Eastbay recently chatted with renowned basketball trainer DJ Sackmann to talk about the most important aspects of training, pet peeves of his, where the game is going, and what you can do to stay ready during COVID. Make sure to check out the training video as well to add some tricks to your jab game.
Q: What is the most rewarding thing for you about coaching?
A: That’s a loaded one. I like empowering the players I’m working with. Empowering and helping them understand that with diligent and hard work you can accomplish anything. Say your goal is to make it to the NBA. The majority of players will not make it to the NBA, but if they’re working hard on that goal, they will eventually land where they should be. Hopefully, it will be doing something they are passionate about, that they love. I love helping kids build the right habits and work ethic through the game of basketball that will carry over for the rest of their lives.
Q: What are some key things you think middle and high school kids forget to work on?
A: For middle and high school kids, I think the basketball training world is oversaturated. Players are training too much and not playing enough. I think kids need to be playing in a more uncontrolled environment. Whether that’s 1v1, 3v3, or 5v5, I think that’s a missing element right now. Training is good, but mixing in playing with their training is a missing component with that middle school and high school group.
Q: Yeah, that’s where you really learn because you can be as comfortable as you want in a controlled environment, but if you can’t perform in a game situation then what have you really learned?
A: Exactly! When a lot of the kids are playing now, it’s only with one of their coaches, either AAU, high school, or middle school, so they can’t make mistakes. Anytime they make mistakes, they’re getting yelled at or taken out of the game. Uncontrolled environments allow them to explore some of those weak points in their game without getting yelled at or benched.
Q: What are some of your favorite things to work on with young athletes?
A: First off, I want them to enjoy the process and have fun with it. I think it’s important for them to remember why they’re playing the game; they’re playing because they love it. Once they find some success in it, they’re enjoying it, then you can go a little bit more attention to detail and really expand on what they can already do.
Q: What do you think is the hardest position to master (guard, big, wing) and why?
A: I think all the positions are equally hard to master. I would go by whoever is the leader of the team because they are responsible for making sure every player is maximizing their potential. Typically, that’s the point guard, but not always. Look at someone like LeBron James – he’s not necessarily the point guard but he is the leader of that team. Whoever it is that’s responsible for managing all the personalities and maximizing everyone’s potential, that’s the person with the most difficult job.
Q: What are some of the mental aspects you think kids are overlooking these days?
A: Number one is confidence, without question. Without confidence, you can’t play the game. I see this a lot with players overthinking during training. They’re getting too much instruction, and suddenly they’re overthinking. Once that happens, your confidence is going to be affected. Focusing on having fun and keeping your confidence is super overlooked, and it can be challenging to do.
Q: What is something a player does when you’re watching a game that is your biggest pet peeve?
A: I think body language is huge. I work with a lot of players who are working on getting a scholarship. I’ve seen bad body language become the difference between getting a full scholarship and having to pay for school. It’s something most players can control too. I see way too many kids who aren’t comfortable making mistakes. They’re a little insecure, and that’s when you’ll see bad body language come out. It’s a pet peeve of mine because it shows they haven’t worked on it, or they haven’t had the right people around them to harp on the idea that this isn’t ok.
Q: Kids are playing so much more basketball nowadays and receiving so much more instruction, whether it’s their high school coach, AAU coach, or if they have their own personal trainer. What are some things you think these coaches could do a better job teaching?
A: They could do a better job giving their players more freedom rather than boxing them in and just focusing on the things they’re going to do well for their teams. In high school, coaches need to allow their players to explore some of their weaknesses in their game. Coaches can still give players a plan of what they expect from them this upcoming season. It’s about working to maximize those few components while also expanding on their overall game.
I don’t think coaches are giving their players enough plans or setting expectations for them about the future. These players are out here training recklessly, unsure of what their jobs are. I think there is a more systematic way to go about, “Hey this is what you’re going to do this season, this is what I’m expecting from you, and these are 2-3 weaknesses you can improve on.” Then a more long-term approach where it’s, ‘Hey, in 2 or 3 years we’re expecting this and this from you, and maybe we’ll be able to get you a scholarship if you work on these things.”
