Originally posted March 6, 2018
As we approach the beginning of another new travel season, there are a few important thoughts I would like to share with all of our players and parents. The school season is winding down for many of our players, and we are rapidly approaching the point of year when our teams will be competing in the NCAA evaluation events. Knowledge is power. That is why I hope every player and parent takes the time to read this piece carefully.
Each season speeds by:
The single biggest thing I have learned as a parent of an athlete and as a coach, is that each season speeds past us at an unbelievable pace. There is so much to cover, so much to work on and so little time, that none of us reaches our full athletic potential. The high school basketball season lasts 4 full months with only two games a week, but 3-4 (sometimes 5) practices a week. Meanwhile, the AAU season is significantly shorter with only 2 practices in a typical week.
The AAU season is the time to make significant strides in your game while hopefully showcasing your skills to coaches and evaluators. But in order to do so, you must use your time and energy wisely. The high school season, with practices, games and homework every day, does not provide adequate time for athletes to get up shots or work on their individual skills outside of team practice. In fact, the school season is often a hindrance to individual development because every single game matters, therefor players will not take the necessary temporary steps backward in correcting flaws that will allow them to take giant leaps forward in their development, and do not have enough time to get in the repetitions needed to correct those flaws. Studies show that it takes 10,000 repetitions to make a change in mechanics become natural. Who has that kind of time during the school season to correct their shot or is willing to temporarily struggle when a few missed shots could cost their team a league championship?
But, AAU season does provide that opportunity. With games only on weekends, not every weekend, the outcomes of games not being as important, and practices generally only twice a week, athletes have time and opportunity to get basketball lessons, do skill work, make changes, and get up hundreds of shots on days that they are not with their teams. This work is what produces the biggest growth in basketball players. I have to ask: ‘Are you taking advantage of this time? Or, are you allowing other activities to occupy it? Are you recognizing this as a limited time opportunity to improve at basketball, or are you viewing the additional free time as free time FROM basketball?’ The months will pass, whether you are making use of them or not, and your chances to become the player you are capable of becoming will pass with them.
There is almost nothing my daughter and I wouldn’t give to be able to reclaim the last four years and make some changes in how she worked, and she worked extremely hard that entire time. It was out of what we learned through her experience that I created the basketball training system we have in place. I wanted to give each of you the opportunities that we missed; things like injury prevention strength training, small group workouts, basketball lessons, and gym time shooting on the Gun. These things are the building blocks of successful athletic careers.
Over the years, I have received a lot of feedback, mostly positive, but some negative. The most common negative comment I have received, is that a player has not improved, and they believe the coach or the schedule is to blame. It is that complaint that I want to address. Most commonly, that complaint comes from the parent of a child who is not the best athlete, and who regularly misses practice for other sports or activities. In fact that is almost exclusively the case. There is an unfortunate misconception that attending most team practices will, if coached properly, produce significant improvement in an athlete’s skill set. Further, it is believed that missing practices, but getting shots up (maybe), in the driveway will not negatively impact their development. The truth is that attending every single team practice is the bare minimum for experiencing minimal success in their sport. Those who improve, put in significant work outside of team practice through private and small group workouts with coaches, basketball trainers, or knowledgeable parents, by attending skills classes or camps, by doing strength, speed & agility training multiple times per week to improve their athleticism, and by getting thousands of repetitions in (correctly) to hone their skills. If you are not doing any of this, you will not improve, and it is not your coach’s fault or the fault of the schedule you are playing.
At the younger ages, this is up to the parents. They control the child’s schedule of activities. But for older athletes, it is up to you. Are you willing to give up screen time to work on your ball handling, shooting, or to do strength training? Are you more interested in hanging out with friends or playing another sport than you are in diving into your favorite sport? All of that depends on what your individual goals are. If your goal is to just have fun playing sports while in high school, that is fine. If your goal is to see how far you can go in basketball, and possibly play at the next level, you need to put in the work and sacrifice.
