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"The Games is the least important thing that happens in CrossFit. There is nothing less important than The Games."

- Coach Glassman

Entries in basketball (65)

Coach's Corner: 1-2 Box Jumps

We have done some work before on changing up the box jumps a bit. Our latest version involves a jump that is more closely related to what athletes will come across in their sports; while jumping from a stand still is common, so is jumping off some kind of approach. Because I am not creative, I just called these 1-2 box jumps because in basketball terms it's kind of how you explain the footwork for a jumper or layup. We tried them out a little over a week ago in our running/box jump workout.

I didn't really nitpick on the technique other than trying to still keep vertical shins and loading order on the landing. But it was interesting to see how it took some people a minute to get the timing down. There is definitely more skill in this version than the regular box jumps, and I'll probably observe more workouts and warmups with jumps like this before formally teaching the technique to it. Either way, be ready for more of these!

New Kid on the Block: Coach Casey

Casey Colussi started booking private basketball sessions for his son, Dylan, back in November if I recall correctly. Casey used to coach in high school (he actually was part of a State Championship staff at Avondale) and now volunteers to coach Dylan's travel team. For all the crap I write about private lessons and parents getting lost in the mix of things, Coach Casey "gets it," which is a huge relief for me. Soon after the basketball sessions began, both Dylan and his little sister, Mallory, were working out with our Babies session on weekends.

Dylan still comes in for basketball sessions about every other week or so with his dad taking him to every session, and recently I talked Coach Casey into trying out a group session. He finally agreed to come in last Friday in the morning and was not shy about writing his experience on the whiteboard:

Usually people who find themselves on the verge of throwing up do not come back to join, but Coach Casey is using that as motivation to get his health back on track. I can imagine it's difficult as a parent to keep in shape when all of the priorities immediately shift to the tiny living things running around your house. But Coach is on board now andis two sessions into Fundamentals. So far his jumping looks good and his hollow body position is almost perfect like all the rest of the dads in here. The conditioning is the limiting factor at the moment, along with shoulder mobility and strength, and still he has been nothing but a pleasure to coach so far. As usual we'll keep working on it and catch up with you guys after Day 7.

Quote of the Week vol. 234

"He's not a basketball player"

- me, earlier this week, to a basketball player's dad

I had my first parental... not complaint, but maybe disagreement in a very long time earlier this week when I told this to one of the dads of a kid I coach through private lessons. Coaches I know say this all the time. For instance, I played football for three years in high school, but I wasn't a "football player." Instead of taking it like that, the dad took it meaning his kid should stop playing basketball and go play a new sport. I explained that I meant his kid doesn't really take basketball as serious as a "basketball player" would. I told him his kid is pretty good at basketball, will most likely going to reach his goal (high school varsity) and doesn't need private lessons to do that; in fact, private lessons might burn him out and make him dislike the game, seeing as the things most 6th graders like him need to work on are very broing, indeed. Still not sure if the message went through, but we had a good session the other night.

Have you ever said something that seems normal to you but foreign to someone else? 

Mystery Athlete/Mystery Bag

We have two mystery athlete categories tonight:

1. There are three Champions Club athletes and one All-State baseball player in the following picture. Name them.

2. At the 6:30 session tonight we were interrupted by a fan-favorite who is currently on hiatus. Pat has been off in the world doing things and cussing like a sailor. But you know every time he comes in, he always brings something to share - whether that's the weird knockoff Asian pulled pork breadballs, or bubble tea. Never anything normal. Tonight was no different.

What was in the bag?

Movement Shapes pt. 19: Chris on the Court

Dead ends are the worst possible thing to practice in a general strength and conditioning program. If a clean technique only applies to a 1 rep max, minimum fatigue, Olympic lifting shoes clean, then it is worthless (unless you are a professional cleaner). A coach's progressions and methods to teaching a clean should apply to a 1 rep max clean, and Elizabeth (the benchmark workout or the person), and light weight power snatches, and bringing a sandbag to your shoulder, and throwing, and jumping, and basketball. If it doesn't, then the coach is caught up too much in the specificity.

Basketball - being the greatest thing ever invented - is a great arena to showcase the physical and neurological adaptations we make in the weight room. But regardless of what arena you are in, or what you may think of basketball, one thing that is not up for debate is how our role with nature works; in this case, "nature" refers to our anatomy and gravity. Our job is to obey the principles of nature regardless of what movement we are doing. The more we obey, the better the result. Olympic lifts are a very good way to train this, and we use a method called "unweighting" to do so. As I wrote about in Conor and Mr. Carey's split jerk post, the most efficient way to move is when there is no body weight. So often times we need to be patient enough in our lifts to allow a full unweighting of support (hands, feet, and shoulders) before moving to the next pose. It is pretty easy to spot in the weight room, but a little more difficult to see in other areas.


Last week I was messing around with max height box jumps where I took a rolling start from an angle. I got the idea from watching our Groves kids try (and fail) to dunk after practice, and realized that the best jumps happen from this kind of rotation. Then I wondered how this would look on the basketball court, so my old pal Jacob, Lord of Scotland, volunteered to record a late-night basketball shooting session. Here's a few clips of each:

As with all movements we look at skill and strength when determining whether it is good or not; skill = working with gravity (timing) and strength = resisting gravity (anatomical position).

