What You Can Learn From Steve Nash
I am not sure if you saw it, but Steve Nash cried after his Phoenix Suns lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals. After showing sincere sportsmanship in congratulating Kobe Bryant and crew, the cameras briefly caught him shedding a few tears in the locker room as he hugged coach Alvin Gentry.
Seeing him cry made me respect him even more.
Steve Nash has a genuine passion you rarely see in professional sports. In the past couple of weeks, he has had his eye split open and his nose broken...and not a tear in sight. And yet he cares so much about winning, about his teammates, about the organization he plays for, and about the game of basketball...he was brought to tears when the season was officially over. I love that. I admire any player with that type of passion.
A colleague of mine, Brian McCormick, has been saying for years that even though Nash isn't a highlight reel dunker, he is absolutely one of the best athletes in the NBA. I adamantly agree.
Most people judge athletic prowess solely on one's ability to jump. But Nash demonstrates his elite athletic ability in a myriad of other ways -- hand/eye coordination, body control, balance, and the power to decelerate on a dime. And let's not forget his stamina. He is always one of the best conditioned players in the league. I watched him do a halftime interview this past season and he wasn't even remotely out of breath. And he had just played the entire first half!
Steve Nash is the epitome of everything you want in a basketball player. He is fundamentally sound and understands the game. He is savvy, unselfish, and physically and mentally tough. He is committed to being the best player he can be, is a remarkable teammate, and a resilient leader. And to top it off, he is a two-time league MVP, consistent All-Star, and a future Hall of Famer.
I have been very fortunate to work the Nike Basketball Skills Academies since their inception four years ago. In 2008, I had the pleasure to work the Steve Nash Point Guard Academy. True to form, and the reason the camp is named after him, Steve Nash was spectacular. I am so thankful for having had the opportunity to meet him and to learn from him.
Despite his commanding presence on the court, he was very soft spoken and humble. Instead of just showing up because he had to, he spent quality time with the players.
He explained how the key to life is being able to find solutions (on and off the court). Plenty of people have (and/or cause) problems, but the people that consistently find solutions are the ones who are successful.
He also focused on the importance of being a good teammate; someone people want to coach, want to play with, and want to be around. Lots of guys have talent in the NBA, but the ones who have long careers are the ones who do the little things to get better every day. He said this quality is paramount for point guards.
Steve credited his work ethic and desire to get better as the pillars to his success. He said he wakes up every day and asks, "How can I make myself better today?"
He has a master list of every shot in his offensive arsenal--jump shots, runners, floaters, Euro-steps, quick lay-ups, and "wrong" foot lay-ups. During his offseason workouts, he makes 50 of each shot every day at game speed. So when you see Steve Nash make an amazing shot in a game, it isn't luck. He has practiced it thousands and thousands of times.
He also told the players that point guards need to be able to change direction, change speed, and understand the game better than every other player on the floor. He told them that basketball is all about percentages ("always make the highest percentage pass available and take the highest percentage shot") and angles ("your angles dictate your percentages").
He acknowledged that most people don't think of him as a great athlete because he doesn't jump very high and dunk over people. But he adamantly disagrees. He knows there is much more to being a good athlete than jumping. Steve also placed a high priority on being in impressive basketball shape, since that is a trait every player has complete control over.
His offseason workouts consist of training with his strength coach three times per week. They put a focus on core strength and stability. Many of his strength exercises add a balance component because he performs them on an unstable surface: BOSU ball, wobble board, etc. He doesn't play 5-on-5 during the summer but instead plays in two soccer leagues, jumps rope, and runs stairs for conditioning. He gets in daily shooting workouts to keep his handle and shot sharp. He stressed the importance of having a solid daily routine and creating sound work habits.
Just watching him in action with the campers was astounding. Even though he didn't go 100 percent, you could see how quick he is, how high his basketball IQ is, and how precise he is with everything he does. He is part sniper, part magician, and part conductor.
On the court, nothing he does is haphazard and he never appears flustered. He is always in complete control, regardless of the situation. Steve Nash represents everything that is right with the game of basketball and I sure enjoyed watching him work.
Another thing that makes Steve Nash so impressive is his longevity. He has maintained a consistently high level for a long time (just finished his 13th year in the NBA).
"Anyone can be great for a day or a week or even a year. It is consistent, long term excellence that is most impressive."
Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the Head Strength and Conditioning coach for the nationally renowned, Nike Elite DeMatha Catholic High School boys basketball program. He spent 7 years serving a similar position with the Montrose Christian basketball program. Alan brings a wealth of valuable experience to his training arsenal after years of extensive work with elite high school, college, and NBA players.
His passion, enthusiasm, and innovative training techniques make him one of the nation's leading experts on productive training for basketball players. Alan is a performance consultant for Nike Basketball as well as the head conditioning coach for the annual McDonald's All American game, the Jordan Brand All American Classic, and the Nike Summer Skills Academies. Alan is a camp coach at the prestigious NBA Players Association's Top 100 Camp as well as the Chris Paul CP3 Elite Backcourt Camp. Alan has filmed over a dozen DVDs on improving performance and is a sought after lecturer at basketball camps and clinics across the world. He has been featured in Winning Hoops, Time Out, Dime, SI.com, SLAMonline.com, American Basketball Quarterly, Stack, Men's Health, HOOP, and FIBA Assist Magazine.
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