30. August 2012 11:37
Remix: Failure is Good (original concept posted in September of 2009)
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.
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 is 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.
Train hard. Train smart.
22. August 2012 23:44
Remix: Dedication (concept originally posted in November of 2010)
My goal has always been to create an extraordinary environment for basketball players to strength train and condition. An environment for dedicated players to work hard, yet have fun as well. I work hard to stay on the cutting edge of basketball specific training methodology, techniques, and equipment to make sure I fulfill my goal.
Dedication and commitment are essential for success in any endeavor, but especially in basketball. The game is so unbelievable competitive right now, if you aren’t dedicated, you won’t make it. That goes for everyone; from high school players to the NBA. Great players are incredibly dedicated. They are keenly focused on their own skill and physical development and on achieving their own personal goals. Great players are up early in the morning and work on their game, in some capacity, most of the day. They do that 5-6 days a week. That is dedication!
On the topic of dedication, a powerful quote comes to mind (which was shared to me by the legendary Coach Don Meyer):
“There are two pains in life. The pain of discipline and the pain of regret. Take your choice.”
Everything in life, whether shopping for a new a TV or chasing your dream of playing in the NBA comes down to three simple questions:
1) What exactly do you want?
2) What does it cost?
3) Are you willing to pay the price?
While listening to one of Coach Meyer’s stories he mentioned he heard that back in his prime, Tiger Woods used to make 100 9-ft putts in a row to end every practice. That is 100 consecutive putts. If he missed his 92nd putt, he started over! That is dedication. Keep in mind, in his prime, Tiger was the most dominant golfer of all time. I figure an appropriate equivalent for basketball players are free throws. Are you dedicated enough to end every workout with 5 or 10 or 20 consecutive free throws? Tiger went on to say, “If people knew how hard I worked they wouldn’t think this came so easy to me.” I guess it is true; champions are made when no one is watching!
Another example of dedication is what’s known as the NBA “early bus.” There are two buses that head to the arena before every NBA road game. One heads over 3 hours early and one heads over an hour and half early. The guys that head over on the early bus are usually rookies, guys fighting for playing time, guys on 10 day contracts, etc. Guys that need to put in the extra work as often as possible. They head over early to get up shots, work on their ball handling, and sometimes even lift weights. These guys are dedicated to getting better every day. Legend has it NBA superstar Tim Duncan continued to take the early bus every game, even after his legacy and superstardom where solidified. In fact, the Spurs organization took notice and said “if our best player can take the early bus, then everyone can take the early bus.” Needless to say the Spurs only have one bus to games now!
The truly dedicated players understand dedication isn’t a sometimes thing, it is an all the time thing. There is no such thing as being “kind of dedicated.” You are either dedicated or you’re not; there is no in between.
Now the question is, are you dedicated?
Train hard. Train smart.
15. August 2012 10:03
Remix: Relationships (concept originally posted in November of 2010)
I truly believe that everything in life comes down to relationships. Everything. To be successful in any walk of life, from basketball to business, you have to know how to build and maintain solid relationships.
I think basketball players and coaches take this for granted and forget how important it is to have a sound relationship with each other, both on and off the court.
One of the main reasons I do what I do for a living is because of the relationships I get to have with those I work with. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the game of basketball and have a deep passion for strength and conditioning. But when it is all said and done I cherish and value the relationships most. I am so thankful and fortunate to have been able to get to know hundreds of players and coaches in my career and have had some amazing, memorable, and life changing experiences and relationships. And I welcome and look forward to many more to come!
Like most coaches, I enjoy watching the players I work with progress through high school and go off to college. I get so much satisfaction seeing someone I worked with enjoy the fruits of success, whether on the court or off it. I value these relationships and work hard at maintaining them. I go to a high school or college game almost every night of the week to support the kids I train, talk with their families, and see all of their hard work pay off. I also make sure to catch as many games on TV as I can and stay in close touch with my former players who are in college or in the pros. I do my absolute best to stay involved with majority of the players I have worked with. I don’t want anything from them but to stay in touch and be there if they need anything. I am very appreciative of how many former clients, players and coaches reciprocate and check in with me to do the same. That is my definition of job satisfaction.