Q: How is high school basketball different now than when you were playing?
A: More positionless basketball is trickling all the way down from the NBA. There are more players able to handle the basketball and shoot than when I was playing. Our 4s and our 5s, when I was in high school, they weren’t shooting 3s. You’ll have a couple of true 5s on some teams, but the majority of players are putting the ball on the floor. The floor is more spread out, and if you can’t shoot or handle it, you’re going to struggle to reach a high level one day.
Q: How do you see the game changing moving forward, and are there any rule changes you would like to see at the high school, college, or NBA level.
A: I think you’re going to see players be able to shoot from even deeper. The further your range is, the easier the game is for you. It forces defenders to pick you up much higher, which causes the help side to be much deeper. This creates more room to attack once players step over half-court, because there’s now extra space between there and the three-point line.
One of my biggest things I would love to see changed in high school basketball across America, is the shot clock. It sounds silly, but New Jersey doesn’t have a shot clock, and New York does. It’s messing with a lot of stats for a lot of kids, and it completely changes the game. I wish there were more concrete guidelines across states so that everyone is competing under the same set of rules. In New Jersey, you’ll get a team up by 10 in the 4th quarter, and they’ll hold the ball. It’s not fun for the fans or players at all.
Q: COVID has obviously impacted sports in ways we could never have imagined. There are a ton of kids out there right now who don’t know if they’re even going to play this year. Do you have any advice for kids who are out on their own training without the benefit of a system?
A: I think right now, players should focus on controlling what they can control. What I mean by that is you can always continue to work on your game. Stay ready, so when the time comes, players are conditioned, feeling good, and confident in their games. It’s also a good time to work on a couple weaknesses. Take shooting for example. If you’re struggling shooting the basketball and you need to make a switch, now is the perfect time to do that. You can focus on repping it out so when games are back on you don’t fall back into bad habits. Then hopefully in a few months when we’re playing again, they’ve fixed that subtle detail they were missing in their game.
It’s 2020. You’d think by now we’d have flying cars, alien best friends, and gender equality, but before those dreams come true, science has more to discover, and we’ve got more to conqHER.
In the meantime, Eastbay continues making history of its own. For Women’s History Month, Destyni Swoope designed our March catalog cover, becoming the first external artist to do so. If you’re on our catalog mailing list, you’ll be able to see her cool art in person, but her inspiration and her story are equally amazing, so we decided to talk with her about Eastbay, her art, and women’s empowerment. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What was your experience with Eastbay growing up?
A: Growing up as a young athlete, I anticipated getting the Eastbay catalogs in the mail. It was like the sneaker bible! Back then, my brother and I would circle and star all the things we wanted and leave it out on the table in hopes that our mom would feel generous and buy us something. Haha! It was fun to see the gear that our favorite players wore and then be able to copy their swag. Eastbay catalogs have always been a huge part of the culture; I don’t know too many people who didn’t love flipping through them as a kid.
Q: You said you were a young athlete, what sports did you play growing up?
A: My love for basketball began when my older brother introduced it to me. We shared a room most of our younger years, so I naturally took after him and embraced hoop culture. I started playing with the kids on my block, and eventually my family signed me up at the rec center where I played through high school. I had coaches, but my father was the one who really pushed and supported my desire to play – we practiced and worked on my game constantly. When I got older, he even took me to the gym to play games of 21 with grown men on the courts to really put me to the test. That’s where my drive and love for basketball flourished.
Q: So, as a former youth athlete to now being an artist, what life advice would you give to young Eastbay athletes?
A: I’d say, always let the passion you have for your craft lead the way. Be open to learning experiences and remain a student of the game, because, outside of the game, you’re a student of life. The fundamentals and skills you learn in your craft follow you into life. Embrace your inner beast and constantly reach for perfection. A great high school coach of mine drilled this into my head saying, “MTXE,” which stands for “Mental Toughness, Extra Effort.” I found that this follows me outside of athletics in my journey as an artist. I strive to always reach higher and put my all into each opportunity.
