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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sit On Your Couch, Improve Your Hoops Game - NBA Edition

Yesterday we took a look at what you can learn by watching the disciplined college kids play basketball. Today we will look at what you can learn from watching the pros slug up and down the court.

There are many difference between the NBA and NCAA basketball games, and the most apparent is the apparent selfish nature of most NBA players. These guys make big money and need to keep their stats up to ensue the dough keeps coming in. There are, however, examples from some of the greatest to play the game that you can learn from to improve your game.

1. The Larry Bird Lesson –"A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals."

Bird is probably one of the best examples of someone who looked honestly in the mirror, saw what talent he had and perfected it. Not blessed with the quickest feet or highest vertical, Bird honed the skills he was given to make himself one of the NBA’s all time greats. Bird realized early how to get open and nail a jumper, even though he often times had the other team’s best defender guarding him. The lesson you can learn is that if you cannot dunk, don’t try to, instead learn to get open and practice your jumpers. Your teammates will notice your skills and call on you at opportune times. To paraphrase this lesson, Bird also said, "First master the fundamentals."

2. The Dennis Rodman Lesson – “I want to do for rebounds what Michael Jordan did for dunks.”

Rodman wasn’t ever the tallest guy on the floor, measuring out at 6 ft 8 in, but what Rodman lacked in size he made up for in his ability to be in perfect position for every rebound. Although he was most noted for his outrageous hairstyles and multiple tattoos, Rodman NBA for a record 7 consecutive seasons. He perfected defensive positioning and had a knack for knowing exactly where a carom would come off. The take away from Rodman is that basketball isn’t just a game of who can jump the highest or shoot the furthest, but rather if you learn the intricacies of where to position your body for rebounds or to steal a pass or take a charge, then you will help your team in as big of a way as hitting the game winning 3 pointer.

3. The LeBron James Lesson - "Sometimes the coaches tell me to be selfish, but my game won’t let me be selfish."

Everyone in the world knows that LeBron can score every time he touches the ball. LeBron knows it, his coaches know it, the opposition knows it. What makes LeBron the payer he is, is that since everyone in the arena is expecting him to drive or pull up for the J, he has his eyes on the court surveying the D and his teammates to see where he can dish the ball when the opposition collapses. What makes LeBron the best player in the game isn’t his nearly 30 ppg average, but it is his 30 ppg average combines with his nearly 7 assists-per-game. Taking a chapter out of LeBron’s book, you can learn that being a team makes you the best on the floor, more so than just averaging the most points. Look for your teammates, not only will they appreciate it, but it will help you get past a defender who thinks you are going to dish the ball.

4. The Shaquille O’Neal Lesson - "Me shooting 40% at the foul line is just God's way to say nobody's perfect."

How would you feel to be the best player on your team, maybe your league and not be in there for the final few minutes of the game? This is what Shaq has suffered through the majority of his career. The best lesson you can learn from Shaq is to practice your free throws. If you cannot hit clutch free throws late in the game you probably won’t see the floor time as the game winds down. The opposition can spot quickly if you can hit free throws and will take advantage of deficiencies. If they know you cannot hit free throws and you have the ball as the game is coming to a close, they probably will try and get you on the line. If you can nail the free throws, you can seal the game with your shooting.

Some of the NBA greats above are long since retired, but you can still learn lessons derived from their playing days. You can also form your own lessons while watching some of the current crop of NBA superstars. Players like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard also qualities about them that you can learn from to improve your game.

If you pay attention to other things while watching an NBA game, tell us about them in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sit On Your Couch, Improve Your Hoops Game

As your basketball season ramps up, you have a chance to get better by…. Sitting on your couch!

Not conventional advice, but if you happen to take in an NCAA basketball game, there is lots you can learn by watching college kids that can translate into your game.

Odds are that you don’t have the inside game of North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough nor the shooting ability of Davidson’s Stephen Curry (if you do, you may want to call up the local coach), but there is lots to learn from watching their games.

More so in college than the pros, you can see pure basketball fundamentals. College hoopsters aren’t yet millionaire athletes who do their own thing and think they are bigger than the game. They are generally a bunch of grounded, attentive young men and women who will be benched for under performance, or not following the rules their coach laid out.

So next time you watch your local or favorite (Go Mizzou!) college hoops program pay attention to the following fundamentals.

1. Box out – Get back to basics and box the guy you are guarding out. If he cannot get to the ball, and you can, you win. Don’t be afraid of contact, contrary to popular belief, basketball is a contact sports, so make sure your opponent cannot get to the ball.

2. Make the extra pass – Always be on the look out for your teammates. You might be have a slight opening to take a 3, but quickly look inside for your big man, who may be wide open for an easy lay up. Likewise, if you have been hitting shots all night, other defenders may collapse on you, leaving a guy open at the top of the key for a wide open J.