Player to Coach Relationship
How many times have you heard a player use their coach as a scapegoat for why they aren’t successful? “I would play more but the coach doesn’t like me” or “My coach is an idiot, I am a shooting guard and he is making me run the point.” These are just excuses. As a player, whether in high school, college, or the NBA, your coach is your “boss.” He or she is the CEO of your team and program. And as the old saying goes, “the boss signs the paychecks.” That means the coach is in charge, period. The sooner you acknowledge that the better. With that said, as a player, if you truly want to maximize your ability and development, increase your playing time, and increase your chance to play at the next level, it is in your best interest to have a superb relationship with your coach. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they do, but you have to do your part to contribute to the relationship. Do you ask your coach if you can stay after practice so you can get up more shots? Do you thank him if he says yes? If you aren’t playing a lot, do you ask your coach what you need to work on to get more minutes? Do you show your coach the same respect you show your parents or the principle of your school? Do you listen with your eyes and your ears when the coach is speaking at practice or team meetings? Have you earned your coach’s trust and respect? Do you know much about your coach outside of basketball? Does he/she have any kids? What do they like to do aside from basketball? If you are currently a basketball player, at any level, and feel there is some strain in your relationship with your head coach, I challenge you to take the first step in mending things. Trust me; it will go a long way and ultimately, will help you in the end. And if you feel as though your coach is unapproachable, or you are really in the dog house, is there an assistant coach you can speak with to help mediate things? If you currently have a great relationship with your coach, congratulations, make sure you thank them and let them know how much you appreciate them.
Coach to Player Relationship
Most coaches have noble intentions. I have never met a basketball coach, at any level, who does it solely for the money. They coach because they love basketball and enjoy working with young people. But times have changed with today’s technology, even in the 20 years since I was in high school. While many coaches have sincere intentions, I know plenty that don’t make the effort necessary to really understand the youth of today. I think a coach’s primary job description should be to be an exemplary role model and provide an atmosphere for the student athlete to take full advantage of their basketball potential. A coach should be a teacher of the game. A coach should be a motivator. A coach should be a mentor. And while it is not the coach’s job to be “friends” with his players, I do think coaches should make every attempt to show his players he cares about them as people; not just as basketball players. As a coach, whether at a small high school or a major university, you should get to know your players, know what is going on in their life, find out what makes them tick, and do your best to stay up with the times. How well do you know your players’ families or girlfriends? Do you know how to text message or what Facebook even is? Do you know what kind of music your players listen to? Do you know what their goals and dreams are? And while I will reiterate, it is not the coach’s job to be friends with his players nor try to emulate them in how they dress or speak, but a coach should make every attempt to be likeable and show that he cares. Kids will always play harder for someone they like as well as someone they know cares about them. If you get on your kids really hard when they don’t play well, do you balance that out with encouragement and praise when they do? It has been my experience that kids crave discipline as long as it comes from someone they care about. It is important for a coach to understand, especially when dealing with today’s kids, that respect and trust have to be earned, they aren’t automatic like they were 15 years ago. A player is not going to respect you just because you are the coach; you have to earn their respect through the way you carry yourself and the way you treat them. Even though it might not be your taste, respect the way the way they walk, talk, and dress. And if you truly want your players to work hard for you every day, then you need to work just as hard for them. Put effort into your practice plans, scouting reports, and team functions. Come in early and stay late. The more you do for your players, the more they will do for you.
The Inner Circle
Nothing is more important than the relationship you have with your inner circle, or as it was referred to in the movie Meet the Parents, “the circle of trust.” Whether you are a freshman in high school or a 55 year old college coach, every one of us should have a small group of family and friends we utilize to make life’s most important decisions. I know I do. My parents, my wife, and a small handful of close friends (all of which I have known for years) make up my inner circle. These are the most important relationships in my life. These are the people I trust to offer their opinions and advice when I need them. These are people who know me as well as I know myself. Do you have an inner circle? Who is in it? Does your inner circle only have people you trust? Would you trust them with your car? With your girlfriend? With your life? Could you call them if you were stuck somewhere at 2am? Are they people that have always been there for you or someone new on the scene? Are they people that will love you and support you even if you don’t “make it” or if they disagree with your decision? Do these folks tell you what you need to hear or what you want to hear? It is especially important for young people (high school and college age in particular) to create and maintain this inner circle. In regards to elite level basketball players, deciding which college to play for or which agent to sign with are two monumental decisions to make. Who will you listen too when making these decisions? Will the folks in your inner circle lean to the best situation for you or for them? I am fortunate enough to work with and get to know the nation’s top high school players every year at a variety of events, camps, and academies and I see first-hand which players have a tight circle and which ones are easily distracted by hanger on-ers and phony entourages. From there it is pretty easy to determine who will be successful in the long haul and who will be gone with the wind.
