16. June 2009 23:58
I have mentioned numerous times how serious I take my own development; both personally and professionally. As cliché as it sounds, I try to get a little better every single day! In addition to always finding new exercises, drills, and training techniques, a good portion of my professional development is focused on leadership. I have dozens and dozens of books, have binders full of notes and handouts, and read several weekly blogs all focused on the topic of effective leadership. I have been fascinated by the qualities that make great leaders for as long as I can remember. And continuing to improve my own leadership skill set is one of my top priorities.
With such a vast topic at hand, this blog could either be a ten part series, or would literally be close to a thousand pages. Believe me; neither you nor I want that! Instead I am going to keep this as concise as possible. If you are looking for a few books that brilliantly cover leadership much more thoroughly; I recommend any book by Coach K or Rick Pitino. I have read each of their books several times over.
I think leadership is an important topic for me to touch on as I truly believe there is a tremendous lack of leadership in today’s game; specifically with today’s youth. Since I am extremely passionate about helping players improve in every aspect of their lives, not just basketball, I thought this topic should be addressed. Basketball is a team game that thrives on leadership; from both the coaches and players. One of the main reasons the LA Lakers are the NBA Champions is because of the outstanding leadership of Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant.
Here is arguably one of the best quotes I have ever heard on leadership:
“An army of asses led by a lion will always defeat and army of lions led by an ass.”
I heard legendary coach Don Meyer say that at a clinic in Las Vegas a few months ago. While that quote certainly makes me chuckle, it is right on the money. You can’t under estimate the power of a great leader. Great leaders make the impossible seem possible.
Some folks think leaders are born; some think they are developed. I happen to think it is a little bit of both. Regardless, I am confident 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 five traits that contribute to effective leadership:
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! These mistakes can be in the classroom or on the court.
“Success comes from good decisions. Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions.”
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 the people you are leading, you have to expect it from yourself. You must hold yourself accountable before you can hold anyone else. If you expect your players or teammates to be on time; then you need to be on time. If you expect them to know every play in your playbook, then you need to know them too. If you want to be a leader people notice:
“Do what has to be done. Do it when it has to be done. Do it as well as you can. Do it this way all of the time.”
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? Are you playing for the name on the front of the jersey or the back? If you are a coach, do you listen to your players’ feedback and thoughts? Treat your teammates and players right and genuinely care about them.
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
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. It sounds corny, but you have to feel good about yourself to be a good leader. No one is going to follow someone who doesn’t believe in themselves. Confidence comes from a sound work ethic and from being prepared. If you are going into a game and aren’t confident you can win; it’s because you know you didn’t do what was necessary to prepare!
“Don’t ever take a shot you aren’t confident you are going to make.”
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. But you have to believe your teammates and players can meet this standard. A good leader will motivate those they are leading to do so. You want to be the type of leader who raises the level of everyone around you! Set the bar high and then lead them to it!
“It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you often get it.”
These are just some of the traits needed to be an effective leader. Whether you are the point guard on a high school basketball team or an assistant college coach; your ability to be an effective leader will dictate your success as well as your team’s success.
Please check back weekly as it is going to be an exciting summer. My next several blogs will give you inside looks and thoughts (and video clips) from the NBA Player’s Association Top 100 Camp along with the Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, and LeBron James Skills Academies.
And don’t forget to check it out and subscribe to www.YouTube.com/StrongerTeamDotCom and check out the latest exercise of the week. And if you want the inside scoop on the summer training scene, as well as daily inspirational quotes, follow me on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/AlanStein.
Train hard. Train smart.
17. May 2009 23:36
I am always looking for ways to get better. I leave no stone unturned when it comes to my professional (and personal) development. I want to be the best basketball strength & conditioning coach I can be. I feel I owe that to myself and certainly owe that to the players and teams I work with. I spend an inordinate amount of time reading books and magazines, combing the internet, watching DVD’s, attending clinics, and networking with colleagues. I have notebooks full of notes and drill diagrams I constantly refer back too. If I hear of something new in the training industry; I investigate it immediately. I keep an open mind and try to learn from every methodology possible; yet stick strong to my training convictions, beliefs, and philosophy. I am in a constant state of self evaluation of my overall philosophy and I welcome and value feedback from clients, players, and coaches. If you truly love the game of basketball; you should have a similar approach to being the best player or coach you can be.
