How to Build a Shooter's Mindset with Skyler Halford

Skyler Halford is one of the best shooters to come out of BYU in the last decade. Learn more at halfordhoops.com

Skyler Halford is one of the best shooters to come out of BYU in the last decade. Learn more at halfordhoops.com

Tristan: All right. Welcome in everyone. We have with us on the line, Coach Skyler Halford, straight out of Utah, coming with us, joining us today. Coach, how you doing?

Coach Halford: I am doing fantastic. How are you guys doing?

Tristan: Oh, we're doing well. We're always doing well. Always happy to have an expert like you on the line with us, and we're going to start with you today where we start with most our interviews. We want to hear your story. We want to hear how you got to be halfordhoops.com, CEO, general manager, coach, boss man, whatever you want to call it. We want to hear your story. Bring us through your BYU days. We know you played there as well. Were an excellent shooter over there at BYU. Tell us about it.

Coach Halford: Yeah. Wow, long story, I'm definitely not going to give you the long version because I know we've all got our own stories and the long versions, and we could sit down and talk about it all night. But, yeah, I grew up in Orem, Provo area here in Utah. Grew up a BYU fan my whole life. In high school, I was second leading scorer in the state. I actually wasn't highly recruited, felt like I should have been. But, you know, my size. If anybody's ever seen me play, they're probably... And when they see me now, and they ask ne, "You played college basketball?" And they give me that look. "How did this guy play college basketball?" Because, you know, 175 pounds, six foot, can't jump, barely get over a piece of paper. So I wasn't heavily recruited out of high school. I did get a shot as a walk-on at Utah State University. I then served a mission for my church as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ the Latter-day Saints for two years in Brazil, so kind of had two years away from basketball, came back, and actually played at a junior college in Salt Lake, called Salt Lake Community College. I was a first-team All-American there. I worked my butt off trying to get back to... My ultimate goal was BYU, didn't know if that would actually pan out. Turns out, it actually did. They had a scholarship that freed up, and Coach Dave Rose over there at BYU extended that invitation, and I happily accepted, and man it was a wild ride. It was two years that I felt like being in college, and then two years at BYU. I mean you can talk about my first career start. I had 28 points. I'm just thinking of some of the fun memories I have.

Tristan: Oh, I'd say so.

As a player, you learn, and you see the Xs and Os, and you train, and you train, and you train, but it’s a different way to look at the game, and a different way to learn it once you try to become the teacher, so it’s been really fun. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Coach Halford: 28 points against San Diego, first career start there. We beat, let's see, number three Gonzaga at Gonzaga my senior year. We'd snapped some streak of... I don't know how many games... 70 plus in a row that they had won at home. We went to the NCAA Tournament both times. My senior year is the last time BYU has been to the Tournament, so they're hoping to change that this year. Looking to make some new changes, and it should be really good. But, anyway, I could go on and on, but that's a little bit about my story, and then after that, I was going to go play professional basketball overseas. For reason or another, my wife and I decided not to go. We had a contract setup to go over in Estonia and play, but I decided to stop the playing days, and then I started Halford Hoops. I love basketball way too much to just let it go, so I decided to turn it around and become sort of like a coach/trainer, and I've been doing that now for the past, let's see, it'll be four years in September, and I have loved it. It's been awesome. It's a new way of looking at the game. As a player, you learn, and you see the Xs and Os, and you train, and you train, and you train, but it's a different way to look at the game, and a different way to learn it once you try to become the teacher, so it's been really fun. I've really enjoyed it.

Tristan: I'd say so. So you get out of college. You start up your own business where you're training players. Obviously, you have that coaches' mentality in you. Was there anyone, growing up, was it a BYU coach, was it a Salt Lake State coach, was it your folks? Who really instilled that coaching mindset into you, and who helped you really think that you could take this to the next level?

Coach Halford: Yeah. It's funny. My grandma the other day. It's funny you mentioned this. My grandma actually sent me an article. Back in high school when I was a sophomore that one of the local news reporters had written, and anyway, they were like asking me, “What do you want to do?” And it was like, my end result was like, “Oh, I want to be a coach,” and so that's kind of panning out. My dad growing up was my coach all growing up until about high school, and even into high school, he was an assistant coach my senior year, and so he kind of was there for me all the time, and every single day shooting with me, rebounding with me. I wanted to be that person, but I also wanted to be even more because of the knowledge that I was able to gain through college basketball, and things that I know now that I wish I would have known when I was in fifth, sixth grade even that I didn't learn until college or even after college. Now, really investigating the game more and understanding it better. So it's just kind of stuck with me and trying to pass that on to younger kids and help them to develop that way.

