Training Grounds, Part Three: An Interview with Idan Ravin

Training Grounds, Part Three: An Interview with Idan Ravin
Jun 25, 2006, 11:17 pm
Training Grounds Introduction, and Part One (Keith Moss)

Training Grounds, Part Two (Joe Abunassar)

Eric Weiss How does the draft process work for you? What do you see your role as being? What frustrates you in the process? What is the reward?

Idan Ravin I work with the college and international players to prepare them for
their individual workouts and pre-draft camps leading up to the Draft. More importantly, the goal is to transition their style of play quickly so they can be effective and make an immediate impact once they begin play in the NBA. I don’t get frustrated with the process. There are many people vested in the process: families, players, agents, sneaker companies, college and AAU coaches and the individual NBA teams. Regardless of the outcome, the reward is seeing the player work harder than he thought he could and dedicating himself to his dream. We can all learn a lot from these kids. They believe in themselves and take a leap of faith so that they can do what they love.

Eric Weiss It terms of public perception, does it ever seem as if helping a prospect reach his draft mark is what is expected, while training a player who slips is viewed as failure to do your job?

Idan Ravin I don’t pay much attention to the media hype. My only goal is to prepare him for the Draft and the NBA season. My responsibility is to the player, his family, his representation and to myself to do the very best job I can. Draft status isn’t reflective of failure or success. There are plenty of great players who didn't get drafted or were drafted in the 2nd round that have later become stars in the League, and there have been plenty of lottery picks with short-lived careers in the League.

Eric Weiss As a trainer and teacher of things, what elements in the developmental process do you see missing, if any, and what would you do to correct them?

Idan Ravin Every good teacher knows that each student learns differently. To get the most out of each student you have to understand their learning styles. When I connect with the individual player, there is no limit on how far they can go.

Eric Weiss Is there any type of philosophy or methodology you bring to your work? Do you deal with players on a case-by-case basis or do you operate with a larger scheme in mind?

Idan Ravin I spend time learning about each player: their strengths, weaknesses, objectives, long and short term goals, what brought them to where they are today. I tailor a program that is best suited for them with the goal of making the consummate basketball player with the physical and mental ability to withstand the pressures of NBA play. When I send the players off to the League, they are equipped with not only the proper basketball skills, but with the mental stamina to deal with the pressures of being a professional athlete.

Eric Weiss Do you continue to help foster a players’ development after the draft? What types of long term plans do you establish with continual clients?

Idan Ravin My relationship with the players continues long after the NBA Draft. My players know the Draft is only the beginning and the not the end of their development. The players set new goals for themselves: Rookie of the Year, All Star, MVP, Championship, etc., etc. Together we focus on achieving those goals. We are in touch throughout the season so I can give them feedback on their play and we continue to work during the season and off-season to work toward achieving their goals.

Saying “I want to be a better basketball player” is a very esoteric term. What does that mean? Each situation evolves over time. Players aren’t going to say to you “I want to get better at the two steps I take before the shot on a pick and roll.” They’re going to say that they want to work on ball-handling or something generic like that. The game of basketball can be very simple in terms of its categories. Everyone can say they want to get stronger, faster, quicker. But, those are large descriptions of very lengthy processes.

Eric Weiss Any feelings on the NCAA rule adjustments limiting player's ability to receive outside assistance without endangering eligibility?

Idan Ravin I certainly understand the rules are well-intentioned and created for the benefit of the college players. But the practicalities involved in the application of these rules are more challenging. Few of the college players and their families can afford the costs associated with thoroughly testing the waters, i.e. last minute flights to NBA cities, hotels, training costs, etc. I hope the NCAA recognizes the inherent problems in the application of its guidelines and works with the players and their families to create a better way to implement them.

Eric Weiss Where did you get your start in coaching or training athletes? Describe your background a little, what led you to what you do today.

