Last year

Junior Programs Overseas - What Works, What Doesn't ?

This is a shout out to Aussie ballers who currently live overseas or have recently returned and have experienced (either as a coach, parent or player) how junior basketball is setup and run in foreign lands. Are there features operating overseas that improve (say) the attractiveness of the game to juniors or enhance the development of talented players? Has your experience made your more appreciative of features found in Australia that should be retained as the game evolves here?

To kick it off - I am concerned about the rise of school based basketball programs here. Some private schools have significantly upgraded their programs developing school based teams. Which provides coaching opportunities and promotes the status of the game in those schools. As this mimicks the US system, the default position is to believe that this is necessarily a good development for the local game. I have misgivings, particularly if schools pressure players to prioritize their own teams over the needs of regional representative teams that have formed the backbone of state based metro and country comps. Thoughts?

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Last year

School system I believe is a better system as an expat I cannot stand the club set up and how AAU it feels. The stronger the schools get at basketball and development the better for the product and the players in Australia. As more time and effort can be brought to the player without all the other drama that clubs bring. Play for your school and your community is better than playing for some club and some touring team that plays a one off tournament. The more schools that can put together an actual season playing 20-30 games a year would be better and schools can also implement a training program in the junior levels to help facilitate development. I feel like it is really hard to be at the top of your sport in Basketball here as practices are shorter only once or twice a week and not as intense. Kids should be practicing or playing almost everyday to see results. Otherwise you will get the same kids the few and far between that reach the pennicle and those mostly with the means and connections to do so. IMO

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Duke Fan  
Last year

Where's the money coming from anon? There are primary schoolteachers that have to bring their own supplies to carry out their lessons in the classroom. Where's the money coming from to run basketball teams? That's not even taking into consideration the ever growing trend for principals to ban physical activities due to safety/insurance rules that grow more complicated every day. Kids need to start forming a base for their skills in primary school and as much as you may hate it that happens at the local association. Australia will never have a school based system to even come close to competing with the US

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Last year

Respect to anon and Duke Fan

Thanks anon. Really interesting reading your views. Can I ask 2 questions to help readers interpret your views - first, are you a US expat here in Aust and therefore are you familiar with junior development system in the US? Second question - what - vaguely - is the district/state in Aust that you have had experience with?

Some observations I'd love feedback on.

I lived for several years in Singapore and HK. Also I am familiar with junior scene around the Seattle area. Both SG and HK mimic the US system where the peak form of competition takes place between schools. The development of the game in both SG and HK lags way, way behind Melb, Sydney or Adelaide, whatever measure you use - rates of participation relative to the broader population, the quality of elite players, the number of competitive games juniors can play.

What you see in both places is a huge discrepancy in resourcing where expensive private schools offer great facilities to a small number of students, while the great bulk of students, being less well off, run around on outdoor courts and have little by way of competitive opportunities or access to quality coaching.

Against this background there is high latent demand for both quality coaching and playing opportunities in both places. Not surprisingly private sports companies have come in to provide both. And they tend to employ coaches from the US, who in turn, charge USD100 an hour to teach eager 10 year olds how to dribble. So I can understand why this system is attractive to private expat coaches.

If the game is to develop, I would argue the game has to be accessible to the broader population and this requires low cost access to coaching and comps.

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Last year

Hello Duke Fan

You ask - Where's the money coming from?

It will come from parents of kids who attend private schools.

Tastes are changing - more private schools in Melb and Sydney think success in basketball adds to the school's brand. Historically such cache was attached to success in rugby, rowing or cricket.

I am happy to see greater interest in basketball. But I am wary that private schools, having offered scholarships to quality ballers, will place restrictions on those players from participating in local associations, which will diminish opportunities for the broader population.

