29. September 2009 01:10
This past weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at a Nike Championship Basketball Clinic in St. Louis, Missouri. I have been speaking on the Nike circuit for four years now and really enjoy the opportunity to share info, meet new coaches, travel the country, and learn from some of the top basketball minds in the game. Each event is a unique and exciting experience. The clinics are held Friday through Sunday and I am usually one of the first speakers on Saturday morning. My normal routine is to fly in Friday night, speak Saturday morning, and then fly home Saturday afternoon. However, this time I chose to stay through Sunday because I wanted to see the legendary Hubie Brown speak Saturday night. Per his usual, he did a tremendous job, and combined his extensive basketball wisdom with several hilarious stories and anecdotes.
After he spoke, he stayed around for another 45 minutes answering additional questions, signing autographs, and taking pictures. While I am sure he was tired and despite the fact it was getting late and he had a 5:30am flight the next morning, he was a true class act and patiently hung around until the last coach left. I was so impressed with how genuine and humble he was. Afterwards I got to have dinner with him, Ed Janka (the man who runs the Nike Clinics) and a few of his friends. It was an incredible experience.
Hubie Brown is 76 years old and has been involved in high level basketball for over 50 years. He, literally, has seen and done everything in this game. He told story after story and was fascinating. It was incredible to hear how the game has changed, how the players have changed, and how the money has changed over that span. Ever since I was young I have been a bit of basketball historian and have enjoyed studying and learning from players and teams from before my time. Even now I am currently reading Pistol Pete’s biography. So to get an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from a living basketball legend was a real honor. He told stories ranging from a brilliant way to defend an out of bounds play at the end of the game to a former player who bought a $30,000 Cadillac (despite the fact his yearly salary was only $35,000) to the first night he coached Kareem (with the Milwaukee Bucks) and saw him eat an extra large pizza in the locker room 6 minutes before warm-ups! NOTE: Kareem had 38 points, 16 rebounds, and 8 blocked shots that night.
That night, before I went to bed, I reflected on how truly fortunate I have been in my career to have had experiences like that. I have met and rubbed elbows with many of the best coaches and players to have ever played the game – from John Wooden and Dean Smith to Coach K and Roy Williams to MJ to Dr. J to LeBron to Kobe. I really do feel like Will Ferrell in the movie Wedding Crashers… “I’m just livin’ the dream!”
There is only one basketball icon I have yet to meet; and that is the General Bob Knight. However, I just got word I will get to meet him this spring! He will be speaking at the same Nike Clinics I will be speaking at in New York and Wisconsin. I have always been a huge Coach Knight fan. As entertaining as my dinner with Hubie was; can you even imagine dinner with Coach Knight?! I can’t wait!
I try to never take these opportunities for granted and am so thankful for each and every experience. I have been doing this professionally for 10 years now… and wow… it has been quite the journey! In a future blog I plan to count down my top 10 moments/experiences.
If I can ever help you or your program or if I can in any way add to your own journey; don’t hesitate to email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com. I will respond as quickly as possible!
Train hard. Train smart.
23. September 2009 00:40
This is the third installment of a three part series on pre-season basketball training. The first post gave a comprehensive overview of a sound pre-season training program. The second post was a checklist to ensure maximum results. This post will tie everything together and take a closer look at the intangible qualities needed for success.
First and foremost, how is your (and your team’s) pre-season training going? Are you getting stronger? Are you getting quicker? Are you becoming more explosive? Are you getting in great basketball shape? Are you better than you were two weeks ago? Do you deserve to be successful this season? You should be evaluating your progress every week. It is not too late to make some adjustments if things are going as well as you would like!
There are three areas you need to make sure you continue to focus on in your pre-season training in order to be the best player (or team) you can this season. They are athleticism, fundamentals, and the intangibles.
