Looking Back on Year #1 of #MakeShots

I’m big on reflection. Looking back, learning, and then looking forward again. After about 13 months of #MakeShots training, it felt like the right time.

Over a year ago, I started a small business focused on providing shooting training for basketball players of all ages. In that year I’ve trained over 400 players around the Midwest, during 500+ sessions, in over 50 gyms. I’ve worked with 2nd-graders that could barely hold the ball, to entire varsity teams, Division 1, 2, and 3 players, some of the best high school shooters in the state Michigan, and even professionals. There was the first #MakeShots summer camp that sold out 5 sessions. I’ve been fortunate enough to train the children of 15+ high school basketball coaches and even a Division 1 head coach’s child.

Currently, I’m the private shooting coach for 8 select players in the Grand Rapids area. What started as an idea in a hotel room in Chicago and began in a driveway in our neighborhood, has evolved bigger and faster than I ever imagined. What was a hobby/interest has turned into a second job. Here is a little more about that journey.IMG_8256.jpg

1. Basketball void – In our area, I know of many quality places where players can go to get bigger or faster. There are great options for improving ball handling. I think there is a MAJOR void in shooting instruction. With all of the great high school and college coaches I’ve been fortunate to be around, I’ve learned a lot and have something to offer players. When you focus on just one nuance of the game and pour all of your learning and energy into it, it’s amazing how much your knowledge can grow. That’s the focus I’ve brought to shooting the past few years.

2. I’m meant to be in the gym – My Dad was a coach, My Grandpa was a coach. I was a varsity coach at the age of 24. I’ve always felt at peace in the gym. Since leaving the varsity level, I’ve spent a lot of time coaching my own two kids. While I’ve really loved doing that, it comes with its pros and cons. With my time coaching them decreasing, so was my time in the gym. That didn’t feel right. Over the last year, I’ve met so many amazing kids and families. I’ve walked into gyms in places I didn’t even know existed. But every time it felt right. The relationships and work feels right. That’s because being in a school or in the gym with kids is where I know I’m supposed to be.

3. It’s not the fault of the kids – Over the last decade, I’ve gone to basketball games and watched a kid make 7 dribble moves and then airball a 10-footer. There seemed to be a disconnect. I watched my own son walk into the YMCA and fire up half-courters or hook shots while “practicing.” Clearly, not enough players have been taught what a quality shooting workout looks like. Not enough of them know the intricate details of their shot, what the keys are to them making or missing shots, and what to do when things go bad. Past that, kids don’t have a mental plan for dealing with shooting adversity. But that’s not the fault of kids. Those are things that need to be taught and learned.

4. The evolution of the game – I appreciate defense, hustle, a great pass, teamwork, assists, taking charges, roles, screening, deflections, all of it. But the 3-point line has revolutionized the game. Being able to #MakeShots, especially from 3, has never been more important than now. That isn’t going to change. The ability of players of every size and position to make perimeter jump shots is a key to them making an AAU team, starting on the varsity, or a college scholarship. IMG_8256.jpg

When I talk to people about this type of training, it’s a little hard to describe, as I do think it’s different. I’ll do my best to explain it using some talking points that I think give some clarity. Here are a few.

  • It’s about the player. I have a model, structure, and program, but it’s not for all kids. I don’t have a business, corporation, or boss telling me what philosophy to use. I can truly personalize the experience for what the player needs. Some players need the reps and volume. Others need to get a better understanding of their shot. Some need to learn what a quality shooting workout looks like and a few need to make mechanical changes. I have players that work almost primarily on 3’s, some on fundamentals inside 10 feet, others off the bounce and on and on. It’s not about me and what I want. It’s about the player and what they need.
  • There is a unique artistic beauty to every jump shot. Jumpers are so unique, kind of like handwriting or the way we talk. Jumpers are a trademark of our lives as basketball players. But they are different…so different! There are so many moving pieces that go into a shot and no two are alike. I don’t want them to be alike, its part of the beauty. I joke with kids that every jumper has a disease, none are perfect. Some might just have a cold, a runny nose, or even seem like cancer, but they all are flawed in some way. I don’t have “shooting non-negotiables.”  I have very specific shooting beliefs and philosophies, but those aren’t imposed on any player. The #1 thing I look for, as simple as it sounds, is how often shots go in. When it doesn’t, we find the common miss and then work from there. I have a list of 5 basic things we start with and those usually give us a good game plan of what to address and how.
  • #MakeShots isn’t for everybody. My style isn’t a fit for all players. The cerebral part of breaking down a shot isn’t for everyone. The ultra-focus on one skill isn’t the greatest area of need at this specific point of everyone’s basketball journey. Other trainers, systems, or focuses are better for some kids than #MakeShots. That’s OK.
  • There are no guarantees. Shooting is too complex and there are too many variables to offered guaranteed success. I’m awfully proud of the gains kids have made in workouts and games and that track record is beginning to speak for itself. However, the number of training kids come to, their openness to coaching, and many other things play a large role in improvement. The value of my word is more important than any guarantee.
  • The work is rooted in data. We can prove numerically whether or not #MakeShots is positively impacting the shooting of players. Data collected during workouts and games is the ultimate test of the training. This work is quantifiable. We track shooting numbers in every drill, every day. We set goals for drills and track progress towards them. There is a large data day every 10 sessions. Soon, we will be setting goals for the upcoming season. Everything is about shooting percentages, numbers, and improvements we can point to.
  • Coach vs. Trainer. Those two roles are different for many reasons. Very few trainers have 18 seasons of experience as a coach at the varsity level.  All of those seasons allows me to bring something different to training. That makes me a trainer who has coached vs. a trainer. Those are two different things.
  • It’s not that complicated. Players who learn how to participate in a quality shooting workout, and get lots of repetition, will get better. Sometimes, it’s simple.
  • Don’t listen to me. Really, none of that matters! It’s me talking about my business, what do you expect me to say? Talk to the players and families. They will tell the true story of #MakeShots and its impact.

