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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

8 Major Differences in Youth Basketball: Spain vs USA

Since the family I au pair for has two children that play youth basketball here in Spain, I've had a first-hand look at how youth basketball works here, and at times I've been completely shocked at some of the differences. Of course, it's possible that youth basketball has changed in the US as well, and I'm just comparing two different generations of basketball, not differences in countries, but we'll pretend that's not the case.

1. Team Organization

In the US we have school basketball (usually starting in middle school), a competitive team that you try-out for and play against other schools. In Spain, there are school teams that kids just show up for and everyone is on the team (similar to recreational basketball in the US), but they play against other schools and against club teams, which are effectively what US school teams are - competitively selected teams, EXCEPT the players can be from any school and any part of the country. What happens is, school teams play against these club teams, and get completely destroyed because recreational basketball can never compete with competitive teams.

Then, there is another level of basketball called "selection", of which there are two levels: regional and national. The regional selection teams play against the other regions to see who is the best region in Spain. On these teams, the best players in that region are selected via coaches' recommendations and then a tryout. Then, the next level is national selection and these players play against other countries in Europe, for their age group. The selection process is the same. National selection teams start 13 years, and the regional teams start at least at 11 years. So, I would compare these selection teams to AAU basketball in the US.

2. Fouls pt. 1 - Walking Around

If you are on the paint and you move a single muscle during a foul shot, it's a violation. In Spain, the players walk in and out of the free throw setup without a whistle. Only if they are going early for the rebound will there be a violation called.

3. Fouls pt. 2 - Substitutions

Both free throws have to be shot in Spain before a substation can be made. In the US, players can sub between free throws, and after the last one is made.

4. Fouls pt. 3 - Fouling out

In the US, you get five fouls, you are subbed and you sit down, all in a few seconds. In Spain, you get five fouls and you get a conversation with the coach, while standing on the court, and then the coach takes his time to pick your replacement, and then the substitution happens, all while everyone else is waiting. I've seen this go on for up to a minute.

5. Timeouts pt. 1

In the US, the referees are not patient. After a timeout, referees will place the ball on the ground and start counting if the team isn't on the court and ready. In Spain, the referees wait for players, and they will walk over to the huddles to "encourage" the coaches to stop talking and let the players play.

6. Timeouts pt. 2

Only coaches can call timeouts in Spain. In the US, players can call them as well. So, jumping out of bounds to catch the ball and call a timeout is not a strategy in Spain like it is in the US. Plus, coaches only get timeouts during dead balls in Spain, versus stopping live play in the US.

7. Warm Ups

In the US, the teams warm up in front of the opposing coaches for last minute strategy tweaks. In Spain, they warm up in front of their own bench first. Also, in Spain, players can dunk during warm ups, but in the US they are not allowed to touch the rim or it's a technical foul.

8. Coaches Outfits

In the US, coaches look like they are either attending a baptist church or they are doing publicity for a suit company, as they all wear suits with ties. In Spain, coaches wear jeans, sweatpants, and if the gym is really cold, they will have a winter jacket on.


I based these differences mostly off what I remember from being a youth basketball player in the US. I'm sure somethings have changed and even here in Spain different regions could have different norms. But, this is what I see and that's what i wrote! What do you think? Have you seen differences between countries in sports?

Location: España


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