Saturday, August 14, 2010

Get Tough!!!

ESPN Hoopgurlz featured a great article on East Coast guard, Bria Smith. The article chronicled her journey becoming one of the best players in the nation. Mentioned in the article was her longtime trainer and hoops whisperer, Jerry Powell. I have been aware of Powell's training prowess for some time. He is a respected trainer of every level, male and female. A good majority of so called trainers are glorified work out coaches. They run players through a series of physically demanding exercises and claim that they are training. While they may be training the physical body, they fail to DEVELOP skill set and sharpen the MENTAL mind. Powell is apparently a true trainer. He uses hundreds of specific drills that he has come up with over the years to teach beginning and accomplished players.

In a YouTube clip featuring Powell, he goes on to discuss his philosophy. " If my momma was in front of me and trying to stop me, I will run her the (expletive) over!". This over the top style earns Powell many detractors but his results are undeniable. Elite guards such as Bria Hartley(UCONN) and Bria Smith(Virginia) have been training with him since the fourth grade! The female Pistol Pete, Samantha Prahalis(Ohio State) and Kentucky freshman Jenifer O'Neil came to him to transform their games. The common characteristic in Powell's trainees is toughness. Powell and his vulgar vocabulary and extreme expectations are as legendary as the players he helps produce.

After watching some of Powell's methods, I then popped in an instructional DVD featuring Purdue men's coach, Matt Painter. The all-access video gives watchers a sneak peak into his Division 1 program. An hour or so in the video, Coach Painter is riding a post player pretty good. He yanked the Big out of a defensive drill and simply stated that he was going to sit on the bench like the previous year if he did not get his act together. A few drills later, the Big finished a team drill with an emphatic rebound. Coach Painter clapped a total of three times. The assistant coaches and other players cheered for the Big. However, the Big was apparently enjoying the ovation a little too much as his teammates continued to shower him with love. Coach Painter then exploded and said, " Lets not have a (expletive) parade for doing something that you are supposed to do. You are on scholarship, you are supposed to do that"!

This comment immediately took me back to an all-access Geno Auriemma DVD. In one of these tapes, Geno tells Maya Moore(the best player in the nation) that she is "the dumbest defensive player he has ever coached". My mind then drifted to a televised USA National team event that Geno lead this past summer. Sylvia Fowles( arguably the best Big in the world) was shooting free throws which prompted Auriemma to comment that her shot was "the ugliest shot ever".

Examples of coaches and trainers making negative comments or gestures to players are too plentiful to document. I have read many accounts of hollering coaches and trainers being bad for girls/women's basketball. Maybe so, but I would say that negativity is a major part of basketball on every level.

The story is as old as the game itself. Suzie Q is told that she is number one on a team's recruitment list. She is promised that the coaching staff will not recruit anymore players at her position. Of course as soon as she signs that Letter of Intent, she realizes that the truth is a matter of interpretation many of times. Suzie Q finds out that the same coach that told her she is number one and the only one, has told the same thing to 5 other girls. She now realizes that she must compete against 5 other players for the minutes that she was guaranteed.

Or how about this one.

Susie Q was recruited by a coach that told her that she would always be there for her. Suzie turns down dozens of other schools and chooses the stability of the loyal coach. One year later, after finally getting acclimated to college life, Suzie is told that her current coach is leaving for greener pastures. Oh well, life goes on. Then the new coach comes in and explains to Suzie that she does fit into the programs future plans. She protests that she can adapt and help the new coach win. The new coach makes in very evident that Suzie services are no longer needed and she will see no playing time. She is encouraged to find somewhere else to play as she does not fit the new regime's plans.

Or this one.

Suzie was all world in high school. She was recruited to become all world at the collegiate level. The honeymoon lasts about two weeks as she realizes that she made a huge mistake. Everything the freshman does is wrong. The things that were cherished as a high school player are seemingly the things that are preventing her from climbing out of the coaches dog house. Her explosiveness in now being called impatient. Her creativity is now being called undisciplined. Her individual ability and initiative that made her a high school great are now being classified as lacking in basketball I.Q. Expectantly, her confidence takes a beating while sitting on the bench. She is away from home and the thing that has always rewarded her is now her biggest agitation. What is she supposed to do? GET TOUGH!!!

All these scenarios happen hundreds if not thousands of times a year at every level of the game. Mental toughness is probably the most important but overlooked aspect to the game. While I am not advocating cursing at kids, I am saying that in the long run, only the mentally strong will survive.