Focus on strengths - Insulate weaknesses

You know what you are good at and you know what needs work. Which is more deserving of attention?

As a player, unless you are blinded by supreme confidence, you are aware that you are not perfect. Perhaps you have never been the best shooter or maybe you are an undersized post-player. You also know where you shine on the court or in the locker room.

With something like the sport of basketball, it is easy to get caught up in the areas that need improvement. This is not always a bad thing, there are always opportunities to elevate skill level, but do not forget also to focus on your strengths that set you apart.

Players like Shaquille O'neal and DeAndre Jordan have been mercilessly criticized for their free throw shooting woes. They are also heavily applauded - Shaq was an NBA MVP and DeAndre Jordan was 1st team all-NBA last year. You see where we are headed with this?

Focus on what sets you apart

Shaq was not a great free throw shooter, but it did not matter because he was so dominant in other facets of the game.

If you are a great shooter, keep working on shooting. Never fully ignore any one aspect of the sport, but stay sharp and keep improving even your best qualities. The all-time great shooters were not content with being decent. They still practiced shooting every single day. 

Even if you are hyper-focused on strengths, do not forget:

Insulate weaknesses to make sure you do not fall behind

Just because you are focused on what sets you apart does not mean you can ignore the other aspects of the game. You can become a great shooter, but coaches will be hesitant to play you if you never bothered to work on defense.

Not everyone can be fast. Stay in shape and keep your conditioning at the best level you can, but do not sweat it too much if you are struggling to improve foot speed. Focus instead on foot work and body positioning to insulate this weakness. Then, get right back to focusing on what sets you apart.

Great rebounders practice rebounding. Glue guys focus on defense and ball-movement. Shooters get up hundreds of shots. Be a well rounded player, but make sure your best skills are kept the sharpest for your team.

Shooting: Extending to three-point range

In today's game, it is almost impossible to get by without a shooting touch. Is a three-point shot realistic for you?

For a long time, three-pointers were reserved for point guards and shooting guards. Post players would be chastised for daring a shot attempt beyond 16-18 feet from the rim. In today's game however, big players are getting faster, handling the ball better, and showing finesse in their shot attempts. For guards, shooting has become even more important to hang with such players.

The saying goes: "The grass is always greener on the other side." Players that can shoot would give anything to be a powerful dunker the same way a powerful dunker wishes they could shoot (though of course some can do both). Needless to say, most players wish they could drain threes from anywhere like Steph Curry.

Shooting, especially long-range shooting, is not an inherent talent. Shooting takes years of work to perfect. Players do not start out shooting from deep either. Before you can hit threes, you need to be able to hit deep two-pointers. Before deep twos, mid-range shots should be no-problem. Before that: shots in the paint.

This applies not only to young players, but also current ones that would like to extend their range. You must be able to hit mid-range before long balls the way you must be able to walk before you can run.

Determining if you are a three point shooter

No one can stop you from working on outside shooting. However, if your coach says "Stay in the paint", then stay in the paint and practice everything that they tell you while you are on their watch. Sometimes if you want to branch out, you must do it on your own time. Get in a gym - maybe one with a basketball shooting gun at its disposal... The Basketball Movement may be able to help with that part.

As mentioned previously, you can't become a deep-threat overnight. Extending your range must be a gradual process. Get comfortable hitting mid-range jumpers from everywhere on the floor. Once you are fully comfortable and efficient from that range, reward yourself with some three-point shots. Just make sure you are practicing the right way.

For many young players it is a matter of strength. If heaving up threes takes you out of your traditional shooting motion, it might be a little early. Keep working on your strength and shooting from shorter distances. Patience is a virtue.

If you are already an established player looking to extend your range, seek guidance to make sure that you are starting the right way in terms of form, focus point, and situational awareness (contact The Basketball Movement to get started).

Outside shooting is not for everyone, so do not get discouraged if it doesn't work out. There are always other skills that you can work on to make you the best player you can be. You may possess abilities or qualities that other players wish they had, so focus on your strengths and keep grinding.

Dealing with referees

Referees have the impossible task of trying to point out every reasonable instance that rules are not followed. Sometimes, they get some things wrong.

If you have been around basketball at any level, for any amount of time, you have seen a referee miss calls or misinterpret infractions. Whether they are youth sports volunteers, part-time high school refs, or professionals, they all make mistakes just the same.

In a competitive atmosphere such as basketball, it is not tough to get heated when things like calls aren't going your way. Turnovers and mental errors are within your control as a player, but when something outside of your control like not getting calls starts happening, it can take you out of your zone. What are you supposed to do in these scenarios?

Sometimes it may be easier said than done, but you must always do your best to shrug-off bad calls and not let them get to you. Referees are human, and are prone to make the same types of errors with calls that players sometimes make with the basketball. Keeping your head in the game and not letting referees get to you is the best thing that you can do for your team.