Athleticism: strength, power, explosiveness, quickness, agility, reaction, flexibility, and conditioning. These traits must be applied to your fundamentals in order to be a great basketball player. Remember, enhancing these qualities is a means to an end; not an end itself. You need to learn how to use your improved strength and quickness on the court and in your game!
Fundamentals: ball handling, passing, shooting, rebounding, and defending. These skills must be applied to your knowledge and overall feel of the game (basketball IQ) in order to be a great basketball player. Your fundamentals are the parts that make up the whole. You don’t want to be a good “drill” player. You need to learn how to use your improved handle and shot in practice and in the game!
Intangibles: leadership, toughness, communication, and competitiveness. These characteristics are what enable you to take your game to the highest level. They help average players (and teams) become good players (and teams) and good players (and teams) become great players (and teams). If you apply these intangibles to your athleticism and fundamentals you will absolutely be the best player (or team) you can be.
While athleticism and fundamentals are (obviously) imperative; I want to take a deeper look at the intangibles.
I truly believe there is a tremendous lack of leadership in today’s game; specifically with today’s youth. Basketball is a team game that thrives on leadership; from both the coaches and players.
“An army of asses led by a lion will always defeat an army of lions led by an ass.”
You can’t under estimate the power of quality leadership. Effective leaders make the impossible seem possible. Anyone can work to improve to their leadership skill set. The traits needed to be a successful leader apply to both players and coaches at every level. If the coach is the only leader in the gym; that team won’t be very successful.
Here are 5 traits that contribute to effective leadership:
1) Learn from your mistakes. To be a good leader you have to take calculated risks and you will certainly make some mistakes along the way. Admit them. Learn from them. Don’t repeat them!
2) Lead by example. The old adage “do as I say not as I do” doesn’t fly in today’s world. If you expect it from your players or teammates, you have to expect it from yourself. You must hold yourself accountable before you can hold anyone else accountable.
3) Put others needs first. Compassion and empathy are extremely important to quality leadership. It is impossible to be selfish and be an effective leader. If you are a player, are you playing for the scoreboard or the scorebook? If you are a coach, is it “my way or the highway?”
4) Have confidence. Your attitude is something you have complete control of and will influence everything you do in life. A positive attitude helps build confidence. You must have a strong self worth and be confident in your abilities, without being arrogant or cocky. No one is going to follow someone who doesn’t believe in themselves.
5) Set a high standard. If you do everything to the best of your ability, then you can expect it from those you lead. If you are always on time, always work hard, and always put your heart and soul into every practice, workout, and game – then you can expect your teammates and players to do the same.
Mental toughness is an acquired skill; not inherited trait. Every basketball player out there can become more mentally tough. A good part of being mentally tough is learning to “be comfortable being uncomfortable.” You have to learn to embrace obstacles, difficulties, mistakes, and adversity. You can’t expect anything to be easy. Failure is not only a part of life, but a major part of basketball. If you never fail, you aren’t pushing hard enough or challenging yourself. There are 7 characteristics to mental toughness, all of which can be improved with instruction and practice: competitive, confident, control, committed, composure, courage, and consistency. How do you grade yourself in each of these categories?
Effective communication can make or break a team. This includes communication on and off the court; among players and coaches. Communication is much more than what you say; it is how you say it. And on top of that, it’s not what you say or how you say it that is important; it’s what the other person hears! Does everyone on your team know exactly what your goals are? Does everyone on the team know exactly what their role is? Do players and coaches know how to effectively deal with confrontation when problems arise?
The desire to compete is vital for success. While basketball should most certainly be “fun”; winning is important. And preparing to win is even more important than that. Like toughness; competitiveness is an acquired skill. You can learn to be more competitive. Your pre-season workouts should be competitive. Players should compete against themselves (against a previous effort), against the clock, and against other teammates. Winners should be rewarded as incentive. If you wait until the jump ball of your first game to get your competitive juices flowing… you will be too late!
