My first trip to China for basketball was in the summer of 2016 when we were hired by Nike Basketball Camps to run 3 weeks of camp in Hangzhou and Shanghai.
Going in, we didn’t know a ton about China youth basketball except that basketball was by far the most popular sport in China. In fact, we had read and heard about a pretty staggering statistic …
The number of people who play basketball in China is roughly the same as the population of the entire United States, which is about 300 million people!
Needless to say, we were super impressed and inspired in China by the popularity and love of basketball. We saw first hand the kids who were at the basketball camps as well as talked to as many people as we could, and we even played pick up basketball in the parks in Shanghai. We were so inspired actually that we decided that we wanted to open up Pro Skills Basketball full-time in China!
And that brings us to 2017, and currently as I’m writing this, we’ve just finished our first official summer as Pro Skills Basketball China. We ran 8 weeks of camp in 4 different cities, including Wenzhou, Bengbu, Chengdu, and Hong Kong, which you can read about here.
In this 2nd summer of youth basketball in China, we learned even more about Chinese youth basketball and that’s what I want to share today …
The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Youth Basketball in China!
Let’s start with the good aspects of China youth basketball because they greatly outweigh the bad and the ugly parts.
#1 Love & Popularity of Basketball
As I mentioned before the love and popularity of basketball in China in unparalleled and this, to me, is the most amazing part about basketball in China.
Can you imagine – 300 million people play basketball in China?!?
What if every single person in the US played basketball? How crazy is that?
#2 Government Putting More Emphasis on Youth Sports
Up until recently, Chinese parents didn’t really enter their kids into youth sports, instead preferring them to do extra language, music, educational classes, etc.
However, recently, the Chinese government has come out publicly and said that Chinese kids need to participate more in sports and has made considerable financial investment into the youth sports field.
#3 Players Willingness to Learn
At every camp myself or another PSB coach has coached, the willingness of the Chinese kids to learn basketball has been AMAZING.
They’re like sponges and just soak up everything we teach them, which is truly a great feeling.
#4 Players Play HARD
Although their skills might not quite be up the American levels, Chinese basketball players play extremely hard. This is the one thing that I’ve seen out of almost every kid and adult basketball player that I’ve come across.
It doesn’t matter whether their skilled or not, they will play as hard as they can all the time … and I love this.
As with everything, there’s always areas for improvement, including American youth basketball as I’ve written about before, and this also includes China youth basketball.
#1 Lack of Quality Coaching
It could be said that there is a lack of quality coaching here in US basketball as well, but here we least USA Basketball and the Jr. NBA trying to help the situation out with coaching licenses and curriculum and such.
In China, there isn’t much in the way of coaches’ education, but I do know the NBA is making attempt to change this.
Furthermore, the Chinese basketball culture seems to value coaches who put on a big show and scream and yell and jump up and down, which doesn’t necessarily mean that person is a good coach. It simply means they’re energetic, and often times, overly-energetic.
I sometimes joke that if Phil Jackson came over to China and know one knew who he was, Chinese parents would think he’s the worst basketball coach ever, when in fact he is considered by many to be the greatest basketball coach ever haha!
Because of the these things, the quality of basketball coaches in China is not up to part with that of places like the US or Europe or Canada. However, this is also one of the reason we, Pro Skills Basketball, feel we can make a positive impact on Chinese basketball!
#2 Lack of Gyms
With the number of people that play basketball in China, you’d think there’d be a lot of gyms around to play at, but that’s not the case.
There are a decent number of outdoor courts, which most people do use (and side note, creates an absolutely awesome “playground” basketball scene), but when it’s 100 degrees and humid as you wouldn’t believe in the summers, it can be challenging to play outdoors.
Moreover, often times, even when there is a gym, there is no air conditioning, so that presents challenges as well.
#3 Low Skill Level
This goes back to what I said before – that the skill level of Chinese youth basketball players is not up to par with much of the rest of the world, but this, to me, is particularly evident in Chinese kids passing and shooting.
Basketball players in China often times do not have good form when it comes to shooting or passing, and so consequently are not very good at either of those crucial skills.
Again, though, this is why we are so excited to bring PSB to China!
After coaching many youth players, watching games, and even playing basketball in China myself, there are some “ugly” parts as well.
#1 Low Basketball IQ
Like the skills of China youth basketball players, the basketball IQ of most players is also sub-par, and much of this goes back to the lack of quality coaching. Chinese players, like I said, play hard as heck, but this often leads to them playing too fast and taking bad shots.
There also doesn’t seem to be all that much thought or emphasis on court spacing, which is one of the keys to basketball.
The other ugly thing I’ve seen in Chinese basketball is over-dribbling. Too often, players and teams think they will score by dribbling when in reality the best way is by passing, so they end up dribbling way too much.
I also think part of this stems from the Chinese valuing the flashy and fancy on the basketball court (ie. overly-energetic coaches, streetball, etc.) rather than the often times simpler and more effective techniques and strategies.
#2 Fouling in Pick Up Basketball
As I said, I’ve played in a multiple pick up games around China, indoors and outdoors, but one thing remains the same … opposing players will purposely take your head off rather than let you drive to the rim. Last summer, I was playing at a popular park in Shanghai, and I swear my defender just about broke my nose when I drove past him.
He didn’t even go for the ball. And I kind of laugh about it now, but this is like clear, deliberate fouls where the defender doesn’t even try to get the ball. I just feel it kind of defeats the purpose of the game and makes the brand of basketball much uglier, but oh well, lesson learned … I’ll just stay outside and shoot 3’s from now on 😉
As I said, there are good, bad and ugly sides to everything, including American basketball. Nothing and nobody is perfect. There is always room for improvement, and this is the case with China’s youth basketball culture.
There are so many HUGE positives and great improvements coming down the pipeline that the future of Chinese basketball is bright, and probably brighter than any other country in the world.
Pro Skills Basketball is excited to be established in China, and we look forward to brining a positive impact on the youth basketball culture for many years to come!