January is one of the coldest, darkest times of the year in most parts of the U.S. The wind is biting, the snow is deep, and it feels like summer will never return again. In the mid-90s, Nike had a remedy for the bone-chilling temps and less-than-favorable traction: All Conditions Gear. Eastbay catalogs were chock full of hiking boots, trail shoes, Dri-FIT shirts, Therma-FIT pants, and Clima-FIT jackets that kept the body dry and comfortable no matter how hard the snow and sleet came down. One of the people responsible for a lot of what we saw and wore in the ’90s was designer Michael Hernandez. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about what it was like to be part of a team that was setting the standard for outdoor apparel and functional innovative technologies.
Drew: What was your role with Nike back in the ’90s?
Michael: I was hired by Nike in 1991. During the ’90s, I held several different positions ranging from Product Graphic Designer, Art Director, Design Director and Senior Designer. I contributed on many of Nike’s sport categories during this time including Sports Graphics, Sports Marketing, Jordan, Retail (Niketown), Running, and many Special Projects. I’m a huge fan of product and brand working together to conceive and create compelling products and stories that resonate with the consumer. Product designers often find that their stories and inspiration never make it to the consumer. I was very motivated to work in collaboration with other designers and marketers with the end in mind, delivering our product with stories that inspired athletes, retailers, and consumers.
Drew: Can you tell me about the ACG logo we see on all the gear?
Michael: One of the Nike categories I worked extensively on was All Conditions Gear (ACG). ACG had been around for years and was known mostly for the innovative outdoor footwear. The outdoor marketplace was catering to more of a traditional outdoor consumer who wore a lot of brown shoes. ACG really started to push into new territories with product by innovating. Footwear started to become much more youthful and performance-driven, and the aesthetics started to be informed by trends happening in the marketplace. Consumers were migrating to products that embraced color and new materials. Snowboarding was really pushing outerwear in fun and interesting directions and ACG’s consumer was shifting.
Another brand designer and I were asked to rebrand the ACG logo. We designed for months and presented our own ideas. They choose my design and adopted a new brand direction that was more youthful, performance-driven, and modern. The new branding supported other product categories ACG was building market share in, which included mountain biking, snowboarding, and water sports. The new logo signaled that the brand was less of a granola-eating, tree-hugging product line. ACG was heading down new paths and needed to evolve to a younger mindset.
Drew: What was your favorite design/shoe/apparel?
Michael: That would be the Trek Mountain Bike Team uniform. ACG sponsored the Trek Mountain Bike Team and I designed a wide range of garments with sublimated graphics that the team used to train and compete in. The jersey was in tune with the new ACG logo with its streamlined, bold, and simple aesthetic. Nike had been in the cycling business prior to ACG but began investing more into competitive biking, which eventually led to Nike sponsoring the U.S. Postal Service Cycling team.
Drew: A lot of the footwear had interesting names – was there any particular model that had a great story behind it?
Michael: You’re so right – ACG was known for its creative footwear names like Nike Air Rivaderchi, Pocket Knife, and Air Moc (Potato Shoe) to name just a few. I would have to say that the Air Mowabb was the shoe design that leaves the most influence over time for so many reasons. My 23 years at Nike were filled with some amazing experiences. But, most of all, I worked with so many talented people that made the most impact on my design career. I reported to Tinker Hatfield for years, working on his team and learning footwear design. I remember Tinker’s inspiration boards for the Air Mowabb. He drew everything by hand, including the logo that had a lot of personality. His ability to tell a story through his outdoor experiences (Mowabb, Utah) and design skills was impressive to say the least. The original Air Mowabb colors and material story were very fresh then and hold up to this day. This design was deemed more of an outdoor “sneaker.” ACG was leading the outdoor industry by walking away from traditional hiking designs, and running in new directions.
