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Witnessing LeBron Workout

Thanks to a connect from my guy Henry Barrera, I was fortunate enough to be a big part of Nike’s LeBron 12 Shoe Launch media event. The best part was not the free gear I got, but the fact that I was able to watch LeBron James do a full workout. It’s not every day you get to see an elite athlete’s training regimen, let alone one of the best players to ever do it.

His workout consisted of segments of skill drills with coach Damon Jones broken up with strength and mobility drills led by trainer Mike Mencias. What impressed me most was the efficiency he performed his workout with. Granted, this is easier to do with 2 coaches ready to serve your every need, but it’s still something that can be replicated by players of any level. Here are 3 important things I observed from LeBron’s workout.

1. Fundamentals never quit

LeBron’s workout was not flashy. There were no secret drills or breakthrough techniques. He worked on footwork in game-like situations. Every rep looked identical. When you are performing skill workouts, focus on how you are moving and the footwork you are performing each drill with. Whatever your focus is for that drill, make an effort to master it on each rep.

2. What you do after the workout will increase your gains

After his workout was finished, he spent a good 30 minutes stretching and performing low-impact mobility work. Again, stretching is much easier when you have a trainer doing it for you. However, this is not a reason for a majority of young athletes to overlook this portion of their athletic development. Create or find a flexibility/mobility routine and stay diligent and consistent.

3. Don’t expect a perfect result every time

I have seen countless young players vocally and emotionally display their frustration during workouts when they go on a streak of missed shots or lose the dribble during ball handling work. Although it’s common opinion that LeBron is not a pure shooter, he is still one of the greatest in the game. He made shots during his workout with efficiency. Yet, he still had streaks of misses (I counted 6 at one point). This did not shake his mindset. He wasn’t happy with himself, but he remained consistent in how he performed the drills.

There are few athletes who have Kobe's level of preparation.

3 Easy Steps to Prepare for the Season

The season is only a short 2-months away! What could be more exciting? As a player, I always enjoyed this time approaching the season. As each week reached completion, I felt my skills sharpening and my body becoming stronger and stronger. Once the season came, I was in the best shape I could possibly be in. If you are a player who has high expectations and takes the game seriously, there is no excuse to come into the first week of the season unprepared. If your team does not have any organized workouts, you can still take initiative to make sure you are ready for day 1. There is a ton you can do in 8 weeks! There are a lot of great resources available to help you get ready. Here are 3 easy steps you can take to help you prepare for the first day of tryouts.

1. Consistent sprint workouts

Gone are the days of running for miles at a time to get in shape. Research has proven that high intensity sprint workouts will prepare a basketball player in a much more efficient manner than long distance running. The standards of your spring workouts should be high-intensity, short distances mixed with limited recovery periods. This builds your body to be explosive while also prepping your energy systems for the demands of a basketball game.

2. Get your shots up

Skill workouts are outstanding. However, they can be inefficient if not performed right. It will do most players better to get in the gym and shoot. Make sure your reps are at game speed and with game focus. Keep track of your sessions and measure your improvement at different spots on the floor. If you can shoot the ball, you increase your chances of making a team and earning more playing time. Coaches always need shooters on the floor!

3. Develop positive habits

Once the season hits, new demands are placed on your body. A full day of school, two hours of practice, and then homework on top of that can shock your system. It’s important as a serious athlete to start prepping your mind and body for the season now. Develop a great sleeping pattern, be sure to start blocking out time for studying, and pay attention to your nutrition level (an easy start is to start drinking water throughout the day).

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What Makes Team USA Dominant (Aside From Talent)

I have been fortunate to watch a few of Team USA’s games during the FIBA World Cup. Obviously, they are dominating. Yes, they are more talented, but statistically, they are proving that there are 3 things teams can do to win games. (Using stats through their first 3 games)

Make more free throws than the other team shoots

Being aggressive offensively puts pressure on the defense. Soft teams settle for jump shots, not necessarily because they are good shooters, but because they don’t want to work for a shot closer to the basket. Team USA has made 56 FT’s compared to 49 attempts for their opponents. This is primarily because of dribble penetration, but also a product of getting out in transition and attacking the offensive glass.

Win the rebounding and turnover battles

Two things that are so obvious. If a team can consistently do these two things, they are going to be in position to win ball games. Team USA is dominant because of the way they control these two categories. They out rebound their opponents by 9 boards per game. This is extremely helpful to their ability to hold teams to 37% shooting. In addition, their +11 forced turnovers margin allows them to get easy baskets in transition.

Score off the pass

Team USA is getting 21 assists per game, while making nearly 40 field goals per game. This means half of their baskets are coming off the pass. Scoring off the pass takes advantage of help defense and also helps to avoid forced shots. This is quite impressive considering that the players play in a league dominated by isolation plays.

