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Entries in babies (32)

College Athlete Admission Standards

Every few years I have an eye-opening coaching experience. The first was The Meeting, the second was Carl Paoli's seminar, the third was the trip to San Francisco CrossFit, the fourth was coaching at the Day Care, the fiiiifff was the presenting with Coach T at the Michigan State Clinic, and the most recent one has come over the course of the past 6 months while doing private basketball coaching.

Since June I have been charging 60 bucks per hour to do basketball stuff with kids ranging from 7-16 years old. It is awesome; I am obsessed with game of basketball, I am obsessed with coaching, I get to recruit kids to do CrossFit here, and every cent that comes to me gets direct deposited into the Champions Club bank account. What is has also done for me is helped me realize that parents will pay SIXTY FREAKING DOLLARS FOR 50 MINUTES of sports training. And I am about to raise my prices in the spring. It is baffling. In fact, I've told more than 75% of the parents that I think they really should reconsider spending all that money on basketball training for numerous reasons, the least of which being that their son does not seem to like basketball (“but let me tell you about this thing called CrossFit” is what usually happens next). Surprisingly I get mostly positive reactions to this, and hopefully once basketball season is done I’ll be able to add a few New Kids to our regular ranks. The Babies session has already benefited from it.

What this and a few recent discussions with Champions Club parents tells me is that there is no ill-will behind anything – such as parents trying to live through their kids, or kids being arrogant. Instead, they simply don’t know what it takes to make the next level. They see their competition in the Greg Grant league or their middle school with a graduating class of 15 and they can’t help but think that private lessons are the way to a college scholarship.

Coincidentally this was a message to me as I was editing this editorial

All but 2 of the kids I have coached said they want to play at a D1 college, then play in the NBA. This is something I empathize with completely. As a 28-year old who currently has a public goal to be the best CrossFit affiliate in the world, you can probably imagine this was totally me at their age and older. I wanted to be an under-the-radar recruit who, after watching Rashad Phillips play (anyone know who he was?), chose U of D Mercy over Michigan, Purdue, and Illinois, then went on to an NBA career with 11 All-Star appearances and 7 championships. That is not a joke, and that lasted all the way until 8th grade when I saw Yancey Gates, and I found out that good 8th graders are 6’4, black, and dunking on fools. I was not any of these, so I started to work harder. Up until February 23, 2012 (The Meeting) I still had the idea that I could play professional basketball in some league, despite my college career being less than remarkable. And so when Andrew, who just got cut from a last-place 7th grade team, tells me he wants to play for OKC, I am not just being nice when I tell him that it’s possible. I’ve seen weirder things happen. I just think there needs to be some guidelines in place.

My two athletic claims to fame are: 1) being a benchwarmer on the best AAU program in Michigan, with Draymond Green as our team’s second-best player and  2) getting a preferred walk-on offer over the phone from Oakland University the summer going into my senior year. Despite the fact that I never made it to where I wanted to with basketball, I really, really think I had a mindset and work ethic that would reflect someone that played at that level, and coaches have confirmed this to me along my career. But I only refined this dedication because I was fortunate enough to be on the court with people who were already professionals or clearly future-pros. I saw where I was relative to them and I tried as hard as I could to make up the gap.

None of the kids I have coached through private basketball lessons have seen that, and their parents only see what their kids see. Most of the Champions Club athletes still in high school and middle school haven’t had that exposure either. So I figured having a formal checklist could help families see reality and decide how much they want to commit to their sport (shouts to Matt Fecht, Alyssa, and Sap for helping). The idea for this is simple: you must accumulate the allotted point requirement for your desired level (10 points for D1/D2, and 5 points for NAIA/D3). The factors are split into two categories: controlled and non-controlled. The non-controlled factors have a lot more to do with genetics and family conditions, and there is little any athlete can do to adjust those in a meaningful way. The controlled factors are the opposite; they are conscious daily, weekly, monthly, and lifetime decisions made by the athlete that slowly tip the scale in the direction they want to go. Here is the breakdown:

Division-1 College Athlete (10 total points needed)

*Give up your sport for 6 months, or keep your sport and give up everything else “fun” for 6 months?

Division-2 College Athlete (10 total points needed)

*Same as above except for 2 months

Division-3/NAIA College Athlete (5 total points needed)

*If you sat the bench for your first month of the season, would you quit or stick with it?