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Last year

I am an expat from the US I have coached both in the US in the HS system and also here in Aus in QLD and WA. I understand that there is a cost to the schools and there in lies a problem implementing a league of sorts into the system. However the private schools have the money to develop these sorts of things you just need the want to from Head Masters. I agree for Australia to improve and compete at a higher level Basketball needs to be available to all. Unfortunately even at club level this is not true. Clubs tend to show bias and have unfair tryout sessions etc and so on where some kids are excluded and don't have a chance to play. If you implement it into schools they have a smaller pool of players to choose from then say a club does which in turn forces them to develop players and teach them the game. Just think of all the schools lets say High schools 7-12 that are affiliated with your local club area I am guessing it is a fairly large number especially in the metro. Now if all those schools or most had to develop and have their own teams to compete against each other please tell me how you do not get better players at the club level? Now you have 100s of kids just in those year groups getting developed rather than the smaller number of kids that get to compete in your WABL for Western Australia purposes or Youth club basketball fixtures. Not to mention the number of games you would be able to play if a number of schools participated. You could play games on weeknights 2 a week if you wanted to be more like the states and depending on number of competing teams for just a term or 2 if you would like to prolong it. When coaching in the states the Year 9s at the school I coached at play over 70 games in a 4 month span and had practices almost every day we didn't play they would play school games during the week have practice and would have tournaments on the weekend where they would play 3-4 games. This obviously is alot and I am not saying that it should be done here but that is what you are competing against and this starts happening in Year 6 once you get to Middle school in the states. I do believe there needs to be some discussion about how we go about fixing the issues with Youth basketball here in Australia because it is simply too expensive and not accessible for all to be good here. We need to be able to grow and teach kids the game in our schools where it is funded and all they have to do is show up and maybe pay a small one off fee of some kind but everything else is provided.

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Duke Fan  
Last year

"I would argue the game has to be accessible to the broader population and this requires low cost access to coaching and comps."

"You ask - Where's the money coming from?

It will come from parents of kids who attend private schools."

Sorry if I'm missing something but aren't you contradicting yourself

What's the percentage of kids who go to private schools?
Most private schools don't start until Year 6 at the earliest so you're mising kids at the prime skill development ages

From my experience over many years in Sydney, the private schools get their most talented players by scouring the local associations and offering the better kids parents some financial incentive by way of scholarships to attend the school. There are some good coaches at these schools and they develop those players further but the initial development is done in the local associations. For the most part schools don't develop players 100%.

Youth basketball here in Australia because it is simply too expensive and not accessible for all to be good here"

You're right about that anon but it's certainly not going to be fixed by Private schools which are even more expensive and elitist. As I stated earlier there's major stumbling blocks getting it into public schools (facilities being another part of the equation. Most non private schools don't have their own court and where do the inter school comps happen? They rent the courts from the local association)

Never is a long time, but it's certainly going to take generations for our system to be school based, if it ever happens

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Last year

If the US school system is so great at developing players. Why are college coaches flying to Australia to recruit kids for their schools and why does Australia have more NBA players then ever before.

Look at all the best up and coming players.


They all played in a club system.

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Last year

Thanks Anon

Thanks anon

I think you and I agree with the proposition that a successful junior development program is one marked by high rates of participation among our youth, and that access to higher quality coaching should not be limited to richer kids.

Yet you say that we should rely more on private schools to foster junior development and neglect local associations. You can't have it each way - low cost provision is impossible if private schools dominate junior development.

Google tells me 40% of aussie kids attend private secondary schools. Average fees are about $30K a year, comprising 40% of average household incomes. We can safely infer that kids attending private schools tend to come from wealthier families.

There is a social bargain that operates between local associations and private schools that you overlook.

Local associations exist for 2 reasons:

First there are economies of scale in the provision of basketball infrastructure where benefits can be dispersed among the wider community. Local associations manage these facilities. The thing that strikes me about basketball halls in private schools is how little they are used, and how tight the management of private schools can be in leasing halls to outsiders on reasonable terms. But the reverse is not true - private schools in Australia are big users of publicly funded facilities at modest cost.

Second local associations undertake an important co-ordination role. They arrange competitions in which private schools field a large number of teams. They pool coaching resources and run training programs.

If local associations were not so generous, private schools would have to spend a lot more $ building halls and ask staff to spend hours and hours organizing games as well as travelling to schools often located several hours away. To do the job as well as local associations requires schools to invest heavily in sports management - which is unnecessary and a departure from their core mission as educators.

