OSWEGO — Unable to conduct clinics or otherwise meet with players in the program during the COVID-19 pandemic, Oswego varsity boys basketball coach Jim LaMacchia has come up with another way for local players to show progress and get feedback.

Through the Stages System, accessed on betterbasketball.com, players can work on their own to develop skills they need to progress to the next level.

When a basketball player logs on to betterbasketball.com, he or she will immediately see details of the Stages System, developed by Coach Rick Torbett.

The system provides skill tests for players at every stage of development, based on their experience. Stage 1 offers drills and tests for the most basic fundamentals. As a player passes each test, the player moves on to the next skill.

When LaMacchia became aware of this option for player development, he knew it was something that would help players in the Buccaneer program and youth players as well. He is currently overseeing about 80 players progressing through the Stages System. Their tests are uploaded to him, and he either gives a passing grade or provides direction on what the player needs to work on to pass the skill test.

“This gives the kids something to work at their own pace. They’ve just got to film it. They put it on their phone (or their parent’s phone), upload it, and it comes to me,” LaMacchia said. “I either approve or deny it.”

If the player does not pass the test, LaMacchia provides feedback to let the player know when he or she needs to work on to pass the test.

Players must achieve that skill level before moving on to the next test in the stage.

LaMacchia said he sent a mass email to players in the Oswego program, and some travel team players, to let them know about the availability of this system. Players were able to sign up for a free 30-day trial. After that, the fee for them was picked up by the Oswego basketball fund, built through various fundraisers, LaMacchia said.

“It just took right off. With the pandemic hitting, now all they need is to have a basket in their driveway and they can do all this stuff,” LaMacchia said. “We weren’t allowed to get into any gyms or work with the kids. This keeps them busy, and it’s a way for me to hold my varsity and JV kids accountable.”

Boys and girls, from a variety of age and skill levels, are involved.

“The kids love it. I’ve had multiple parents say this is great, and thanks for giving our kids something to shoot for during the pandemic,” LaMacchia said.

LaMacchia’s mass email contained a link taking the players to the system, where they can sign up to participate. When they get started, they watch a short video demonstrating what they need to do in a specific test. For example, an early test could be dribbling with your left hand for 30 seconds without losing the ball. The players videotape themselves doing that, and they are instructed to upload it right from their phone to the system.

“That comes right to me. Every day I check it,” LaMacchia said. “There’s a button I go to called manage tests. I click on the manage tests button and then I watch their video. If they pass the test, I hit approve and I give them encouragement to keep going. If they don’t, then I’ll say here’s what you’ve got to do better. If you don’t understand, call me, and we’ll go from there.”

The Stages System has seven stages. Each gets progressively more challenging. LaMacchia said players at the JV and varsity level could expect to move steadily through the first three stages. “When they get to Stage 4, that’s where they are going to get challenged a little more,” he said. “For the younger kids, Stage 1 is appropriate for them.”

LaMacchia said he has already watched more than 650 tests from every age level.

“You are progressing in the game of basketball based on the skill level you possess,” LaMacchia said. “Previously, you’d go to a basketball camp and all the kids do the same drills then you move on to the next one without any actual grading system in place. Basically this is like a curriculum of skill development. You progress at your own pace. Everyone is working at a level where they are challenged. I can give them direct feedback.

“It’s the perfect remote learning tool for basketball,” he continued. “Overall it’s been fantastic. It’s the best thing I could have stumbled upon. It gives the kids something to do, and progress at their own pace.”

He said that if a player reaches Stage 7, then that player is “a college-level basketball player, based on skills.”

Anyone interested in more details about the program may email LaMacchia at oswegobasketball67@gmail.com.

With players using this system to improve their skills during the offseason, the results could pay dividends in Oswego’s interscholastic basketball success.

“It’s definitely going to improve the program,” LaMacchia said. “It’s good for everybody all around.” 

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