Steve Kerr wants every youth basketball player to start in soccer

Steve Kerr is a basketball guy through and through. He has eight NBA championships to his name — five as a player and three coaching the Golden State Warriors — and has represented Team USA on the court and on the sidelines.

He’s also a soccer guy with his eyes on the Premier League and his beloved Liverpool. So this week, Men in Blazers had Kerr on to talk soccer with the crew for a special airing after the team plays Manchester City.

Part of their conversation included Kerr’s thoughts on the two sports’s similarities and why he would want his players to have that soccer (or rather, football) background.

“If I were the czar of American basketball and I had to say, ‘all right, I’m in charge of youth basketball in America,’” Kerr said, “I would make every player coming through the youth basketball program play football because it translates directly. The problem in basketball today [is] the young players are coming up and they just try to beat everybody one-on-one with the dribble. They’re unbelievably gifted dribbling the ball, but they don’t understand the pass and the move. Which is what football would teach them.”

Kerr used as examples Steve Nash, one of the most well-known basketball players with soccer in his background, and Toni Kukoč. Nash, a Canadian, and Kukoč of Croatia were known for their ability to see the court and Kerr believes their passing prowess stems from playing soccer in their youth.

“They understand the concept of triangles, they understand the concept of passing the ball and cutting behind the man defending, right?” Kerr said. “That’s what football is: Finding angles, creating opportunities, creating scoring chances.”

Kerr is far from the first to suggest the link. And it’s one that can go both ways. It mainly comes down to an issue of specialization, which experts caution against in today’s youth sports landscape. While it’s becoming the norm for children to play only one sport and do it year-round, research shows it’s a can make them more susceptible to injury and push them away from athletics at some point.

There are far more benefits to playing multiple sports, most importantly that they can expand their skill set and develop better coordination. For young basketball players, using soccer as a starting tool would allow them to see plays, passes and defensive coverage develop on a larger area than a court allows. They can then take it to a smaller spot and utilize more skills than just the dribble-drive.

Steve Kerr would require kids play soccer if he were in charge of basketball in the USA. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Steve Kerr would require kids play soccer if he were in charge of basketball in the USA. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

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