So it looks to me private schools get a pretty good deal. Those with the means to build halls and play like minded schools can do so. But almost all of them rely on public subsidies to run their operations. So what does the local association get in return? Acknowledgement by private schools that they are part of a broader community and that this involves allowing their publicly subsidized players the honor of representing the local association that fostered their development.

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Last year

Dear Duke Fan - I think we are in furious agreement even if the way I express my arguments can appear muddled. Apologies. I hope my post above clarifies.

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Last year

Australia's club system does a good job of finding talent and developing it.

I checked comparative survey data a couple of years ago. For every girl playing in a organized basketball comp in Australia there are 54 girls playing in the US system.

Despite this small pool of players, the Australian system can still produce junior teams that are closely competitive with US junior teams.

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Last year


You are kidding yourself. Please show that data. Because one of the major issues in the US is that the HS system doesn't allow for beginner kids, as it only rewards elite kids from MS onwards.

In Australia, every kid can get a game. In the IS if you are cut from your HS there is no where to play.

The I sno chance that anywhere in the world has more girls playing basketball per head of population that Melourne.

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Last year

Hello to (yet another) Anonymous

Yes I cited the ratio 1:54 and it is quite reasonable of you to request validation. Which i am not going to do because it is quite a job to assemble the data and this is a chat forum, not an academic convention. What I can tell you is that Aust data are straightforward - they are centrally compiled by the ABS and are derived from all states and territories. Unlike Australia, there is no single survey or compiler of this data in the US. One is forced to access multiple sources and engage in some guesswork. The ratio 1:54 was my best guess when I looked at it a couple of years ago.

Apart from your reasonable skepticism as to whether my 1:54 ratio is broadly accurate, the impression I have is that you think ANY ratio is problematic because the player count in Aust has more beginners in it than in the US. The data can only take us so far, but I think your instincts here are spot on.

The point you raise about the US school system - running tryouts and cutting kids in middle school onwards is important. My daughter went to a US run school in Singapore. Some 50 eleven year olds tried out for 10 spots on the school team. All of the school's training efforts were directed into those 10. Virtually all of those selected had received private coaching to get them through the tryout. The other 40 (including my daughter) were discarded. Lacking a team and a campaign, most of them were lost to the game.

So those numbers cited yesterday by our US expat poster about high frequency of training sessions in US schools probably reflects efforts directed at elite kids.

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Last year

I think we all agree something needs to be done to produce more basketball talent in Australia as I believe there is huge number that aren't given that opportunity just within the club system. Yes in the states like I stated before I coached at a large public school in Year 9 we had 50 kids tryout we kept 18 an A and B team which if you are having a good year group by Year 12 4-5 of those guys would be playing Varsity. The reason that works is its extremely competitive you actually have to work and continue to get better throughout. The younger years in the states is all about development from Year 1 to Year 5 primary school age is all fundamentals all the time. You often find here that not alot of quality coaches that are willing to hammer on the fundamentals as youth basketball starts to become about winning obviously this is not true in all cases. However having this system in place for as long as they have in the states the cream rises to the top. As for the comment above about focusing on elite kids that is simply not true if you had a basketball team at some fundamental level in every age group in H.S PUBLIC and PRIVATE here consisting of 12-15 kids you would find that not all of those kids would be elite. It is the same in the states not all these kids were elite if they were elite you would have more than 4-5 on a good year make it to the top level of comp in H.S. It is not easy to go on to play college basketball. Less than 1.5% of all H.S players play D-1 basketball however if our goal is development we have to implement it into all schools and then the clubs would see a rise in their skill and numbers of capable kids of playing at a high level which would see Aus national teams compete at even higher levels. I understand that there are Aussie players in the NBA and in college and yes that will continue to happen as College coaches only recruit elite athletes. NOT ALL HS players in the states are elite actually would say 90% are not but they have the fundamentals and IQ to play at a level that is higher than what youth basketball players have reached here. And that is solely IMO because they have access to places to play which is a big problem here, school programs and quality coaching especially in Youth basketball.

This is a great topic and I wish we could all band together and come up with some solutions to this problem.

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Last year

I don't think we agree at all.

If the US system of HS sports was actually working. Then NO Aussie players would get D1 scholarships. Due to the total overall numbers of people in the US.

