Basketball Training with Professional Players and Developing the Right Work Ethic with Marcus Hodges

Marcus Hodges, head trainer of Separation Team.  Photo Credit: separationteam.com

Marcus Hodges, head trainer of Separation Team. Photo Credit: separationteam.com

Tristan: Alright, welcome in everyone on the line with us right now. Basketball trainer, Separation Team's CEO, Marcus Hodges on the line with us. Marcus, how we doing today?

Marcus Hodges: Doing good man. Doing really good. How about yourself?

Tristan: Oh, I'm doing fantastic. Doing well, doing fantastic. Happy that you're able to join us here tonight and happy that we could steal a little bit of your time. I know it's valuable especially this time of year. You know right after the basketball season, it seems like everybody's trying to get in the gym. Happy that you are still able to take some time away from your day to speak to us. So, let's just, let's just get right in to it. I mean I think we need to start from the beginning from the foundations here. You know, what ... Tell us a little about you, tell us a little about what was your path in to getting where you are now in training and development and what drove you to this role where you're helping develop athletes of all ages?

Marcus Hodges: Well, yeah, I pretty much, you know it started when I was young. In high school, I always noticed I was a guy that just paid attention to a lot of details. Not exactly knowing what I was doing, but just noticed if a player were to walk in the gym holding the ball in his left hand. I would really assess his game, saying I know he's a left hander, it seems like he's going to be one of those players to play a left side. So, definitely at a young age I noticed, I just, I feel like I notice smaller detail other than the rest of my peers. And then that kind of led off to college and then once I graduated, I played one year in the BBL, the British Basketball League out in London. That was a good time but it was a learning experience for me, just a different place. I wasn't in America. It wasn't a language barrier, but definitely just trying to get a grasp and an understanding to my new setting. So, I grew up really, really fast. It really just tested me as a, you know, just as a human being. That year went really well. I came back home and my team ended up folding, so they couldn't sign me for another year, so I didn't know what I was going to do. So, I was just one of those guys that was always in the gym, you know, putting in work. I didn't have my own trainer. I pretty much trained myself and before I noticed, I had 10 - 15 kids in the gym almost every single day just at a local YMCA. Then from there it just, you know, went from 10 - 15 kids to 20-30 kids. So I met with a couple of business guys and learned the business and then ... Almost ... Here we are now. So, I would say that's pretty much how it started at the beginning.

Tristan: Right. Yeah and so now you are the CEO of your own training company, Separation Team. Walk us through what Separation Team's all about and how your brand of instruction is superior to some of the other methods out there today.

Marcus Hodges: I first started with the company called I'm Possible. I believe they're the biggest training company in the world. They have about ... Over 300 trainers. It is an innovative training company. The CEO is Micah Lancaster. I started with him in Raleigh, North Carolina. Learned a lot ... You know the skill base, but I also just learned the innovativeness with cones and learning how to get better with a basketball, but also with medicine balls, cones, just being innovative. Just being innovative. And from there I took a little bit of that and then some of my knowledge I had to my self and kind just of blended in and created Separation Team. So, it's just about players. What are you willing to do as a person, as a basketball player, as an athlete to separate yourself from the person to your left or from the person to your right? So, that was pretty much my motto. Just ... What are you going to do to separate yourself? Whether that's taking extra jump shots. Making sure you eat well. Making sure that you recover. Making sure you are watching films. I just started creating a company about 2013 ... 2013, 2014, Separation Team and it's doing really well now in Raleigh, North Carolina. And I'm also stepping over in Israel and China. So, that's how the business started. Started with it.

Craig: Yeah, that is a great evolution. You mentioned drills with cones and medicine balls. At Hustle, of course we're really focused on all the different activities that players can do to get better. Can you give us an example of maybe like a ... One of your favorite drills that incorporates cones and then maybe a favorite drill where you use medicine balls?

As players and as playmakers, we tend to always be able to work with two basketballs doing something at the same time. But are you able to do something with one hand and something completely different with the other hand?

Marcus Hodges: I don't if I have a favorite, but I can just say with that is just ... It's just accountability. You know, medicine balls, that you know they weigh from two to six pounds. Just being able to drop it, drop it in the air and then being able to catch it before it drops on all the way down with one hand and then being able to keep your dribble with the opposite hand. As players and as play makers, we tend to always be able to work with two basketballs doing something at the same time. But are you able to do something with one hand and something completely different with the other hand? So the drop and snatch, I really love to do that. Back in the day ... And actually I still do it now, that's one of my, I guess I would say favorite or go to, you know, drills. When I first started, just to see and assess a player. Are they able to operate with their hands together and then are they able to just be free and do whatever they want and still maintain an aggressive pound?