Drew: There were many innovative technologies being introduced rather quickly, such as Dri-FIT, Therma-FIT, and Clima-FIT. Did you play a role in developing any of these fabrics, and if so, which was your favorite?
Michael: Yes, the Nike-FIT system of fabric technologies were being used across the Nike categories. Dri-FIT was being used in Team Sports as a first layer that far exceeded the benefits of cotton undergarments. Nike-FIT got a real boost when it was promoted through advertising and launched a new branding scheme that I was responsible for designing. I redesigned the Nike-FIT branding marks and created a menu of product trim application to marry up with the fabrics. The trim applications menu included molded patches, woven labels, reflective labels, heat transfers, and screenprints.
The benefits of Nike-FIT were also communicated with informative technical illustrations that we applied to a new Nike-FIT hangtag system and sublimated interior label packages. The new system was not confined to just apparel – footwear leveraged the fabric technologies as well. The ACG and Running categories implemented this system the deepest. The benefits of appropriate apparel layering came to a head when we educated consumers on why layering correctly improved personal performance and comfort.
Drew: What are you working on currently, and can you share a little bit about The Bruin Co.?
Michael: I started up my design and marketing consultancy, The Bruin Co. five years ago. I’ve designed footwear and other products, though the lion’s share of projects are focused on branding. I have branded and rebranded many clients’ businesses with a focus on elevating their brand and getting more strategic about how they tell their stories and focus on their consumers with more purpose.
My last role at Nike was Global Brand Creative Director. I spent a decade at Nike focused on brand design, gaining valuable experience creating and implementing seasonal global directives that included applications for Product, Retail and Digital. I also worked on content creation that included TV broadcast and web/viral content. Thanks for the opportunity to share some of my design experiences. Design is more than a slogan. You can just do it or go big or go home. Either way it’s all about the small details. The Bruin Co. is located in Salem, Oregon. Find us at www.TheBruinCo.com and on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/bruinstudio/?hl=en
The final round of voting for the AAU Sullivan Award is now open! You can vote by clicking here. Since 1930, the prestigious award has been given to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States, and some of the biggest names in sports have been honored with the award.
Past winners include Carl Lewis, Peyton Manning, Bill Walton, Michelle Kwan, Michael Phelps, Ezekiel Elliot, Tim Tebow, Shawn Johnson, Missy Franklin, and J.J. Redick.
The final round of voting will close on March 22, so make sure to get your votes in quickly! You can vote once every 24 hours here. And now, let’s meet the finalists! The nominees are some of the best athletes in the world, many with gold medals and national titles to their names.
Ashleigh Johnson, Water Polo
As a two-time semi-finalist, Johnson is no stranger to the AAU Sullivan Award, and for good reason. She’s already one of the best water polo players in the world, with a stacked résumé that includes a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Johnson also took home Top Goalkeeper honors in Rio and was named 2016 Water Polo Player of the Year by Swimming World magazine and 2016 Women’s Sports Foundation Sports Woman of the Year.
Lauren Carlini, Volleyball
Carlini had one of the most prolific careers in Big 10 volleyball history at Wisconsin. She took home All-Big Ten honors all four years, the first in program history to do so. She also ranks first in Wisconsin history with 74 career double-doubles and second in career assists with 5,599. She was recognized with All-American honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association three straight seasons. Perhaps most impressive, Carlini helped Team USA bring home a bronze medal from the 2016 Pan American Cup.
Ginny Thrasher, Olympic-Style Rifle Shooting
Thrasher’s most recent claim to fame: winning the U.S.’s very first gold medal at the 2016 Olympic games. Winning Olympic gold is impressive enough, but even more impressive at age 19. Not only did Thrasher bring home the gold, she did it convincingly. In the 10m air rifle competition, she defeated her opponent by a full point, which is considered a wide margin in a sport where precision is key. In addition to her gold medal, Thrasher also has a pair of NCAA Championships from her freshman season at West Virginia University.