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Your Community Will Determine Your Growth

During a spring workout last week I was able to observe something very special. As I was running, a local Army group was participating in a team building activity. There was one member who was on the track completing a physical assessment. One of his higher ups was running with him throughout the entire assessment, constantly encouraging him and giving him tips for success and improved performance. I finished my sprints and began walking out of the track when I noticed that the entire group was now running around the track. What I saw was a great moment to witness as a coach. The group had started to run because their teammate was behind pace entering his last lap of his assessment. Each member of the team was motivating him and helping him overcome any doubt he had, helping him to succeed and meet his time.

Community is one of the most important things that we can develop to improve ourselves. Surrounding ourselves with the right people is a crucial part of who we are becoming and what type of people we are developing into to. Here are some questions to consider when thinking about your community.

Who is around me?

For a team to reach it’s full potential, all members must have a shared vision. Each player must do their job for the team to be successful. How are you doing your job to add to team success?

Who am I around?

There is a popular quote that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. The people we are around have a strong influence on who we become, whether we realize it or not. Think about the people you’re around and if they are helping you constantly grow as a player and as a person.

Who is leading me?

One of the most underestimated parts of life is seeking a great mentor. We like to think that we always know what is best and do not need help from others. The truth is, all of the greats had mentors who helped them see things in different ways and approach things like no one else did. Consider the leaders in your life and think about who you could ask to become your mentor.

Who am I leading?

Developing people and helping them thrive in new roles not only helps them, but also helps yourself grow. Producing fruit is a crucial part of our life. Learn how to become a leader and help others achieve their goals.

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Lessons From My 10th Year at Willamette Pro Hoop Camp

I just finished my 10th year of working at Willamette University’s Pro Hoop Camp. This camp was founded by Jack Ramsey as “Pro Classic Hoop Camp” and then passed down to former Willamette University head coach Gordy James. It is now directed by current Willamette head coach Kip Ioane. It’s amazing how much things have changed since I was growing up. Camps are no longer as popular as they once were. There are many factors to this. I believe the primary reasons that camp attendance has declined is the growth of AAU and the increase in the use of private training. There are too many youngsters playing year-round AAU basketball. Even at the high school level, I would say that 90% of the kids playing on a traveling team are wasting money on unfulfilled promises of college scouting while also limiting their improvement in regards to fundamentals. Much of the camp population from about 10 years ago has now gone to AAU teams.

Each year in July I learn things from other coaches and the players I coach at camp. Here are three things I took away from camp this year.

Players STILL don’t want to use their off-hand

After over 100 years of basketball, 9 out of 10 young players can not effectively use their off-hand at game speed. It boggles my mind that this has not changed. I think it’s more of a human problem than an athletic problem. We are born with a dominant hand. However, with all that we know through the game of basketball and all the resources players and coaches have, I am amazed that we are still coaching players who can’t use both hands by the time they graduate high school.

Sharing the ball is hard to teach young players

Every year at camp, the games are played a similar way. In the youngest age group, the most talented player dominates the ball, players try and launch three’s, and 3 out of the 5 on the floor rarely get to touch the ball. Even as you get to the middle and high school groups, you are lucky to see more than 2 passes before someone gets a shot up. Players are reluctant to play the game the right way. Each kid wants to get their own shot. What are some things we can do as coaches to teach players to sacrifice a bad shot for a teammate to have a better shot? Or even more, to make a cut that, while they may not be open from, opens up a chance for another teammate?

Find success in improvement

Despite the two negative I listed, the best part about camp was seeing players realizing that what they improved on during the week was their success. In three weeks, I had a team win 1 game and I also had a team go undefeated. Both teams had a successful week because of their improvements, not because of their record.

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Jim Zorn’s Three I’s

In June, I had the opportunity to attend the Fellowship of Christian Athletes event titled “Difference Makers.” While Tony Dungy was the headlining speaker, he was unable to attend due to a family health problem (he did Skype in to address and interact with the audience). Dungy called his longtime friend Jim Zorn as his replacement speaker. Zorn has spent multiple years in the NFL, both as a player and coach. He shared his story and how he came to living a life for Christ. Here are his three “I’s” that he reminds himself of daily.

Integration

Athletics is not necessarily a spiritually driven area. It is usually ridiculed when athletes share their faith (i.e. Tim Tebow). Zorn discussed how his integration of occupation and spiritual conviction allowed him to grow more as a man and as an athlete.

Identity

Athletes tend to find their identity in their sport. It’s why many players become coaches, broadcasters, or in some cases never move on. When our identity is found in sports, we are left with nothing when that part of our life no longer exists. Also, it magnifies the sport to become the most important thing. What if you never were to play your sport? What would you be left with?

