HAMBURG (FIBA U17 World Championship) - Last year the Spanish national team won the FIBA Europe U16 Championship. However, this year has been a whole new game. With their biggest loss by ten and closest buzzer beating nail biting loss by two the Spanish team has not been able to "do the little things that win games."
Spain has proven to produce future basketball stars therefore despite their low ranking in this year's tournament, only time will show how brightly these players will shine. Spain's youth development system, Cantera, thrives off of the combined efforts of the Federacion Espanola de Baloncesto (FEB, Spain's national federation of basketball) and the successful ACB league.
FIBA.com was interested in Coach Ocampo's knowledge about youth development in Spain as well as his experiences with this year's Spanish national team and he was nice enough to share his thoughts with us.
Diego Ocampo became a coach because of his passion to help and teach others. He explained that it is important to teach players the "values of experiencing and learning from the lessons of life" He values his player's ability to be complete people while becoming talented players.
It brings him great joy to "see players, notably Marc Gasol, do moves that he teaches."
Learning these basic moves can make the difference here at the FIBA World Championship. Coach Ocampo knows how important they are in order to win games because "if you make a mistake here you lose."
Combining the teaching methods of basic basketball and values for life Ocampo believes that these core skills make players better and in the end "to see players get better is more important than winning."
With only two changes to their roster from the title winning team last year, Spain was ready to make another run for the title.
However, this year they lost the same type of games that they were winning last year. Something was missing. Coach Ocampo calls it "Hambre..., we were not hungry." Spain was missing the desire to win. They needed this hunger to grab the last rebound against Australia or the hunger to maintain defensive focus against Argentina in the final quarter of play.
It may be that this exact hunger that was Spain's missing link to success this year at the FIBA U17 World Championships.
Practice is crucial to a team's success and the same holds true for Spain. Coach Ocampo explains that they didn't prepare as well as last year for this tournament. Spain's national federation and club teams stress practice.
In fact this year it was hard for the FEB, "to schedule practice time with players because the club teams wanted players to practice with them and play in tournaments." The club system and FEB start developing children at a young age and by the time they are eleven years old they are having one-on-one training sessions with coaches that will condition them in skill and physical training until they stop playing basketball.
Coach Ocampo explains that, "In training you learn technique and tactics. It's important to know the basics because without them it's impossible to grow."
But structured training isn't everything Coach Ocampo points out. FIBA is testing a three-on-three tournament in Hamburg, and will be officially launching the new format at next month's Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
Ocampo thinks that this is a great event. Twenty years ago youth always played outside but "now they play games and go on the internet." He thinks that the three-on-three tournament "is a very good idea because it is necessary for kids to play in the street. They practice with the coach, do tournaments, and try to win championships."
All of this creates a consistently stressful atmosphere with players when basketball should above all be fun. He laughs and further explains that "if you make mistakes coach Ocampo is angry, but in the streets you can make mistakes and it is very important to me that players learn how to make mistakes."
After all of the practicing, preparation, and leisurely play Coach Ocampo praises the opportunity for his team to play on this international stage. "It does two things for the players, it makes them compete at a higher level and they understand where they stand," he says.
He further explains that, "In your city you are the best" and players can lose a sense of their actual ability. That is why he believes that this tournament helps players get better through pushing themselves against opponents with different dribbling, shooting, passing and defensive styles each game. Here each player can understand where their abilities are now and how much more they can improve on them.
Many successful NBA players coming from the Spanish Cantera have experienced the FIBA World Championships. Here players get better through competition and through interaction with players and cultures thus strengthening their education in life.
Coach Ocampo appreciates the importance of this event and believes that both, the Cantera and FIBA events will continue to "evolve" because they will do just as he explains to his players; "by focusing on the little things they will strengthen their weakness while mastering their technique in order to perform to their best abilities."