Thanks to Alan Stein, an internationally renowned basketball specific strength and conditioning coach, who has worked with some of the top players across the globe including Oklahoma Thunder star Kevin Durant, for the interview.
Stein works tirelessly to become the best strength and conditioning coach in the world and constantly works high-profile events such as the McDonald’s All-American game and is a consultant for Nike. He also works throughout the summer at events like the Nike Skills Academies and the Chris Paul CP3 Elite Guard Camp where he helps elite high school and college players perform at a higher level.
He also created his own company, Stronger Team, where he provides services and resources to help players improve their game. If you visit his website here, you will also find a link to his blog where he discusses hot-topic issues and addresses facts and fallacies in the world of strength and conditioning. We also highly recommend you view his YouTube channel which is another tremendous resource for anyone involved in the game of basketball. You should also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
What was your role at Montrose Christian High School (MD) and now at DeMatha Catholic High School (MD)?
Just to do a basketball-specific conditioning program. I put them on a year-round strength and conditioning program.
Montrose was wonderful, that was certainly an enjoyable seven years of my life and I’m thankful to the staff for allowing me that opportunity. I got to work with some amazing players from Kevin Durant to Greivis Vasquez to some kids who aren’t as notable and I built great, quality relationships with great student-athletes. I’m forever thankful for that but after seven years I felt it was time for a change, certainly no hard feelings and I felt like I grew in that program as much as I could and I wanted to see how another program did things. I’m very fortunate to live in an area where two nationally renowned programs are. I’ve known [head] coach [Mike] Jones at DeMatha for years and just saw it as an opportunity to be apart of a different program. They have a wonderful staff, a great group of kids and I’m thankful I’ve gotten to be apart of both these programs.
What are some of the things you’re trying to accomplish with these players?
The fundamental basis is to teach them how to control their body and strengthen their body so they have better performance on the court and they’ll be less likely to sustain injuries. You can’t prevent injuries by no means but you can hopefully reduce the occurrence of them, that’s my number one goal. I look at strength and conditioning as the foundation of a player’s game and the wider and broader and more sturdy that foundation is the higher their potential peak; that’s why I’ve always said the best players are in the best shape. If you can make a player stronger or quicker or more powerful they can perform their skills — rebounding, passing, shooting, ball-handling — at a much higher level. They can perform them with more efficiency and for a longer amount of time before fatigue sets in. I believe it’s my duty to help acclimate high school kids because most high schools don’t have a full-time strength and conditioning coach while most colleges do. I start showing them what they need to do to play at that highest level.
Obviously your job involves you teaching guys a lot of things, but what have the players taught you?
I learn from every situation and my goal is to be the best strength and conditioning coach I can be and I work very hard on my craft. When I’m around a player like Kevin Durant or Greivis Vasquez those guys worked hard to become the best at their craft and what it takes to be successful transcends any job or industry. I was actually fortunate to spend some time with Durant at his Nike Skills Academy in Chicago and the things he does to be successful on the court — hard work, discipline — is what I need to do to be successful as a strength and conditioning coach. I learn from kids all the time and I can’t treat everybody as the exact same. How Kevin responds to something may be different from another player does and right now at DeMatha we have a really good team coming back and just in that group alone there is a lot of different personalities. I have to learn what motivates them, what pushes them, what I need to do to push them to a higher level.
You mentioned some of the great players you’ve worked with, of those guys, who has the best work ethic?
It’s really hard to narrow it down, certainly guys like KD and Vasquez would never have been able to achieve what they’ve achieved if they didn’t have a great work ethic. Part of being fortunate enough to work at Montrose and now DeMatha, I work with really, really high-level kids and in order for them to be high-level kids the majority of them have a tremendous work ethic. I’m not trying to use this as a cop-out but there’s no way I could pick one. Durant has worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever met but there are guys who are less notable than him who worked just as hard as he has. They may not be as talented but I can name three or four kids off every team in the last eight years that would literally run through a brick wall if I asked them to.
Is your role at events like the McDonald’s All-American game similar to what you used to do at Montrose and what you now do at DeMatha?