Craig: And what about a good cone drill?

Marcus Hodges: Once again, cones just for accountability. It can hold you accountable for being low. It can hold you accountable just for your off hand. I would say just your old school pin ball series. Just put five or six cones from ... Angled from right to left, right to left, and just giving players different moves. Sometimes giving them scripted drills and then also just letting them freestyle. As trainers, as coaches, we tend to tell these players what to do so much all the time. Do this, do that, do this, do that. So at times we might not even know we're almost turning them into robots. We have to remember to give these guys, you know, just some freedom and see what type of players they actually are.

Craig: Got it, so Coach, you've got an impressive resume. Can you share with us any of the players that you've worked with over the years? And then, also, just ... I was wondering, do you have a preference in the type of players that you're working with? I know you work youth or college or pro athletes.

Marcus Hodges and Ben Simmons at a Nike camp in China.  Photo Credit: @marcushodges1 IG

Marcus Hodges and Ben Simmons at a Nike camp in China. Photo Credit: @marcushodges1 IG

Marcus Hodges: You know, it's always good to get in the gym, you know, with pro athletes. One, they're pro athletes. And then usually in the workouts, you find out why they're pro athletes. You see the ... You know you see those guys getting there on time. You see they're putting up their shots. It's really cool just to see the players routines. You know before I even tell them what we are going to do, they'll get up in to the rim, you know, take their shots or almost even how they're putting their selves together with, you know, tying their shoes, you know, putting their headband on. But, I would say some of the players I've worked with ... I was with Ben Simmons for a week and a half out in China. I was with Nike at the Nike Top 100. I think it was the Nike All Asia. So the top hundred players of All Asia and Ben Simmons ran it, so after the camp, me and Ben Simmons worked on some ball handling and some shooting stuff. I've also ran some camps with Dwayne Wade back in 2014 I believe. I've had the pleasure with working with some of the younger local players too. A guy named Devonte' Graham, I worked with since he was about 8th grade. He plays on the Charlotte Hornets now. A guy named Rawle Alkins who was also in Raleigh plays on the Chicago Bulls. Those are some of the guys that I worked with a lot. I've worked with, you know, players here and there during the summer when I'm able to travel. When I'm able to travel and leave the state.

Craig: No, that's great, that's an impressive roster for sure. You mentioned working on ball handling with Ben Simmons. You know, would you say that you have a specialty in your training? Is it ball handling, shooting, defense?

Marcus Hodges: I would try to say everything. I mean, I'm definitely a skill specialist, but I know I definitely know how to get the reps and get the conditioning also, but I'm just a skill specialist. I want to be able to maximize the player's skill set to the highest of their capabilities, whether that's ball handling. A lot of people think, you know, I'm just ... I wouldn't say just ball handling, but it really sticks out, but honestly when I played, I was known as a good shooter, so I'm able to teach players how to properly shoot, you know, off the dribble, off the catch. So, I really would just say I'm a skill specialist. I wouldn't say, you know, just one specific defense shooting or ball handling.

Tristan: Yeah, no, that's definitely something that ... Being well rounded certainly never hurts to have in the training realm. Now, when you are ... When you have these clients, is it something that you always lead with? How do you identify what they need to work on the most? Do you have a process or a method in doing that?

Marcus Hodges: Yeah, so usually when I get with a new player, I'll just have ... I'll usually have a certain method that I will stick with and it's usually trying to see what type of player they are mentally. I want to see how they react to miss shots, how they react to made shots. I want to see what type of conditioning they're in. I'll also see, you know, ball handling, are they able to stop properly? How's their balance? With their shooting, are they keeping a consistent follow through? I try just to assess all that within the first session. And, you know, depending the player, I'll bounce that off with the next session or with the next, you know, summer or however long I'm able to have those type of players. You know, the high level guys, there's Synergy out there. So I'm able to see all their shots and their makes and their misses and see what type of spots they'll get in. And then, you know, you have the younger players and you know, if you're not able to make all their games you just have to assess their skill level and it's going to grow on that relationship you build up. Being able to talk with them. Some things they want to work on, then I'll give my perspective and we'll try to find a meeting ground.

