The Virginia Basketball Academy prides themselves on their ability to help develop an athlete’s skills. They have come up with a basketball curriculum that they use to train their coaches, and then the coaches use that format to create assessment tools to help gauge their players' progress. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coaches are no longer able to meet with their players, so the organization knew they were going to have to change their approach.
They wanted to be able to keep their players engaged during these trying times and continue to help them progress their skills but knew it had to be virtual. That’s when Ben D’Alessandro, the Executive Director, Director of Coaching, and some other members of the Virginia Basketball Academy came up with an idea of adding a new aspect to their curriculum. A Quarantine Skills Academy.
They had 152 people commit to it in the first two days the new academy opened, and that number has only continued to grow.
“Our idea is a little different from what you have seen,” D’Alessandro began. “One thing we have been seeing a lot that’s going on a lot, in this kind of world, is trainers are getting up there and doing these live workouts. We opted out of that at the initial stage because what we wanted to do was empower the kids to do it on their own. We wanted to give them the resources, so they didn’t have to depend on a live trainer at a specific time to do the workout.”
Athletes Managing Their Own Progress
The coaches at the Virginia Basketball Academy spent 10 days creating a training regimen for their athletes to work through on their own. D’Alessandro filmed his kids - an eight-year-old, 11-year-old, 13-year-old and 16 years old - performing different skills that people can then copy and do on their own, starting at the beginner level and then work up to the more advanced.
There is usually a skill and time frame that works into each component, so the people participating can see their progression as they continue to work through the curriculum provided.
They are then able to use those standardized numbers to see the progress they made. The hope of the coaches is also, that by providing these videos, the players can see what needs to be done and then figure out how to get through the hardships they face on their own.
“One of the things we said in our tutorial is we are not trying to train you on how to play basketball,” D’Alessandro explained. “We’re trying to train you on how to train yourself… We’re really trying to empower them to take ownership of their own skill development.”
Putting New Skills to the Test
Athletes are then able to put their new skills to the test by participating in a Challenge Day, which occurs every Friday. The skills being presented in the challenges vary from week to week, but there is always a video with the subject performing a skill over a period of time, and then the athletes watching have to try and beat their score.
Each participant is fit into one of four groups based on their age, and then have to try to beat the score that was posted by D’Alessandro’s kid for that age group.
“We’re trying to keep it fun,” D’Alessandro said. “We are going to have my kids do the event, execute a dribble or skill over a period of time. For instance, how many shots from this area can you make in a minute, or how many cross over dribbles can you do in such and such time?”
All players must video themselves doing the skill challenges and anyone who beats their virtual counterpart can upload their video and receive their prize of a free t-shirt.
The Quarantine Skills Academy has been getting a lot of positive feedback so far. Everyone has been grateful for the material being produced and are glad that there is still a way to remain active and engaged with the sport they love, despite being far from others within the organization.
And this early success makes D’Alessandro believe these workouts could become a staple of their curriculum moving forward.