Steve Kerr says young basketball players should also play soccer

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Discussion of how early specialization of youth in sports — and grueling year-round schedules — are bad for youth physically and in how they develop skills for the game.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees with that. Kerr — a college star at Arizona and an NBA champion with the Bulls back in his playing days — spent a chunk of his youth growing up overseas. He played a little soccer — but calls it football, because he spent a chunk of his youth growing up overseas.

This Kerr from a podcast with NBC Sports’ own Men In Blazers — the brilliant soccer pod — talking about why basketball players should play soccer/football.

“If I was the czar of American basketball I would make every player coming through the youth basketball program play football…

“It translates directly. The problem in basketball today, the young players are coming up and they just try to beat everyone one-on-one with the dribble. They’re unbelievably gifted dribbling the ball but they don’t understand how to pass and to move. Which is what football would teach them.”

Kerr is far from the first player/coach to suggest this, going back to Steve Nash, a Hall of Famer who credits soccer with teaching him footwork and spacing. It is the latter that is key, soccer is a game where often the player with the ball is looking to find offensive players making smart runs into open space to create scoring chances.

To be a good soccer player requires good spacial awareness and unselfishness — skills Kerr’s Warriors embodied during their five-years Finals runs. In a league where the pendulum is swinging back toward isolation, and toward threes at all costs, the beautiful game that the peak Warriors played seems to be fading, and that clearly bothers Kerr.

Kerr may well be right about soccer, but good luck changing American youth sports culture.