Tristan: Got it, yeah, that seems like an evolving checklist as well. You never know, especially, obviously if it's the pros, you've got the T.V., you've got all the replays, the All-22 as they call them in football that you can watch. But, yeah, no, definitely an adaptive approach which I think you need. Now, as you bring on these new players, is there anything you've identified in your experience training these guys that you think most players need to work on?

Marcus Hodges: I would say just their overall skill of everything. You know, as It's starting to be ... Coaches are starting to be aware of it, but you've got to think coaches, we, coaches, they box players in to a certain thing. If a shooter's a shooter, I want my guy shooting the ball, I don't want him putting the ball on the floor. And during the season, I can understand that being a coach, you know? If a player can shoot well, you want them to shoot the ball. He shoots the ball well, it's good for him, you win basketball games. He doesn't shoot the ball well, you lose games. You know, you're fired. So, you can't get so much in the skill of trying to complete that player. So, that's kind of my job. I want to make sure their strengths stay their strengths, but I also want to make sure that they just can evolve to a universal player. As we see, the NBA right now, it's positionless basketball. We see LeBron James pretty much started that. We have Steph Curry who's, you know, created the players, you know shooting the three before, you know, almost taking a layup, and that's really expanding. And all these younger players now are seeing that and their copying it, so it's big on the trainers now, the coaches now to evolve the players, but to see all those small details of, you know, when you're in the post, you got to have post man footwork. When you're in the perimeter, you got to be able to have perimeter footwork. So, it's pretty much a give or take. You got to be able to do both.

Tristan: You mentioned youth players following some of the examples set by the pros. How do you adjust your training technique when working with youth players?

Marcus: It's definitely a big adjustment mentally for me. But as a skill base it just honestly depends. I have some 12 and 13 year olds that their skill set is a lot better than a lot of NBA players, I'll put money on it. Just because there wasn't a right and wrong with them. These guys started with me, let’s say age nine and ten, so there wasn't a right or wrong. They were just raw athletes, didn't know anything. So I'm just showing them everything can be right in moments, everything could be wrong in moments. But I want to show them all the moments. So they're just a free basketball player able to float the ball with their left hand, float the ball with their right hand, proper form shooting, being able to stop, step through, shoot fade aways, shoot threes. So skill-wise it's not going to change so much, but of course depending on how good or bad the player is. But mainly just the mental of it. The pros they want to compete. They're going after it every single day. "Hey coach, what are we going to? How many shots? How long? When are we playing one-on-ones, when are we playing two-on-twos?" I just love that competitive spirit. Some of the younger players they might not have it yet. Their attention span might not be as long and they're in there to get work, get better, and then they'll leave. The pros, at times, it's hard to get them to leave. Especially when those one-on-ones start.

Tristan: Yeah, so I know you work with a wide range of players and I know you've got a strong online presence, but how do you find new clients, or how do you run into new opportunities to continue to grow the base of players that you work with?

Marcus: You know, I sound old school, but I'm sure you guys know. Work of mouth is still just the best way to market yourself. I grew up here in Raleigh, North Carolina, so not going to say it's easy. My hard part was really getting players, coaches, parents to understand the mark is the player, the mark is the trainer, the trainer's last coach. I'm not having that problem now, but when I first started that was I would say my hardest adjustment. Really, how can I say it, I would say yeah I mean.

Tristan: Kind of your network right?

Marcus: Yeah that's really how I do it. Just word of mouth. Social media of course is great. Don't get me wrong. I've made some, or making some pretty good money off of it, and getting new clients. Still locally that's what's important for me at least right now. Just word of mouth. Trying to be as many games as possible to show my face. Trying to stay on the scene and then obviously being able to have that family bounds too. Yeah, just word of mouth.

Marcus Hodges training players during a Nike camp in China.  Photo credit: separationteam.com

Marcus Hodges training players during a Nike camp in China. Photo credit: separationteam.com

Tristan: Yeah, so you bring up word of mouth, and obviously that helps to have that reputation out there that obviously precedes you at this case. Tell us a little about the starting out. You played in the British Basketball League. You were coming out. Had some time in between then and now to where you are, and are successful in this. What was it like starting out? And tell us a little bit about that process.