Box jump skill. First, notice that when I jump, I plant* with my inside foot (left foot in this case). As I round to my right, I plant with the left foot, then allow the right foot to come in front slightly; this produces a rotation that gives me momentum to jump on the box. If I were to plant with the outside foot, or do a jump stop, it would dull a lot of the momentum. More on that later. Also, I use a very exaggerated unweighting of the shoulders to help me pull up. In both slow-motion segments, I remember trying to wait as long as possible before bringing my knees up. It was scary, but it helped. I showed Dr. Romanov these clips for analysis and he recommended making my unweighting quicker (like the quick down-up on hang cleans, or on my jump shot). That makes sense, as it helps with muscle-tendon elasticity, so I will be sure to try that next time.

*"plant" is probably not the best word to use - as it implies a hard stop - but it's common lingo, so I'll use it. More like the "roll" or "pivot" foot, though.

Basketball skill. There are two main parts to getting the timing right on a shot; the most important is the footwork. Left foot-right foot when moving to your right, and right foot-left foot when moving to your left. As mentioned above, this keeps the point of support closer to under your hips than if the footwork was opposite, and therefore gives us more momentum to elevate. The next part is the unweighting, and I finally figured this out as the video was being recorded. In the last shot I take, watch my head relative to the wall and notice the point where it stops moving; this is a moment of being weightless and it's also the point where I do the most pushing. This is the ideal timing for a jump shot and why a lot of coaches say, "shoot it at the top of your jump." But this is the first time I felt the same thing I feel on cleans, and it's because it was the first time I was looking for it.

Box jump position. When your skill is good, you can get away with having less than ideal anatomical positions because all injuries have to do with gravity. Strength is for when we have to work against gravity, or extra bodyweight. But the thing is, having good positions will help maximize our work with gravity. On my jump, notice the loading position: hips back and shins pretty vertical. This is also the same for basketball.

Sounds an awful lot like the squat we teach. Also, my torso is not what many coaches would call "upright." In fact, most squatting in sports does not happen with an upright torso; this is signature to the professional cleaners mentioned at the top of this post. Even though we always work towards having the capacity to squat like a Banet or Mrs. Carey, this is why Kroll and Mama V squatting like this is not always a bad thing. Since a straight-on video would have been blocked by the plates, I only got the side position. Luckily jumping is jumping, so we get to see the same positions and faults on the court.

Basketball position. You could look at a freezeframe like this...

... and be like HOLY CRAP THOSE KNEES! And that was my first reaction. But then after analyzing it, I don't think it's a bad position at all. First off, consider that my plant foot was my left  (the one that took the most force). In the freezeframe, my left foot is straight and my knee is out over the little toe (a good thing). The right foot lands straight forward, completing the redirection, and the knee is projected in the direction I am changing. Two things that could have made this a bad position are 1) my right foot being turned out instead of straight or 2) planting with the right leg first and taking all that weight abruptly instead of rolling through it; in other words, bad strength or bad skill.

The actual bad part, in my opinion, was the left foot. Remember, the left foot is the one that begins the change of direction and takes most of my weight. If you watch the video below, my left knee gets the speed wobbles when loaded. This is a problem that needs to be fixed. It doesn't seem to do it as much on the right (which might be why I prefer to pull-up that way). This lowering down motion on one foot - in weight room lingo - is known as the pistol, and luckily my hips are back and taking a lot of load off the knee.

Analyzing movement in terms of skill and strength is what helps me determine what an athlete needs to work on. That idea came from Carl Paoli back in 2012 when he came to visit, but it is finally becoming clear(ish) in the entire movement spectrum. This is only possible when looking past the "code" of the weight room. When you can see that front squat, back squat, clean, kettlebell swing, and box jump are all the same freaking thing, then you can start to make connections and define best practices. It's Hermione's Law: keep zooming out until you can see the entire picture. The best place to start is with gravity, then work your way down until you reach the thing you care about.


As a bonus, here's the full 8 minute video. Two notes: first, I was broke as a joke before this segment, then I fixed the unweighting part. Second, Jacob was really hungry: Vulgarilly so.

New Kids on the Block: Andrew and Charlie

This is the first of what I hope is a long string of Champions Club members to come from my private basketball coaching. Andrew Baumert's mother contacted me over the Summer about setting up private basketball lessons, but they never came to fruition. However I reached back out to her in October and luckily their schedule finally cleared up. So we did a few good one-on-one sessions but Andrew didn't make his 7th grade school team. Fortunately, both him and his mom aren't pouting and whining, but rather taking the opportunity to work harder.

Andrew signed up for Fundamentals last week and even brought his brother, Charlie, in with him. Charlie is a freshman at Romeo High School and plays lacrosse. They are both two days into Fundamentals.

So far, it would appear that their general movement strength is the glaring weak spot, while their coordination is not - as is apparent with their technique on push-ups, hollow rocks, and kb swing timing, and with how well jump ropes improved during their workout on Day 2. They also seem like fun kids to coach, and with really supportive parents (not the I'll Do Everything For You parents but the You'll Be Fine Kiddo parents) I think we could have a good combo to add to our group assuming they can make the drive work. But for now, I'll check back in after Day 7.

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:


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


  • 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.