Skyler answers all our questions on how youth athletes can build an elite mindset

Skyler answers all our questions on how youth athletes can build an elite mindset

Craig: Yeah. You talk a little bit about the types of players that you work with. You're working with younger kids. What's a typical client for you look like? Do you cover youth basketball, high school, college? What does that look like?

Coach Halford: Yeah. Yeah, so I actually go as young as third grader to professional athletes. I've got a couple of overseas guys that I know. Elijah Bryant, he played at BYU. He's over playing in Israel. I'm currently working with Kyle Collinsworth who was with the Raptors G League team last year. He's a teammate of mine, so we played together. It's awesome to see, even at the young… Some of the fundamental things that you teach some of the younger kids, how they're even valuable to some of my professional clients. More and more over time as I've worked with that span, you see the fundamentals continually come in regardless of age, but really just becoming really solid and firm with those fundamentals.

Craig: That's interesting. Yeah, fundamentals are universal across all age groups. How else do you sort of adjust your strategy, then, working with different players? So obviously you want to hammer those fundamentals, but what are some of the things that are a little bit more advanced that you wouldn't necessarily do with youth players?

Coach Halford: Yeah. So with older players and professionals, for example, right now with Kyle, we're working a lot on his shot and helping his shot develop. Of course with younger players, we work on the basic fundamentals of your form, but then we kind of move on into a little bit more such as balance and core stability, and specific parts of the body that are being used in your shot and focusing on becoming a better shooter in those aspects, rather than just the mechanics of your arm, and where you're looking, so we work on things like that. One thing that I've learned with my older players is sometimes I think when people are training people who they think know everything, like, “Oh, man, he's a professional. He's gotten to this point.” One thing that I've learned, at least this summer in particular, is just never assume that somebody knows something. Don't be afraid to say something that you see, if that makes sense. If you feel like there's a correction that, “Oh, wait. I thought he would know this, or I thought he would understand that.” You can't make any assumptions. Even if they do, sometimes they may even just need a reminder, so it's really re-emphasizing what they already know, and then introducing new things that you see that they may not know and not being afraid telling them that.

Craig: Yeah, great. And so, yeah, mechanics are everything. What about your specialty? We know, based on your background, that you're a lights out shooter. Would you consider that your specialty, or do you do other areas of the game?

A big differentiator amongst great shooters and elite shooters, the best of the best, is they have a mindset for it.

Coach Halford: Yeah. I would say my number one... Like you said, "My specialty is shooting mechanics, and not just the mechanics, but also the mindset that a shooter needs to be in." A lot of players these days, they go out and they shoot, and they shoot, and they shoot, and they shoot, and they come back to me, and they're like, "Skyler, what is going on? Why can't I do this?" And it reminds me of myself when I was a senior at BYU, and I started off first quarter of the year shooting like 25% from three, and I could not figure it out, but one of my assistant coaches was like, "Hey man, you've got to trust and have faith in all the work you've previously done. You can't be thinking about it so much." And then, we also had a sports psychologist that we worked with that talked about power statements and talking positively to yourself, and I've been really trying to instill that in my players as well, not just the mechanics. But that's kind of where my specialty comes in is helping those players, not only have the right mechanics, have the right drills to do, but to also have the right mindset to be one-up on the rest of those shooters out there that are playing, and I really think that's a big differentiator amongst great shooters and elite shooters, the best of the best, is they have a mindset for it.

Tristan: Interesting. So it really is the intangibles here that we're talking about-

Coach Halford: Yeah.

Tristan: Making sure that you know that you can nail that shot before even taking it.

Coach Halford: And believing, yeah, exactly.

Craig: Yeah. Because if you think about it, I mean, there's such small differences between skill levels of some of these players.

Coach Halford: Yeah.

Craig: But you have elite players, and it's some of those intangibles that set them apart.

Coach Halford: Absolutely.

Skyler Halford 4.jpg

Tristan: So you have that mindset going into it. Let's say you've already instilled that in one of your trainers... In one of your players that you're training, I mean. What are some of your drills that you like to incorporate early on when you're first starting to work with somebody? What are some of your favorite drills that you like to take them out to the court, to start to really hammer at?

It’s good to be a spot up shooter, that’s a great thing to be, but if you can’t do anything other than that, you’ll have like a limit to how much time you’re going to see on the floor.

