The Basketball Business: Basketball Skill Trainers and Hype

On a message forum, a dad asked for a really good trainer for his son (he did not specify his age). He said only a trainer with experience working with college and pro players need apply, and he made a derogatory remark toward youth basketball trainers.

On Vern Gambetta’s blog, he has had a series of posts talking about the hype and marketing of some trainers. In one of his posts, titled “For Sale-Latest Training Secrets,” Gambetta writes:

Gotcha – the secret is there are no secrets. The answer is there is no answer. Mentoring, networking, experiences and hard work are the answer, not a $99.95 boxed set of DVD’s

This made me think about some of the basketball trainers and products I have seen hyped recently. I got an email from a guy asking me to be a part of his next money-making product (though he did not want to pay me for my submission). He said he was collecting all the top trainers in the country. I asked for a list. I had never heard of them. I hear from a lot of different people around the country about a lot of different trainers, so while my ignorance does not mean that these are not the best trainers, it creates some doubt.

After the email, and my questions, the guy dropped the name of a certain trainer. I had just seen an advertisement about his product on socalhoops, so I googled him. This is his pitch:

You Might have seen me on T.V., read my articles on the web, or heard about me from a fellow athlete, friend or coach. But one thing can be certain: you probably haven’t heard of me from the world class athletes and pros I work with.

I emailed eight trainers and coaches I know. None had ever heard of this guy. He continues:

They hide me away as their secret weapon – because I help them completely transform their game and make them truckloads of money with my complete basketball enhancement system.

This is ridiculous. I know some players do not want to tell others about their trainer. Heck, parents have done it to me. However, if he works with as many players as he claims, the hat is out of the bag:

Since I am regarded by all these pro athletes, top division one players, High school all Americans, the best of the coaching world, an over 5,000 regular ballers just like you

So, over 5,000 people regard him as the “best of the coaching world,” but not one will talk about him. It’s possible, but hard to believe. Next, he says:

as the hands down, only go to guy, completely unique, undisputed Basketball performance Expert,

This is too much. He calls himself the “best of the coaching world” and the “undsiputed basketball performance expert” (and he has typos in his hype, too!). Yet none of my friends, all of whom spend hours talking to basketball people and researching training methods have heard of this guy.

Just as an example, no fewer than 10 people I trust have told me that the Denver Nuggets’ Tim Grgurich is the best, and I have received emails from people about plenty of trainers, from David Thorpe to Jerry Powell.

The problem is that this is exactly what people want to hear. It’s the perfect marketing pitch. People want to be good, but they do not want to work hard. They want some magic formula. Vern Gambetta had a post on a similar subject yesterday:

How many of these have you seen: Buy it now, internet special only $119.95 – Learn the secrets of the Super bowl Champions or how about Shoot like Lebron James in Six Sessions or your money back.

I read one of the trainer’s articles on the three biggest secrets to success or something like that. His secret was to bend your knees. He’s selling some super-hyped product and calling his training “unique” and labeling himself the best in the world and his secret is to bend your knees. Revolutionary!!

I have not seen this guy’s product just as I have not bought any of the products about which Gambetta is writing. However, I know that there is no short cut to success. It takes work and effort. Trainers and coaches can assist, provide motivation and feedback, teach skills and more, but, in the end, players dictate their success through their effort, commitment and dedication.

There is nothing new in basketball. Different people have different approaches and innovation occurs when coaches or trainers take the old and tweak it or improve it. However, regardless of tweaking and improving, it is still about the fundamentals. To be successful, you have to do the work on the court; you have to be coachable; you have to eat right; you have to hydrate; you have to listen to your body and rest when appropriate; you have to be in good shape; you have to have a dedication to the details.

If you do all these things, success is likely regardless of whose program you use or how much money you spend. If you ignore these things, no amount of money in the world is going to buy you success.

These marketing pitches are all hype and gimmicks. In the case of the comments on Gambetta’s site, I swear several personal trainers became “experts” by mentioning each other over and over in newsletters and blogs until people became so familiar with their names that they are now considered experts. One of them is famous for his business product which he sells and promises to make trainers a bunch of money. These are gimmicks. They may make the trainers rich, so they accomplish their goals, but what about the clients?