Never let your emotions overcome you by slamming the ball, throwing your hands up, or verbally displaying your frustration. These things show your opponents weakness. If a foul call, accurate or inaccurate, can get under your skin, so can an opposing player.

Maintaining a next play mentality is a key in the game of basketball. If you get called for a charge or travel, give up the ball and try to make up for it on defense. If you are called for a bad foul, shake it off and be a little more careful next time, but still play hard. One of the worst things you can do for your team is start to accumulate technicals and take yourself out of the game, so always keep your cool.

Malicious referees

Once again - refs are people too. They are not only prone to some mistakes, but some other human flaws as well. Rarely, you may cross paths with a referee or two that make things too personal. Maybe they have a bias toward one team that skews the whistle blowing. Maybe they don't like your face. Hey, I'm sure you have a great face, but not all refs are going to be great people.

How do you handle these kinds of refs? Glad you asked! You handle them the same darn way.

The number one thing you can do if you feel like "getting back" at a terrible ref is to be unflappable. When someone is trying to get under your skin, keeping your cool and acting like you don't even notice is the best way to make them feel ridiculous.

The crowd may be getting rowdy as well as your teammates or coach. Parents - calling out refs from the stands will likely just make matters worse. They aren't going to reverse any calls; don't give them a reason to prolong their biased whistle blowing. Players - if your teammates are getting heated, go cool them off. Get between them and their issues, make eye-contact, and explain to them that their energy is needed for the game.

The individuals most equipped to deal with these situations are the coaches. Coaches - you need to keep your cool as well. Feel free to engage in occasional conversations with the refs, but don't scream. If you act reasonably, the refs are more likely to respond reasonably.

There have been some unfortunate instances of emotions boiling over recently that have been floating around online. Some have even turned physical. Remember, keep your cool and let your play and demeanor do the talking. We all want to win, but at the end of the day, the players, coaches, fans, and even referees are their because we all love the GAME.

Love the game

It’s Valentine’s Day, so Yanders Law wants to remind you to love what you do - especially basketball!

Keeping a love of the game of basketball is very important when striving to become a great player. Loving what you do does not have to only apply to basketball or other sports - it is important to love your job, your life, or whatever motivates you to be great.

We hear from the pros all the time about their love for the game or occasionally how they fall out of love and drift away from the sport. Love for the game is a common theme from the top-tier athletes.

Almost everyone likes sports, but it takes true passion to be in the gym for hours each day perfecting your craft.

The game of basketball has been everything to me. My place of refuge, place I’ve always gone where I needed comfort and peace. It’s been the site of intense pain and the most intense feelings of joy and satisfaction. It’s a relationship that has evolved over time, given me the greatest respect and love for the game.
— Michael Jordan

Do not be afraid to pour your heart into something like basketball. Even when your days as a player are over, the game gives back in unexpected ways. You can love watching the game, coaching the game, writing about the game (a personal favorite), and much more.

This Valentine's Day, cherish what you love. Have a little chocolate if you must, but don't forget to put down the box and get some free throws up too.

Happy Valentine's Day from Yanders Law!

Applying Yanders Law experience to school ball

Unfortunately, playing for Yanders Law cannot be a year-round, exclusive commitment. However, everything learned and practiced with us can be year-round.

The coaches and staff involved with Yanders Law are diligent in reflecting the views that come from our Founder, Rob Yanders. In all that he does, Rob’s dedication to improving young people shines through absolutely. On-court improvement, skill development, and teamwork are invaluable, but so is camaraderie off the court, respect for authority, and giving back.

During our leagues, tournaments, and practices, Yanders Law squads focus on immediate tasks and matchups at hand. Preparing for opponents and doing all the little things is essential in the moment. However, we make sure to add focus on long-term goals as well.

On the court, we focus on skill development that will stick with players even after they hang up their YLB jerseys to begin a new season of school ball. The on-court lessons learned playing for Yanders Law are the same essential skills that players will need, regardless of the team they play for. We also strive to create leaders that go from our teams to lead any other teams they may be involved in.

We boast multiple alumni athletes that have gone on to play basketball at the next level following our programs. You may have also seen that a few of our local high school players have been making some noise. Anton Brookshire, Isaac Haney, and Twilah Carrasquillo all being recently named Ozarks Sports Zone Athletes of the Week being a prime example.

Unlike many teams, we consider successes outside of our program to be just as satisfying as successes within it. We love getting to root for Brookshire’s Kickapoo squad, Haney at Dora, Carrasquillo at Verona, and of course many, many more.

The high standards that Yanders Law holds its players to extends off the court as well. The only thing we love to see more than on-court success is caring, high-character moves off of it. We thrive on positive development of our athletes as people. We want nothing more than to turn out such individuals that can spread all of these traits around their communities and impact the world.

