Instruction v. Exposure

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For anyone who works with youth sports, particularly high school aged youth sports, you’ve probably heard a player or parent ask: “How can I get more exposure to college coaches?” I believe that we should refocus┬áthis question to “Where can I get the best instruction?”

I understand and appreciate the desire to “be seen” by college coaches in your sport. I had the opportunity to play college basketball and it was one of the most impactful and important experiences of my life. I have seen, however, too many families who are only focused on the exposure they are getting once they have made it to high school and have started to dream about the possibility of playing their sport in college. Instead of enjoying the game and improving their skills, they focus on who is watching and how their individual play is being evaluated. Why is this a problem? In order to understand it, it is important to look at the roots of the words “instruction” and “exposure.”

The word instruct is simply defined as “to teach someone a subject or skill.” When you are receiving instruction in your sport a coach or other teacher is spending time teaching you skills important to the game. The environments that this teaching takes place usually are safe places where it is ok to make mistakes, it is ok to stop and discuss things with the teacher, and it is ok to ask questions of others. By nature, a teaching environment does not contain the pressure of a performance environment, thus allowing the student to learn at his or her own pace and focus on improving weaknesses. All too often, when athletes get to the high school level they believe that they don’t really have anything else to learn; they usually know the basics and their physical abilities have made them better than most of their peers. This false sense of security leads players to de-emphasize or completely ignore their need for skill instruction from qualified coaches and teachers of their game. The reality is that as your game advances, it becomes even MORE important to get quality coaching and instruction to get better. One of the coaches that I’ve had the pleasure of working with at the Jay Bilas Skills Camp is Alan Stein and he shared his experience in working with Steph Curry, arguably the most skilled player in the NBA today. Continuing to learn and receive instruction will ensure that you continue to improve your game.

On the contrary, the word expose is defined as “to reveal something hidden.” If you think about this, how often do you really WANT exposure? Players and parents alike think that anything that is providing them exposure to college coaches and scouts is a good thing; the reality is that every one of those “exposure camps” or “exposure events” is designed to reveal something hidden. Every time you play in front of a college coach, they are looking for you to expose your weaknesses. If you can’t guard one on one, that will be exposed. If you aren’t a good teammate or aren’t coachable, that will be exposed. If you are one dimensional in your offensive skills, that will be exposed. The whole purpose of exposure events and the evaluation periods for college coaches is for them to determine which players they are going to spend time pursuing in a more personal manner. The easiest way to shorten that list is for your skills to be exposed in relation to others of your same age group. Once you step between the lines in games at these exposure events, your game is what it is and it will be exposed.

I get it, players and parents still want a chance to play their sport at the college level and our current system relies on exposure events to give college coaches a chance to see players who may be able to play at their level. I’m not suggesting that there is no value to exposure events and that everyone should stop attending them. What I am suggesting is that skill instruction SHOULD NOT BE OVERLOOKED for high school athletes. It isn’t good enough to just get your teaching during your high school season and then go play on a club team or travel team to get exposure. Players who are serious about continuing to improve so that they can COMPETE at the next level, should seek out opportunities for instruction in the off season as well. This might mean choosing a club team or AAU team that is focused on teaching and improving your game. This might mean going to camps where the focus is on improving your skills, not showing off for college coaches. This might mean skipping a few ‘exposure events’ so that you can get some one on one instruction from a qualified teacher of your game. And it definitely means a lot more individual work on your own and small group work with your friends to improve your skills. If you focus more on INSTRUCTION, I can almost guarantee that there will be less to EXPOSE when you’re in front of those college coaches.

Airport Tips for the Amateur Traveler

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Every now and then, when I’ve got a busy week of travel, I start the week by reminding myself of the best practices I’ve learned over years of business travel and then I take a deep breath before I head to the airport because I know that there will be a lot of folks acting completely insane and irrational. I’ve learned there’s nothing I can do about them or any of the other myriad of frustrations at the airport. However, I can help inform my friends and family who read this that don’t travel as much about some often overlooked tips.

For your traveling pleasure, might I remind you…

  • If you don’t travel a lot and know your way around your home airport, don’t push it time-wise. It will take you longer than you think, so get there at least 1.5-2 hours before your scheduled departure.
  • Pack light: If you can avoid checking a bag by getting everything in a roller board or bag that will fit overhead, you’ll save yourself a ton of time on both the front end and back end of your flight.
  • Check in ahead of time. A few years back, Al Gore invented the internet. Despite their tardiness, all airlines have completely adopted online check in. I would encourage you to use it and either print your boarding pass at home or use their handy apps to get your boarding pass. If you heed the above mentioned light packing, you’ll avoid the ticket counters altogether.
  • In America, we walk as we drive, on the right side. If you can remember this, we’ll all move more smoothly in the airport and not have traffic jams. On a related note, if you see someone running, kindly move out of the way. They are in a hurry and are about to miss a flight!
  • Be kind and patient with one another. It has been my experience that gate agents don’t try to screw people over on purpose. They have a job to do and strict guidelines to that job. It probably isn’t personal and you attract a lot more flies with honey than vinegar.
  • Don’t line up until your group is called. Some of us travel a lot and we’ve earned the status that gives us the right to get on the plane first. Creating a big crowd of Zone 4 people right by the gate is actually slowing things down because I’m getting on before you one way or another and I’m not getting up and adding to that crowd until I hear “Now boarding Executive Platinum for Milwaukee.”
  • If the gate agent tells you to gate check your bag, gate check your bag. Some planes aren’t big enough for the giant Wal-Mart roll on you brought. And if you are in Zone 4 and have been standing there blocking things for everyone else, there probably isn’t any overhead room anyway. Just check it.
  • If you choose to dress like a slob, ignore everyone around you while you loudly talk on the phone, make a mess of the terminal, and act like an ass then expect to be treated like the unprofessional person you appear to be. If you want to be treated like a professional, dress like you’re not getting ready for a sleep over and treat other people the way you want to be treated.

I hope that helps all of my amateur travel friends. Happy flying!