The Story so Far
- 2011 EA TEAM START THEIR YOUTH BASKETBALL EXPERIMENT PROJECT WITH BC SCHOTEN
- 2015 EA CONTINUE THE EXPERIMENT WITH BASKET BRASSCHAT
- 2016 AS PART OF BRASSCHAT, U15’S WIN THE GNIEZNO INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT IN POLAND
- 2017 U16’S PARTICIPATE IN THE GOTHENBORG INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT IN SWEDEN
- 2017 REACH THE FINAL 4’S WITH U16’S, STILL PART OF BRASSCHAT BASKET
- 2018 EA USE LEARNINGS FROM LAST THE LAST 7 YEARS TO OFFICIALLY LAUNCH ELITE ACADEMY. EA RUN TWO TEAMS (U16’S AND U18’S).
- 2018 U18’S WIN FIRST INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT AS ELITE ACADEMY IN SANTA SUSANNA, SPAIN
- 2019 FIRST FINAL 4’S OF BELGIUM AS ELITE ACADEMY WITH U18’S
- 2019 ELITE ACADEMY EXPANDS TO 3 TEAMS FOR THE FIRST TIME – U14, U16’S AND U18’S
The roots of Elite Academy extend back to the summer of 2010, when an experiment sprung to mind among the EA team coming from the popular quote:
“Hard work beats talent if talent fails to work hard.”
Motivated by this quote, the EA team set out to disprove the notion that talent is pre-determined, and that it is a phenomenon created through hard work. The team contacted Basketball Club Schoten, located just outside Antwerp, then at the hands of brilliant space engineer Eddy Neefs and current U14’s Elite Academy Head Coach, Janka Debacker.
We posed the question whether we could start an experiment, granting us access to their club environment to test and implement our player development ideas within the context of a youth team. They agreed and just like that, we were soon coaching a group of ten-year-olds in the lowest division in Belgium (Benjamins F). The players weren’t the most ‘talented’ but what they lacked in physical ability and aptitude, they made up for with hard work.
The first year we had two team practices and one specialised session every week. We introduced strength and coordination training because we felt this was an integral part of their development. From that moment on we allowed coaches to pick their focussed subject area (skills training, strength and team concepts).
The club could not provide enough budget for this extra coaching so we decided to finance these sessions with the income from our separate company: Elite Athletes. During these U10 sessions with Schoten, the player didn’t play five-on-five during practice until they were fourteen years old. Their practices included working on the fundamentals and lots of small-sided games: 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3. The results? We were laughed at and were criticised for our approach. We lost most of our games during the first three years and didn’t make it once into the top 24 within Belgium.
After three years working with BC Schoten, the club merged with another club and their new vision didn’t align with ours. They thought our individual focus was wrong, the athletic work would stunt children’s growth, and the concept of a specialised coaching staff was redundant. We persisted on keeping the team together and because of Daniel Tack and Sam Voeten, a new opportunity arose. Daniel and Sam saw the potential our project had and gave us a chance to continue through Basketball Club Brasschat, also located just outside of Antwerp. Our project was granted a new lease of life, and nine out of twelve players agreed to transfer to the new club. The main core of U10 players were still together, competing now within the U15 age group category.
Coach Sven Van Rillaer decided to join “The Process” and for the first time in the athletes’ basketball journeys, they practised 5v5. The players quickly adapted and were able to succeed in 5v5 situations through the strength of their individual skills. We could focus on more team concepts because the basics were so deeply engrained. The concept of hard work was instilled from the very first day. So much so, that we got kicked out of our practice facility because our players took the “Don’t Be On Time, Be Early” rule too literally. Players started arriving one or two hours before practice and stayed after practice as well to take extra shots. They loved the mindset of working harder and doing more than other kids of their own age. The principal of the school’s gym found six players ninety minutes before a practice session and we got kicked out and banned from using the facility!
After the season with Braaschat, we trained together during the pre-season for the first time. This resulted in major individual progress with our players after the summer. In our second year of BBC Brasschat with the players competing at U16’s, we finished as the highest-scoring team in the country with an average of over one hundred points per game. We also ended up second in the Final Four of Flanders.
In 2019, Alex Sarama joined the Elite Academy as our first Technical Director, working alongside Joerik Michiels, Olivier Goetgeluck, and the whole academy staff to fulfil our vision of creating an all-encompassing youth basketball program, unprecedented on a global scale.
The story continues…