As we share in you or your player’s successes, make sure to tag Yanders Law or give us a shout so that we can get to see the impact that makes everything worth it. Good luck to all of our players as they wrap up their seasons and prepare for district contests, or whatever may be next at their level of play. Above all, continue to work hard and show them what you can do!

Never be ashamed of where you are from

Towns no one has heard of, cities where it is tough to stand out from the crowd; everyone is from somewhere. Embrace your journey.

Everyone has a story. Guys and girls from all over may share passions for things like basketball, but no one is quite the same as you. Embracing yourself as a person or player means you must own every part of your life. Never be ashamed of where you come from.

For better or for worse, you are the culmination of all of your experiences in life. Some of them were great experiences that you could see making you stronger right in front of your eyes. Some experiences really hurt at the time, but they still altered your path to make you the unique individual you are today.

Be the best version of yourself in anything that you do. You don’t have to live anybody else’s story.
— Stephen Curry

Look back at the toughest times that you have had in your life. In the end, they made you much stronger in many ways, right? The best parts of your story couldn't have happened without the early chapters.

On the court, you are not the only player that wants to win and dominate the competition. You will often have to bring your very best to achieve your goals. Your very best means drawing on experiences, hard work, and an understanding of what makes you uniquely you.

Embrace your personal history, even if there are things you would rather forget. You do not have to dwell on those things, but do not be afraid to think back and recognize the ways that it made you a stronger person. Even if you have been lucky enough to avoid major hardships, there are always experiences to reflect back on when striving to be great.

Yanders Law aims to push players and people at all levels to be the very best they can be. Do not be afraid to approach our coaches or anyone else with any tough times you are going through. Just remember, it is all another chapter in the story of your greatness.

Merry Christmas from Yanders Law!

Merry Christmas, everyone! We talk a lot about using holidays and weekends to outwork your opponents, but maybe hang with family on this one.

At Yanders Law and The Basketball Movement, we are serious about hoops. However, we are also well-aware that there are plenty of things that are bigger than basketball. Over at The Basketball Movement blog, we have discussed doing inside work on rainy days, getting in a gym on holiday weekends, and more. That said, Christmas is one of the most important times of the year for stepping away from work, school, and play to focus on what is important.

We were thrilled to partner with The Basketball Movement and Jones Family YMCA to show the power of basketball with our Angels of the Hardwood event. It was great to show that even as basketball organizations, there are still ways to get involved in the true reason for the Christmas season.

To all of the players, parents, fans, and Yanders Law coaches and staff - Merry Christmas! This is an excellent time to reflect on a year’s worth of accomplishments, hardships overcome, and great things on the horizon.

Thank you to everyone that helped us to make 2018 successful. We are proud of everything that has been accomplished and proud to have worked with everyone who helped to make it happen.

Enjoy this time with family and friends and remember what Christmas is all about. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tips for parents or other fans

Playing the game can be tough, as can coaching. Watching the games? As invested fans, that can be tough at times too.

As fans of youth basketball, it can be all too easy at times to get involved in everything that goes on on the court - especially for parents. You are taking your kids to camps, practices, and games as well as footing the bills for leagues, equipment, and so on. This gives a deep feeling of involvement with your player and the program.

This is a good thing! You should be active and engaged in what is going on in your son or daughter’s lives. However, this involvement can also make things a bit difficult when you see your athlete placed in tough situations or under-performing.

Just remember - it is often best to address these situations according to the time and place. On the way to or from games are terrific times for constructive discussions, as everything is fresh in the player’s head. At practices, that is the coach’s jurisdiction. Let the coaching staff handle everything on the floor.

Where things often get tough for parents is where it is toughest for all parties - during games.

There are fine lines to walk during games. On the one hand, you are encouraged to cheer on your players and team, to praise them during their successes, and to build them back up when they make mistakes. As such an invested individual though, you may sometimes make mistakes.

Encouragement is always helpful, there is no limit on that. Where things can go wrong though lies in criticism, whether it is of your player, the coach, or even referees. Shouting at the refs will build bad blood between that ref and your team, no matter where it comes from. It also sets a poor example for the players, leading them to believe referees are a scapegoat for their shortcomings.

Criticizing coaches or your player’s teammates is of course discouraged as well. It will distract all of the players and take away from the important focuses of playing the sport.

Finally, save constructive criticism of your own player for another time. Your son, daughter, or otherwise is already going to be aware when they make a mistake. Compounding that with a public disappointment of their parents is going to get in their head in a big way. During game time, just remember - encourage, encourage, encourage. Let the coaches and team handle the rest.

Being an involved parent or fan is important, just do your best to go about it in the best way possible. Yanders Law is a tight-knit group, and we have faith that our parents, players, and coaches can set great examples for each other.