While the metrics in here are not exact, the overall theme is important, and pretty accurate. The way to get your point total is slightly different for D1 and D2, and radically different when looking at D3. You can read the graphs from the top-down or bottom-up, depending on where an athlete and parent want to be. But here’s a few notes:

Being a college athlete is not hard to do. There are a ton of small schools out there that will take anyone. And I mean ANYONE.  Our 2012 Marygrove roster (which included your favorite new hip hop artist, Mike Jack) had 3 kids that had never made a high school basketball team. And we were middle-of-the-pack record-wise and in the upper 5% talent-wise for all NAIA schools. If you want to play at a small college, first check to make sure your heart is beating and then start sending emails and highlight tapes. It doesn’t take much. And it certainly doesn’t require lots of money pumped into kids travel teams. Save that for Albion, Hope, and Olivet’s tuition. It’s gonna be around 40 grand!

Recruit yourself. Alyssa Jabara is the best example I have heard of this. She played for a good travel softball team in high school but was not getting the college attention she wanted. So she took it upon herself and emailed coaches every weekend starting her junior year. She is at Concordia now (in the NAIA league with Marygrove, Madonna, Aquinas, etc.) and a lot of that has to do with the initiative she took. The extra controlled factors she put in that more closely resembled D2 is the difference between her just being on the team and her beating out 2 upper-class catchers as a freshman last year.

1-month quit test. Small school sports suck. There were bigger crowds at high school games. You get crammed van rides for hours and hours. Practices are at 6 am. In other words, you put in a ton of work and get very little publicity – especially if you are 1) a girl or 2) playing anything besides football and basketball. And on top of that, scholarships are treated differently at this level, so don’t be surprised if you came in with a handful of other freshman at the same position. There were 7 freshman quarterbacks on the football roster during my only semester at Albion. And the coach still asked me to try out. The more kids they bring in, the more enrollment goes up. Bottom line is, you have to love the game unconditionally.

Well maybe I’ll just go D2 instead. The Division-2 level is the most misunderstood tier of college sports in my opinion. These dudes (or girls) can play, man. Everyone thinks they are pros here, and to their credit, some of them are right. You’ll notice that there is a big jump from NAIA/DIII to the D2 level, and D2 is not that much different than the D1 requirements. The areas I have noticed the biggest difference in the D1 and D2 athletes are the non-controlled areas, which are just a tad lower than the D1 group. But where this can get tricky is with transferring. Take Glenn Winston, who had the makeup for D1 but didn’t get the playing time he wanted at MSU, so he transferred to Northwood and immediately played in front of Cam – who, by the way, had all the measurables and connections to make a really good D2 running back. Division-2 is loaded with talent, and it’s often people who shoot for D1 and miss that are standouts, not D3 kids looking to move up.

Non-controlled factors. Now we get into the Division-1 category, and this is where there are pretty solid factors that are not completely mandatory, but very hard to bypass. Measurables are simply the raw mass of your body. For instance, if you are 7’0, or over 6’6 with arms longer than your height, you have the right measurables for a D1 basketball player. If you are over 300 lbs., you can be a D1 offensive lineman. The specifics are different with every sport, the idea is the same. “Elite” skill means that your skill in that area is at a professional level. I knew Alex Marcotullio growing up at St. Dennis (he is good friends with my cousin Josh) and he played for The Family the year after I got there. By everyone’s account I was better at dribbling, driving, mid-range shooting, passing, defense, rebounding, and I was stronger and better conditioning than he was. But his 3-point shooting was – no joke – NBA worthy. Combine that with the measurables for his position (Jay Junkin’s height) and he played 4 years at Northwestern. Connections are the next thing, because with all that skill and genetics, a lot of it depends on who you know. All it takes is for one coach to like you.

Social Norms. Now we are into controlled factors, and this one comes directly from Matt Fecht. This means when the normal thing to do is party after you won a game, you skip it and sneak back into the gym to practice more. Or when it is snowing outside, you still get your training run in, regardless of the awkward looks you get. Your “process” takes precedence over what is considered normal by peers.