This past weekend I attended, and presented at, the 2nd Annual NC State Basketball Strength & Conditioning Symposium. This clinic was hosted by NC State’s basketball strength coach Charles Stephenson. A major kudos to Coach Stephenson for a fantastic event! This clinic brought together the top basketball strength & conditioning coaches in both college and NBA and provided a plethora of information. I was thoroughly impressed by each speaker and picked up numerous ideas, drills, and coaching concepts. And as always, it was a pleasure to network with folks in the industry.
Bob Medina, the strength & conditioning coach for the Portland Trailblazers, has been in the NBA for 18 years. He gave a stellar presentation on strength & conditioning at the NBA level and provided an inside look at his year round program. He shed some invaluable light on things I think all players need to know. Whether you are in high school or college, if you aspire to play in the NBA I hope you take your strength & conditioning seriously now, because you will need to when you get to that level!
Did you know, in the NBA, guys regularly train on game day? Some come in before games to lift; others stay and lift after the game.
Did you know guys have to get in a minimum number of workouts per month during the season, and if they don’t, they are fined $5,000 per missed workout? The minimum number usually averages about 3 workouts per week (during the season!).
Did you know that NBA players go through a structured warm-up session before every single practice or game?
Did you know NBA players are monitored weekly and monthly on their body weight and body fat? Those results, along with attendance, are sent to the GM and coaching staff.
Did you know each player gets a “report card” at the end of the season; an evaluation and analysis of their work habits, attendance, body composition, attitude and willingness to be coached?
Players; how would your strength & conditioning report care look right now? Do you hold yourself to the same level of accountability as guys in the NBA? Why not?
Coaches; do you hold your players this accountable? Do you keep track of attendance during off season workouts? Do you have a method for monitoring progress?
If you have any questions or thoughts on this blog post please email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com. I will respond as quickly as possible!
Train hard. Train smart.
28. April 2009 10:55
What are your favorite brands?
Nike? Apple? Facebook? BMW? Vitamin Water?
What traits come to mind when you think about your favorite brands?
Elite? Durable? Stylish? Performance? Quality?
Do you consider people to be brands? Well they are! The most obvious is Michael Jordan (heck, his company is called the Jordan Brand!). What about Tiger Woods, Donald Trump, Lil’ Wayne, and LeBron “King” James? Do you consider them brands? I certainly do. Why? Because the characteristics that come to mind when you think of them are automatically associated to whatever product they endorse. Make sense?
Whether you are a player, a coach or a trainer; it is important you start viewing yourself as a brand. Think of it as “brand you.” Everything you do affects your brand; either in a positive way or a negative way. The way you dress, the way you act, the way you play… it all reflects your brand. And if you want to have the type of stellar reputation the companies and people mentioned above have; then you need to take your brand very seriously. And just to clarify; I believe in being authentic. I am not telling you to be someone else, pretend you are LeBron James, or to try to please others just for the sake of it. You need to set the standards of your brand, decide what characteristics you find most important and then live up to them every day of your life.
One of my favorite movies of all time is an old school cult classic called Boiler Room; starring Vin Diesel and Ben Affleck before they were Hollywood superstars. My favorite concept from the movie was a tip on how to be a self fulfilling prophet. It was called, “act as if.” My advice to you is to act as if you are already a quality brand.
Is your goal to play college basketball? Act as if you already are a college player! And by that I mean hold yourself to the same standard of excellence as an elite college basketball player would… now. Carry yourself with the same honor, character, humbleness and work ethic as a Stephen Curry or Tyler Hansbrough or Blake Griffin – the poster boys of college basketball. Who knows, it may come true?! Are you in college trying to make it to the pros? Do the same thing. I sincerely hope you understand it is going to take much more than a killer crossover and a wet jump shot to make it in the league. Hundreds of guys have that. You need to separate yourself from the pack. You need to make your brand stand out. While the LeBron’s, Kobe’s, and CP3’s have extraordinary talent; they also have charisma, professionalism, the ability to be coached, and an unmatched passion for the game. If you don’t already possess them, you can start to act as if you have those qualities as well!
