BASKETBALL COACHING TIPS: HELPING PLAYERS FIND THE ATHLETE’S WAY

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BASKETBALL COACHING TIPS: HELPING PLAYERS FIND THE ATHLETE’S WAY

Written by: Trevor Huffman

TrevorHuffman.com is about my life and about getting out of our comfort zone– in sports, in basketball, in building a tribe and surrounding ourselves with people that want to grow.

I’ll be sharing my uncomfortable failures and short-lived successes from around the world as I played professional basketball. I’ll be sharing basketball coaching tips on how I design my basketball training workouts for my THBA Elite and Youth Northern Michigan Basketball Skill Development Academy.

Yet, what I really want to talk about is something deeper. I want this to be something athletes, coaches, humans, and parents alike can take the darker and lighter side of what I’ve learned from my 20 years of NCAA, NBA, and European experiences.

If you want more practical sports training knowledge, here’s another athlete sports blog I love following.

In the end, how we help each other get to where we want to go is all I care about talking about.

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“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” – George Bernard Shaw

As you know (or may not know), I am an aspiring writer, basketball coach, old ex-professional point guard trainer, and solo travel junkie. Today’s athlete sports blog is about learning how to handle making mistakes and then finding the Athlete’s Way to bounce back. So as you know, I love juicing up kids, parents, and coaches and getting them a basketball workout/fitness plan that gives them access to finding personal and team success.

Today, I see so many flaws in how we are prepping kids to approach their basketball, their passions, and their lives. Entitlement, poor work ethic, and bad programming is a pattern in AAU and development programs.

I don’t have kids, but I understand how you must want to protect them and save them from their feelings getting hurt. No one likes emotional or physical pain, but the truth is, without small amounts (or big amounts) of pain and suffering, it is hard to grow, reflect, and learn how to bounce back.

THREE THINGS WE CAN DO BETTER AS BASKETBALL COACHES, PARENTS, AND PROGRAMS:

  • CARE FOR THE PLAYERS, BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEM BUT BE HONEST WITH THEM. IF SOMEONE THINKS THEY ARE WORKING HARD AND THEY AREN’T, TELL THEM. IF SOMEONE MESSES UP, CHALLENGE THEM TO DO BETTER. MAKE PLAYERS ACCOUNTABLE, BUT SUPPORT THEM AND GIVE THEM PRAISE WHEN THEY DO THINGS RIGHT!
  • JUST SHOWING UP ISN’T ENOUGH. KIDS HAVE TO DEMONSTRATE POSITIVE ATTITUDES, EFFORT, FOCUS, LEADERSHIP, AND TEAMWORK IN PRACTICE. ALSO, BY HELPING THEM CREATE A VISION AND A PLAN FOR THEMSELVES, THIS PREPARES THEM FOR THE REAL COMPETITION ON AND OFF THE COURT.
  • ALWAYS HAVING FUN ISN’T THE GOAL. LOSING ISN’T FUN. WINNING IS FUN. PROGRESS IS FUN. WE MUST VALUE GROWTH AND THE ABILITY TO ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY TO MOVE FORWARD. WE MUST HELP KIDS LEARN TO HANDLE MISTAKES, SMALL FAILURES, AND TOUGH CHALLENGES SO THEY CAN LEARN TO BOUNCE BACK AND SUCCEED. BOUNCING BACK SHOULD BE RECOGNIZED AS THE THE FUN PART OF SPORTS.

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I am not sure why we humans end up where we do, doing what we do, other than we decide to value that time we have and do it the right way. I constantly have a conversation with kids: “What’s your workout plan? What have you written down to do the moment you step on the court? What are your weaknesses and what drills are you working on to improve them?”

By having a plan, writing it down, and carrying it with you wherever you go, you start to value your vision and goals because every second you have on the court, or in the weight room, or with your team is PRECIOUS. 

LIKE LITERALLY, PRECIOUS.

For me, playing basketball with a team is over. The wins, the losses, the setbacks, the injuries, the anxiety, the exhilaration… it’s all over as a player.  During this amazing process of ups and downs, I learned what I call THE ATHLETE’S WAY.

The Athlete’s Way is a mental approach to sports, life, business, anything and everything, and it is part of my DNA now. After 20 years of training, practicing, and competing at the highest levels, I want to help others find the Athlete’s Way in their own lives. I want to help teams and players understand the value of the time they have on the court and bounce back from anything and everything that happens to them in life.

Building Your Own Inner Athlete’s Way

Now, my current use of the Athlete’s Way is helping others approach their game and lives in a way that promotes growth faster and helps kids bounce back from mistakes.

