We had a great first week of training camp. This is the first year that I’ve been in the position to manage a team from the very start of the season. Last year, we started off with a different head coach who wasn’t meeting my expectations, so I was forced to let him go. I took over, but I didn’t get the opportunity to prepare the guys for the season. This year, I’m having an awesome time preparing the guys for what I hope will be a special year.
When I was a player in training camp for the East Kentucky Miners of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), I had the toughest time adjusting to the rigorous conditioning required to make the active roster. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have enjoyed the intense training and development that most players get. I never played high school basketball, and played very little college basketball. I was left to figure out how to make myself a better player. My head coach was God, because none of those coaches took any time to invest in me. Now of course, God is the best coach one could ever ask for. His guidance and direction brought me farther than any earthly coach, and in the process, has also given me one heck of a story to share so that people can see living proof of what a life devoted to God can accomplish.
One thing I always incorporated was hard work. I was always the first player in the gym and the last to leave. I always went the extra mile with my workouts. I never cut corners, and if I don’t meet a goal, I’d usually start the drill over until I did. I needed to work harder as a player to compete against other gifted athletes because I wasn’t as gifted athletically. My work ethic (not my athletic prowess) helped me stick out among even the most talented players at times, because it showed my heart, and that’s something you simply cannot coach.
Last week in training camp, I shared a story with my team from my time in the CBA. While in training camp for the Miners, we also ran ladders. Ladders are a drill where a team divides into two groups. The coach sets a number for the day (for example 14). The first group runs down and back. Each trip to the other side of the court is one. After the first group reaches 14 down and backs, the second group starts while the other rests. After the second group finishes, the first group then does 12…and then 10…and then 8…all the way down to one. It’s a pretty intense drill. Each group waits until every player in the group before finishes their reps. For instance, the first group doesn’t start their 12 until every player in the group before them finishes their 14.
On our Miners team, we had a couple of big men that always had trouble finishing the drill. One of my teammates, Byron Allen (or as we liked to call him…Big B), was always the last guy running. Everyone else in his group would finish, and he’d always have 3-4 down and backs left. One day, rather than standing on the sidelines waiting for him to finish so that my group could go, I decided to join Big B. I jumped out there and ran those last few by his side, encouraging him to keep going. Training camp oftentimes felt like war, and Big B was my teammate. I didn’t want him to feel like he was in a battle all by himself. Besides, I wasn’t the most gifted athlete, so running a few extra was only going to help me in the long run. It was something I continued throughout training camp.
I shared this story with my team on the second day of camp this year. I wanted them to understand how important it is to be a team player, especially when things are tough. I encouraged them to uplift and support each other, especially during tough drills that take mental toughness and heart to complete.
Now…our ladders are a lot more challenging than the ones I ran with East Kentucky. Instead of resting in between groups, I make the guys do the same amount of push-ups as well. If the number is 14, they finish running and go straight into 14 push-ups before resting and waiting for the next group to finish (I know…I’m evil – LOL). It’s pretty grueling, but I want to prepare these guys to win. You don’t excel by doing the same things that every other team does. If you want to ensure success, you have to go above and beyond the norm to be the best!
Well, being the servant leader I am, I decided to run ladders with the team last week when I put the number at 14 (because I just love the number 14, what was I thinking…LOL). They were tired, and I wanted my team to know that I would never ask them to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself. This day, our team decided to run as one group instead of two, and there was no rest in between. They went straight into push-ups after running, and with no breaks, on to the next step of the ladder afterwards. I was thoroughly impressed, but not too excited that they decided to do this on the day I opted to join them – LOL.
Being much more out of shape than the players, I found myself in Big B’s position. I was having a tough time finishing. Low and behold, I was the last guy running. The players had finished, and I was still on the 6th ladder. Rather than sit patiently while I finished, my entire team joined my side, and ran every ladder and push-up that I had left along with me. It was one of the most humbling things I’d ever experienced in my coaching career thus far. They Bog B’d me!
Now I don’t know how this season is going to go. I hope we win every game. I do know this: we will be in the best shape possible, and our team chemistry is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire career. Typically, a team that has these two intangibles working in their favor finds themselves on the bright side of winning more times than not. I guess time will tell.
My hope is that everyone who loves basketball comes out and supports this team. We have a passionate group of players that have given everything to prepare and offer our fans the very best that they have this season. We’ve trained hard, worked rigorously to get into superior athletic shape, and my goodness….we play with passion.
To show you what I mean, we’ve decided to webcast our practice on Tuesday, May 3rd. Practice starts at 6:30pm, and will run until 9:30pm. I want fans to get a glimpse of who these guys are and what this opportunity means to them. It’s nice to see a player jumping over 3 guys to dunk a basketball (like we saw in the Streetball live Game in April). It’s neat to see superior athleticism, and cool to see a guy like Dwight Howard tower over opponents and score baskets with ease. HOWEVER…I still believe that there is no better basketball than that of a team playing hard, playing together, and playing with passion! We’re going to be that team this year!
I’ll finish this up by sending a big shout out to my boy Byron Allen! Big B…I miss you buddy! I hope all is well with your career! We need a reunion soon!
Until next time…