In my quest to read 50 books in 2009, I just got done reading two excellent books which I highly recommend to any player or coach; Money Players by Marc Isenberg and Me 2.0 by Dan Schawbel. Both are invaluable resources and are the inspiration for this blog and the concept of looking at you as a brand. Mr. Schawbel was the one who coined the phrase “brand you.” Both books can be purchased at Amazon.com.
Now that we have established you are your own brand; what do you want people to think about your brand? What would you want them to say when describing your brand? Hard worker or lazy? Coachable or a hard-head? Energy giver or energy taker?
What makes your brand unique on the court? What do you bring to the table? Are you a great shooter? Or are you a ball hog? Are you a lock-up defender? Or do you only play one end of the floor? Are you a good teammate; the glue guy that does the little things like take charges and dive for loose balls? Or are you only focused on yourself?
What makes your brand special off the court? Are you a good student? Or are you a class clown and a jackass? Are you honest and have great character? Or are you always looking for a short-cut?
Nike cares about what people think of their brand. So does Apple. So does Vitamin Water. So does any big time brand. So should you.
If you don’t think these things matter you’re crazy. They matter more than you know. Your brand and what people think about it matters a lot and has a huge influence over the opportunities you will have in life. Think about it; you only buy brands you like and trust; why would people be any different? Would you buy an iPod if there was a good chance it would break? Would you drink Gatorade if it tasted like cat urine? Would you buy Nike’s if they hurt your feet? Absolutely not! So why would a college coach want to give you a scholarship or an NBA general manager give you a contract if they didn’t believe in and have confidence in your brand; both on and off the court? The answer is they wouldn’t!
Still don’t think your actions affect your brand? Ask Britney Spears or Michael Vick. Both are tremendously talented and both of their brands have suffered irreversible hits because of their actions.
On the flip side; your actions can drastically improve your brand. Do you think Nike signed Kevin Durant to a $70 million contract just because of his basketball talent? Absolutely not. They signed KD because his brand is an asset to the Nike brand. KD’s brand, above and beyond his unbelievable basketball ability, is about passion, work ethic, respect, and professionalism. Same as Nike.
As I mentioned before; everything you do reflects your brand – everything! The way you dress, your email grammar, your email address, your Facebook and MySpace profiles, your manners, your voicemail message, your voicemail etiquette, your handshake, your eye contact… the list goes on and on.
Now, I am not that old, turned 33 in January and I spend a good deal of time working with players in junior high, high school and college… so I am totally in tune with what’s “cool” and what’s “hot.” I believe in being an individual and expressing yourself appropriately… but within reason. It doesn’t bother me if someone has a tattoo (assuming they were of age when they got it and/or their parents approved) or has a funky haircut. But even I roll my eyes when a player sends me an incoherent email full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Or sends it from an address like email@example.com. How am I supposed to take them seriously? Same goes for someone with a weak handshake, who is afraid of eye contact, has a 5 minute rap song on their outgoing voice message, or has a Facebook profile full of inappropriate pictures. In my mind, they just don’t “get it.” They might be a tremendous player; but my initial opinion of their brand is negative; so I ain’t buyin’!
According to Me 2.0, research has shown it takes less than 30 seconds for someone to form a lasting impression of you. If you make a poor first impression, it can take up to 21 follow up impressions to change their view! So first impressions are a big deal. Remember, whether it is right or wrong, people will always judge you and judge your brand. And whether you realize it or not, you do the same.
One of my favorite stories of first impressions and building a strong brand is when Michael Redd met Jerry Colangelo. Back in 2006 when USA Basketball was in the initial stages of putting together the “Redeem Team” to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics; Jerry Colangelo (managing director of USA Basketball) set individual interviews with every potential player. He wanted to meet with them face to face prior to deciding who to put on the team. Michael Redd drove straight from his practice with the Milwaukee Bucks to Chicago for the interview. When Mr. Colangelo answered the door Michael was standing there in his warm-ups with a garment bag on his shoulder. After shaking hands Michael asked if he could be excused to the rest room. When he emerged a few minutes later he was dressed in a full suit and tie. Now he was ready for the interview.
