Monday, December 14, 2009

Ask Yourself...

Posted by Lee Miller | Monday, December 14, 2009 | Category: , |

As most of you know, I focus a lot of my energy on my own professional development and improvement. I am relentless in my quest to become the best basketball strength & conditioning coach I can be. If you are looking to be the best coach or player you can be, I certainly suggest you do the same. One of the most important ingredients of effective development and progress is constant evaluation. You have to know where you are… to get to where you want to go!

Self reflection and evaluation doesn’t need to be a long process. I recommend taking 30 minutes (with no distractions… no TV, no cell phone, and no computer) and honestly answering each of the following questions:

Overall, how do you rate this past pre-season?
• Did you get stronger? Quicker? More explosive?
• Did you get in great basketball shape?
• Did you improve your ball handling? Shooting? Passing?
• Are all of these things showing on the court?

Overall, how do you rate the first few weeks of practice?
• Have you been on time, to every practice?
• Have you been injury free?
• Have you been a great teammate? Coachable? Enthusiastic?
• Have you given a great effort? Do you practice hard even when you don’t feel like it?
• Have you played as well as you are capable of playing?
• Have you communicated effectively with your coaches and teammates?

If you want to have a remarkable season; you need to be tough and you need to be 100% committed to yourself, to your team, and to your coach. 99% isn’t good enough. As the legendary Pat Riley says about commitment, “you are either in or you’re out – there is no such thing as in between.”

How tough are you?

We have a 9th grader in our program named Yuki. He moved to the US from Japan in August. He speaks very little English and is thousands of miles away from his family; which I am sure is difficult for a 15 year old to handle. During our second official practice, Yuki got elbowed in the mouth and had his front tooth knocked out. Without saying a word, he casually picked his tooth up off of the floor, jogged over to the sideline, set his tooth on the bleachers, and jogged back into the drill! Now that is tough.

How committed are you?

What are you willing to sacrifice to be the best player you can be? I have an 8th grade client who just started working out with me and he pays for our training sessions with his allowance! He is so committed to being the best he can be he is willing to sacrifice every dime he has toward getting stronger and more explosive. Now that is commitment.

Here are 5 more questions aimed to help you maximize your potential this season:

1) Are you giving your best effort every day in the classroom and on the court?

2) Are you doing things in addition to practice to improve your game (like watching film)?

3) Do you think “we” before “me” (are you a team player)?

4) Are you taking care of your body and mind (sleep, lifting, tending to injuries, etc.)?

5) Are you having fun?

If you can sincerely answer “yes” to all 5 of these questions; you are doing everything you can to have an impressive season.

Here are a few more things to think about:

What do you watch for when you watch college and NBA games on TV? Do you watch as a fan or do you watch as a true student of the game? Do you always watch the ball or do you watch what players do to get open to get the ball? Do you always watch the shooter or do you watch the player setting the screen to get the shooter open? Do you always watch the player guarding the ball or do you watch the player in help-side position? Now, I am a huge basketball fan… and I understand watching games for the love of the sport… but if you want to get better, you need to learn how to watch games as a means to improve.

How will you prepare for games? Does your preparation start the night before? Do you eat a good dinner and get plenty of sleep? Do you eat breakfast the next day? Do you double check to make sure you packed everything in your bag you will need for the game? Do you eat a specific pre-game meal? What method prepares you the best? Listening to music? Sitting in silence? Do you even know? Do you review the scouting report on your own? Do you do any visualization exercises before games? Here is a visualization technique I use with Montrose before every game: I have them sit with their eyes closed for about 2-3 minutes and visualize a specific time in their life when they played the best basketball they have ever played. A time they vividly remember when they were in the zone – when every shot they took went in and every pass they made was on the money. I encourage them to engage every sense. What did the gym look like? Sound like? Smell like? How did they feel? This technique puts them in a confident frame of mind when they take the court.

How will you focus during games? Will you be focused on the task at hand or on the crowd, opponent, or cheerleaders? Your focus is crucial to playing well. It is imperative you focus on what you want to happen; not on what you don’t want to happen. Why? Your mind can only focus on one thing at a time. For example, when you are shooting a free throw; think something to the effect of, “nice and easy, over the front rim”… instead of thinking, “don’t shoot it short.” If you think “don’t shoot it short”… 9 times out of 10, you will shoot it short because “short” is the only part of that thought your subconscious mind remembers!

Still don’t think focus is important to performance? Think about this:

If I laid a ten foot long, wooden 2” x 4” on the ground and asked you to walk across it; you would do it easily because you would be focused on the task at hand (walking across the board). But what if that ten foot long, wooden 2” x 4” was 100 stories high and connected the top of two buildings? Would walking across it be easy then? Why not? Although the task wouldn’t change (walking across a ten foot board); you wouldn’t think it was easy because you would be focused on falling… not on the task at hand. The same can be said with shooting a free throw. Shooting a free throw in an empty gym after practice is the exact same task as shooting a free throw with 2 seconds left and the score tied… if you stay focused!

I hope answering these questions helps you have a memorable season.

This past January I set the lofty goal of reading 50 books in 2009. I am proud to say last weekend I finished my 50th book of the year! In next week’s blog I will list and rate all of the books I have read as well as offer my thoughts on a few of them.

Until then, if I can ever be of service or help you or your team in any way, please don’t hesitate to email me at

Play hard. Have fun.

Alan Stein

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