It’s different because in all reality the whole event is like four days long, there are two days of practice then it’s the game and then they go home, there isn’t a lot of training at those events. They bring me in to make sure they’re warmed up properly for practice and the game but more importantly to be a resource for these kids and start sharing what they’re going to need at the next level. If you take the 24 McDonald’s All-Americans, about half of them have never had any kind of structured strength and conditioning. They’ve maybe had somebody show them how to lift weights but now show them how to perform at a high level. That’s the reason those groups bring me in so I can keep in touch with them after the program ends.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Definitely the relationships and being a small piece of the puzzle of these kids’ success. I fundamentally care about them as people first and then I have some knowledge and expertise that helps their dreams come true. When you’re at a DeMatha or Montrose, most every kid’s goal is to play college basketball. Most of them want to play professionally after that [as well]. For me to be involved with them at a time when they are trying to achieve their goals and their dreams, if I can teach them or share with them that’s a lot of satisfaction for me. Seeing these kids reach their dreams and reach success makes me feel great.
Talk a little bit about the “Can he dunk?” series, what is the purpose of that?
The goal is that is very simple: to show people what real training will produce, to show realistic results. Certainly, I do everything I can to help them dunk a basketball but that’s not ultimately the goal of the program, the goal is to show people what’s real. As someone who cares about the game and helping young people, there’s a lot of garbage on the internet saying they can double your vertical or add ten inches in eight months or your money back and all that kind of BS. I speak the truth, if you work with a professional trainer 2-3 times a week for ten straight weeks these are the results you can expect. The whole point is just to show what’s real.
What inspired you to create Stronger Team and what’s that all about?
Ever since I was little, the game of basketball has been my burning passion. As I started getting a little older I gravitated to strength and conditioning and performance enhancement because it was always something I could control. You can always control if you’re in good shape. Obviously you can’t control your height and to some degree you can’t control your overall athleticism, but being in shape was something I could control. As a high school player and college player, I believed showing up as anything less than in great basketball shape was unacceptable. Once I graduated college, I saw an opportunity to combine the two things I loved the most. Stronger Team is my vehicle to share with as many players and coaches as I can all over the world. I do that through individual training, through working at camps, making DVD’s and videos and I’m also really big into social media now like Facebook and Twitter as a way to share all the types of training with kids that I’ll never get to meet in person.
How have things like Facebook and Twitter helped you reach out to even more people and what have you been able to accomplish using those things that you wouldn’t have been able to do if they didn’t exist?
It’s just another way to network. I use social media as a way to disseminate [my ideas] on Twitter. I know the folks that follow me on Twitter (Editor’s Note: now over 12,000 people strong) I will probably never get to meet on Twitter. It’s neat because when I work camps it’s inevitable that someone comes up to me and says, ‘hey, I follow you on Twitter,’ or something like that. To help kids all over the world is really neat. They might not have the opportunity to work with a strength and conditioning coach in their home setting for a variety of reasons, but now through social media I can help kids and my goal is to spread my message as much as possible and [social media] allows me to do that exponentially.
What have been some of the coolest moments of your career?
The night Kevin Durant was drafted in the NBA, I got to go to the draft and see how happy he and his family was of him accomplishing his goals, that was a neat moment. There was a time I went to a Maryland game when Greivis Vasquez and Maryland upset the then-ranked number one team in the country UNC and he has a triple-double. Just little things like that are neat. Some of the best things are when kids drop me a note on Facebook who I haven’t talked to in six years and say, ‘hey, coach, just want to check in and see how things are going.’ I know that sounds kind of corny and cliché but those moments are really special as well.
What are some things you have yet to accomplish that you want to be able to do?
I really want to be a part of USA Basketball. Whether it’s the younger level or eventually I’d love to be involved in the actual Olympics and play some sort of role where I can help represent our country in the game I love most that’s something I kind of have on my professional bucket list.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I really do believe that I’m helping the game, at least on the youth level. That’s my goal is to leave a legacy or a mark on the game of youth basketball that somewhere, some player, some coach or some parents will say ‘we’re better off having met Alan or done some of his training.’ If I can share some things with some teams and they get less injuries than the year before or share with players to raise their performance that satisfaction is what drives me and gets me out of the bed in the morning.