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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NBA Myth

So far the 2009 NBA playoffs have not disappointed. Every series has had some incredible moments and with the exception of a few first round match-ups, each series has been super competitive and provided plenty of Sportscenter highlights. In addition to sick dunks, buzzer beaters, and flagrant fouls, we are getting to see some remarkable team basketball and stellar defense – two things the NBA is not usually known for. Granted, Kobe and LeBron and Melo are mega superstars and have consistently put up big numbers… but they have done so within the confines of their team (after all, it is their role to put up numbers). Obviously a ton of hype is being made of Kobe vs. LeBron, which is a fun argument to have, but I honestly believe these playoffs are much bigger than that and the four best teams are in the conference finals; not just the best players.

I have been enthralled in the game of basketball my entire life. Basketball has taken me all over the world, it has allowed me to work with some amazing players and coaches, and it is how I earn my living. With that being said, there is a lingering myth being perpetuated by novice fans. It is something I hear all of the time.

The myth?

NBA players only play hard in the playoffs.

Have you heard people say that? Have you said that? Is it true?

Not at all!

I don’t think anyone would argue the overall intensity of the NBA playoffs is sky high, and minute for minute, is higher than your average regular season game. But that’s because there is a renewed sense of urgency. You win or you go home! Just because the atmosphere, energy, hype and intensity of the playoffs is downright palpable, it doesn’t mean they don’t play hard during the regular season. It just means they are playing even harder in the playoffs to survive!

Why don’t people say the same thing about college basketball? Now I am a huge college basketball junkie, but let’s be real, college players and teams play harder in the NCAA tournament than they do in the regular season. It might not be as obvious, but they do play harder in March. Why? It’s the nature of athletics. The more at stake, the harder players play! The higher the sense of urgency, the greater the intensity! This is true for college basketball, the NBA, as well as any other sport I can think of.

Don’t agree? Think about these two scenarios:

What if I took you out to the track right now and told you to run a lap. Then right before you were about to take off I grabbed your shirt and said, “actually run 5 laps.” Would your approach be different now? Would you plan to run this first lap (of five) at the same speed as you would have run just the one lap? No way! You would appropriately pace yourself because you know you have four more laps to run. But does that mean you wouldn’t be working hard on the first lap? Of course not, you would still be working hard; you would just be working hard (and smart) within the confines of your overall goal. NBA players have a similar mindset. Players know they have 82 regular season games plus playoffs as their overall goal. They keep this in mind during the regular season.

Now, what if we went out to the track and I said, “let’s run a lap for fun.” And then right before we were about to take off I said, “the loser owes the winner $1,000!” Which lap would you run harder? The fun lap or the lap with something at stake? Obviously you would run much harder for the $1,000 lap. Why? There is an urgent sense of competition and a “reward” at the end. Either run hard now or cough up $1,000. The NBA playoffs are the same. When your team is down 3-2 in a seven game series; you have to play harder than ever or you go home! You don’t have the same urgency during the regular season.

I can’t stress enough, just because the stakes are raised in the playoffs doesn’t dismiss the fact these guys play hard every single night during the regular season. Keep in mind the NBA has, in my opinion, the world’s best athletes. These guys are big, fast, strong, and super explosive. The NBA is unbelievably fast paced and today’s game is played above the rim. Yet these guys make it look easy. They have to play hard just to keep up!

And while we are talking about the concept of looking at the big picture, let’s not forget NBA teams often play more than 3 times as many games as college players and have a much more rigorous travel schedule. Not to mention more overall demands and responsibilities like the media, appearances, in season workouts, etc. I am not making light of what college players go through, believe me, I know how tough it is for college players to balance everything (school work, practice, etc.) – but the NBA takes it to a whole new level. So once again, it would be like the difference in running 5 laps (college) versus 10 laps (NBA); the pace and intensity would have to be different!

I have been fortunate to work with over a dozen NBA players in the last 10 years, from long time vets like Calbert Cheaney and Jerome Williams to up and coming superstars like Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley. I have certainly learned the NBA is a business. It is how these guys make a living. But I also know how much these guys love and respect the game and how thankful guys are to be in the league. No matter how much money they make, or fame they achieve, once the ball gets thrown up… these guys love to play hard and they love to compete.

The moral? NBA players do play hard during the regular season; they just play even harder in the playoffs. And let’s be honest; so would you.

Quick note; the NBA Pre-Draft Combine is being held in Chicago this week. I want to wish the following guys I have been working with the best of luck: Stephen Curry (Davidson), Tywon Lawson (UNC), Greivis Vasquez (Maryland), Jack McClinton (Miami), and Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga). You want to talk about hard work? This group has been exceptional and each of these guys deserves success!

