Travel Time Vs. Training Time

So let’s talk about how to get better as a basketball player, not how to get “exposure”, how to get better. Sure, playing with better players on a “better” team can be an advantage, but where do players REALLY get better. Getting better typically happens away from “time and score”. It happens when an athlete decides work hard, focusing their effort to achieve their desired objective. This focused work doesn’t happen at a tournament, in a vehicle driving to and from practice or games, it happens in the weight room and through skill training. A player doesn’t NEED a skill trainer, although it is a benefit, they need to break the game down into simple movements and focus on those movements over and over again until they build mastery. I like to call this putting “sweat in the bucket”!

“Sweat In The Bucket”

Water balloons of sweat!
Water ballons of sweat!

There was a study published by Professor Anders Ericsson in 1993 that Malcolm Gladwell made famous through his book Outliers and the study proved that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Ericsson is an expert on experts and studied how people improve regardless of their field. This study essentially tracked the most proficient individuals in their field and worked backwards to prove that if someone wants to be the best in their field they have to put in at least 10,000 hours of focused time. Basically, someone would need to devote 2.7 hours every day of the year for 10 years in order to master their craft. Though The Sports Gene by David Epstein tried to disprove this study as fact, I still believe that the process of hard work is effective for sport and for life. I mean, who can disprove focused effort as being a benefit to someone? We can all agree with Epstein that if someone wants to play in the NBA, they may need to be taller than 5’5”, but we can also agree with Ericsson and Gladwell that LOTS of focused energy toward our goal will help us get there. This life lesson will be hugely beneficial after athletics have moved from the focal point to the rear view mirror.

Regarding the “sweat”, my buddy and I decided to do a little study of our own and apply it to athletes. We researched how much an average person sweats when they work out and then applied Gladwell’s math.

Time can pass without maximum effort, but sweat doesn’t lie. The average person sweats 5 gallons every 20 hours. This means to build mastery, you need to fill 500 of these buckets with your sweat. There is no way to cheat the process.

“GROSS” you might say! Well, that is true. It is a bit gross, but it is also true!

I recently asked my dad what he thought about this process. Dad has been a high school coach for 37 years and was recently inducted into the coach’s hall of fame in the state of Washington. He said, “When someone works really hard at something and then is called upon to perform, they are more confident, hard work breeds confidence” – Dave Dickson. He went on to explain that over the years his guys who had put tons of “sweat in the bucket” were guys who had the confidence to make the big play or hit the big free-throw.

Jackie Chan famously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Like Chan, I am a huge advocate for focused training over travel time. Don’t get me wrong, I love tournaments and I love competition, I just don’t like when parents tell me that their kids is getting better by sitting in the car for 5 hours per week in order to get 2.5 hours of practice, or 5 hours of travel in order to sit on the bench and POSSIBLY get a few touches and MAYBE even a few looks at the rim. This PRECIOUS time could be allocated toward focused effort on repping the right stuff. You don’t need hard woods to do the right work, a driveway, park etc. will work just fine.

You might say, “well my kid is different!” My kid is going to play on TV and he or she needs to play on the “best” team, in the “best” league and in the “best” tournaments… maybe you are right and I completely agree that certain athletes will be playing on TV and making some university or shoe company a ton of money wink wink. That was the case with Terrance Williams and I can remember it like it was yesterday when he was throwing the ball of the backboard and dunking on top of me. But, you will probably know if your kid is ready for TV or for “exposure”. People will probably be trying to cut out of work early to watch your athlete workout or show up to their high school game an hour early just to watch what they do with the ball while they are in their street clothes etc. That was what I was doing when Luke Ridnour was in high school. Did he NEED exposure? NOPE… he was repping the right stuff and once he had really mastered it, everyone knew it. Less $ and travel time and more training, focused energy doing the right work and your athlete could get WAY better! Just one guys opinion.