We have a few exceptional athletes in our organization, but not many. Most of the players in our organization are good athletes. To be a great athlete, and compete at the next level, they will need to make significant improvements in their athleticism. Those improvements do not just happen, and they definitely do not happen through running in practice twice a week with us. The elite athletes train regularly. Let me repeat that. Those who are already elite athletes are currently training regularly, which means that they are daily widening the gap that already exists between themselves and you. They were born with a head start and are expanding their lead. What are you doing in a legitimate attempt to close that gap? If you are not on a strength/speed/agility training program right now, you are not putting forth enough effort. As each month goes by, they will continue to become better than you. If you do not significantly improve your athleticism, you WILL NOT compete at the next level.
The Cone Effect:
I want to share with you the concept of the giant cone effect. When you are young, you are at the apex of a giant cone. If you do everything right, life is like the widening of the cone in that your opportunities ahead of you are vast. But, time passes extremely fast, and those early years are extremely crucial. Once you get to a certain point, which is about 11th or 12th grade, that cone reverses in direction. At that point, once the cone begins to reverse direction, no matter how much effort you begin to expel, your options are far more limited and you must expel extensive effort to achieve modest results. An example of this is your grades in school. If you work extremely hard early, and have a very high GPA by the time you are a senior, you have many options for where you can go to college, and what you can study and become. But, if you do not take your academics seriously, by the time you are a senior, your college choices are very limited, as will be your opportunities beyond college. Sports are no different. The biggest college programs have their list of targeted athletes by the end of their 9th grade season, they then wittle that list down (they do not expand it), in the following years. If you hone your skills early, your options will be numerous, but if you wait, you will need to work extremely hard to play at a small program because there are so many similar athletes competing for those limited remaining spots. If your grades are not high, your athletic opportunities are even more limited at that point, because many small programs rely on academic money to fund their scholarship offers.
In writing this, I am confident it applies to our entire organization because I know that no one athlete (or coach) in our program is perfect. No one. Not one of you is such a ‘freak of nature’ athlete that coaches are knocking down your parents’ front door. I have traveled the country and seen those athletes play. They are something special. And I also know that most of them still work extremely hard because they want to be great. Each and every one of you can, and needs to be more athletic, stronger, a better ball handler, faster, and a better shooter. Every single one of you. Do you want to get better? Do you want to play at the next level? If you really do, you need to start putting in significant work outside of practice, and you need to show up for every practice with a laser focus on getting better and outworking your team mates.
There is a new term that I like better than “Helicopter Parents.” it is “Snow Plow Parents” Our job is not to plow the snow from the road ahead for our kids. Its to teach them to drive in the snow. Our job is not to prepare the world for our kids, but to prepare our kids for the world. I believe that as good parents, we should do absolutely everything within our power to prepare our kids by empowering them. That may include teaching them everything we know, showing them how to search for solutions themselves, paying for private tutoring/training, etc. that helps them to improve, paying for gym time or buying them a hoop for the yard so that they can practice and improve their skills. These things empower our kids. BUT, we should never attempt to fight their battles for them. If they are not receiving the attention or playing time they want, encourage them to stay positive and work harder. Do NOT attempt to fight for them. At some point in life, they need to be ready to stand on their own because adult life is difficult and oftentimes unfair, and they will need to be ready to prepare their kids. We are preparing them for failure if we do not let them experience challenges now. Their peak in life will not come for decades. Let’s keep it all in perspective and help them reach as high of a peak in life as possible.
Last Item for Players:
Stop Lying to yourself. Each time you tell yourself that you have time, or that you will do it later, or make some other excuse for not working harder, you are lying to yourself. Each time you say that you want to play at the next level, or start on varsity, but you consistently choose to do something other than work on your game, you are lying to yourself, and to others. Either be honest and admit that its not that important to you, or else make a change. And I don’t want to give the impression that you can never take a day off. You need “Scheduled” days off. Those are days you plan ahead to take a break. They are needed. But you CAN NOT randomly decide to not work on any given day, because it will become a habit. And never planning to work is even worse than randomly taking days off. There is Never Enough Time, so don’t waste any of the time you have.