Now, it is helping teams and players understand the value of the time they have on the court by having and creating a plan, so they can truly put all of their efforts into a drill, a rep, practice, or the next workout.

Now, my intense two ball basketball dribbling routine is being handed on to the next college hopeful (as I yell at them to get out of their comfort zone).

The edge I sought in the weight room is being taught to the next dreamer.

The camaraderie I had winning championships is what I’m trying to build with my new teams.

Most of these sports moments of learning the Athlete’s Way are over for most of us after high school.

Not all of us, but most of us. For the select few that value their vision and create a plan, sports continue into college and beyond.

Playing basketball for me is done, but everything you learn from it isn’t.

What’s next, young athletes, parents, and coaches?

The Athlete’s Way is next.

It’s what sports teach you. The Athlete’s Way is still inside me, beckoning me to find my next craft.

Okay, Yoda, but what is the Athlete’s Way you ask?

The Athlete’s Way is that voice that pushed me to do what others would not. It was that voice that woke me up at 6:00 am to dribble in my basement. It was that voice that wouldn’t let me get off the bus after a bad shooting game without getting more shots up that night. It was that mental obsession that would watch tape on my opponent over and over and over until their moves were engrained in my mind. It was the workout plan I taped to my ceiling every night.

I had a plan as a kid and little did I know, I was developing my own inner Athlete’s Way.

The Athlete’s Way is beckoning me now; to find my next team, build my next project, explore my next passion and know my next purpose. Yet, I’m not there. I just don’t know what it is, but I am getting closer. I don’t believe in typical American society telling me or conditioning me to do what it bids. I didn’t listen to people when they told me I would never play division one basketball and I won’t listen to people tell me to do something, “for the sake of doing something.”

  “Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”

SO WAKE UP! YEAH, YOU! I’M TALKING TO YOU. GRAB A PEN, A PAPER, AND WRITE DOWN WHAT YOUR WORKOUT LOOKS LIKE EVERY TIME YOU STEP IN THE GYM. NEED HELP, THEN LISTEN TO THIS!

The 1st Secret of Basketball

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“The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.”– Bill Russell

THBA on Winning Championships: The 1st Secret of Basketball

(three part series- 10 min read)

 

In the summer of 1994, I was 15, weighed 120 pounds, and figured out the secret to winning basketball championships after almost throwing fists at my best friend (and teammate’s) face. After that day, these basketball secrets spread into who I was during my high school, college, and professional teams. That day made me sit down and think about what winning meant to me. I may have forgotten a few (there was my 6th grade recreational championship, but I left that one out), but I counted over 12 high school, college, and professional championship teams that I’ve been a part of. Yet, these basketball secrets grow from within and over time, like a slow rising tide start to become part of who you are, part of the team’s identity, and the feeling is undeniable.

Isiah Thomas referred to one of these basketball secrets in a meeting he had with Bill Simmons in the Book of Basketball. He said, referring to why his Piston’s teams won championships: “…Cause everybody does something good. That’s what makes us good… we created an environment that won’t accept losing.” See, in my opinion, winning in basketball isn’t only about basketball. It’s about you and your teammates. It’s about chemistry. It’s the family atmosphere that despises laziness and bad work ethic and unauthentic players. It’s why teams and coaches like Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs have won so many titles. They get basketball players that have high character, know their role, and check their egos out at the door.

Championship teams can’t be built without players that understand human nature and are self-aware of their egos.

But where do you start in building championship caliber teams and programs?

Start with yourself.

Start with caring.

Start with being authentic in every encounter you have with anyone on your team from this point on.

If you start with yourself and you care, you are off to a great start.

Bill Russell used to throw up before big games. Caring is why players throw up,  it’s why certain players can’t watch certain losses after their season is over and why championship teams always have a bond and feeling that remains intact for decades. It’s why I still haven’t watched my Elite Eight game loss against Indiana (this is actually my Sweet Sixteen win, see, I won’t even let you see it!) or my loss in the Michigan Final Four in high school to Marshall. It’s why I would shut my eyes for 30 minutes before every game and try to visualize giving everything I had to win the game and execute our game-plan and ask for guidance from the Universe (God, higher power, whatever you label it) instead of vomiting into the toilet.

It all starts with you caring.

And when you care, you are starting on a good foundation, but it takes more than just caring to create championships. So let’s talk about that, because we all want to win. I’m going to break down my three basketball secrets so you can do your part to help bring a championship to your team or program.