If you have any questions about your pre-season program; don’t hesitate to drop me an email (Alan@StrongerTeam.com) if I can be of help. I will respond as soon as possible!
For additional daily coaching points, motivational quotes, and videos of the “exercise of the week”, check out:
Train hard. Train smart.
16. September 2009 00:51
My last blog entry was the first of a three part series on pre-season training and gave a solid overview of what players and teams should be doing to get ready for the season. This post will serve as checklist to gauge how well you are preparing. Most schools have been in session for a couple of weeks and most programs have already started their pre-season workouts. So now is the perfect time to take inventory and evaluate.
Here are 12 questions to see if you are really on the right path. Questions to see if you are doing everything you can to not only make the team, but to earn some serious playing time, and have a championship caliber year.
1) Are you on top of your school work? If not, you aren’t going to be able to play so you might want to take care of this ASAP. Once the season starts, time management will be crucial in making sure you don’t fall behind academically. Start strong!
2) Are you getting 8-10 hours of sleep every night? Sleep is when your body grows! You will never be able to perform up to your potential if you aren’t well rested. Intense pre-season training is extremely taxing on your body; so make sure you get your rest.
3) Are you eating breakfast every day? Are you starting your day off by refueling your “machine?” There is no way you can give 100% for an entire workout if you are running on fumes. Pancakes, waffles, bagels, cereal, oatmeal, and fruit are high energy foods and a great way to start your day.
4) Are you drinking enough water? Your performance will decrease severely with the slightest bit of dehydration. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start drinking water… sip all day long. If you want to maximize your pre-season workouts you must be hydrated.
5) Are you tending to any nagging injuries or soreness? If you are having issues with your knees or back… are you doing anything about it? In most cases, ice is your best friend. If something is sore, ice it down! If pain persists, make sure you go see a doctor or physical therapist for a professional diagnosis. Do not wait until the season to do this… it needs to be addressed now! Don’t let something “little” in the pre-season have an effect on your season.
6) Are you making 200-500 (extra) shots a day? And I am not referring to “social shooting” or just going through the motions. I mean “game shots, from game spots, at game speed.” Are you doing this above and beyond your pre-season workouts? How about your ball handling? Repetition is not punishment; it is the only way to get better! Also noticed I said “make”; not “take” 200-500 shots a day. The name of the game is making shots!
7) Are you on a structured workout program? Are you participating in a structure, organized, progressive program to work on your strength, power, quickness, agility, reaction, and basketball conditioning level? Is it safe? Time efficient? Productive?
8) Do you get to every workout on time? Better yet, do you get there early? If you are only “on time” – you are late! You wouldn’t show up to a game 2 minutes before tip-off, would you?
9) Are you an energy giver at every workout? Is your enthusiasm contagious? Do you hype up your teammates? Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm.
10) Are you a team leader? Do you step up to the front of the line for every drill and every sprint? Do you run hard or push for that extra rep in the weight room regardless of whether or not the coach is watching?
11) Are you comfortable being uncomfortable? Do you play it safe each workout or do you give it everything you’ve got? Do you push yourself to the edge of the proverbial cliff every time? Do you work on your weaknesses?
12) Have you met with your coach for his/her evaluation? Have you formally sat down with your coach to ask what things you need to work on to earn time this year? Or to be the best player you can be? Or what he/she envisions your roll to be when the season starts? Coaches, have you done this with each of your players?
If you can’t answer “YES” to all of these questions, then you aren’t doing everything you can to prepare for the season. It doesn’t matter if you are going to be on the end of the bench on the JV team or a pre-season All American… you need to do the little things every day to reach your potential. If you can’t answer “YES” to all of these questions, then you aren’t doing everything you can to be the best player you can be, to get noticed by coaches at the next level, and to earn playing time.
“Success always looks easy to those who weren’t around when it was being earned.”
For daily coaching points, motivational quotes, and videos of the “exercise of the week”, please follow me (and subscribe) to:
Train hard. Train smart.