Influence

Regardless of our area of interest, we are each in need of the people around us. Whether we are influencing them or they are influencing us, people will make a difference in our lives. Think about the people in your life you are influencing and those who are influencing you. Does that influence surpass the athletic world?

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The Foundation of Goal Setting

Goals are important. Every athlete should have goals. At the end of last season, we asked our players to set goals for the following season, both individually and for the team. Some goals were realistic, others made no sense for where our team is currently at. One things that most young athletes don’t understand about the goals they set is that there is a direct correlation between the preparation and the result. When you set your goals, make sure you consider how much time and effort you are willing to sacrifice to achieve them. This is the foundation of goal setting.

The higher your goal is, the more preparation will be needed and the more work will need to be put in. Goals need to be realistic in relation to your work ethic. If you want to be a 40% three-point shooter but don’t plan on getting shots up until October, you may need to rethink your goal. Or, better yet, rethink your process of achieving it.

The same is true for team goals. A young team may have a goal of going .500 during the year. If only three players are consistently putting work in the off-season, the chances of this happening may already be doomed.

If you want to set your goals high, make sure you are ready to attack them with the preparation necessary to get you to your highest level.

Make the Most Out of Summer League

Summer league is a great chance for coaches and players to improve on the court and develop their relationships off the court. We are about halfway through our summer schedule. As with any season, there have been positives and negatives. However, players have the ability to take ownership on their improvement individually and also as a team. Here are three things you can do this summer to take the next step as a player and leader.

Show up

It sounds easy, but any coach will tell you that there are a number of players in their program who do not take advantage of the opportunities they are given. If you are a player who tells your coach how great you want to be and the lofty goals you have for the team, you must be able to show your determination by the way you prepare. If your coach is providing workout opportunities, show up to everything you can.

Keep track

How do you know you are improving? Make it tangible. Keep a journal of what you are doing and what you are learning. Every time you workout, practice, or play a game, write down at least one thing you improved on and one thing that you will continue to emphasize. To take this a step further, write down some action steps you can take to help you improve on what you wrote down.

Check in

If you are a leader of your team, it’s important to motivate your teammates to stay involved in what’s going on. If you have a teammate that has talked about how much they want to improve, yet they are not showing up to anything, check in with them to ask where they have been. For a team to reach its full potential, it is crucial for each player to develop great habits. Also, the more players involved in off-season activities, the better the chemistry of the team will be.

Coach Popovich knows how to prepare his players for their future beyond playing basketball.

Developing Players Beyond the Game

A few weeks ago, I was able to hear Rob Ketterling speak about his book, Change Before You Have To. He shared a story of when he began to realize his physical health was slipping. In his next doctor’s appointment, he told his doctor to treat him like he just had a life threatening heart attack. He wanted to take prevented action steps before anything devastating happened.

While this is a great message and an inspiring thought, it was a minor note in his presentation that caught my attention in regards to coaching. He was giving a room full of pastors some “change before you have to” steps in regards to church operations. One of his suggestions was to continually develop leaders and prepare them for greater roles in the future rather than limit them to an individual talent. Prepare them to be in charge one day.

I started to think about the last time I tried to prepare current players for a possible future as a coach. Most coaches were once players. Some played beyond high school, others did not. And while we observed coaches while we were playing, I don’t think it’s too common for coaches to develop future coaches. What are some ways we can prepare our players in the case that one day they end up being coaches?

This can be a valuable way to further mentor players. Earl Watson of the Portland Trailblazers was recently quoted regarding the way he was mentored by the coaching staff this season.

“This is the only coaching staff that actually prepared me to coach,” Watson said. “Like, every day they would quiz me. Every day they would push me. Every day they would teach me. They kind of held me accountable for that next step in life. They did a good job, all of them, each and every one, of preparing me for that next step.”

While most high school players are not mature enough to step into a leadership position directly after graduation, we can still give them valuable lessons on how a coach sees the game and what a coach values in their decision making. Our job is to assist in the transition from adolescence to adulthood through the game of basketball. Limiting this to physical performance would be limiting our potential as coaches.

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Salem Hoops Project Summer Camp

It has been a great spring for the Salem Hoops Project. Through weekly clinics for elementary and middle school we were able to provide training opportunities for nearly 100 kids in the NE Salem area. Our summer camp will run from June 16-18. It is for boys and girls in grades K-8. The elementary camp (K-5) will be from 9-10 am and the middle school (6-8) will be from 10:30-11:30 am. Please consider grade level in terms of the recent school year, 2013-14. For more information, email me at salemhoopsproject@gmail.com . Also make sure to check out the Salem Hoops Project on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
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