In the summer of working for one NBA team, we signed a new player that was not a great shooter. I knew that he would be someone that I would likely be tasked to work with. So I reached out to him a couple of days after him signing, letting him know I would be in the same city in a couple of days, and would like to get together if he had time. He told me that he was heading overseas for several weeks and wouldn’t be back until training camp.
Shoot. Not ideal.
So at training camp I introduced myself and asked his thoughts on working together. He explained that he had worked hard this offseason on his shooting and liked where he stood, and wanted to keep going with those ideas. I asked for more details, and unfortunately it didn’t sound like he had really changed anything, he was more just hoping this year he had shot enough shots to make a difference. It doesn’t usually work that way.
For most of training camp I made sure to stand beside this player every time he shot free throws. I wanted him to feel my presence. I made sure I was as positive as I could be, while still remaining honest.
He would ask me questions on occasion, and I would sprinkle in a drill here and there when he seemed to be open to it. But largely, I just left him alone with his shot, and me standing beside him encouraging.
See, NBA players are grown men that are at the top of their profession. You can’t go in, grab a guy by the ear and say “ok, you are doing what I tell you”. In fact, you can’t really do that with anyone. I just had to hope that he would either be better, or make sure I was standing there when he had enough evidence that he wasn’t.
About 2 months into the season he had a really tough game. Shot the ball really poorly from the free throw line. There was no escaping the evidence. The season wasn’t going the way he had hoped. So after the game I sent a text. “Tough game tonight. I want to help you get better. Let me know if you are open to meeting tomorrow before practice”. He replied “lets meet at 10am”.
He and I have joked about this several times since. I know he hated me in the beginning. I know he didn’t like that I was around all the time. But he got used to having me around. He started to trust me. I didn’t force feed him my ideas, I just sprinkled them in from time to time and let him learn slowly. Then when he needed me, I was there. It wasn’t the one text that convinced him. It was the consistency. He now says “you just brought so much energy, when things weren’t going well I had to give it a chance”.
Now that player hires me himself. He went from hating me, wishing I would leave him alone, to trusting me enough that he was willing to pay out of his own pocket.
The end of the first year he ended up finishing the season by making 83% of his free throws. The next season he shot a career high.
You just can’t give up.