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.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com

Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the Head Strength & Conditioning coach for the nationally renowned, Nike Elite Montrose Christian Mustangs boy’s basketball program. Alan is a performance consultant for Nike Basketball as well heavily involved with Nike SPARQ Basketball. He is the head conditioning coach for the annual McDonald’s All American game, the Jordan Brand All American Classic, and the Nike Summer Skills Academies. Alan is a Camp Coach at the prestigious NBA Player’s Association’s Top 100 Camp as well as the Chris Paul CP3 Elite Backcourt Camp. Alan has filmed over a dozen DVD’s on improving performance and is a sought after lecturer at basketball camps and clinics across the world. He has been featured in Winning Hoops, Time Out, Dime, SI.com, SLAMonline.com, American Basketball Quarterly, Stack, Men’s Health, and FIBA Assist Magazine.

Monday, May 18, 2009

NBA Strength & Conditioning

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.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com

Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the Head Strength & Conditioning coach for the nationally renowned, Nike Elite Montrose Christian Mustangs boy’s basketball program. Alan is a performance consultant for Nike Basketball as well heavily involved with Nike SPARQ Basketball. He is the head conditioning coach for the annual McDonald’s All American game, the Jordan Brand All American Classic, and the Nike Summer Skills Academies. Alan is a Camp Coach at the prestigious NBA Player’s Association’s Top 100 Camp as well as the Chris Paul CP3 Elite Backcourt Camp. Alan has filmed over a dozen DVD’s on improving performance and is a sought after lecturer at basketball camps and clinics across the world. He has been featured in Winning Hoops, Time Out, Dime, SI.com, SLAMonline.com, American Basketball Quarterly, Stack, Men’s Health, and FIBA Assist Magazine.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dedication

Last week’s blog began with a quick monologue about how much I love my job and how fortunate I am to do what I do. This past weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to San Antonio to speak in front of 1,500+ coaches at the annual TABC Basketball Clinic as well as to Las Vegas to speak in front of 2,000+ coaches at the Nike Championship Basketball Clinic (which holds claim as the “world’s largest basketball coaching clinic!”). Both clinics went extremely well and I had an absolute blast being a part of such incredible events. Speaking at clinics and teaching coaches how to train their players is yet another segment of my business that I thoroughly enjoy. I have so much respect for high school coaches; it is always an honor to help them in any way I can. High school coaches coach because they love the game and enjoy helping young people (two things I am very passionate about as well). They certainly don’t do it for fame or money. Some of the most dedicated people I have ever met in my life have been high school basketball coaches.

While I have been traveling a ton and doing a fair amount of pre-draft training for the past several weeks, this past week marked the official kick off to my super busy season. Many college players just finished their semesters and are home for a few weeks before summer school starts up. So I have had a gang of guys start coming in for workouts. Most of these players I have known and worked with since their high school days and it’s been great catching up with them.

My goal has always been to create an extraordinary environment for elite level 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. I prefer to train 3 or 4 guys per workout because the group dynamic always adds to the intensity (and the fun!). I also try to get my returning college guys (like Nolan Smith, Austin Freeman, Marcus Ginyard) around my pre-draft guys (like Tywon Lawson, Stephen Curry, Greivis Vasquez) and my pre-draft guys around my NBA guys (Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley) to help aid their motivation. Being around players who are where you want to be is a tremendous motivator.

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. The current crop of players I am working with are incredibly dedicated. Each one of them is keenly focused on their own skill and physical development and on achieving their own personal goals. Many of these guys are up early in the morning for individual skill work, come see me around mid day for their strength & conditioning work, then off to another individual skill session and then play pick-up at night. 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? (play college/pro basketball)
2) What does it cost? (time, effort, consistency)
3) Are you willing to pay the price? (make sacrifices, be focused and dedicated)

While listening to one of Coach Meyer’s stories he mentioned he heard Tiger Woods makes 100 9-ft putts in a row to end every practice. That is 100 consecutive putts. If he misses his 92nd putt, he starts over! That is dedication. I figure an appropriate equivalent for basketball players are free throws. Are you dedicated enough to end every workout with 25 or 50 or 100 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?

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.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com

Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the Head Strength & Conditioning coach for the nationally renowned, Nike Elite Montrose Christian Mustangs boy’s basketball program. Alan is a performance consultant for Nike Basketball as well heavily involved with Nike SPARQ Basketball. He is the head conditioning coach for the annual McDonald’s All American game, the Jordan Brand All American Classic, and the Nike Summer Skills Academies. Alan is a Camp Coach at the prestigious NBA Player’s Association’s Top 100 Camp as well as the Chris Paul CP3 Elite Backcourt Camp. Alan has filmed over a dozen DVD’s on improving performance and is a sought after lecturer at basketball camps and clinics across the world. He has been featured in Winning Hoops, Time Out, Dime, SI.com, SLAMonline.com, American Basketball Quarterly, Stack, Men’s Health, and FIBA Assist Magazine.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

NBA Pre-Draft Workouts

I have mentioned numerous times in my blog posts, and anyone who knows me can attest, I absolutely LOVE what I do for a living. I wake up every single day thankful to be a basketball strength & conditioning coach. Over the course of my ten year career I am flattered to have been offered several top notch collegiate basketball strength & conditioning coach positions. While those would have been tremendous jobs and amazing experiences, I elected to stay in the private industry because of the freedom it gives me and the variety it provides. As a private basketball strength coach; I have countless opportunities and work with a myriad of clientele (all basketball related of course). One segment of my business, which has grown tremendously and is one I really cherish, is preparing players for the NBA Draft.