Idan Ravin I imagine my start is different than most other folks. I practiced law for more than 7 years. I wanted to transition my career toward work that I really enjoyed. I always loved basketball and played when I was younger, but stopped playing to pursue my academics. I saw a void in the game of basketball. Coaching staffs were very busy preparing for games and practices while trainers were focused on strength and conditioning. I felt I could bridge the coaching and training by focusing on the individual development of each player. With my non-traditional basketball background, education and experiences, it enabled me to be innovative and creative with my approach. Player’s saw my work as new, fresh and instrumental to their professional growth. The player’s responses were amazing. My business grew so fast strictly by word of mouth. To date I have worked with so many great players: NBA All Stars, Olympians, Rookies of the Year, etc.

Eric Weiss What areas of this process do you think have had the greatest impact on you?

Idan Ravin I never imagined that I would learn so much from my players. I am the teacher, but I am amazed by how much I have learned from each of my players. Each day I am impressed with their tenacity and commitment they have for the game. The players work so hard while juggling an incredible amount of off-the-court responsibilities. After each session I feel energized and recommitted to improving the game. Even though much of the training focuses on their physical basketball development, the greatest impact I have is preparing them for the mental component of the game: staying committed to their goal and not being rattled by "obstacles" that may appear in their path while working toward achieving these goals.

Eric Weiss What would you like to improve in your own approach? What areas interest you in terms of expanding your techniques? Who has influenced you the most in your own work?

Idan Ravin I don’t ever want to get to the point where I am running in place. I want to continue to innovate and bring new value and insight to my players. I am fascinated by the mind body connection in basketball which is often overlooked. My players are my biggest influence. While I may be the teacher during these sessions, my work is enhanced by each encounter with them. It becomes a collaborative environment where we work together to achieve goals. This adds to the message that I want to impart on my players: basketball is a team game and we are a team working together to achieve a common purpose.

Eric Weiss So, the process of instruction and preparation is heavily dependent on effective communication and interpretation of situations?

I think that we see eye to eye on just how important the mental aspect of all this is. It’s not enough to simply have the various specialists on your training team. The process is very fluid; it has to come together the right way for all of this to work. It’s like the merger of a company. There’s more going on than just an announcement of a merger. There are thousands of intricate pieces that have to happen in order for the merger to go through. Each compartmentalized section has to come together to make the whole thing work. That is essentially the metaphor for what a team is. You have all these pieces, all these puzzles, all the coaches, all the personalities, but they all have to mesh.

Eric Weiss I’m glad to hear someone speak on the importance of the mental aspects of the game. The fact that the same player can have a different level of success in a new environment because of how he fits into that bigger picture is important.

Idan Ravin It’s funny when I hear people who think that they can do this easily. Many people only focus on the drills as if that was all that went into it. But, there are so many mental components involved there because you have to engage them; they have to believe what you are trying to teach. These are players that have been doing this their entire career. Suddenly, some outside party is going to try and effect change in what they do. The players must feel empowered during this process. It’s not about memorizing how to come off the screen the right way, anybody can do that.

Eric Weiss Right. You have to get them to accept what you have to teach them before you even get into teaching it.

Idan Ravin That’s why it’s so important. They are going to entrust you with so much. These are grown men. You don’t preach to them, you don’t try and motivate them. You show them. It’s the actions and particular words you use, the metaphors and voice intonation. That’s all part of the learning. I don’t have this comprehensive diagnostic program where I say X means that Y is going to occur. My approach is all about feel, but I have to keep these factors in mind because I can assure you that Carmelo Anthony is a very different person than Elton Brand is. The key is in understanding how to get your message across with equal effectiveness to each player.

Eric Weiss Well, I feel we accomplished what we were trying to do, which was to get a sense for what you have to think about when you’re trying to reach your goals with each respective player. Obviously this goes beyond putting a whistle around your neck and saying “let’s go.”

Idan Ravin Certainly. You can have all the fancy facilities and all the drills you want, but all that isn’t necessarily going to get it done, in my opinion at least.

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