Scheduled down-time. For most elites in their field, down-time does not happen when they feel like it. It is built into their schedule. This includes family events, television, video games, cheat meals, and parties. Time away is a very important part of staying healthy. As Kobe Bryant said, “If the sun never went down, everyone would get sun-burned.” But even the sun does it on a schedule. So set a cheat meal to coincide with your grandma’s 90th birthday party, or plan on some father-son bonding whenever Michigan is playing on Saturday, and use that as an incentive/reward for staying on track during the time leading up. My personal productivity, both as an athlete and gym owner, really coincides with this.

No job. Your sport is your job. End of discussion.

S&C + Individual practice. One of the things I tell families is that if their son wants to play Division 1 basketball, they should not be relying on paying a trainer to improve their game. If the kid doesn’t have the passion to spend 2 hours per day practicing by himself, then no trainer is going to fill that void. On the other hand, having some kind of direction is good, but only to guide your individual efforts. Strength and conditioning is a different area of expertise, so having a coach is a little more beneficial, but a determined athlete can definitely get away with working out alone. Still, this is mandatory.

AAU. Okay here’s the deal: If your travel team is legit, they are sponsored by an apparel company. If you are not paying team dues, or travel expenses, or equipment fees, then you are probably sponsored (unless there’s a very rich parent). Also, apparel companies don’t sponsor youth programs, only high school. So just know that having Nike gear and having a Nike contract are two separate things. If you are not part of a sponsored team and you are a legit prospect, then you are either not paying the full amount, or not paying anything at all. Your payment is your coach getting to say he “coached” you. If you think you are a legit prospect and you can’t pull the juice card, then you are not a legit prospect.

School. You can go to school at any point in your life. On the other hand, you have about an 8-year window where you can make money on your athletic abilities. If 8 hours of homework per week is eating into sports training, then cut out some homework. You don’t need a 4.54 GPA, a 3.0 will work just fine. If you can’t get a 3.0, then just start turning in your freaking homework. That’s like a 2.8 right there! Then be nice to that smart kid who idolizes to you and it’s all set.

Food and bed. Nutrition is like religion, and sleeping remains to be one of the most unfigured-out things in the world of health and fitness. I have opinions about what are best practices. Your coach has opinions. Your grandpa has opinions. As long as you are making conscious daily decisions for both, then you get two checks.

November 2014 - right around the time Alyssa started recruiting herself and Matt was... well... still being Matt.

Now, the important thing to understand is that the more stock you have in one column, the less you need in the other. For instance, if you are 7’0 with an 90-inch wing span, then you can spend all the time immersed in your homework as you want; somebody is going to give you a free tuition to win points in the lay-up line. On the other hand, if you have every single category covered in the Controlled column, you might be able to get away with not being tall, fast, or big.

The idea is to have this reality check when setting goals. So if Andrew-who-got-cut-from-his-7th-grade-team still has dreams to play for John Beilein, he can look at the list and be like, “yep, I can see myself putting in that kind of commitment,” or “ooh… yeah that doesn’t look like something I’d be willing to do.” Either way, the information is right there and the decision to start pumping money and time and energy into that sport becomes clear. Or, at least a more educated guess. It’s the difference between asking someone what they want for Christmas and hoping they will use a $50 Whole Foods gift card.

...........

For this 2017-2018 season there are 7 D1 basketball schools in Michigan, which have a total of 114 roster spots:

  • Central Michigan: 18
  • Eastern Michigan: 16
  • Western Michigan: 14
  • Oakland: 16
  • Detroit Mercy: 17
  • Michigan: 17
  • Michigan State: 16

There are 9 D2 basketball schools in Michigan, which have a total of 138 roster spots:

  • Lake Superior State: 14
  • Northern Michigan: 17
  • Ferris State: 17
  • Wayne State: 13
  • Michigan Tech.: 15
  • Davenport: 17
  • Grand Valley: 18
  • Saginaw Valley: 13
  • Northwood: 14

This is a total of 252 roster spots for Division 1 (114) and Division 2 (138) combined.

When you go two levels lower to the NAIA (132) and DIII (114), you have 246 total roster spots:

NAIA*

  • Cornerstone: 16
  • U of M Dearborn: 18
  • Rochester: 17
  • Madonna: 17
  • Aquinas: 22
  • Sienna Heights: 15
  • Concordia: 17
  • Lawrence Tech: 10 (first-year program)

DIII*

  • Adrian: 12
  • Albion: 17
  • Alma: 24
  • Calvin: 16
  • Hope: 15
  • Kalamazoo: 17
  • Olivet: 13

*does not include roster numbers for JV teams, which usually carry at least 10 and fluctuate

Now when you take this down to the high school level, there are 710 school varsity basketball teams in the state of Michigan:

  • Class A = 188 teams
  • Class B = 180 teams
  • Class C = 170 teams
  • Class D = 172 teams

Assuming 13 kids per roster, there are 9,230 varsity basketball players in the 2017-2018 season.