BASKETBALL SECRET #1: BE AUTHENTIC, BE SELF-AWARE OF YOUR EGO, AND UNDERSTAND HUMAN NATURE AFTER YOU WIN

 

Pat Riley talks about “The Disease of More” and it refers to process NBA teams and players go through when they win titles and the change in psychology that happens after success comes to you. I had to learn the hard way after winning the championship title in one of the biggest Gus Mackers in the world (Belding, Michigan) as a 14-year old teenager.  We came back the next year and “The Disease of More” had started to seep into me. And that’s just it, it’s human nature to expect more after winning.

More shots. More newspaper clippings. More popularity. More ego. More attention from your classmates and the kids that are labeled “cool” at school. But I learned that summer, (rather quickly) that the secret to winning championships isn’t always about basketball talent or athleticism, it is about understanding human nature and then being self-aware of your ego WANTING MORE.

So let’s rewind to our Gus Macker title defense when I learned this lesson. My teammate Johnny was a better scorer than me. He could shoot from anywhere. He was relentless in his accuracy and creativity around the hoop. But I wanted to squabble over who was better, who could score more, who could do this or that better. I wanted to prove it to him, to our teammates, to anyone that asked, and to myself. Basically, my ego wanted to be known. It wanted to be stroked. It wanted to be told it was better.

It wanted more.

Right before the game started, as we argued on the court about who was better, who could score more, right before I threw a haymaker, his mother stopped us, yelling, “What are you two doing? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

I put my head down and walked off the court. Fifteen minutes later, still humiliated, we tried to pull it together and play our game.

We got smashed.

Our title defense looked like Jordan’s Bulls whipping on the Charlotte Hornets without Larry Johnson or Alonzo Mourning and worse, this was a classic case of Riley’s “The Disease of More.”

It was the disease of me and the disease of more.

"Detroit Country Day's Shane Battier against Petosky in a March 13, 1997 game."

There I am(#24) chasing Mr. Basketball, Detroit Country Day’s Shane Battier against my team Petoskey in our Final Four loss on March 13, 1997 game.

Yet, losing can shine the light on growth and self-awareness. And as I was watching ego self destruct team chemistry, I quickly realized that winning took precedence over everything.

On the ride home, watching the highways unwind out my window, I thought about Johnny’s strengths, about mine, and the rest of the team’s. Johnny was higher up on the food scoring pyramid. No if’s, ands, or buts about it. He was just a better scorer than me. Little did I know, he would be one of three players to go onto score over 2,000 points in high school and college.

Maybe Shane Battier did that as well?

Who knows (lucky for me, four years after our Gus Macker loss, I got to guard Mr. Basketball Battier in the Michigan Final Four of my junior year, eh hem, we held him to single digits, but he had the flu, so much to my chagrin, we can’t take full credit for that defensive effort).

My teammate Johnny and I went onto to fully realize our full potential (as well as our team’s potential). We won three league championships, three district championships, three regional championships, and had two final four appearances. Now, we didn’t win the ultimate goal of a state championship, but we were one of the only Northern Michigan teams to ever have that much success.

This happened again in my college career.

And again in my pro career.

And every year, after winning championships, I would have to reflect and look for that ego finding a way in. And every time I thought about wanting more, I started to reflect and utilize my self-awareness. Was I rationalizing for my ego? Was I being greedy? Was I doing enough to make my team better? Myself better?

With letting go of my own ego, of wanting more for myself at the expense of the team, I gave up “The Disease of Me” and got more winning and team success in return. And the funny thing about winning is that you get more individual accolades this way. Ironic isn’t it? That when you actually focus on the team success, you actually get more individual success.

And this can only happen if your team has a certain chemistry, trust, and bond with your team. This takes authenticity. From you. From others. From accepting differences, but never accepting losing or poor effort.

If someone got out of line, a leader on the team spoke up.

If you are wondering how to create team chemistry for your team, start with authenticity and letting go of your ego.

Go first. Be the change you want to see in others.

Rebound for someone.

Play one on one.

Fall 2016: Trevor Huffman Traverse City Basketball Training-Camps-Workouts

TrevorHuffman.com

If you are the coach, bring in your leaders. Make them set the tone and make it expected that losing is unacceptable and that anything less than 100% is unacceptable. Make that your culture. Ensure team building and opportunities for your team to grow outside the court. Take them on a trip. Show them a new city against a new team. Take them to Europe in the summer.

Are you the leader of the team?

Demand them to make the extra pass and demand the same in return.

Only accept 100% effort from yourself in every drill and workout, and then demand the same from your teammates.

Talk to them.

Ask them to pick it up.

And in the end,  when you are authentic, you are aware of your ego, and you don’t allow human nature to creep in after your have success, you can focus on what really matters.

Winning. And being part of a team that cares so much about one another, words are hard to describe the bond that develops.