FIBAEurope.com met two coaches who reached the U16 European Championship Women Quarter-Finals but are looking for the future of basketball in their countries.
Evaristo Perez, head coach of Spain, and France head coach Arnaud Guppillotte both agree on the starting point: nine games in 11 tournament days is a strong experience for U16 players and, being a coach, the challenge is to help them realize what happens during these days.
"The competitive level and intensity of play is completely different from the games held in their countries," confirms Perez.
"When you carry many years of experience doing this kind of tournaments, you yourself have learned that each competition is a different story, you must be able to teach that to each player."
Guppillotte says, smiling, that one must "guess what will happen."
"We know that it's a totally new mental experience to them, so we try to anticipate everything that would happen in a match. It is not an easy task. "
EVOLUTION AND EXPERIENCE
Both coaches are aware of the importance practice centres, like those sponsored by their national federations, have.
In Spain, it is the Siglo XXI, in France the Centre Fédéral.
With about 18 hours of weekly training, Guppillotte argues that the players, at Centre Fédéral, develop twice as much as club's players.
"They have more hours of training and this creates a gap between the players."
"Working together brings a great benefit," adds Perez.
"The players of the Siglo XXI benefit from a basketball formation at all levels and, in the long run, this will bear the results of the Spanish national team."
"Anyway, at the U16 level, we get this project's results immediately," Perez believes, while Guppillotte points out that, at Centre Fédéral, he benefits from working with players with different characteristics.
"There are two profiles of players entering the Centre Fédéral," he explains.
"On the one hand, players who are ready to represent France in the present conditions, and thus are playing in tournaments like the U16 European Championship Women.
"On the other hand, we work on identifying players with future potential, especially taller players.
For them we have a specialized programme, which will make them compete later at international level, but with strong possibilities to assert themselves as good players. "
Although the existence of these projects could bring more pressure to the players, "as the need to deliver results gets bigger," Guppillotte argues that this is positive, since it also offers an opportunity for players to grow mentally.
"Basically, to be a basketball player is a mental challenge. We can help them in the physical aspects, but it is the psychology of each athlete that will define whether she will be a top player or not. "
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE FUTURE?
For Perez, "aged 16 years, these players still do not think about the future, they're somehow unconscious about what they will do.
"They love and want to play, the future is not a concern for them.
"Anyway, the top players will always be able to play as professionals, maybe not in Spain but abroad," he says.
"In Spain, we are entering a process of team reorganization. Clubs are trying to find ways to continue to have a good basketball level in the present reality of our country.
"But abroad, the best players will find space to make their careers, as it is happening with our national team players, which evolve in different EuroLeague Women teams."
In France, there's a similar situation.
"Our teams have an average level in European terms.
We have three teams in the EuroLeague Women, we have good practice conditions, perhaps the best players they can find better conditions to be professionals outside France, but they also have opportunities in our country," advocates Guppillotte.
In this group, Marie Milapie seems destined to face high challenges.
"Marie is in a position to be a top player," Guppillotte confirms.
"I think in this group there are four or five athletes who will become professionals. The next step, whether they'll be able to claim a spot on the senior national team or not is hard to tell at this stage.
"Everything depends on their personal evolution, the way they'll work to reach this level."
Guppillotte and Perez are aware of how crucial their work may be for these players' future and do not hesitate to put their experience into their athletes' service.
In the coming years, they will certainly be remembered, as some of them reach the top of their careers.