This marks my 4th year of getting guys ready for the NBA Draft. In that time I have been fortunate enough to train several players who have been drafted (with Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley being the most notable). I am currently working out 6 guys who will enter this year’s draft, and expect up to 4 more players in the next few weeks; once the college semesters are over and/or underclassman elect to sign with an agent I work with.

NBA pre-draft training is extremely focused and very specific. Most of these players have played basketball their whole lives and have always dreamed of playing in the NBA. And now, in a 4-6 week window, they have a chance to make those dreams come true. So the players are highly motivated and super competitive; which makes my job even more fun! I am responsibility for everything except their skill work; movement preparation, pre-hab, flexibility, reaction-quickness-agility, strength, nutrition, and preparing for the NBA Pre-Draft Combine at the end of this month. In addition to their 3 or 4 weekly workouts with me, each player works with a basketball skills coach 5 to 6 days a week. Because of this I normally don’t have to do very much conditioning with my players as their basketball skill sessions are highly intense and involve a ton of sprints. Nevertheless, it is my job to talk regularly with their skills coach to coordinate the overall volume and intensity of the workouts. For example: if they run a million sprints one morning at their skill session; I may adjust the volume of their leg workout that afternoon to accommodate. In addition to communicating with the skills coach, I make it a point to reach out to their college strength coach to get their thoughts on that player’s strengths and weaknesses, as I truly respect my colleague’s opinion and expertise. I also garner information from their agent about NBA personnel thoughts. After all, their opinion is what really matters! For example, if numerous NBA scouts think a player needs to “lose 5-10 pounds to be quicker and more explosive” then that’s what needs to be done.

The goal of this crash course of training is not to prepare them for the basketball season, but rather to prepare them for their individual workouts with teams. There is a difference. My goal, and their skills coach’s goal, is to tighten up any weaknesses, get them in the best basketball shape possible, and have their confidence riding sky high. These individual workouts are intense and grueling. Players need to be prepared to go head-to-head with other players in their predicted draft range. They need to prove they are ready for the demands of the NBA and show they are strong enough, smart enough, fast enough, and have the skills, stamina, and toughness to compete in the NBA. The kicker is we aren’t talking about one or two tough workouts. A player might have 8 workouts for 8 different teams (thus 8 different cities) in a span of 11 days! That type of schedule is extremely demanding both mentally and physically.

In addition to the individual team workouts it is imperative to prepare each player for the pre-draft combine. This year they have made some changes to the overall format because NBA teams had expressed dissatisfaction with the caliber of player participating in the five-on-five games at previous camps, the absence of players who refused to play in the games (which resulted in them not being available for medical testing), and the period of time available to teams to conduct workouts with draft-eligible players. So this year it will actually be more of a draft combine than a camp and will be focused on testing and skill workouts instead of games. The 2009 Draft Combine will take place in Chicago from Wednesday, May 27th to Sunday, May 31st and will consist of medical testing and examinations, light skills workouts (shooting, ball-handling, position specific drills), anthropometric testing (height, weight, wingspan) and strength & agility testing (3/4 court sprint, bench press, vertical jump, and pro lane agility drill), and league organized player interviews. The light skills workouts, anthropometric testing, strength and agility testing, and league organized player interviews will occur from May 27-29, with the medical testing and examinations occurring on May 30-31.

Preparing players for the combine tests is very specific. It requires hours and hours of going through the combine events exactly as they will be recalled on testing day. There is a difference between training a player to be more explosive and having them actually test well on the vertical jump test. Form, technique, and having ample experience taking the tests are crucial and vital to success. Just because a player is agile doesn’t mean he will test well on the pro lane agility drill!

Here is the protocol the players will follow in Chicago:

1. Warm-up and stretch (10-15 minutes)
2. No Step Vertical Jump
3. Maximum Vertical Jump
4. Pro Lane Agility Drill
5. ¾ Court Sprint (baseline to opposite foul line)
6. Bench Press 185lb for Max Repetitions

While it is certainly my job to prepare my guys for the pre-draft combine and want and expect them to perform well; it is important to put these tests in perspective. The NBA combine test results are not anywhere near as influential to draft status as they are in the NFL. A player’s high school, college or international resume, their overall predicted potential by NBA scouts and player personnel, along with how well they perform in their individual team workouts ultimately determines if a player will get drafted as well as how high. Need we not forget, to all those haters who gave Kevin Durant (and me) a hard time because of his below average showing in the bench press at the 2007 NBA combine – he was the #2 pick in that year’s draft, signed a $70 million dollar deal with Nike, won Rookie of the Year, and finished his sophomore campaign as the 4th leading scorer in the league!

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.

Alan Stein
www.StrongerTeam.com