In the US, the average standard of HS coaching is aweful compared to what elite HS kids get here. And they don’t get to play all year round.

In the club system there are multiple entry points and the ability to choose different clubs and programs at different ages. In the US kids often don’t start playing until Middle school. And if you don’t make the team there is no alternative.

HS coaches in the US must be Teachers, often ones who coach their team in their school league and never educate themselves further in the game. It means no one else can have an impact outside of AAU which is summer sport and a whole different issue of wrong.

In Australia, players are streamed into elite team through ability. And yes some kids will miss the cut because of mistake and poor decisions. But that doesn’t mean the system is wrong.

As pointed out above, school programs in Australia merely approach already good players and offer them scholarships so that the school can then massively overcharge other students to attend their 'elite development program’. How many schools in Australia have taken a kid and had them play college without that kid ever doing club basketball. I would suggest it’s zero.

Why would we as a country put any resources into that pathway I ask you?

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Last year

"If the US system of HS sports was actually working. Then NO Aussie players would get D1 scholarships. Due to the total overall numbers of people in the US." Lol this comment is not very calculated or smart sure every D-1 Athlete could be American but we are more inclusive than that plus we are extremely competitive unlike the culture here everyone looks for an edge if you are a middling mid major you are much more likely to take a shot on an overseas kid than just another good but not great kid in the states. You always want to try and get an edge and recruiting overseas gives "some" teams that edge others it doesn't work at all and the kids quit in 1 year which I have seen alot of as well.

"In the US, the average standard of HS coaching is aweful compared to what elite HS kids get here. And they don't get to play all year round. HS coaches in the US must be Teachers, often ones who coach their team in their school league and never educate themselves further in the game. It means no one else can have an impact outside of AAU which is summer sport and a whole different issue of wrong."
Ummmmm not sure where you got your information here as it is completely and utterly wrong you do not have to be a teacher at all the amount of good coaches dwarfs the coaches here who get the same info from the same sources every year. In the states most areas and schools have coaching clinics that have different college coaches which produce new concepts drills, ideas etc so on you really have no idea it is an absolute machine and yes it churns up and spits out kids and it is not for everyone. However I could take a team of Freshman HS from one HS team and easily compete with any U-18 team here. Which is quite sad.

"In Australia, players are streamed into elite team through ability."
Lol elite TEAM please tell me what this looks like outside of AIS. Extra training session with "Elite" coaches greeeeeaaat oh state teams what a waste of time practice 2x's a week to play in one tournament oh you are learning so much. Such a garbage system anyways proof is the pudding it will change one day but if people like you around it will be tougher than I thought.

"In the US kids often don’t start playing until Middle school. And if you don’t make the team there is no alternative." Also completely false you can not start in Middle school and even think about playing in HS unless you are some freak athlete or Tall. Starting playing at that age gives you even less of chance to make your HS team. No way that is even close to true the problem they are having in my state is that they want the kids to play at a high level at too young of age in Year 4 now they are playing non stop with local teams and then traveling teams (Similar to clubs) year round from year 4 now in almost every state it is like this. So please spare us with you non factual statements.

Lastly there are 65 Aussie players currently playing D-1 Basketball which means just 1.5% of ALL D1 players are Aussie if that is good enough for you then enjoy but until development of youth in this country is put into schools not much is gonna change.

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Last year

You've missed the point. If the HS system was doing its job the NO Aussie kids would be good enough to play in college.

No college coach is recruiting to be inclusive. It’s pirely because the kids in their talent pool aren’t good because the HS system doesn’t develop them.

The edge that they are looking for is kid who can play because they’ve been properly developed.

Haha...coaching clinics. Anybody who thinks turning up to clinics is coach development is delusional.

There is no Freshman HS team that could compete in Australia. Otherwise they’d all be ready for D1. A team from SA played Oak Hill Academy’s Varsity team with 2 future NBA guys and only lost by 20. Are you saying that you could take a Freshman HS team and do that. Is so, you should be the best coach in the world.

I do like that you are arguing that in order to play HS in the US that you need to actually play club. This defeats your whole argument. You actually argued against yourself.

65 this year and trending upwards. But not all players choose it that could.

Mitch Creek
Joe Ingles
Dante Exam

Choose not too and well as numerous others.

