Time Out: August 12, 2009

University of Rochester men’s basketball coach Mike Neer feels success is all about developing good habits. Talking to 60 or more young basketball enthusiasts, including Andes guards Eric Reid and Sage Beemer, Neer opened and closed his Big Man/Point Guard Clinic talking about habits. According to the U of R mentor, successful play on the hardwoods is all about the development of good habits. “Invest in good habits. It’s not about the sneakers, not the shorts, not the dunks, not the threes, it’s the good habits you develop that make the difference,” implored Neer at the start of the clinic.
Neer and his staff spent two days explaining and demonstrating the finer points of the game, putting the young hoopsters through a series of drills they can use as part of a practice plan to help improve their game. Over and over, the coaches emphasized the development of good practice and playing habits and the need to reinforce them through serious practice.
In his opening address, Neer said the beauty of the game of basketball was its equality and universal access to participants. According to Neer you can give any kid a ball and a practice plan addressing fundamental skills and if they work on that plan their game will improve. “That’s the beauty of the game,” noted Neer. Yet, the U of R coach added, “The ugly side is that a lot of kids spend a lot of time alone working on bad habits.”
“Give yourself a chance to make a good habit,” Neer added. It’s just as easy to create good habits as it is to create bad ones. At the University of Rochester, we invest in good habits and the good habits guide everything we do.”
For six hours each day, Neer and his coaching staff passionately shared those habits. The young players were schooled and drilled in many facets of the game involving their position of choice. The instruction was positive and personal, with coaches often working one-on-one with individual players. There were no games, just instruction and application of the introduced skills. Instruction moved from individual skills acquisition, to skills you can practice with a partner, to two and three man play sets, and finally, full-team play.
By the end of two days, every one was spent, bodies worn and heads spinning. Neer started his final address asking the young people how many of them had spent their own money paying the registration fee so they could attend the clinic. Not a single hand was raised. Neer charged his young pupils with doing two things.
First, he asked the guys to go back and thank the people who had sent them, the moms and dads or possibly the booster clubs or civic groups that provided the funds so they could participate and learn. Then he asked his charges to thank those people again by taking to the courts every day after their return. Neer reminded his students it was still about the habits. To turn the knowledge to gold required concerted practice of the right skills, the skills they had learned at the camp.
“If you were born into a family that taught you to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ that’s a pretty good habit. That habit should serve you well for the rest of your life. It’s no different here. Learn the right things to do and then put them to work.” Neer encouraged the players to have their coaches contact his office and bring the team to a practice or to come and see a game. He welcomed e-mails to keep him informed on the progress they make. Then the coach, who has guided his team to 11 NCAA appearances, four trips to the final four, two times as national runners-up, and one time as national champions, sent his pupils on their way.
Note: Area coaches looking for a unique and reasonably priced (no cost except room – it’s a day clinic) basketball learning experience should consider attending Neer’s clinic next year. Parents interested in helping their sons improve their basketball game would be hard pressed to find a summer camp or program that packs the punch of Neer’s clinic at only $170.