Why Basketball Skill Trainers Fail

by Brian McCormick · 3 comments

In today’s game, almost everyone uses a basketball skill trainer of some kind. Players work with an individual coach on general skills or have a shooting coach to work on their shot or they attend a weekend clinic with a trainer to do a variety of drills.

When players improve, we credit the work with the trainer just as we give credit to a tutor when a student improves his schoolwork. However, how much credit does a trainer deserve?

Most trainers fail. When a player uses a trainer or a parent pays for her son to use a trainer, they expect the trainer to produce results. After all, that is what they are paying for, right? Plus, most trainers market themselves by telling parents and players how they will improve the player’s game, so improvement is to be expected. However, this misses the point.

Let’s say that you work out with a trainer once a week because the trainer is pricey for an individual workout ($50 or more). You do some ball handling drills to warm-up and then you do some shooting drills. If you work hard, you should be able to shoot 300-400 shots in an hour workout with some ball handling.

After shooting 300 shots, you feel like you have improved. However, if you do not work out again until your next workout with your trainer, are you getting better? 300 shots in an hour is a good workout. But, 300 shots in a week is not very many. It certainly is not enough to improve your performance greatly.

But, because of busy schedules and cost, many players train with a trainer once per week and do not practice on their own between sessions. They have team practices and tournaments, but they do not engage in the same kind of deliberate practice with a focused goal, concentration and feedback.

Other players use group clinics so they can practice more times per week, as the cost per workout is less. However, when you are in a group of 15-20 players with one trainer, how many repetitions do you get? How much individual feedback? In a group workout, you might get 100 shots if it is really well-done. So, even though you work out three times per week, rather than once, you get the same number of shots. And, with the number of players, you get less feedback and you might have a lower concentration level (depends on your focus and personality, as some concentrate better with a group where they can learn from others’ mistakes while their eyes wander when working out by themselves).

Trainers fail because players believe in their ability too much. Players and parents buy into their trainer’s skills and believe that they will improve because of the trainer’s magic touch. I can market myself by dropping the names of some Division I players and taking credit for their development because of the instruction and workouts. But, I spent just as much time with other players who did not reach the Division I level. Did I do a better job with some? Were some just born with more innate talent?

Maybe. But, those who develop and become the better players worked harder. They did not see a one-hour workout once a week as their off-season practice. They used the hour to learn and then spent the rest of the week mastering the drills or skills. They worked out on their own. I’m sure they thought I did a decent job, but they did not rely on me. They took responsibility for their own development and improvement. They went to the gym. They worked out on their own.

Trainers fail because players and parents believe in the power of the trainer. A trainer is a guide, a tool to use to enhance one’s development. A trainer is not the cure or the answer. If the trainer provides no guidance for the other six days a week, his value is limited even further. A good trainer has a plan and advises players on the in-between time. A good trainer knows his limitations and knows that a player cannot develop in one individual workout or a couple group workouts per week. In the end, it isn’t about the trainer or which trainer that you use. In the end, your effort, dedication, concentration and practice matter.

What do you do in the days between workouts with your trainer? How do you spend your time? Who is guiding or advising you? How hard are you working? Are you taking care of your body? These answers dictate your success moreso than the trainer, equipment or gym that you use.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Phelps May 6, 2009 at 10:26 am

I agree with the previous comment in that the title of this article really sheds a very negative light on the value of good training when and wherever you can receive it.

Much of what is shared in the article is valid and realistic in terms of what a trainer/coach/guide provides. I am a shooting coach and convey to the players that I work the importance of continuing on their own the skills we have addressed and worked on in our sessions together.

I as a coach may plant a seed that does not sprout for many years or improvement may take place in a certain area immediately. My job is to accept the player where they are at the time of our workout and move forward from there with a program that helps that player accomplish their dreams and goals.

I may not see that player more than one time per week and many times months will go by before they come for another lesson. But hopefully my guidance extended beyond just the hour that we were together. Hopefully when something takes place in a game that is something we addressed in a worked out, that a dormant seed may sprout just in time to be of service to them.

I believe I do a good job as a shooting coach, but as far as evaluating myself and my effectiveness in working with players, I leave that to the player and possibly the parent who may have paid the fee for the lesson.

I have with ever player I have worked explained the importance of working out on their own or whoever paid for the lesson wasted their money. But if they do choose to continue on their own I can only hope that my guidance was there with them even though I wasn’t there physically. After all isn’t that the whole point anyway?

Mike Phelps,
Director of All Pro Shooting

Paul Stanley November 12, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Why Basketball Skill Trainers Fail.

Excellent points, however, consider looking at this from a different perspective often overlooked by the player looking for a “good” trainer or coach.

Not all, but some, trainers simply adopt the title “trainer” or “coach” without actually possessing credentials, they do not operate legitimate businesses, most often have a history of not owning up to their financial responsibilities, do not pay their taxes, mislead or fail to make important information available to the player during the “hiring” process, etc. They operate under the wire so to speak.

If the trainer or coach is operating as a side job, player beware.

If the trainer or coach is operating as a business, player still beware and confirm it. If it dosen’t check out, search elsewhere.

Why would a “good” trainer or coach operate this way?

They may have testimonials that may seem impressive but it is the players responsibility to actually confirm them. All to often, the trainer or coach will say “I coached so and so” and if you actually contacted that player you would hear a completely different version of the “trainer” or “coaches” performance.

A good player would not give up a good coach and visa versa.

Test it out, research the coaches in this thread page, confirm if they are legitimate, etc. It won’t hurt you and it would be good practice.

Point is, if you don’t, you are cheating yourself and you may also be cheated out of your time and money. You should only pay money to absorb three attributes at the very least, character, integrity and perfect practice skill set development tools.

A “good” trainer or coach possesses excellent character, integrity and compliments those attributes with an excellent skill set of perfect practice development tools. A “good” coach strives to transfer all three of these to a player.

Ultimately, it is the players responsibility to “ask the right questions and then to do their due dilligence of confirmation of the information they receive from the “trainer” or “coach”.

There are many excellent qualified credentialed trainers and coaches out there that possess the character, integrity and skill set development tools required to be classified as a “good” trainer or coach.

I suspect that there are many self proclaimed “trainers” or “coaches” in need of “good” coaches.

And yes, it is ultimately the players responsibility to correctly select a “good” trainer or coach and absorb all three of the attributes delivered to them. With perfect practice, perfect performance may then be attainable.

Dave Williams March 11, 2011 at 10:16 am

I agrree it is up to the player to strive and get more time in the gym for a Player or parent to put all that on the trainer to bring out the potential is not fair. A person that has never succeed or failed at any thing would never know the amount of dedication it would take to put themselves in the position to achieve the most. So wit that said unless a person is willing to give it there all and that means going above and beyond the average player dont think you are special just because someone said you are, you are one out of a million. that hear the same thing told to them, how bad do you want to make it.

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