Coach Halford: Yeah. So when I first am introduced to a player, let's just say, someone that I haven't worked with before, I always take them through kind of like a introductory workout to understand what some of their weaknesses are. We always go through ball handling and footwork to start. Because it's good to be a spot up shooter, that's a great thing to be, but if you can't do anything other than that, you'll have like a limit to how much time you're going to see on the floor. Becoming a good ball handler and having good footwork really can build you into an elite shooter overall and being able to do so much more on the court. So we always put them through... We talk about balance. We talk about footwork. We talk about timing. And so, I'll take them through a series of ball handling drills. One of my favorites is that we just get in a wide stance, like you're in a defensive stance, for balance, and we don't take big steps. We take small steps, so they can feel their bodies, not losing that balance when they take a big lunge step forward to maybe put the ball between their legs, and they lose some of that balance. We focus on taking small steps and quick dribbles, and seeing if they're able to really hone in on that balance, moving with the ball, and just seeing that ball handle. And then we'll move into more of... A bunch of different things like mid-range shots, three point shots, whether it's catch and shoot, whether it's off the dribble. And sometimes throughout this because it's such a long process for a player to become an elite athlete in the sport of basketball, whatever sport it is, and so you can't do everything at once. So typically, I'll be going through, and it's either the footwork, ball handling, or shooting mechanics where I see something that's lacking, and I typically don't like to move on until we've talked about that certain point, so I don't want to throw like 300 things at them and have them try to focus on all of those things, so we'll break it down as soon as I see something that's wrong with their footwork. We'll talk about it. We'll drill it out until they can put that together, whether it's just straight back from triple threat and how to use your pivot food, or whether it's an advanced move where we're trying to gain separation from a defender, or if it's just your shooting mechanics and breaking that down. It usually hits the footwork, and the ball handling, and then moving into those mechanics of shooting, and once they get that down, then we just kind of expand from there.

Tristan: Got it. I love that short step example you gave there, much like the power step that you see a lot of football players use. I mean it just translates all over, all over the world of sports for sure. Now you bring on a client. You bring on somebody that you're going to train. It's Kyle that's playing over there in the G League, let's say. Is there something with the majority of the guys that you work with, is there something you've identified, in your experience training players, that most players need work on?

Coach Halford: Yeah. That's a great question. With older players specifically like professionals, they're usually coming to me and saying, "Hey Skyler, I need to develop my layup package," or, "Hey Skyler, I need to develop my shot." It's usually offensive skillsets like... Most players by this time, they know Xs and Os. They know how defenses are going to rotate, but from my standpoint, from my experience, I find it's mostly the footwork and just being a little more efficient. So they'll think they need this or that, and we'll work on that, but then I see these underlying foundational things that need to be worked on before they can get that layup package fixed, or before they can get that separation from those defenders that they're looking for in their ball screen situation, and so it really keeps coming back to footwork, and not that they have bad footwork, it's just it needs to be a little more efficient, and it's just in the fine, small details. That it's literally moving, having your feet outside of your hips an inch or two wider further when you're dropping into an attack stance, when you're attacking to the basket, or you're coming up on a secondary defender. It's just little things like that within footwork and balance that I find myself working on time and time again with even these more experienced players.

Craig: Yeah, there's issues that go across different skill levels and it's kind of funny how bad habits form early and you can then break them of those bad habits. It's kind of interesting. You know, a question that I've got it how do you find new clients? Let's talk about growing your business a little bit.

Coach Halford: Yeah.

Craig: Where do they come from?

Coach Halford: Yeah, so when I first started out, I was actually part of a group called Utah Empires, a U basketball team. And a guy I know played in college asked me to help coach and so, I got in touch with a lot of players, a lot of parents, that way through coaching various teams and various players. And then, I also just went to the local high school coach that I knew and got in on a parent meeting and just told people that I was starting this new business, that I was going to be training. And that really got it rolling. And from there on out, it was pretty much just people talking to their friends and referring them to me. I, obviously, started social media accounts and was able to pull in a few more here and there through my social media. I've done a little bit of paid advertising here and there but it's mostly been word of mouth, I would say, in picking up clients. I have some guys that will come down from Idaho that will come see me, Nevada. I've had a client of mine from Kansas who comes in every now and then. It's funny, being here at BYU, just with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there's just a lot of people that come in and know me through that from various locations because they followed BYU. I don't know if you guys ever watch BYU games on the road but you'll hear a lot of folks cheering just because of that connection through the church. So, there will be ... I've had, and I would say majority of my clients are here in Utah. I have, like I said, occasional ones that come in from nearby states as well.

