Basketball on the Edge
The EDGE Basketball Training Facility in Orlando, Fla.
By Emily Tipping
Where might you find a 7-year-old kid and a 27-year-old WNBA professional developing their basketball skills? At the EDGE Basketball Training Facility in Orlando, Fla., a highly skilled and knowledgeable group of professionals work with state-of-the-art equipment to go beyond the pickup game to really teach students to play ball.
EDGE is an acronym that stands for Elite Development Growth Environment, and according to CEO and President Dee Brown, a former All-Star NBA player who played with the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic, it represents the future of basketball training.
"We do straight performance training," said Brown, who doesn't just have an absent interest in the facility, but is a hands-on trainer, giving five or six lessons a day as well as coaching his daughter's team. "We educate the kids that basketball is an endurance sport, and if you're out of shape you can't do it. It requires speed, agility, quickness, core strength, nutrition."
With multiple courts—full-size and half-size—that feature video-motion analysis and are equipped to tape training sessions, the EDGE does not promote leagues and tournaments or clinics with various professional ballplayers who may or may not be able to teach. Instead, it's about providing an intensive, controlled environment for helping basketball players build and improve their skills.
Brown contrasted teaching with coaching, saying that coaches base their values on wins and losses, not on instructing players about the essentials of the sport.
"Coaches don't have patience because their job security is based on wins and losses. Mine is based on nothing but letting the kid put in the time to get better," he said. "When the kid comes back and says, 'I got a scholarship,' that's our reward. Those kids will come back later and teach a younger generation what we taught them—it's one big circle."
The core market for the facility is middle school and high school students, but college-level and even professional basketball players have benefited from training at the facility. They also benefit from high-caliber equipment, and that starts with what's under foot.
The flooring for the basketball courts at The EDGE is a hybrid floor comprised of a wood subfloor with a synthetic top, according to Nicolas Bauer, sports marketing manager for Taraflex by Gerflor. "It's the best of both worlds—the best of synthetic and the best of wood," he said.
"What we have here is probably one of the most unique basketball facilities you're going to come across," Brown said. "It starts with the floor we have. We're the first facility in the country to have this. It's built for what we do seven days a week, 365 days a year, which is train athletes. It's low-maintenance. It's good for the kids. We start training them at 7 or 8 years old, and you don't want their knees to be bad at 15."
The floor features very high shock absorption and a friction-burn-free surface, helping to prevent injuries in players of all ages. Because the surface is synthetic with a wood subfloor, maintenance requirements are not as complex as they are for an all-wood floor.
"It requires no sanding, no waxing, no resurfacing. To clean it just takes water and soap," Bauer said. "It doesn't shrink or expand. A real wood floor shrinks or expands with the humidity or temperature. So what that means in terms of the environment is you can turn off the A/C at night and save 25 percent."
Moving up from the ground, the facility also features a motion-video analysis area, which Brown said is used to teach basketball the same way golf instructors use video to improve your golf swing.
"If I can show you what you're doing wrong, it's easier for you to get better," Brown explained. "We have four cameras on one court. We can write on it, we can record. A kid can have a lesson that morning, and if mom and dad are traveling, we can e-mail it to them that night."
It all adds up to a unique training approach that focuses on improving players' performance in a controlled environment. Rather than evaluating players during unpredictable game situations, Brown said, the EDGE staff dictates what's going on on the court, putting players in specific situations to help them improve.
"Teaching basketball is like teaching algebra," he said. "There's a lot of things that go on that you can't see. If I tell you to go take an algebra test, but you never learned 2 + 2 or 2 x 3, you can't do it. You need to build a foundation. You teach basic math, then you add algebra, calculus and trigonometry, then you have quantum physics. You've got to start somewhere, and it starts with 1 + 1."
Beginning with the basics, the EDGE then builds on each individual player's uniqueness to help them get the results they're looking for—whether it's to be a better high school player, to earn a college scholarship or to play for the NBA or WNBA.
"We start with the basics, and then we adjust based on each player," Brown said. "Everybody's built different. Everybody plays different. Everybody has different skills sets. We put a lot of time and effort in with the players to help each of them accomplish exactly what they're trying to accomplish."