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Last year

No you don't need to play club you need to play what is call traveling basketball which is playing for your city or community against other cities and communities along with playing in just your community comp it ups a level once you get to HS obviously. If you want club basketball just for kids up to the age of Year 7 or 8 then I am all for club basketball and then hand it off to HS after that if that system could be implemented here focus on development and getting better and then hand them off to their schools when they turn 12,13,14 sounds great. Obviously that happens at a younger age in the states happens in Year 6 but Year 7 is a fair compromise. The question was what works and clearly the American system works for thousands of kids that wouldn't have the opportunity to go to college let alone finish HS without sports. It is a huge plus for those schools to use co curricular activities as benefits to an education. And you can say trending upwards all you want however it is been relatively the same the last 5 years why is that can Australia not produce more talent I believe they can and will eventually 55 in 13/14, 67 14/15, 58 15/16, 64 16/17, 68 17/18, and 65 this year. 1.5% and yes there is nothing in the country resembling the coaching and atmosphere that those kids get to play in night night out NOTHING!

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Last year

From above

"In Australia, players are streamed into elite team through ability."
Lol elite TEAM please tell me what this looks like outside of AIS. Extra training session with "Elite" coaches greeeeeaaat oh state teams what a waste of time practice 2x's a week to play in one tournament oh you are learning so much. Such a garbage system anyways proof is the pudding it will change one day..."

Well this "garbage system" produced an Aust girls team comprising mostly Vic Metro players who beat the Americians soundly in the FIBA worlds in 2016. That result stirred up interest in the Australian program by US scouts.

Also "No you don't need to play club you need to play what is call traveling basketball which is playing for your city or community against other cities and communities along with playing in just your community comp..."

I agree. Your comment presumes we don't travel.
My daughter's calender
*January - the national U15s against other state teams.
*February her club played a mini tournament in northern Sydney against other metro teams, followed soon after by the Gosford coastal classic against 8 other NSW metro and country clubs.
*March to July - Metro season.
*June - Melb Classic in against all the major clubs across the country.
*July - National U16s in July in Darwin.
*August - State Club Champs vs Country

It is a busy calendar for a 14 year old, one that involves plenty of travel. Importantly - because the club system is integrated with state and national associations, she gets to play a lot of ball with both her club and her state teams and gets to play against quality ballers in other states, repeatedly.

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Last year

I'm not sure anyone in Australia really cares how many kids play college .

I’d say that they should be more concerned with World Champs etc.

We’re Australia has beaten US team which should never happen.

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Last year

I want to thank US expat and others for taking the time to offer their perspectives based on experience. I have found the spirited discussion quite useful.

Stepping back a bit - schools are the repository of bball talent in the US because the historic home of bball are its colleges. Colleges need students and students need to cover the high cost of tuition. This dynamic does not exist in Australia because the govt picks up the bulk of the cost of university education.

It is a sad fact that a foundation of US success in basketball is the large number of poor in inner cities who face few opportunities in life and see a career in sports as a way out.

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Last year

All g Red 84 I did see in a very limited time in Melbourne where the club was very well run and looked awesome to be apart of unfortunately I didn't stick around as I was there on holidays however it was something I hadn't seen in QLD or WA. I do believe from what I hear Melbourne and Victoria do it best. Thanks again I love debates!!! haha

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Last year

Basketball clubs are like other organizations we see in our society - some are highly energized, well managed and decently resourced; others not so.

For struggling clubs, often a contributing problem is poor management prolonged by weak accountability.

Accountability can be bottom up (as in the US school/college system or England with respect to soccer), where clubs compete actively for players and sponsoers, face possible relegation as well as compete for the right to compete against higher quality teams.

Rather Australian junior basketball follows a top down approach. Here a club is given its license by a state agency and must comply with certain admin guidelines (establish a board of management and reporting guidelines etc). As long as the club remains financially viable and its officers do not engage in fraud, it can continue to enjoy privileges bestowed by its license.

Intervention by state agencies or the local boards is infrequent.

"Bottom up" forms of accountability are weakly applied to Australian clubs

Relegation is not a serious threat to Metro or country teams.

