By Doug Bernier
In 2007, when Kobe Bryant was undeniably at the top of his game, Alan Stein was given the unique opportunity to watch Kobe do his private morning workout. At the end of the workout, Kobe gave him some advice that was so deceptively simple that it would be easy for any of us to breeze past or gloss over it.
Today I want to share that advice with you… along with why Kobe’s advice is actually the power-packed secret sauce for some of the best athletes in the world…
…and why any athlete who is quarantined at home with extra free time on their hands should pay very, very close attention.
If you want to practice baseball at home, this should encourage you that you can actually get some very important work done, just by playing and doing baseball at home (and keep reading below for 3 specific examples of baseball practice drills you can do from home).
Advice from Kobe Bryant
During this particular workout, Kobe was on the court by himself and for the first 40 minutes all he did was simple footwork and pivot drills. There was no “flash and sizzle,” no highlight real plays, no dunking or goofing off, it was all basic fundamentals.
The observer later remarked, “I couldn’t believe it. I was watching superstar Kobe Bryant workout… and I was bored.”
Afterwards he asked Kobe, “You’re the best player in the world, why you doing the most basic drills?”
Kobe chuckled and said, “Why do you think I’m the best player in the world? The best never get bored with the basics.”
Every now and then I get a youth player or a very well-intentioned parent come up to me and ask, “at what age can I stop hitting off the tee?” or, “My kid did these basic fundamentals last week, he is bored, when can we move on to more exciting, things?”
The flashy play, the long homerun, the spinning jump throw is what we see on tv, it’s the exciting play that gets etched in our minds.
What we don’t see is the countless hours of work off the tee at 12:30 in the afternoon for a 7:05 game, or the 100 grounders an infielder takes on his knees at 1:15 that is part of his daily routine. Boring, at times maybe, but it’s essential to their consistency and greatness.
Mike Trout, Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer all hit off the batting tee.
They worked on grooving their swing, getting the “feel” they wanted and working on pitch locations that give them trouble.
How satisfying it is to hit a homer on a pitch location they were working on all afternoon from their tee session!
Great plays happen when fundamentals are a priority.
When a shortstop makes a jump throw from the 5/6 hole and fires a strike to first base, the non flashy practice of the basics allow this to happen .The daily focus on hop recognition, proper glove presentation on backhands, starting the throw from the chest to help with balance and timing, all play a part of completing the play.
The difference in the Major League veterans that have played 10 years and the rest of us…. is consistency. They are reliable everyday.
Its easy to be good sometimes. It’s NOT easy to be good every time.
I saw first hand how the best players often made a commitment to not just “getting through fundamentals”or “going through the motions”, but spending a lot of focus and commitment in an effort to be perfect on the basics. There is almost a competitive aspect in trying to be perfect on a skill that can seem easy at times.
I love Kobe’s thoughts. “Can I jump over two or three guys like I used to? No, am I as fast as I used to be? No, but I still have the fundamentals and the smarts. Thats what enables me to still be a dominant player. As a kid growing up, I never skipped steps.I always works on fundamentals because I know athleticism is fleeting.”
Legendary UCLA mens basketball coach John Wooden who preached the importance of fundamentals once said, “Champions are brilliant at the basics.”
His teams won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years. Not bad for a coach and a team that practiced basic fundamentals every day.
Finally, Michael Jordan said, “ You can practice shooting 8 hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”
I know working on the same basic drills everyday can get boring, and since most of us are at our homes with limited assistance or facilities, this is a good time to take Kobe’s advice to heart.
Being mentally strong enough to push through the basics with focus and intent may be what helps elevate your overall game.
Practical Application – What you can do TODAY
Be competitive with yourself (Competition can keep things from being monotonous).
Here’s some examples for baseball players.
Example 1 – Lets say you are working on throwing accuracy.
Step 1 – Create a target… Hang a frisbee from net and try to hit it, or tape a square on a wall or fence. Be creative, but just have a defined target
Step 2 – Try to hit it 10 times in a row, not just once or twice, but a perfect 10 out of 10. Try to be perfect.
Example 2 – Fielding
Maybe you have a pitch back net, a partner or a wall and are working on fielding ground balls, try to field 10 in a row cleanly, no bobbling.
If this is too easy, try 20 in a row or remove your glove and continue.
Example 3 – Hitting at home
As a kid I used to work on my hand-eye coordination by find things like dirt clods or seeds from a tree in my yard. I’d throw them in the air air and hit with PVC pipe. You could do the same thing with a bat and little plastic whiffle balls… toss them into the air and hit into a net. Compete against a parent or sibling and see who can get the most without missing.
Don’t neglect the small things. Create a good foundation now by working on the basics in your garage, backyard, or even in your house.
Make these days count and no matter how advanced you get, always find time for fundamentals, just like Kobe, MJ, and John Wooden.
PS. The clock is ticking away on our “shelter at home time.” Before too long, life will pick up where it left off, and this unique opportunity for LOTS of family time… and being at home to work together on baseball… will be gone.
Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, PIT Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. (You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier) Where is he now? After 16 years of playing professionally, Doug retired and took a position as a Major League scout with the Colorado Rockies for 2 years. Currently Doug is the Data and Game Planning Coordinator with the Colorado Rockies