3. Pump fake – A simple pump fake will get your defender off the balls of his feet and will give you an opportunity to skate around him and either drive the lane or punch the ball out to an open teammate whose defender had to collapse to help on you.

4. Play tight D – In college you will see tight D the entire game (as opposed to only the final 3 minutes of a pro game). Lots of recreational basketball games are decided by 10 points or less, if you have stopped your opponents on multiple occasions with your stringent D then you have a better chance of winning than losing.

5. Look inside – There is a reason that big men lead the country in field-goal percentage each year, and that is because a 2 foot shot is easier to make than an 18 footer. If you can get the ball inside, either to one of your bigs, or a cutting guard, then you will have a better chance of making your shot.

6. Free throws – Games are won and lost at the free throw line. If you can hit 75% of your shots (not a terribly difficult task, unless you are Shaq) then you are in a good boat to win your game. If you hit the gym to shoot around, make sure to leave enough time to practice free throw shooting at the end of your shoot-around.

Basketball is not always just about who can jump the highest or run the fastest. If you go back to the fundamentals that you see each night in the college game, you will put your team in a position to win.

If you pay attention to other things while watching an college game, tell us about them in the comments section.

Keep sporting!

- Who’s In First

Friday, November 21, 2008

Advice For Youth Trying to Make a Team

Until a certain age, for most it is probably 6th or 7th grade, kids make any team they register for. Generally the parents create the teams to ensure parity or that siblings are on the same team, but for the most part there are no cuts to kids until they reach middle school.

So, tryouts can be a stressful time for many youth. They may not think they can make the team and consequently won’t try out. What if John Elway was too timid to try out for his middle school football team?

Below are some tips to help kids to be confident during their first tryouts. Pass the information along to anyone you know who is trying out for a team for the first time. The advice can also be used for adults interviewing for jobs, out on a first date or playing with a new recreational team.

1) Make a good first impression. The old adage “You never have a second chance to make a first impression” holds very true to trying out for a team. If the coach or manager sees you goofing off or not trying your hardest, that impression will stick with them for the rest of the season. The first practice is always a good time to go the extra mile and stay a little later, helping the coach clean up, or round up stray balls. If the coach sees your intangibles on the first day, then he will remember that when it comes time to selecting his team.

2) Come to practice prepared. Make sure you have the right equipment and the right apparel on when you get to practice, or at least before practice begins. Coaches will not like it if you arrive at the gym right as practice is set to begin and you still have on your jeans. Likewise, if you are trying out for a baseball or softball team, make sure you have a glove, or if you don’t own one, that you have arranged for the use of one by another teammate.

3) Give it your all. Don’t slack. Coaches can spot slackers a million miles away. Give it your all every practice, even if you are tired. Stay late or arrive early and talk to the coach about what you can do to be the best player you can be.

4) Be a team player. Unfortunately not everyone can start for every team. In basketball, only 5 people can play at a time. If you are not one of the five on the floor at a particular time, help out your teammates by cheering them on or giving them pointers. Make sure that they have a seat to sit on if they come out of the game. In practice, do the extra things that will benefit the team, even if it isn’t using your skill on the court.

5) Listen to your coaches. When your coach speaks, listen. If they are talking, don’t dribble a basketball or play toss with a baseball. Make sure you are paying attention to them at all times. And if they ask you to do something, do it. They have good reasons, and while it might not be apparent at the time, your hard work will pay off either with more playing time, or getting the opportunity to take the last shot.

6) Have Fun. This is the most important aspect. In whatever you do, make sure you have fun doing it. It is fun to win, but the camaraderie you build with teammates can last a lifetime. I would argue that everyone who reads this blog will not ever be paid to play a professional sport, so when it all comes down to it, you are playing to have fun, so always keep that in mind.

Hopefully these tips will give you a leg up on the competition and help you make the team. Remember, a positive attitude is the most important skill you can have.

If you have any other advice for youth trying out for a team, tell us in the comments section.

Keep sporting!

- Who’s In First

Thursday, November 20, 2008


The goal of the Who’s In First blog is to give the recreational athlete tips and tricks to help them perform at the peak of their athletic ability.

The blog will be updated daily with information that will help all recreational athletes perform better on the field, court, or rink. Posts will include information on nutrition, workout regimens and other tidbits to help you maximize your potential.

The blog will also tackle difficult decision making regarding joining or quitting a team and making difficult roster moves. We will give you advice on the latest trends, best equipment and must have apparel. Basically, we will help give you a leg up on the competition.

And since this blog is written by the fine folks at Who’s In First, www.whosinfirst.com, the ultimate goal of the blog is to help your team get to the top of the standings.

So, enjoy, and if you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to use the comment section of the blog.

Happy sporting!

- Who’s In First