The year was 1997, my mentor Leo Papile just got hired by the Boston Celtics as their head scout. I was excited for the fact that some one in my circle got hired at the NBA level. It was a different time and my thought was not to try to get a job with the Celtics, but having access was very big. The Celtics didn’t have their practice facility in Waltham and wanted “secret” spots to work their players out at.
I suggested my school Suffolk University as it was late May and school was out. Coach Rick Pitino would hold some of his Pre Draft workouts that year at Suffolk because it was a closed venue. At 22 years of age and only working in player development for a couple of years just basically being a glorified rebounder that instructed, being able to watch these workouts was an amazing experience.
Rick Pitino by far put on one of the most thorough individual workouts that I have ever seen. The thing I remembered most was all of the running there was in the workout and how you could tell who was in shape and who wasn’t. I must have taken 15 pages of notes as it was something that was very new to me.
I remember watching about 7-8 workouts and most of the people who went through the workouts could barely get through them as they were so rigorous. The only two that aced it were David Wesley and Keith Van Horn. Coach Pitino combined a lot of shooting, movement, and competition into the drills.There were two players who had to stop in the middle as the workout was too tough for them. From putting players through drills like these you can tell who was tough and in shape pretty quickly.
If there was an “Eye Of The Tiger” you can see it in Coach Pitino. He was very focused and stopped the workout to correct and instruct the players when needed. It was a new age in player workouts as I truly believe as he was in Providence and Kentucky Coach Pitino was an innovator at the NBA level.
This type of workout gave me some new perspective on things. To this day it was the most impressive workout run by an NBA head/assistant coach that I have ever seen. What happened to me from that moment on was I tried to one up these new found drills. The goal was to make players as tired as possible having them run to spots to touch and come back for a shot. Run to multiple spots and sometimes do defensive slides taking 10-12 seconds to take one shot.
I thought since the players were so tired when they finished that they were getting a good workout. That assumption was a wrong one. I think what makes me “successful” in this business as even at a young age I was very critical of my work. What I was noticing was that the workouts that I put players though were getting harder and more advanced, but they weren’t improving. The issue was that I wanted people (players/coaches,spectators) to be impressed with the new drills that I would come up with that all it was doing was feeding my ego and getting the players tired.
Ego has never been or never will be my thing. So the next summer I worked The Nike All-American Camp and watched two of my future mentors Herb Livsey and Tates Locke work college players out during the mornings and afternoons. They were no nonsense throwback coaches from a different era. They didn’t try to impress people in the stands as they were focused on getting the players that they worked with better.
Players such as Tim Duncan, Vince Carter, and many other future NBA players. They combined the uniqueness of Coach Pitino’s work, and expanded it one step further. The players got so many repetitions up as well as had a lot of conditioning in their drill work. Then the coaches put the players in a lot of 3-3/4-4 situations as they taught the offense as well as the defense. The drills were intense and the coaches stopped the drills when it needed correcting.
What I learned from that experience is the players need constant repetitions and correcting when needed. The repetitions,corrections, and game simulation was a perfect storm for a player workout. I’ve learned so much from Coach Livsey and Coach Locke as they are like fathers to me and can never pay them back from the lessons on and off the court that they have taught me.
So you are probably thinking what does any of this have to do with me? Well what I’m trying to get across is in your workouts that you are going through or putting players through make sure that there are plenty of repetitions and correcting. Don’t worry about all the running and crazy obstacle courses on the court with cones, chairs, hurdles and so on. Worry about getting plenty of reps up on shots that you will take in a game.
The reps will make you tired and work on your conditioning. Getting plenty of game shots up and having a coach correct makes for a GREAT workout. Game shots are what’s going to make a player better, not running a biathlon or doing 20 pushups before a shot. Yeah that will get you tough and strong but it wont make you a more skilled basketball players.
Here are some of my thoughts on this.
Coaches Take The Time To Make Corrections
That is what a workout is all about. Coaches finding mistakes and identifying them then correcting them. Too many coaches/trainers want to go through a million drills without stopping the player. If something is wrong then stop and correct. That is what coaches do and that is why players are working out with you to make corrections that you see.
If you go through 15 cool drills in a workout it means nothing if the player is making fundamental mistakes. Identify the problem and fix it. This will make the drills better and increase the payer production in the workouts.
It doesn’t matter if you are a coach in charge of your teams player development or you are a basketball trainer you need to go into each workout as a coach. A coach corrects to make a player better. A player wont get better if you are just screaming encouragement like they are a horse at The Kentucky Derby.
Repetition Is The Key To Improvement
The more repetitions a player can go through during a workout the better it is for them. Making corrections is important here, but keep that in mind when a player is working out that they should be getting plenty of reps of game shots.
In an hour workout a player should be shooting in the neighborhood of 300 shots not counting free throws. Depending on the position have an idea of what shots they will take in their team offense and make sure they take plenty of those shots so its embedded in their muscle memory.
Make sure they are constantly moving spots every few minutes to minimize player boredom.
Stop The Madness
Seriously I must go through 2-3 hours a week on youtube to watch people working players out. I’m not one to knock other in the industry, but some of the stuff I see online is from another planet. First I see instructors teaching these impossible moves with multiple pivots and fakes.
No coach in their right mind would ever want players to use half of the stuff that I see. I understand it’s flashy and players find the moves entertaining but game relevance needs to come into play here. Just because you name drills after NBA players doesn’t mean it’s an excepted drill. So many players think that because NBA players use a move that it is something they should practice.
Besides the impossible moves all of the fluff that goes into workouts as far as pushups and the long distance running before each shot. No question it makes players tougher and improve their stamina, but we are in the business of getting players better on the court. If a player is going to work with you to get better on the court then that is what we should be doing. If a player works with you for a month and all they are doing is getting in better shape then you should be a strength and conditioning coach and not in on court player development.
Quality over Quantity
I would rather go through 5 drills in an hour and make sure the player(s) they get all of the concepts covered rather than go through 15 drills where they only understand half of them. The more sessions that the player spends with you , they will slowly but surely get better in all aspects of your system.
Don’t be worried about going through every drill on your sheet. If you notice 10 minutes to go in the workout that you have only completed half of the drills on your sheet don’t panic to rush through your drills. Make sure that all of the skills are learned and incorporated in the drills that you went through and start the next workout with the drills that you haven’t covered.
Our job is to get players better and I think the more they totally understand the better players they will become. Don’t get caught up in trying to get through 20 drills in an hour. Take as much time as needed for your player(s) to understand what is being taught. It is our job to instruct and make corrections when needed.
It is all about getting through to our players and having them fully understand wat is being taught.
There are so many different workouts that players can go through. For coaches it is so important for them to have presence with the players in which they work with. Sometimes we out think ourselves when developing drills to put our player(s) through. Make sure that the player(s) going through the workout get as many repetitions of game shots as possible. On top of the repetitions, make sure that you stop the workout as much as it’s needed to do so.
Our game needs fixing especially at the younger levels. We need to make sure when working with players that they are getting something out of it and not just going through the motions. Sometimes as instructors we get carried away with the drills that we put our players through instead of what they are getting out of the workout. Make sure that your players are learning as well as being challenged.
Player development, especially at the younger levels needs to improve. I think the more that we teach our players and they retain the information the better they will become. Continually challenge yourself as a player or instructor to be the best you can be. Always be willing to improve your content and make sure the player is maximizing their time on the court with you. For players make sure that you are getting better and not just getting tired. You deserve to be given the best opportunity to improve your game and it is up to you to be active in that search.