7. September 2009 22:42
With summer over and school in full swing, you still have several weeks before your first official practice. If you haven’t been doing anything to prepare for this coming season, you better get started!
It is crucial you are doing everything possible to get in great basketball shape. Whether you are a question mark to make the JV team or a potential All American, being in anything less than outstanding basketball condition is unacceptable. Your conditioning level is something you have complete control of, and thus if you are not in great shape, look no further than the mirror.
Basketball is a high intensity game played at a very fast pace… so going out and running 3 miles every day will not get you in basketball shape. It is also a game of reading and reacting, quick changes of direction, and several movement patterns (sprinting, jumping, defensive sliding, and back pedaling)…. so running 10 reps of 100 meters will not get you in basketball shape either. To get in, and stay in, top basketball shape you need to participate in a series of progressive, game-like drills!
To get into great basketball shape; your conditioning program must be:
- Energy system specific (high intensity/short duration, drills should last :15 - :60)
- Movement specific (sprint, back pedal, defensive slides, jumping)
- Progressive (increase intensity, increase volume, decrease rest)
- Competitive (compete against teammate or clock)
- Fun (try to find drills you enjoy doing, you will work harder if you are having fun)
The most effective way to get into basketball shape is to take a comprehensive approach:
Nutrition and rest: Your body is like a race car and it needs to be properly fueled to work at a maximum level. You need to try to get 8 hours of sleep each night to make sure you are well rested enough to give 100% at every workout. You also need to make sure you drink tons of water to stay hydrated. Even the slightest bit of dehydration can affect performance on the court and in the weight room. You also need to eat your normal 3 meals a day plus 3 additional high powered snacks. Two of the most important times to fuel are first thing in the morning (breakfast) and within an hour after working out. Here are a few great foods you can start your day with to give you energy: pancakes, waffles, bagels, cereal, oatmeal, and fruit.
Strength training: If your body is a car, your muscles are the engine. Proper strength training will increase the size/strength of your muscles (giving you a bigger engine!). If your muscles are stronger, they can produce more force, which means you will be able to run faster and jump higher (and you will also be less likely to be injured). Here are a few guidelines:
Training Frequency: 2-3 workouts per week
Training Duration: 40-60 minutes per workout
Training Volume: 1-3 sets per exercise, 10-15 total exercises per workout
Training Intensity: Perform each set to a point that no other “quality” repetitions are possible (the “muscle failure” mentioned in last week’s blog post)
Repetition Ranges: 8-15 repetitions per set (reaching muscle failure prior to 8 repetitions means the resistance is “too heavy” and increases orthopedic stress)
Equipment: Utilize what is available - free weights, machines, manual resistance, etc.
Workout tips: To make your workouts as effective as possible, utilize compound movements like squats, lunges, step-ups, pull-ups, bench presses, rows, and shoulder presses.
Here is a great weight room challenge to try this pre-season; lift 60,000 lbs in 60 minutes.
You multiply the weight times the number of reps you perform to get total poundage. So if you bench 135 lbs 10 times; you have 1,350 lbs. Only 58,650 lbs to go! You simply keep a running total of weight times reps and then add up everything at the end. You are more than welcome to keep a running total to see where you are at all times, but I recommend using a calculator so you don’t waste much time!
Here are a few ground rules to make this challenge as effective as possible:
- No leg press (too easy)
- No calf raises (too easy)
- Only full range of motion reps count
- Pull-ups are the only bodyweight exercise allowed (your weight being the weight for the exercise)
- Utilize free weights and dumbbells as much as possible to keep things universal
- When using DB’s; it’s the total weight (bench pressing with 40’s = 80 lbs)
- Start the clock on your first rep and end the workout in exactly 60 minutes
What will your strategy be? Try to lift lighter weights for more reps? Heavy weights for fewer reps? Alternate upper body and lower body exercises? Run through several exercises in a row with no rest? You may want to record and add up a “normal” workout first to gauge where you stand before devising a strategy. This can easily be turned into a team competition!
