|Belgian coach Pascal Meurs attending a Saint Joseph's University game where he recently served an apprenticeship|
Recent graduate of the FIBA Europe Coaching Certificate (FECC), Pascal Meurs, travelled to the United States to participate in the International Coaching Apprenticeship in Basketball (ICAB). Upon return, the Belgian-native shared his experiences with fibaeurope.com.
On the FIBA Europe Coaching Certificate (FECC):
I represented the Belgian Basketball Federation during the third generation of the FIBA Europe Coaching Certificate (2011-2013). The FECC is one of the terrific initiatives of FIBA Europe to develop the game of basketball.
On the apprenticeship in NCAA Div I Basketball (ICAB):
The ICAB (International Coaching Apprenticeship in Basketball) is organised by the University of Delaware and is funded by FIBA, USOC and Olympic Solidarity. The goal of this programme is so that coaches can take the knowledge and experience of high level NCAA basketball to their national federations worldwide. The first participants for this were Aik Ho (New Zealand), Chinche Hsu (Taiwan), Ozan Havuzlu (Turkey), Danny Jansson (Finland), Miljan Vorkapic (Croatia) and myself from Belgium. My selection by FIBA for this programme was based upon my results for the FECC, my experience as a professional coach and my background in science.
The ICAB programme started off at the University of Delaware, with some general courses and discussions on long-term development plans, NCAA sports, nutrition, injury prevention etc.
Afterwards we were directed to different Div. I College teams for a four-week apprenticeship. I was really happy to be sent to Saint Joseph's University with head coach Phil Martelli (NCAA Coach of the Year in 2004) who play in the competitive "Atlantic 10"-conference.
After the actual apprenticeship, all participants came back to Delaware to share their experiences and to discuss how each one of us would use this new knowledge and experience to bring the game of basketball in our country to a higher level.
The apprenticeship in the staff of Coach Martelli has been a great experience for me as a coach. I had the chance to be involved in the coaching staff on every level: coach meetings, practices, fitness sessions, video sessions etc. For the games, we were part of the coaching staff during the locker room briefings and time-outs, helped out with the post-game analysis of the statistics and prepared the tactical videos.
A surplus of my experience in the USA was the different interactions I had with the NBA, which is of course the summit for every basketball player and coach. I had some long discussions on basketball with Brett Brown and Vance Walburg (Philadelphia 76'ers) and Chris Finch (Houston Rockets, and the former national team coach of Great Britain) and attended several practices and games.
On the differences between USA and Europe:
|Pascal Meurs with Saint Joseph's University head coach Phil Martelli|
The resources of a NCAA team at this level are amazing. Coach Phil Martelli has three full-time assistants, a director of basketball operations, a video co-ordinator, a couple of administrative workers and every practice 5-6 students to help out (scoreboard, shot clock, towels, drinks etc.). The facilities and resources are better than most Belgian clubs in the first division.
I think a lesson can be learned on how to promote our sports and how to sell the idea of being proud to be part of a club or federation, even with the cultural and historical differences between basketball in the US and Europe.
The European input in the NBA has never been so big and I think we can further narrow the difference between USA and Europe. The biggest difference is the inflow of young kids. For example, in the USA you have 533,000 high school kids (categories U16 and U18) that play basketball, in Belgium less than 4000. Besides promoting our sports better (larger inflow), we have to develop further our coaching programme to teach our kids the game better.
Because USA is so much bigger, their federation is less structured on the level of the education of coaches. I really believe we can make a difference on that level, that's why I can only support the initiatives of FIBA Europe's coaching department: the FECC, coaching website, high-level coaching clinics all over Europe...
On my career:
After coaching in Belgium's 1st Division women's League, I went to Arras (France) for my first professional experience as a basketball coach, as head of the youth programme and assistant for the Euroleague team. I led the U20 team of Arras to 3rd place overall in France, with four players earning caps for France national teams. Because of professional reasons, I returned for one year to Belgium, where I work one day a week for the national basketball academy (Topsportschool Leuven) and give specific practices to the talented youth in my region. This sabbatical season is an investment in my career and allows me to watch and learn the game on all levels (this ICAB opportunity, travel in Europe to visit international clinics and games, focus on men's basketball).
On the future:
During this experience I was able to scratch multiple goals on my 'bucket list'. Now it is time for me to work hard and to look for a new professional challenge as a coach in which I can implement this new knowledge. Another goal is to share my experience with young coaches to motivate them. Writing a personal blog (www.pascalmeurs.com) is a first step, some clinics and hopefully a book will follow soon.