The REAL Secrets To Loyola Chicago's Cinderella Final Four Run! (Not What You Think)
Loyola Chicago can shoot it and pass it. And their defense is really good. They're unselfish. And there are no egos. No secrets there!
But I believe the keys to their success started years ago. How do I know?
I was lucky enough to coach two of their best players for a season in high school. Clayton Custer was the Missouri Valley Conference MVP and honorable mention All-American. Ben Richardson won Defensive Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference.
I had no idea they'd ever make a Final Four, but I did know they'd do some great things in their life.
1 - Outwork everybody! Even get shots up after a 3 hour and 45 minute practice?!
Here is what happened at our very first practice.
Prior to the practice, these two were in the gym right away working on their shot 15 minutes before practice. Then we had a 3 hour practice. Then we had a 30 minute lifting session.
This is the part that really starts to separate great players from the rest of the pack...
Even after a 3 hour and 45 minute practice, they were back in the gym after all of that practicing their shooting. You had to make them leave the gym.
This was great. However, I wondered how long this would last.
To my surprise, it never stopped. They did this from the first practice to the last practice.
One of the first ones there and one of the last ones to leave.
I threw so many passes to them after practice during the season, that I had to perfect a softball-like underhand pass, so I didn't wear out my shoulders.
Not much of a secret. Hard work is a must to maximize your potential.
However, hard work alone isn't enough...
2- They practiced simple drills extraordinarily hard. They didn't do circus drills.
That season I worked with the guards. There was nothing special about the drills that we did.
To a novice, these simple drills might even appear boring.
However, those of us who have been around really good players know something different. These are the same drills that the great ones obsess over to master and elevate their skill level. There is nothing flashy about developing greatness! And that's what these players did.
Clayton even told me that he preferred not to do two ball or tennis ball drills... you know the typical stuff you see on YouTube. He said he didn't see the value compared to other drills.
Another aspect that separated Ben and Clayton was this. They attacked the simple drills. And they performed EACH repetition like their life depended on it.
I would tell them to do a simple drill like... cut to the wing, take one dribble, and pull up for a jumper.
After they became proficient in the skill. You didn't have to tell them to get outside their comfort zone. They would immediately amp it up another level.
They would lose the ball. They would travel. They would make mistakes. But that's how you improve.
You push outside your limits. You make mistakes. You rep the heck out of it. You adapt and improve. Then you master the simple skill at a higher level.
Here are some examples of mastering the basics then amping up the same drill...
On a cut to the wing, you fake harder and change directions faster.
If it took you 2.4 seconds to cut to the wing. You amp things up and try to get there in 2.2 seconds.
Rather than running at 10 mph into a jump shot, you can run at 13 mph into a jump shot. Now you can cover more distance faster and create more space from the defender.
You practice stopping quicker and more efficiently and pivoting or hopping faster to face the basket. This faster shot preparation leads to more open shots! You go from only needing six feet of space to get off your shot to needing four feet of space to get off your shot.
Now rather than taking 1.2 seconds to pull up off the dribble, you only need 0.8 seconds.
Now rather than getting to the basket in three dribbles from half court, you can do it in two dribbles.
No special drills! Just amping up the intensity and performing each skill better each and every day!
And those little incremental improvements over years of practice are what make great players. That's precisely what these players did!
Also, if you watch the games, you would know these two players are leaders of the team and their teammates respect them. In addition to the reasons above, here is another reason why...
3 - They were very coachable and great teammates!
Why should they respect me? I was some Joe Shmoe from Iowa who never attempted to play college basketball. I was an all conference player and won some shooting contests, but they were probably better as freshmen than I ever was.
However, from day one, they were very respectful to everybody on the coaching staff, every staff member in the school, and everybody on the team.
They listened to what the coaches said and what the coaches asked. And if they had a different thought on something, they knew to ask more detailed questions outside of practice. Even if they disagreed, they knew to never undermine the coach. Maybe they understood intuitively, even if the coach was wrong, it's better to have 10 players united doing the "wrong thing" than 10 players divided doing the right and wrong thing.
They looked you in the eye when you spoke.
You asked them to sprint to the next drill. They sprint.
You asked them to focus during a warm up. They led the way.
You didn't have to tell them to work hard in practice.
Even though they were talented, they weren't jerks to their teammates. They were supportive. They showed players how to practice. They spoke to each and every teammate with respect if they needed to help them with something. And they always raised the intensity level of practice.
They didn't care about stats. They cared about winning. That's probably why they played in four state championship games and won two of them.
If they were sitting on the bench, they were the loudest ones on the bench. They were the first ones to congratulate their teammates.
And you can see the same thing now. You can see their teammates looking to them as leaders.
They set the standard and that's why you saw Loyola Chicago in the Final Four!
That's why you see these guys stepping up and hitting big shots.
Leadership isn't given. Leadership is earned!
Nailing game winning shots in the NCAA tournament is earned!
If you just take these simple lessons and apply them... work harder than everybody else, do the simple things extraordinarily well, and just be a damn good person... you might not reach a Final Four, but you will maximize your potential! You will do great things!
What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...