Conditioning: The primary goal of your conditioning program should be to get in peak basketball shape. There is a huge difference between being fit and being in basketball shape. You are not a track athlete and not marathon runner; so don’t train as such. You should aim for each workout to incorporate drills that include sprinting, cutting, back pedaling, defensive sliding, and jumping with appropriate work to rest rations to maximize intensity. The more game like the drill – the better! You must go all out every rep of every drill in every workout to truly reach your conditioning potential.
One thing that unites every player in the world this pre-season is the power to choose. You have the right to chose how you will train this pre-season. Every one of us is a product of the choices we make on a daily basis. Where ever we are in life, we are there as a result of the choices we have made. If you are happy and successful, it is because of your choices. If you are unhappy and miserable, it is also because of your choices. Same goes for pre-season training. When the season is here, if you are in great shape it is because you made the choice to be in great shape!
One of my favorite quotes of all time is
“Keep doing what you’ve been doing and you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. If you don’t like what you’ve been getting than quit doing what you’ve been doing!”
If what you did last year didn’t work well; don’t do it again!
What kind of choices are you making now to start the pre-season? Are you choosing to get plenty of sleep at night? Are you choosing to eat breakfast every day? Are you choosing to work hard in the weight room? Are you choosing to run every sprint/drill as hard as possible? Are you choosing to be enthusiastic and supportive of your teammates?
These are all choices. Your answer to these questions will dictate the success of your pre-season as well as the type of player you will be.
My next two blogs will continue to focus on the pre-season (Pre-Season Training II and Pre-Season Training III). I will also add a weekly “Montrose-ism” where I will share many of the insights and intricacies I have learned in the last seven years as the head strength & conditioning coach. Insights that have helped build one of the top high school basketball programs in the nation!
I just posted my fall schedule at www.StrongerTeam.com. Please come say hello if you attend any of the clinics I am working!
As always, for daily coaching points, motivational quotes, and videos of the “exercise of the week”, please follow me (and subscribe) to:
Train hard. Train smart.
2. September 2009 00:28
I know the story is way over told and very cliché; but nevertheless it epitomizes the purpose of this blog. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player in team sports history (not just basketball), was cut from his high school varsity basketball team as a sophomore. He has stated in countless interviews how he used that “failure” as the spark that ignited his tenacious pursuit of excellence, and eventually dominance, on the basketball court. MJ will have gone from being cut from his varsity team to reaching the pinnacle of success; when he will be inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame next week.
I truly believe the key to being successful, in any endeavor (but especially sports), is how you view failure and how you view mistakes. Most people view failure as a negative. They are so petrified by failure it becomes an immovable roadblock, and in my opinion, prevents them from attaining success. Others view failure as an integral part of the developmental process and look at mistakes as the speed bumps on the road to success. I most certainly fall into the latter group. Failure, if handled appropriately, is a key ingredient to being successful. Ask any successful person and they will confirm. Failure can teach you lessons you never would have learned otherwise (“School of Hard Knocks”), it can humble you and allow you to keep a healthy perspective, and it can be used to fuel your motivation for future success like in Michael Jordan’s case.
What’s really so bad about failure?
The main reason folks fear failure is because of the feeling of rejection they associate with it. People are so worried about getting rejected they avoid it at all costs. Do you realize how successful you could be if you were immune to feeling rejected? Byron Katie once said “you can have anything you want in life if you are willing to ask 1,000 people for it.” Anything. Think about that for second. There is a lot of truth to that statement. Ask 1,000 people? Most folks will quit after just one or two “no’s.”