I don’t have a “lab” or a “world headquarters.” I’m just one person with 20+ years of coaching experience, who loves developing relationships with kids, that enjoys teaching, and has developed an expertise in this one facet of the game. I’m not sure where this might go next and I’m really not too worried about it. My faith, conversations with my family, and the feedback I get from players, families, and coaches will take me wherever #MakeShots is supposed to go next.

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My first day off, where I haven’t worked either job, including weekends, will be a week from Saturday.  That will be after 53 straight days of work. I don’t write that to glorify busy, but to give you an idea of how hard I will work to be successful at both jobs. So many of you reading this have been part of this journey and for that, I am truly grateful. My wife and kids have been all-in supportive. People like Noelle Brown, Jeff Tucker, Sarah and Mark Zictherman, Matt Perez, and Mike Petroelije have believed in the training from the very beginning. All of that means the world to me. Thank you!

Tips for Educators on Balancing School Demands and Family Time

Educators work hard. I’ve lived with educators for 43 years and have been one for 22. I know many people in other professions. I can confidently say that educators work hard download.jpgwhile at school and also from home. Sometimes they take that work home and other times it just shows up. Figuring out how to balance that work with being an exemplary member of their family is something I know many educators struggle with.

There seems to be a big push for “self-care” recently. I have nothing against the term or thought process. But I’ve always connected with the term “balance.” I haven’t needed a boost in self-esteem, to go do something for myself, or a reminder of what my needs are. The bigger struggle for me has been to maintain a healthy balance between the demands of my job and my role in our family.

Do I attend the board meeting or my daughter’s basketball game? Should I finish the last set of report cards or pick my son up from daycare for once this week? Since I have 3 committee meetings this week will my spouse have to wake the kids up and get them to school alone? If I take an hour to read through all my school emails tonight will I miss reading to my kids at bedtime? If I just stay at school another hour I can get the lesson plans done for next month but will I make it for my son’s choir concert? download.jpg

Question after question. Dilemma after dilemma. Just choose family first, right?  Seems easy.  Well, then you have guilt for leaving school while there is still work to be done. You worry about the email you saw on your phone but didn’t respond to it.  It’s not that easy. It also doesn’t help me for someone to tell me to be balanced or to practice self-care. That may work for others. I need specific and intentional strategies that hold me accountable for making a change in how I operate.

In my 22 years, I’ve gotten better at finding the appropriate balance. I don’t have it all figured out and there are phases where I’m out of balance. But I’ve certainly improved. The biggest reason I’ve improved is that I’ve had dozens of teachers sit in front of me and share that they were also struggling. I didn’t always have the answer but we worked on it together. We stumbled upon some strategies that made us feel better, more balanced. It hasn’t been due to a change in mindset but instead implementing those specific strategies.

I’m going to share eight with you and maybe they can help you with this neverending struggle. Some of them I’ve used myself and others I have worked with teachers to implement. Here are my 8.

1. Early riser or stay late? – I believe you must make a choice. You will not be able to sustain the marathon of a year or a career if you come a couple hours before school and stay a few hours later. Choose one or the other.

2. The power of NO – You can’t be on every committee or attend every event. All educators need to be able to say no when it tilts their balance away from home and family. If necessary, write out a list of all the things you have volunteered to do. If that list is too long, decide what must stay and what could go. Or, keep a list of the things you are asked to do and see what the balance of yes to no is for you.

3. Organizing your daily to-do list. I’m a to-do list kind of person, always have been. I started to structure my list differently, knowing that it never truly ends and therefore leaves me feeling unsuccessful. The top half of my list is separated into 3 categories, “today,” “later,” and “extra.” Only those truly today things make the today list. Those are the things I really can’t leave without doing.  “Later” is likely tomorrow or this week and “extra” are those big-picture items I just need more time to think about. This process has allowed me to keep everything on the list, but organize it in a way where I can feel successful while viewing what lies ahead.

4. Ask yourself these 3 questions – When you start to feel unbalanced or aren’t sure how the next decision will impact your balance, ask yourself these 3 questions. Think, process, and reflect before deciding to take something else on.

  • Will doing this serve my family?
  • Does this feel right in my heart?
  • Will doing this serve God/faith/your beliefs?

5. Honor Friday – Start your weekend early or at the very least on time. Honor and celebrate Friday in a way that allows you to capture that first night of the weekend. Keep next to your desk a “check-out” time for Fridays and see if it matches your expectations.

6. 1 leave early or arrive late day each week – Put it into your calendar. Hold yourself accountable to it. Spend that extra time ensuring you stay balanced.

7. 1 weekend day of no school – Checking email and working on schoolwork happens at home, all the time. Choose Friday night, Saturday, or Sunday and share with your family that you will not do it on at least that time each weekend.

I’d love to hear from you on what things you’ve tried to help you with balance!

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