Train hard. Train smart. Build relationships.
3. August 2012 00:33
Remix: Keys to Success (concept originally posted in June of 2010)
You need talent, luck, and persistence. Pick any two if you want to be successful.
Whether you are a basketball coach or player, you can reach your (realistic) goals and achieve a high level of success with just two of those three.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look…
To some degree, what most people refer to as talent, is nothing more than passion. If you love to do something… you will do it every chance you can. And the more you do it, the better you get. Now obviously there are several uncontrollable factors that determine someone’s ultimate talent and success on the basketball court (height, athleticism, etc.), but in many instances, talent comes from non-stop, obsessive practice. I have never met a lethal shooter who didn’t practice all of the time… who didn’t shoot thousands and thousands of shots every single week. Being a talented shooter is 100% controllable.
There is no debate that Kevin Durant was born with numerous physical gifts. But so are a lot of people. So how come KD is an NBA All-Star and 3-time NBA leading scorer and other 6’9” guys never get chance to play past college? Because KD has an unparalleled passion for basketball and he works on his craft every single day. The same can be said for Greivis Vasquez of the New Orleans Hornets. I met Greivis the day he got to the United States (from Venezuela) in 2005. He spoke very little English and weighed 150 lbs. Now he plays in the NBA. How is that possible? He made himself talented by working on his game every single day.
Same goes for coaching. Who are some of the most talented coaches in college basketball? Coach K? Tom Izzo? Do you have any idea how much time and effort those guys have put into their coaching skill sets? They love the game of basketball and work relentlessly at becoming the best they can be.
Talent is the ability to make the most of what you have with where you are.
Honestly, I don’t believe in luck. I think unsuccessful people use luck as an excuse. I believe luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I love the quote, “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” There is so much truth to that statement. So that means, in order to be lucky, you need to be well prepared when opportunity knocks.
Do you even know how to prepare? Players, what do your daily workouts consist of? Do you just jack up 300 shots or do you take game shots, from game spots, at game speeds? Do you practice ball handling drills looking down at the ball or do you force yourself to look up (even though you may lose the ball initially)? Do you visualize a defender in front of you when making moves to the basket or do you just do the drill? Do you have a solid strength & conditioning foundation or do you just play pick-up? Equally important, are you a great teammate? Are you the type of player other players like to play with and coaches like to coach? Trust me… you’ll be a lot luckier if you are!
Coaches, do you just study the X’s and O’s or do you work on communication and leadership? Do you put all of your focus on your out-of-bounds plays or do you spend time learning how to most effectively communicate with every member of your program? Do you reinforce great work habits with your players 365 days a year? Do you read, watch film, and network with other coaches?
I realize many resources cost money… camps, clinics, DVDs, and trainers, which can me a limiting factor for some. However there are numerous resources that don’t (like this blog or my YouTube channel). Find them. Use them.
If you want to be lucky, you need “to be in the right place at the right time.” Instead of waiting for that to happen, you need to make an effort to create real value in every place you go and every person you come in contact with.
When opportunity knocks, will you be prepared to answer?
This one is pretty obvious. Don’t give up on anything you can’t go a day without thinking about it. Never quit. Keep practicing. Keep working. Most people think they are persistent, but in reality, they give up after a couple of “no’s” or a few minor failures. Be too stubborn to quit. Don’t be so pig-headed you won’t try to new approaches or make adjustments along the way… just don’t quit. Ever.
My twin sons, Luke & Jack, are 2 ½ years old. They have an unyielding persistence. They don’t stop until they get what they want! They are relentless and they don’t take no for answer. While that has certainly caused me some grey hairs, I hope it is a quality they never out grow. If they apply the same persistence to the game of basketball as they do to wanting to be fed… they will indeed be McDonalds All-Americans in 2028!
Bottom line is this. If you want to be successful, on the court, or in anything in life:
Make your own talent.
Make your own luck.
Train hard. Train smart.