Do NOT Train Hard

Funday Monday. Time to Train Smarter. 

Everybody who has ever played basketball competitively knows you must give 100% in training and practice to give yourself a chance at being successful on the court. You do not have to look far to find instruction on ways to improve your skill level, regardless if these methods are from a reliable source. With today’s internet (including Google, YouTube, Facebook, and many basketball websites), most credible sources will have some philosophy behind their training that implies you absolutely must give your all. But for many players, coaches, and trainers, this means a wide variety of different things. Far too often we find inexperienced men and women in these positions trying to educate and train small children. But now even certain college level coaches, and trainers looking to make money, claim to have knowledge of what it takes to train an athlete for a very physically demanding game. 

In the old days players just ran wind-sprints (in the form of down and backs or suicides) to stay in shape. The game was certainly not a year-round sport, as many young athletes were strongly encouraged to play multiple sports throughout the year in order to stay out of the house. It was uncommon to see players lift weights on a daily basis. Watching film was not in a comfortable, air conditioned room, with an HD projector. Programs did not have fancy equipment that helped develop, or fine tune a player’s skill set. Certainly strength and conducting coaches were not in high demand, and the ones that did have the opportunity to work with athletes were extremely less informed than the trainers we find working with today’s top universities and professional athletes. It seemed there was only one recipe for basketball success. You had to have the tallest, fastest, and strongest athletes, that could run, jump, shoot, and play defense. At the same time, they all had to be coachable, play well together, and of course, have a quality, driven, no-nonsense coach. 

With the growing popularity of the game directly proportionate to knowledge in the Information Age, more and more young people around the world dream of becoming the next big thing in basketball. With schools awarding degrees in subjects growing in popularity like kinesiology, sports science, body composition, and even sports psychology, not only can you buy a great strength and conditioning coach or trainer for a professional, collegiate, high school team, or even an individual trainer for a son or daughter, but now these highly motivated young athletes can find all of this information on their own if they know where to look on the internet. 

Players without this information are far too often seen on Facebook, or other social media sites posting about how many long hours they “practice” in a gymnasium with one basketball, taking a couple dribbles, and giving their best attempt at throwing the ball at the basket. They do not practice form shooting, shooting off the dribble, making a move before the shot, or worst of all, doing all these things at game speed. As these players get older and grow physically, they are the ones often deemed by their coaches (should the make any team on a respectable level) as lazy or uncoachable. They think they have already put in the work to be considered to be the best in their class. To back up their theory, they have their parents, friends, and girlfriends that are more than happy to give their input to the coach to explain why he or she deserves more playing time. If you do not believe them, they have “proof” by showing video shot from a phone of some friends playing 3 on 3 at the local outdoor park. 

Then there are all the athletes that do everything all day and all night. They do not shoot, but make 1,500 shots everyday, spending long hours in the gym. They lift heavy weights in the weight room 5 times a week, all while buying expensive sports supplements that guarantee immediate results. They fork over large amounts of money to have the slightest edge, by purchasing the latest and greatest Kobe, LeBron, or KD pairs of shoes. They try to have good attitude and advertise they are coachable. They know having a savvy basketball IQ will cover up any weaknesses in there game so they watch Sports Center’s Top 10 plays every night thinking they will automatically have an uncanny knowledge and wisdom about being a superstar in their league, when in reality they are considered a role player at best. 

Sure the top 1 percent can achieve some level of success “working hard” without knowledge and structure, and of course, there are no shortcuts to being a successful player (much like any position or job in life). But as basketball continues to grow, and information becomes more easily accessible, could we be missing something? If so, what could we do? For years mankind has been working hard at their jobs. But they have also been trying to find ways to “unlock” new means of learning “tricks of the trade” in order to become the best at highly specific jobs that did not exist in generations past (Yes, including basketball). Positions like Point Forward, that Lebron James revolutionized, a pure shooting big man in Dirk Nowitski, that only the Europeans could produce, or the scoring point guard, whose job is not only to orchestrate a fine tuned offense, but generate “instant offense” at the end of the shot clock, as we see in Russell Westbrook.

The answer is simple, and you have all heard it before.

Work Smarter, not harder.

No, this does NOT mean giving any less effort. In fact, you need to go all that much harder, because you will not be wasting time with “counterintuitive training”. This is an important concept athletes need to be aware of and stay away from. This type of progression will give you the impression you have accomplished what goals you set out for by giving the illusion of positive results, making you feel sore after weight lifting, or increasing your percentages of stand still shooting. But make no mistake. These are not the results you are looking for. In fact, if you are lifting to become more explosive, and you are performing slow lackadaisical movements, you are really hurting yourself. Although you might be getting stronger, you will not develop into the type of athlete that resembles Russell Westbrook or Lebron James. You will actually be slower and more prone to injury because you did not develop the type of fast twitch muscle fibers in the specific area you seek to improve in. For example, if you are working on your verticle leap, add weight, and lessen your time and reps. Concentrate on each repetition, as you explode up with each jump. This is much different than jumping rope for 30 minutes at once, as jumping rope simply teaches your muscles to jump 4 inches off the ground thousands and thousands of times. Or when you are practicing shooting, always shoot at game speed, perhaps add a defender to shoot over after you have shaken free of (another) very aggressive defender before you receive the ball (even allow this defender to grab, hold, and push you to keep you from getting open). Then when you have mastered sinking shots in harsh conditions at game speed, you will notice a boost in your confidence and become a lethal shooter much faster. 

Please do not let the title mislead you, rather, allow it to enlighten you on the subject of working smarter. These are only a few examples from a few aspects of training, but if you apply the concept of smarter workouts, you will achieve optimal results that allow you to accomplish your exact goals. Not only that, you will be training with a purpose, so there will not be any time wasted on motions, drills, lifts, or helplessly trying understand the game. 

Many times, elite athletes who are aware of this principle will apply it to things as detailed as watching film on themselves. A way to maximize critiquing game film is watching with at least 1 partner. This allows not only you to see what went wrong and what can be done better, but with a teammate or two, a group can easily provide multiple points of view. This creates opportunity for much greater improvement, as well as time management, and you can return the favor to your teammates all at the same time (and still have more time on your hands than if you tried sitting in front of the screen by yourself not knowing what went wrong). There are countless ways to maximize your productivity. For example, a group of teammates might be analyzing game film, while drinking a protein shake after weight lifting, and icing their ankles or knees recovering from their workout without even thinking about it. 

Basketball is a Lifestyle. It is time you give yourself the tools and knowledge to train with a purpose. 

Train smarter, not harder.

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