“Basketball is a Contact Sport”
Read time: 4 minutes
Sometimes people have this notion that because basketball is not as rough as football or hockey, it is not a contact sport. Yes, there is definitely far less contact on a basketball court than in either of those other sports, but physical contact and strength can play a big role in a player’s success on the floor. I often make the case that basketball players are the best athletes physically due to the combination of size, speed, strength, jumping ability, hand eye coordination, etc., that is required on any given play. Any time you have 10 athletically gifted people whose average height is 6’8 confined to a small space, there are going to be bodies colliding and elbows thrown.
So why is this important?
The notion that basketball does not require contact also creates young basketball players who shy away from it. The fact that the physical nature of the sport is not built into the perception of it often does athletes a disservice because they take a really long time to embrace the physical components necessary to play it well. Those who become comfortable with the physicality earlier can sometimes dominate their peers on account of that alone, while others rely solely on finesse and skills.
In all of our programs, we spend a lot of time talking to kids about how to create, absorb, and leverage contact situations, and helping them understand how to embrace the role that it plays in the game. The good news is, besides learning about it, there is another thing that all players can do to deal with it better.
I am not, and will never be, a proponent of young kids starting weightlifting too early or any other activity that can negatively impact the way that their bodies develop in their formative years. But there are a lot of simple, low-impact exercises that athletes and people of all ages can do that significantly increase strength and help prevent injuries that may happen as a result of those contact situations. In fact, in my recent experiences playing 3×3 basketball on the FIBA 3×3 World Tour, I was introduced to a strength training ideology which focuses on low-stress, high-improvement methods that compound over time without overworking the muscles — something that could be perfect for a young, developing athlete who needs to get stronger.
Of course, a prerequisite to getting stronger is having the desire to do so. Exercising consistently can be hard for some adults, therefore we can’t expect children to be all gung-ho about doing 5 sets of pushups every day! However, because there are programs out there that minimize the amount of strain that exercising puts on your body, perhaps there is a way to balance the situation and still get young athletes to gain strength in the areas they need to, in order to better handle the physical components of their sports. Not to mention, it also creates exercise habits for them which they can carry throughout their life, and I think we can all agree that those habits give increasing benefits as we age.
In order to embrace basketball as a contact sport, as well as the bumps and bruises that come with it, players must first embrace the need for increasing their own physical capabilities. That’s when they will start to feel powerful on the court.
** For anyone who may be interested, our partners at Alliance Athletics create exactly the type of programs mentioned above. Their founder and lead strength coach, Matt Koenig, was the one that introduced me to the style of training that I now use every day and will likely continue to use for years to come. This type of training is becoming more popular in NBA circles, and is being popularized by All-Star and NBA champion Jrue Holiday (known as one of the strongest pound-for-pound players in the league) and young star-in-the-making, Victor Wembanyama. All young athletes need to get stronger, and if they can do so without overworking their bodies, the results can be great. **
Written by: Nem Mitrovic