Kyle Snyder, Freestyle Wrestling
Snyder is one of the biggest names in wrestling today. The 20-year-old has already put his stamp on the record books as the youngest gold medalist in U.S. wrestling history. He took home Olympic Gold in Rio and also owns an NCAA Championship. The Ohio State product has a Freestyle World Cup championship on his résumé, as well.
Kayla Harrison, Judo
Harrison isn’t just one of the best in the world. She is the best in the world. She finished 2016 ranked No. 1 in the world in her weight class after winning her second gold medal. Harrison is the first American judoka to ever win an Olympic gold medal, and she successfully defended her title with another gold medal in Rio last year.
Laurie Hernandez, Gymnastics
Hernandez was a member of the Team USA gynamistic team that took the nation by storm at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. In addition to helping Team USA bring home a gold medal in the team event, Hernandez’s score of 15.333 on the balance beam earned her a silver medal for her individual performance.
Aly Raisman, Gymnastics
As the captain of both the 2012 and 2016 USA gymnastics teams, Raisman is one of the most decorated U.S. gymnasts in history. She is the first U.S. gynmast to win back-to-back medals in the floor event. The 2016 Olympics cemented her legacy, bringing her medal total to three golds and six career Olympic medals, the second most in U.S. gymnastics history.
Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier is here to help you become a star outfielder.
There’s no luck involved in winning two straight Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove Award. The only road to becoming as great an outfielder as Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier is consistent hard work and dedication. Luckily, Kevin is here to give you some great pointers on how you can start on your own path towards defensive greatness.
How To Cover More Ground
“As far as speed on defense goes, you have to put a lot of time and effort into that each day. If you want to be the best of the best, you need to do a lot of things behind closed doors. Spend a lot of time on speed workouts and footwork drills, because it’ll keep you crisp out there and you’ll be able to make the big plays. Like I said, you need to do everything you can to help your team win.”
How To Boost Your Reaction Time
“My time playing basketball and football has helped me react quicker—so play other sports. Another big part of it is instincts. The routes you take on balls, how fast you get there, all of those things are instinctive and factor in to making the big play. You only get that by spending a ton of time during practice on defense.
I’d also say, find little things to motivate you each and every day. Part of why I train as hard as I do is that I never want to come up just short of a ball. I remember moments, like last season in Detroit. I came up a little short, and unfortunately my hand got caught in the grass and I broke two bones. But if I would have been a step quicker, it probably wouldn’t have happened. I let those moments eat at me and push me during every workout.”
How To Throw Out More Baserunners
“I would recommend long tossing. Head to the outfield with a teammate or coach and throw the baseball as long and far as possible. That definitely helps you maintain and increase arm strength. I’ve been doing that for years. Long toss can help every baseball player, not just outfielders.
And I can’t stray away from the fact that my brothers and I played catch with a football our whole lives. We have to be top-10-all-time in passes completed! No joke. I credit my brothers Dan and Steve, because I’m telling you, it’s unreal how much that has an effect. You do that throwing motion so many times and, obviously, throwing a football is heavier than a baseball. I just feel like it really increases arm strength.”
Are you a blogger with a love of football? Want to know how this year’s top draft prospects trained for the biggest workout of their lives? Are you curious about your favorite player’s incredible college career? This is your chance to land the interview and get the scoop!
Eastbay is looking for three passionate, talented bloggers to join our team in Indianapolis as part of our Pro Football Scouting Contest from March 1-4. While there, you will have your own space within our Eastbay headquarters and be given complimentary travel and lodging. As the day’s top performers and biggest stars pass through, you will have exclusive access to the athletes and be able to write unique, engaging stories.
Does that sound like your dream trip? Well, the good news is that it’s really easy to enter — you just need to visit eastbay.com/contest and follow these instructions:
We’ll need your name, contact info, blog link, and social media link.
Submit an essay of 300 words or less that includes the following information:
How long you’ve been blogging
How you engage your audience
Why you want to go
Why you deserve to be chosen
The entry period is open now until 11:59 pm ET on Dec. 21. You must be 18 years or older to enter. For a complete breakdown of the contest, check out our official rules.