get their own shot. What are some things we can do as coaches to teach players to sacrifice a bad shot for a teammate to have a better shot? Or even more, to make a cut that, while they may not be open from, opens up a chance for another teammate?

Find success in improvement

Despite the two negative I listed, the best part about camp was seeing players realizing that what they improved on during the week was their success. In three weeks, I had a team win 1 game and I also had a team go undefeated. Both teams had a successful week because of their improvements, not because of their record.