Craig: Great. So, let's talk a little bit more about social media. I know Hustle, we've been following you for a while and I know you've got a pretty substantial Instagram following. How do you build that following? What's your strategy around that?

Coach Halford: Yeah. So, when I just started out, and I've just been trying to learn more and more about that, because I definitely am not an expert in it, but have just done ... My wife, she's actually a communications major, so she's been helping me with it. But just really trying to connect with everyone. Literally, every space that you can think of in the world of sports and basketball and specific, whether it's commenting on every post, replying to people who message me to try and build trust. And then, just posting as much as I can every day to try and build that trust and try to get people to ultimately ... Because that's the number one thing is you need to have an audience that trusts you and finds you credible. And for me, it just kind of continued to roll out, obviously reaching out to other influencers and friends in the space that you know that can help you. Either promote and help you or collaborate with them. Just trying to do as much as I can with those different things: Collaborations, reaching out, building trust by giving free content, by giving free feedback. Trying and making as many things as I can free so people trust and want to work with me and see that I'm really trying to help them. That's, I feel like, has been a ... Those have been contributors to the building of that social media side of the business.

Tristan: Definitely. I'd say so, and it's universal. Instilling that mentality in folks whether it's shooting, whether it's learning how to shoot, you need to have that important step there. So, obviously here, going right off of social media here at Hustle, we are big in the technology game and how it can really help improve our games and how it can help take us into the next step, the future of basketball, so to speak. The future of all sports training. Where do you see the future of training and technology going and is there anything you use now that you think really helps when training your clients?

Coach Halford: That is such a great question. A couple of great things that I've seen lately that I really like is that new Home Court app. Have you guys seen that? Developed by Steve Nash and a few others.

Craig: Yes.

Coach Halford: Have you guys seen that at all?

Tristan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Coach Halford: So, I've been using that with some of my clients. I really like ... The thing is it's obviously the game of basketball has become very data driven and the more data you can put into ... I feel like it's more so, they have the Xs and Os and the situations of where you're successful in this play or not. But I think ... I had a conversation with a fitness trainer that I know recently and talking about how the world of individual training in basketball can get better. And it's somehow finding a way to get data involved in personal training in repetitions that you're doing with whatever it is that you're working on to where ... and I don't know if I'm explaining this correctly but to where you can see exactly what your growth is, you can see exactly where, pinpoint, where you need to improve. And I feel like it's to compare it, what I'm trying to say in the fitness world, you've got your Force Plays that are showing you, "Okay, I'm this explosive from this position. Okay, we've been doing X amount of workouts, these types of workouts, and you've increased this much. Okay, we're heading in the right direction, we need to continue with these workouts versus other workouts that you may be trying to do where other muscles that you're targeting." And if there could be a way to shift that to individual training and track more of the movements of what you're doing with basketball, I feel like that could really help grow the game of basketball and make it even more data driven than it is. But that's just what I've been thinking about recently with this friend of mine but obviously, I don't have the whole scope to figure out how I would do that.

Tristan: Who does?

Coach Halford: But that's my idea of what it might look like moving forward.

Tristan: No, I'm with you. So, with your clients are you usually filming them and walking them through ... Taking a look at the film afterwards of walking them through where they can improve? Or is it all verbal and in front of them?

Coach Halford: Oh no. You have to have ... You have to have video feedback. And it's so easy nowadays. You can't go without it. You have your phone. Literally, I just whip out my phone and I can record every single player that's in a session. And then, it also helps, from a coaching perspective, to convince the player what they're doing. Sometimes players will be like, "Oh, I don't feel like I'm doing that. No, my shot feels fine." And then, you show them and they're like, "Oh wow." And it kind of instills that trust again from a coaching perspective. But yeah, every time, every training, I have my phone out and we're videoing. We stop. We watch the footwork. We watch what's happening and we critique and we teach and we learn that way. And I don't just let these guys continue to just run through drills and run through lines because then they're just building bad habits. So, we film it, we watch it, and we go and do it again until we can get it right.

Tristan: That's what it's all about, repetition, repetition, repetition.

Coach Halford: Absolutely. Yes, sir.

Tristan: Coach, we definitely appreciate your time here today. Really quick, before we let you go, we'd like to do a little rapid fire session that we do with all our guests.

Coach Halford: Okay.

Tristan: We're going to throw it at you. It's going to be a catch and shoot type of drill. You're going to have to just chuck it up there.

Coach Halford: I like it.

Tristan: But we'll know that you've got the right form down that you're definitely nailing all these ones.

Coach Halford: These are my kind of drills. I like it. We'll see how well I do.

