Unrequired Work by Mike Lee

unrequired-workThis is a guest post by Mike Lee of mikeleebasketball.com

With tryouts right around the corner the advice I’m sure a lot of players are hearing “make sure you’re the hardest working guy there and you’ll be alright”… And, it’s completely wrong.

Let me explain…

Kevin Eastman, Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Clippers, has some myths of success and one of them is “hard work will make you successful”. That’s partially true, but it’s the unrequired work that actually matters.

Doctors need a license to practice medicine, in most states teachers need a license to get a job teaching, and you need a bachelor’s degree to get into grad school.  Those are the prerequisites. Those are the things that only give you an opportunity – it doesn’t guarantee you anything except that you’ll have a chance.

Hard work for basketball players (or anyone who wants to achieve anything in their life) is a prerequisite, but it doesn’t guarantee you anything.

So what is the unrequired work? The stuff that actually separates you?


For Players…

1. Reading

Substitute your BuzzFeed and SI.com for an article like this on Kobe Bryant. Seek wisdom from those who come before you. Learn from them and bypass their mistakes.

2. Film Breakdown

Watching film is one of the most underrated things you can do as a player. You’re brain is prewired to imitate so by watching film of other players you’re actually practicing good habits and skills.

3. Touches

Steve Nash during the 2010 season averaged 239 high fives or touches… PER GAME…

”In this case, Nash does seem to build trust and cooperation through his numerous high-fives. Is there any wonder why the Suns went 60-15 with him (and were only 2-5 without) during his first MVP season?”

Count your touches… high fives, slapping a guy on the back, or a good old shoulder bump. That’s completely within your control and can have huge affect on your teammates.

4. Yoga

Yoga, during the season, will help with mobility, flexibility and injury prevention.  It’s also a great way to develop clarity and focus.

5. Meditation

So many of our players have started meditating and are really seeing the benefits.  Here’s a text I got from one of them that plays Division 1 basketball: “Everyone should feel this calm, clear and relaxed. On top of the world”.

Now, I’m not guaranteeing those results, but can you imagine if you could get into that state of mind before practice and games? If you’re looking for a place to start I highly recommend HeadSpace. I use it everyday (almost).

6. Strength and Conditioning In-Season

We spend so much time rehabbing injuries instead of just putting in work consistently during the season to prevent them.  15-20 minutes of body weight and band work 3-4 times per week could make a huge difference on your season.

7. Nutrition

What you feed your body affects your mind. It affects how you feel. And, how you feel affects your actions. Your actions turn into habits and ultimately create your results. Think food doesn’t matter?

On top of that, how are you fueling your body? You can’t put water in a Ferrari and expect it to perform at the level it’s designed to. It’s the same thing as your body.

“If you’re a professional athlete, and after the game you’re eating at the same place that somebody in the audience is eating at? You’re making a mistake” – John Salley

And you don’t have to be a pro to start treating your body like one.

8. Pregame Shooting or Light Workouts

There’s a reason NBA guys workout before games. Ray Allen, one of the greatest shooters of all-time, used to make 250 shots in all of his pregame workouts. It helps get your body loose, mind focused, and if you’re strategic about it, you’re recreating the same situations you’re going to face a few hours later. 

I watched Nash go through a pregame workout a few years ago and it was ridiculous the focus and attention to detail he went through in his workout. It wasn’t game speed — he was 100% dialled in on the technique, form, and situations — seeing success in his mind first.


For Coaches…

1. Workout Guys After Practice

The idea that individual instruction is only an off-season thing will kill your player development. Every time I watch one of our players during the season I can usually pick out something they need work on and can construct a simple, 3-5 minute drill that will have instant game carryover.

You don’t have to kill a guy after practice. It’s the little individual player improvements, along with team cohesiveness, that add up at the end of the year.

2. Watch More Film

This is self explanatory. It shocks me how many high school coaches don’t watch film or share with their players. It’s by far the best off-court teaching tool. Video never lies.

3. Read or Consume Valuable Information Every Day

What you read affects your thoughts. It’s unbelievable the difference in my morning thoughts when I either read before bed or listen to a podcast versus falling asleep to New Girl or Entourage.

4. Bring Solutions. Not Problems.

Anyone can bring problems to the table. That’s what parents are for. Be solution orientated. We have a rule with our business that for every challenge you need to discuss you always have to bring 2 solutions to the table.  We might not always use them, but it’s about shifting to a growth mind-set.

5. Exercise

Hundreds of studies show that exercise increases energy levels. Which is crucial to maintain during the season.  No need to explain this further.

6. Nutrition

What you feed your body affects your mind. It affects how you feel. And, how you feel affects your actions. Your actions turn into habits and ultimately create your results. Think food doesn’t matter?



Work hard and give yourself an opportunity.

Do the unrequired work and create separation.

I know I didn’t list them all. I’d love to know – what are some unrequired things you do?

Dream Big. Reach High. Thrive3

– Mike Lee from mikeleebasketball.com