Michael Redd’s actions landed him on the team that eventually won the gold medal. Putting on his suit and tie for the interview showed respect and professionalism. You see, he gets it. He understands the importance of his brand.
If you have any questions or thoughts on this blog post or want to contact me about my training services or MVP program; please email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com. I will respond as quickly as possible!
Train hard. Train smart.
22. April 2009 10:57
There is no argument Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to have ever played the game. But his legacy is far greater than his record breaking stats, 6 championship rings, and the fact he earned every accolade offered by the NBA from the MVP to the Defensive Player of the Year to the Slam Dunk champion. MJ changed the entire culture of the sports entertainment industry through his myriad of endorsements and business ventures. He was a pioneer, a trendsetter, and for well over a decade was the most famous person on the planet. Everyone wanted to “be like Mike.”
Everything he did was about excellence. This still holds true today with his Jordan Brand empire.
This is my fifth consecutive year to work the prestigious Jordan Brand All American Classic; held at world renowned Madison Square Garden in New York City. This event is always one of the highlights of my year. Nike Basketball and the Jordan Brand team invited the top 20 high school players in the nation (and top 16 international high school age players) to the Big Apple for, for as they put it, “the best basketball experience of your life.” The four day event offered so much more than just basketball. The group did an autograph session at the House of Hoops in Harlem, participated in a bowling tournament at Lucky Strike (with Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Asher Roth, and Vince Carter), scrimmaged at the Gauchos facility in the Bronx, and most importantly visited a boys and girls club and interacted with the kids. Staying completely authentic to the style of the Jordan Brand; everything about this event was first class – from the hotel Westin in Times Square to the buses to the food to the gear.
While the entire week was amazing, there were two experiences I enjoyed the most.
The first was hanging out with long time client and friend Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. I have known and worked with KD since his junior year of high school; so it is always nice to catch up with him. KD had a breakout sophomore year in the league and finished in the top 5 in the NBA in scoring. But more impressive to me is how humble and down to earth he still is. He has not let fame or fortune change who he is and his work ethic and dedication to the game is stronger than ever. He will be an NBA All Star next year and for many years to come.
The other experience was meeting Michael Jordan and hearing him talk to the players before the game. He was absolutely captivating. He took questions from the players and his answers were dead on. Here are his paraphrased answers to a few questions:
Q: What motivated you to play hard every single night; even after you had proven you were the best player in the NBA?
MJ: “Every single time I took the floor I assumed someone was seeing me play for the first time. Maybe the guy who collects the ticket stubs. Maybe a 12 year old kid coming to his first game. I wanted to prove to that person that I was worth the hype and was as good as advertised. Plus I played hard every day in practice; so playing hard in the game was just a habit.”
Q: What advice would give us about our freshman year in college?
MJ: “Go in humble and be prepared to make a great first impression. Go in accepting, as a freshman, you are the lowest guy on the totem pole. Let your work ethic and passion for the game do the talking, not your high school reputation. Don’t expect anything to be handed to you; go out and earn it.”
Q: Who is better – LeBron or Kobe?
MJ: “Kobe is the best player in the NBA now. He plays both ends of the floor, is the most polished offensively, and works harder than anyone. But LeBron has the potential to be the best ever. As incredible as he already is, he is still learning the game. LeBron is going to be unbelievable.”
There you have it. Insight and wisdom from the best to have ever played. And I got to hear it first hand!
My role at these events is to get the players warm-up and stretched out before and after practice. If you want some info on some quality stretches to do after you workout or play, email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com and I will send you some info. I will send you the same types of stretches I do with the Jordan Brand All Americans!
Train hard. Train smart.
13. April 2009 10:58
If you want to be successful at anything in life, especially basketball, you need to work hard every single day. Are you rolling your eyes? Sound cliché? Sound redundant? Probably, but nevertheless is it true! One of the best coaches and motivational speakers I have ever heard speak was Jim Valvano. I have an old grainy video clip of him speaking in which he said something that changed my life forever:
“Every morning when you wake up, you have only two choices. The choice to work hard or the choice to not work hard. That’s it, no other choices. Either you work hard or your don’t; it’s pretty simple. If you choose not to work hard, you will fail. If you choose to work hard, you still might fail! How is that for a deal? Success is never guaranteed, but it is impossible without hard work.”