I don’t really like to criticize or call-out other trainers because people will suggest it is jealousy or whatever. I emailed eight colleagues and several replied and said I should go after this guy because consumers are unaware. So, take the comments for what they are. Buyer beware.

As for the post on socalhoops, training a child is a way different animal than training a pro. Just because one is good with pros does not mean he is good with kids. Pros already possess skills and are at an autonmous level. They train. Their trainers mainly work on their physical tools, like strength, stamina, etc. Kids need teaching. They need to learn good habits and develop skills properly. These are not the same processes.

I am tired of my email and web site getting spammed, so I want to be 100% clear. In my email, I received this message today:

Who’s The Next NBA All Star?
You are!
If You Enroll…

That is awesome. I am 32-years-old and haven’t played a pick-up game in over a year, but all I need is one class and I’ll be ready to take on Kobe. This is the greatest deal ever. Where can I sign up? Anyone want to give me an advance on the million-dollar contract I am sure to sign once I complete the class? I can’t wait to form my entourage! Maybe a reality television show!

Back to Gambetta:

WORK and talent is the same no matter what the language. That is the secret and you do not have to pay for it – WORK – specific, individual, planned and directed work that helps each athlete to tap into their talent. No short cuts, no magic potions or exercises. If you study what champions do regardless of sport discipline, regardless of the era, you will see one common ingredient – WORK!

Man, that is a bummer. The email said all I have to do is take one class, but Gambetta wants me to work. What about my entourage? Do they have to work too?

I received this email because this is their system. I know because they tried to get me to participate. Several trainers write a chapter for a book. They are not paid. You get an affiliate fee for the sales from your links. The more you hustle and pimp someone else’s product, the more you make. I have heard the owner pays the highest affiliate fees in the business, which is why so many people line up to endorse his product. Basically, it is a get rich quick internet special plan. It’s all marketing and hype.

Does anyone really believe these claims:

You have never learned and will have another opportunity to learn directly form some of the most unstoppable pro ballers exactly how to get tot he NBA,Become a Heart Thumping, Fan Drooling, magical hoops star.

People are free to produce any product they want and if people buy it, more power to them. They can get rich off the stupidity and dreams of others. That’s America.

However, if they want to promise that I can be an NBA All-Star, I will take every opportunity to expose the truth. These products are hype. Sure, there may be some good information inside. Who knows? I’m not paying for it. The free articles contain almost nothing of value, not an original thought.

Hype will not get you to the League. I know a kid who is the greatest hype machine ever. He’s a friend of a friend. He got all kinds of recruiting sites talking about him. Every year, there were rumors he was going to Arizona, USC, etc. He never went anywhere. He went to prep school. He was supposed to go to Texas Tech or some Big East school out of prep school. He went nowhere. Last I heard, he called a trainer I know because he was signing with an agent and going pro overseas and he wanted to train. The trainer was ready to go the next morning. After 2 months, they had never worked out.

Sure, it’s great to boost your ego by tricking these people into talking about you like you’re the real deal. Eventually, people see through the hype and you’re an unemployed, ex-baller that people laugh at because of all the stunts you pulled even though you had no game to back it up.

That’s hype. That’s not real. Real is being in the gym getting better. Basketball ain’t rocket science. You put in deliberate practice and you improve. Nobody can sell you a scholarship. There is no magic formula and all the answers do not come in a box.

This product is another internet marketing scam to enrich a couple people off the dreams of basketball players. Do not be fooled. It’s nothing more than empty promises, marketing and hype. It’s like the Home Shopping Network ads for 7-minute abs. They are scams. They have enough truth not to get sued for false advertising (like, if you have 7% body fat, you can probably get 7-minute abs), but they are not useful products. They are marketing. They play to American’s laziness and the desire for short cuts around the work required to be great.

If you want to be great, dedicate yourself and work hard. Don’t believe the hype.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice

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