Tristan: I'd say so. We'll start off easy. Favorite sports movie of all time, Coach?

Coach Halford: Favorite sports movie, Space Jam. Michael Jordan-

Craig: Isn't there a new one coming out?

Coach Halford: I think there might be. There might be actually but.

Craig: Awesome. So, who is the coach across any sport that you admire the most?

Coach Halford: Oh man, across any sport that I admire the most. Wow. Wow, and this is supposed to be rapid fire, sorry guys.

Tristan: You're good.

Coach Halford: Man, you know, I'll shout out my own head coach that I had, Coach Dave Rose. He was so inspiring to me because I don't know if you guys know his story, but he had a very rare form of cancer that not too many people get through, and he was such a competitor not only in basketball but just fighting through that. And I know everyone these days, I feel like, knows someone or knows someone who knows somebody that has cancer and how hard it is to get through. And man, he fought through that thing and pushed and pushed and pushed and he's still here today. And it's because he's such a fighter. So, he's a big time mentor to me.

Craig: Yeah, that's great.

Tristan: Wow. Love to hear that story. Absolutely. All right, let's ask you here. What is your favorite basketball shoe of all time?

Coach Halford: The Nike Hyperdunks that Vince Carr used to wear back in the day. They had hyper shocks. I don't know if you guys remember those.

Tristan: Yeah, I do.

Coach Halford: All time favorite. They had the little force shocks on the back. Oh man.

Tristan: I used to think they'd be like a pogo stick kind of thing, just make you bounce.

Coach Halford: And I always was convinced I could jump like five inches things higher with those things on. They had springs in them. But they were definitely my favorite pair of shoes of all time.

Tristan: Nice. Thinking about your-

Coach Halford: Yeah, absolutely. Love those ones. I was thinking of one that was close to it and I was like, "No, it's the Hyperdunks. It's those."

Tristan: Nice. So thinking about the players that you train, what's one mistake that you see players making in the off season that causes a setback going into the next year?

Coach Halford: Oh, it's not enough work. I mean, that's plain and simple, it's just not enough work. I can tell the players who either take a break ... Like some people will come to me for three or four months and then it's like, "Okay, we're going to take a break and work on our own." And that's what I try and tell my players, "You've got to put in the work by yourselves." Usually people will come see me, sometimes once a week. Sometimes three times a week. But the biggest mistake is players just not putting in enough time because you can see it, you can tell when they come back from a summer as a coach or come back from three months when you haven't really seen them. You know who's been working and who hasn't. It's pretty apparent.

Craig: I'd say so. All right, Coach, last one here. I'm sure you've gotten the question before. If you could play one-on-one versus any NBA player, past or present, who would it be? That's not what I'm going to ask though. I'm going to ask if there's any NBA player past or present that you could take out to dinner or to take out just to walk around and really gain some knowledge from them and absorb the knowledge that he's got to impart on you. Who would it be?

Coach Halford: Oh hands down, Michael Jordan. Hands down. Hands down.

Craig: I saw that one coming.

Coach Halford: I'm still a big Michael Jordan fan. I know you guys knew the answer before. I was thinking either him or Kobe because Kobe Bryant, he's very ... You see him come out with his new book and he's got lots of wisdom. But I would just like to pick Michael Jordan or Kobe's brain apart and just see ... just ask him every question in the book that I possibly could think of. Yeah, for sure, one of those two, but Michael Jordan wins.

Tristan: I figured it was leaning that way. I didn't know if being a Jazz guy it might be Malone or Stockton or one of those guys from back in the day but ...

Coach Halford: Yeah. No, Michael takes the cake.

Tristan: Obviously, yeah. You've got to go with the great one, that's for sure. Well Coach, appreciate your time here again tonight. Before we let you go, let's hear where we can find you. Social media, website, all that. Let's hear it all.

Coach Halford: Yeah, absolutely. So, on Instagram it's @HalfordHoops as well as on Facebook you can find us at Halford Hoops. My website is www.halfordhoops.com. I've got great drills, online trainings there, that you can check out. I just came out with a new one for a three point shooting workout. So, it's got some good stuff there so you can check it out.

Tristan: Perfect. Thanks, Coach. And that's Halford, H-A-L-F-O-R-D.

Coach Halford: O-R-D, yep.

Tristan: When you're searching it on the social media and online as well. Coach, thank you again. I'm sure we'll touch base with you a little bit down the line but until then, keep shooting and we'll talk to you soon.

Coach Halford: We'll do. Hey, thanks guys. Thanks for having me.