While I firmly believe hard work is the backbone of success in any endeavor, I believe there are several other factors that contribute to whether or not you are successful. I am going to focus on three of them: finding someone to push you, accessing developmental resources, and strengthening your “want to.”
It is very rare for anyone to be successful without any help. So a key to being successful is finding someone who pushes you. Someone who pushes you to be the best you can be. Someone who holds you accountable. Someone who motivates you. Someone who tells you what you need to hear; not what you want to you hear. Someone who gives you energy. Someone who encourages you. Someone who coaches you. Everyone needs someone like this in their life. If you are really lucky, you will find several people like this and surround yourself with them as often as possible. And don’t wait for this to happen by chance, go find this person! You have a much better chance of being successful if you do.
This person can be a sibling, a parent, a friend, a teammate, a coach, a trainer, or a mentor. Who they are is not as important as what they are. Are they someone who makes you better? Are they helping you become more successful?
Tiger Woods is one of the most dominant athletes on the planet. He has natural ability, a tremendous golf IQ and a relentless work ethic. He has already attained astronomical success. So why does Tiger Woods need a coach?
He doesn’t. Tiger Woods doesn’t need a coach, he wants a coach!
He wants someone to make him better. As good as Tiger is, arguably the greatest golfer of all time, he wants to find areas where he can improve. He studies film on his swing hoping to find a flaw. Why would the best golfer of all time want to find a flaw in his swing? Because it will mean he can still get better! Tiger humbly recognizes this and uses a coach. But it is not just the fact he uses a coach that is important. It is the fact he has found someone in his life to push him; every day, every practice; every match. Tiger’s success is not an accident.
Do you have a person like this in your life?
Another important ingredient to being successful is gaining access to developmental resources. Whether you are a basketball player or coach, you have to make sure you are constantly progressing and developing. Either you are getting better or you are getting worse, there isn’t anything in between. As a veteran basketball strength & conditioning coach, I spend a good deal of time on my own professional development and am constantly seeking both people and resources to broaden my scope and assist in my success. I read the latest training books and manuals, watch the latest training DVD’s, attend numerous coaching clinics, and network with dozens of collegiate and NBA strength coaches. I know part of my success is making sure I am on the cutting edge with my training techniques, concepts, and equipment. This commitment to my professional development takes time and effort, but it is well worth it.
What resources do you use to get better?
A third ingredient of being successful is strengthening your “want to.” Everyone has a want to list. If you are a basketball player your want to’s probably include I want to jump higher or I want to gain 10 lbs. Most times people want to’s are just lip service. They just say they want something but they don’t work as hard as they can to get it. Think your want to strong? Let’s say your goal is to gain 10 lbs. over the summer. If I weighed you on June 1st and told you on September 1st I would weigh you again, and if you were 10 lbs. heavier I would give you $1,000,000 in tax free cash, would you accept my offer? Of course you would! Think you would attain your goal? I guarantee you would. Heck you would probably exceed it and gain 15-20 lbs. because your want to would be unstoppable!
One way to gauge how strong your “want to” is by seeing how many times you give in to the little voice in your head. The voice that says, "I am too tired to work out today. I don’t want to get up early. My legs are too sore to get up extra shots. I can’t do that drill, it is way too hard.” If you let that little voice win, your want to is not strong enough! If you let that voice win, you won’t be successful.
How strong is your “want to?” Do you really want something or just say you do?
I am extremely passionate about the game of basketball as well as about productive strength training and conditioning. But I am also very passionate about helping other people be successful. I have a long list of people who have helped me, including a gentleman I have never met in person, Mr. Steve Chandler. I have read several of his books, listened to countless audio tapes, and have subscribed to his Club Fearless. Several of the concepts in this blog come from things he has been generous enough to share with me.
If I can ever be a resource to you for your strength & conditioning, please let me know, I would be honored to help.
For starters; do you know what type of shoes you should be training in?
Email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com and I will tell you.
Train hard. Train smart.