That means that approx. 4% of all high school players will play college. Obviously there is a degree of variety to that, seeing as kids can go to college out of state, and Michigan schools recruit all over the Midwest (and world, see Mo Wagner, Stauskas). Also, basketball has the fewest roster spots of any sport, but it’s probably all relative with baseball, football, and track, which routinely carry rosters of 20, 60, and 100 kids respectively.

The specific numbers don’t matter as much as the overall message: a very small percentage of kids get to play a college sport. I, personally, think that is awesome. It’s something to be proud of whether it’s Alyssa Jabara playing at Concordia or Alan Wisniewski at Penn State. They are part of a select group of people who had a combination of controlled and non-controlled factors that gave them the opportunity to compete at a very high level.  If a formalized list is available to show the demands at each level, families will realize that playing college sports is not for everyone, but it is for anyone.

Sunday Highlights + New Graduate

We had 13 kids at the "Babies" session today, and like 4 of them were over over 10 years old... so maybe we need a new name for the Babies session. Anyway, we introduced a few new contests and the favorite by far was the classic Throw The Med Ball Over The Coaches. Our system for the workouts have been effective too; three stations, 15 seconds per station, 3 rounds or so until they lose interest.

We also have a new member to the crew: Adam Demonaco, the younger brother of recent Fundamentals graduate Emma Demonaco (aka EmD, or Doc). He got his first rope climb this afternoon, and you can see it at the end of the video.

Theme Workout Announcement: Christmas Workout 2017

Hey kids it's that time of year already. And aside from our Summer theme workouts, the consensus favorite team workout has to be the Christmas Workout Spectacular. Tradition says it's held on Christmas Eve morning, and this year will ne no different. Here's the specifics:

Sunday, December 24

9 am

@ the Champions Club

Last year was the first time we brought in the Babies to work out with our group, and this year should show even more participation from that group, considering we have tons of them bouncing off the walls every Sunday. However, as of now I plan on it going down similar to the Thanksgiving workout, where they will be partnered up with each other. But as usual I will improvise as I go.

We will have milk and cookies and tons of other delicious goodies as always. Last few years we even had waffles. No promises... but come in ready to be fed to your heart's content.

Hope to see you guys there!

Pics of the Week: Baby Josh Has the Coolest Parents in the World

Josh Bennis is a crazy monkey kid in the Babies crew - rivaled only by Ender when it comes to sheer primate descent. Josh is also my neighbor, and last week on my birthday, I got a text from Mrs. Bennis asking me to stop by on my way back from the gym. When I got there, the first thing that was brought to my attention was a homemade birthday card in which I have blonde, spikey hair and calves that looks like lego blocks as opposed to the muscle bulging death machines they are in real life. Soon after, however, I was escorted to a room that I'm sure was a room for piano playing and fancy eating at some point. You know, one of those rooms you have set up just in case a Birmingham or Bloomfield Hills family comes in.

Welp, enough of that crap! Here's what it looks like now:

I have never put a Pic of the Week in a primetime weekday slot on the website, but there are several things about these pictures that make me the happiest coach on the block. First, and most importantly, Josh has a freaking climbing course inside his house! I wish I had that now, let alone when I was 7. Aside from the obvious fun of it, there are a ton of studies coming out that talk about the radical benefits movement has on brain activity. This is common sense, but not common practice. Also, the range of motion and mobility drills I have to prescribe for all you non-monkeys has a lot to do with your daily habits. When you don't take your body through full ranges of motion for a long time, you lose that range of motion. In the four pictures above, Josh has his body in the squat, overhead, press, and lunge archetypes, which are all critical to movements we do in here like... you guessed it... squats, presses, and lunges.