I see the same fear with players all of the time. What about working on a new move? You think if you practiced that move for thousands of reps you would master it? Of course you would! Who cares if the first hundred times you did it you lost the ball, traveled, or couldn’t perform it at game speed?! If you keep working on it will eventually become a part of your offensive arsenal. One of the moves taught at every Nike Skills Academy this past summer was the Euro-step; which Tony Parker has made famous in the NBA. It is a deadly move for guards to use around the basket to elude a defender. Even the best high school and college players in the country had difficulty mastering the Euro-step; but those that did were the ones who stuck with it, rep after rep, and didn’t mind “failing” the first dozen or so times they tried it.
Jack Canfield, the creator of the Chicken Soup for The Soul series, was turned down by over 30 publishers before landing a book deal. That means over 30 people told him NO! That means he “failed” 30 times. Yet he persisted and believed in himself. Since then he has sold millions of books, inspired millions of readers, and made hundreds of millions of dollars. He is living proof of Byron Katie’s quote.
The irony is, in most cases, the person who gets the most “yes’s” in life is also the one who gets the most “no’s.” That means the folks with the most success, usually have had the most “failures” as well! One of my favorite motivational speakers is Steve Chandler, who said “if you never fail, you aren’t challenging yourself. You aren’t pushing your limits.” Amen to that.
That makes me think of one of my favorite quotes (sorry, not sure who originally said this):
“Your greatest fear should not be aiming to high and missing; but aiming too low and achieving.”
Here is another way to view this, courtesy of Mr. Chandler. Picture this; I give you a coin. I tell you I will give you $100 for every time you flip it and it lands on heads. You have 10 minutes to flip it as many times as you want! That’s it; those are the rules. What would you do? Would you tentatively sit there… scared to flip the coin in case it landed on tails? Of course not! You would flip that sucker as many times as you could… because you know the more times you flip it the more chances you have for it to land on heads (and get paid!)! You could care less if it landed on tails! Imagine having that same fervor for everything you try to achieve in life. I have tried hard to adopt that mantra in my life this past year and it has paid off in countless ways.
When strength training, when you take a set to the point at which you can’t perform another quality repetition, you have reached what is called Momentary Muscular Failure… which is a good thing! Picture a bench press for the ease of the visual. When your chest and shoulders and triceps are so exhausted you can’t budge the bar off your chest and you need to a spotter to re-rack the weight… you have just “failed.” The good news is consistently and systematically reaching MMF is an extremely productive way to increase strength. While there are certainly exceptions, I have most of my players take most of their sets to the point of momentary muscular failure every workout. In other words, I not only encourage it, but I demand my players “fail” several times each workout! And you know what? Over time they become bigger, stronger, and more powerful.
Players ask me all of the time what they can do to “get better.” Certainly an individualized prescription of skill work and player development is almost always necessary. But I can always offer one sure fire way to guarantee improvement: play with players older, bigger, stronger, and better than you are! You will get knocked around, you will get the ball stolen from you, you will get your shot blocked, and will (probably) even dunked on… but most importantly you will get better!
For every picture perfect game winning shot Michael Jordan hit; there were countless other times he missed. Countless other times he could have won the game but didn’t. But he never let the fear of missing prevent him from taking the shot. He never let failure get in the way of success.
And neither should you.
With both high school and college back in session, and NBA training camp around the corner, my goal is to post a new blog entry at the beginning of each week. My next two blogs will focus on pre-season training recommendations and outline everything you need to do to get in remarkable basketball shape! I also plan on adding a new feature to my weekly blogs this fall; “Montrose-isms.” I will share many of the insights and intricacies we have used for years to build Montrose Christian (where I am entering my 7th year as the head strength & conditioning coach) into an internationally renowned program. So make sure you check back weekly, and as always, please share with anyone you think would benefit.
I will be sending out an e-newsletter in the middle of September which will be full of valuable content and updates. Please email me if you would like to be added to my mailing list (Alan@StrongerTeam.com).
As always, for daily coaching points, motivational quotes, and videos of the “exercise of the week”, please follow me (and subscribe) to:
Train hard. Train smart.