Player movement is restricted by the practice of assigning one license to one club covering a particular regional area. No rival club can set up shop close by a license holder and enter state sponsored competitions.The absence of player choice is particularly acute in country and outer suburban areas.

I anticipate feedback suggesting that basketball club positions are filled by those who are poorly paid or are volunteers, who tirelessly work for the common good, week in, week out, year in, year out. Undoubtedly this is true, but it misses the point.

Top down systems promote tenure and political skills and demotes accountability linked to performance. Over time we can expect the accretion of insiders and entrenched placeholders.

What to do? People will have their views. IMO the public sector must remain the dominant player sponsoring jumior basketball. Australian taxpayers have made great investments in basketball infrastructure over many years. There are economies of scale in the provision of basketball infrastructure where benefits can be dispersed among the wider community. Australians have made a political choice over many years that values high levels of participation and do not want high costs to be a barrier. Otherwise, I am 100% for a revolution:

(a) Separate the junior program from both the local administration of competitions and managing of senior representative teams. If the game is to thrive in Australia then the junior program needs to be strong;

(b) Prohibit coaches or closely related parties from occupying board positions.

(c) Stop the practice - often informal - of indefinite tenure for coaches.

(d) Contract out the junior coaching program. Foster the formation of competing consortia of coaches who collectively bid for the right to coach a junior program for a defined period of time - say - 3 years. State associations can top up funding if they take a strategic decision that a particular region should be given more coaching resources.


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Last year

Red84 - I'd have to say I disagree with all four of your points. What you, rightly or wrongly, call the "top down" system, works very well and serves the broad needs of the basketball community well. It may or may not optimise the extraction of talent for international competitiveness (though I think it does a very good job of that) but that isn't the sole, or even the primary, purpose of representative basketball. Rep ball allows a broad range of players to challenge themselves and improve to be the best they can be, against equal or better players. It is broad and growing, and with this comes the need for coaches, referees, administrators, etc, availability of which (along with venues) are the limiting factors in the the growth of the sport, and hence limiting in the number of young people that can play high level basketball. The success of basketball at rep level is BECAUSE of the top down and somewhat informal mechanisms broadly in place at most clubs. Yes, most clubs have special programs and more formality for their firsts and maybe seconds, but recognise that the players who play in the 5ths are still playing high level basketball and are meeting the objective (of being the best they can be etc). It is the informal nature of clubs, with volunteer coaches and administrators, that creates the club and community atmosphere that makes rep ball enjoyable for the bulk of the players and their families. If you implement the suggestions you make, you lose that and almost certainly, you will be left with a competition solely made up of what is today the 1s and 2. Very sad indeed.

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Last year

Supedupercoach opposes all 4 proposals, suggesting it (a) it will kill volunteerism and community culture in clubs; and (b) it is elitist by design as it is aimed at developing 1st and 2nd div juniors while neglecting other juniors. Who could be against community engagement, high participation and widespread access to coaching? But I ask - just how vibrant is the culture of those clubs located in reasonably populated areas where the same people, year after year, hog administrative and coaching duties? Let's get over this portrayal of placeholders as mother teresa - selflish dedication to the poor and needy. They do these jobs because they find it enjoyable. And guess what? Other people would it enjoyable too if coaching and admin in many of these clubs was not a closed shop.

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Last year

I appreciate what you are saying Red64, but the reality is that few step up to do all the work these roles require, and this is the primary driver at most clubs for the same people being there year after year. For sure, there is an element of protecting their patch AND ensuring longevity of things they have put in place, but I think you would find most would be happy to have admin roles for a few years only and then hand over to the next lot. From a coaching point of view, most clubs struggle to get enough coaches, there is no point in discussing "hogging" until there are more coaches than teams.

Reply #737775 | Report this post

Last year

Red84 - I think you are on the money with your suggestions, especially A and B.

Yes, SuperDuperCoach, we struggle in this sport for volunteers, but I can think of plenty of examples in SA where plenty of highly qualified people have been locked out of committee roles and the like by those who which to occupy positions not out of duty, but for reasons of ego and status.

Reply #737785 | Report this post

Last year

Anon - I think you will find that at most clubs the junior program pays for much of the senior program. Separating the two will be very difficult.

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