Finally, the thing that might make me the most happy is the role his parents had to play in this. From Josh's perspective, this is obviously the coolest thing in the world. But somebody had to make this for him. And those somebodies were Mr. and Mrs. Bennis. And they are grown adults, who are likely associated with other grown adults. And most grown adults are no fun. They are so far removed from being kids (both in age and mindset) that they forget kids don't need much. Private sports lessons, math tutors, and the new iPhone game all take priority to old fashioned informal play time.

What Mr. and Mrs. Bennis did for Josh is probably the single best thing they could have possibly done for him in a 48-hour period. Better than buying spinach and kale, or giving him the new Pokemon game that came out (that doesn't even look that good anyway), or even taking him to a Babies session at the gym. Instead, they gave him a setting where he can constantly, at his will, express the very movement patterns that make him a human being, and the same movement patterns that we lose when we sit on our ass all day at a computer or at school. Josh's parents are all in on Josh's health, and I get to have that family as part of the Champions Club! How dope is that!

Quote of the Week vol. 218

"If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own."

- Henry Ford

I think one of my strengths as a coach is being able to relate with our kids at "The Babies" session. I have a good sense of what I liked to do as a kid, and what I didn't like to do (mostly because it's not too different than what I like now).

The concept of formal movement (things we know as push-ups, back squats, pull-ups, lunges) was introduced to mainstream adults early in the 1900s due to them forgetting how to be kids. When we are born, our brains are wired for movement. Rolling, crawling, standing, squatting, walking, running, climbing, carrying, and throwing are all natural movement patterns that are part of our DNA. When we go years and years without practicing these things on a daily basis, our bodies adapt, and we lose part of that ability. Enter formal movement training and the gym.

The Babies would be bored to death with formal deadlifts, cleans, burpees, and the like. So we keep it fun and then carefully sneak some elements in the session that will pay off for them in about 6 or 7 years - "I'll bet you can't jump to the plate keeping your feet together!" Everywhere I have had the opportunity to coach a youth sports thing - whether it's basketball, Champions Club, the Day Care, football camps, or even hanging out with my younger cousins - I have received compliments on how I interact with the younglins. As I do this, the overriding thought is always Would I like this if I was their age? If the answer is no, then we move to something else. If I was a normal high school, college, or post-college person, I suppose I'd have a better grasp of this with the older crowd.

Either way, being able to see the other person's perspective has almost always been the final determining factor on whether that interaction is successful or not.

Thanksgiving Weekend Schedule

Just an update for this weekend's session times:

Today, Tomorrow

Normal

Wednesday

10 am

5:30 pm

*this will be a mobility session, or makeup workout if your're a college kid back home

Thursday 

8:30 am - Thanksgiving Workout 7.0

*A few of The Babies are coming to this one as well, like we did for the Christmas one last year

Friday

10 am

5:30 pm

Saturday-Sunday

Normal

Get your belly ready for an updated version of Plymouth Hollow Rocks on Thanksgiving.

Organic Roasted Seaweed

Halloween was, is now, and will always be my favorite holiday. Disney's Halloween Treat was a nightly viewing, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown was an after-event tradition, and the McDonald's Halloween cassette tapes would be in heavy rotation after school while I played football in the front room. And lord have mercy... the Starbursts would roll in! Then we started to do the Halloween workout with our CrossFit group in 2010 and it has been good ever since.

I would love to say The Babies' Halloween Theme Workout tonight was awesome. I would love to say that is was a success because they practiced deadlifts with kettblebells and looked good, or they actually knew that your elbows are supposed to be in when pushing a weight over your head. And I would love to say that they were able to uphold one of the oldest and most noble of traditions once a year: an incredible sugar buzz and surefire boost in the revenue of local dentist offices. Then I binge on the leftover candy at the gym and pretend that I won't be feeling the effects of it tomorrow. Tried and true this system; one that is not to be tampered with, ever.

But of course, it has to be. PC Principal has struck down with vengence. And now I will have to explain to next year's Babies and parents how, yeah it's fun and cool, but some horrible, horrible person is out there giving out this...

... to Conamora. If I was in the English mood, I would use this as some kind of metaphor to represent the end-of-summer hope for the fall gym attendance, only to be stuck around 20 people per day, or a lens to view the current hip hop scene that has stripped much of the musical instrumentation and in-depth lyrics for repackaged, bland mumbling. Or I could write another Dr. Suess poem. But I'm just mad, so I'm not.

For the first Halloween of my life, I feel defeated, unappetized, and drained.

Good night, sweet candy.