Marcus: Starting out is rough. It was rough. That's what I really try to tell a lot of upcoming trainers and a lot of upcoming entrepreneurs. There's the days where you're in 5 or 6 different gyms between 45 minutes to an hour away. It gets rough. You're just on the road. I'm here for 2 hours training travel 45 minutes here training. Sometimes clients pay. Sometimes clients don't pay, and it gets really frustrating. Really just being consistent each and every day no matter who you're in the gym with. Whether you have a 9 year old a 10 year old. Trying to give him your best work. Definitely at the beginning I'm a walking brand. I'm just a walking product. So anytime I would slack off on it I'm kind of slacking off on myself and on my brand. Really how it just started off was being consistent as possible and just being able to learn and adapt. I didn't know what I was doing at the beginning. Definitely the business wise I didn't know. I was filming. Showing videos of me shooting the ball really deep. Dribbling the ball really fast. I didn't know that was marketing. I was just making videos having fun. And then starting to learn the business. Hanging around some business people. More business mind people. Getting introduced to this guy, this female, and being able to grow.

I think technology is going to be huge. Especially for trainers and for coaches that are really popular really trying to grow their brand. You’re not able to be everywhere. You’re not able to be 5 or 6 places at a time. So technology can definitely help the players.

Tristan: Got it. Nice. Really good evolution. So I want to kind of switch gears. Here at Hustle, of course we incorporate sports technology into everything we do for player development and training. Tell us, what role does technology play in your business? And then what role do you see technology moving into the future with sports and athletic training?

Marcus: I think technology is going to be huge. Especially for trainers and for coaches that are really popular really trying to grow their brand. You're not able to be everywhere. You're not able to be 5 or 6 places at a time. So technology can definitely help the players. Help those coaches out. If you're able to create an app or to create an online training system with over a hundred plus videos you're able to touch and help a lot more lives than you actually are live in your specific area. So technology I believe is going to be huge in the basketball training world. We are already seeing it right now making a huge impact, and it just going to continue to grow and grow and grow. As of right now I'm working on a online program. It's tough getting all the videos to make sense. Of course, you want to have everything look good. You'll see some other guys working on their projects, and you want to make sure yours is just as good or better. But I love the competitive spirit with that. I love what everybody is doing. I love the online training, seeing what's going on, and just being able to grow from it. So I love the technology.

Tristan: Of course, as do we. That goes without saying though obviously. Real quick coach. Again, appreciate your time here today. I want to go into something that we close out all our interviews with. That is the rapid fire round. So we're just going to throw a couple of questions at you here, and you just say the first thing that comes to your mind. We'll make it easy. Obviously you have not been prepped for these ahead of time. So we will go a little easy on you. I'm going to start out here, keep it sports themed, what is your favorite sports movie of all time?

Marcus: Wow. Love and Basketball.

Tristan: Good one. All right. How about, I've got a question, what's your favorite basketball shoe of all time?

Marcus: Favorite basketball shoe of all time? I would just have to say Jordan.

Tristan: Oh yeah. All right. But, which Jordans? Wait that's too easy, which Jordans?

Marcus: It depends. If not playing, I love the 11s. I have 6 or 7 pair of them. I don't wear them to play, but I wear them to hang out in. But, those Jordans are sweet.

Tristan: Jordan 11, all right. We'll keep that one in mind. Though, that might answer my next question here. This is the top debate going on right now in all of basketball. M.J. Or LeBron? Or somebody else?

Marcus: I'm going with M.J. Man. Wax on, wax off. He's a sensei. I don't think you can ever beat him. That's just my mindset. Jordan will always be number one.

Tristan: Got it. I've got one that's a little bit tougher. What's one mistake that players make in the off season that causes them to kind of slow down on progress? What do they do in the off season?

Marcus: What mistakes? One thing that pops in my head is going to be once they sign that big contract. That "bag" as we say in basketball. I think a lot of the players kind of tone it down. Of course, I'm not speaking for all. But I believe once you got that check that's going to set you and your kids, and probably your kid's kids straight. Players might tend to kind of tone down the training and say "It's guaranteed. I know I'm going to be set. Let's have some fun."

Tristan: Got it. Of course. All right last one here coach. This might be a little broad, but do you have a favorite sports memory of your own and your own experience?

Marcus Hodges encouraging players during a personal training session.  Photo Credit: separationteam.com

Marcus Hodges encouraging players during a personal training session. Photo Credit: separationteam.com

Marcus: Favorite sports memory? What just pops in my head immediately senior year in high school. We're ranked number 1. We're playing the number 2 best team to go to the state championship. 12 seconds left on the clock. I drive into the hole on a 7 footer guy who was going to Wake Forest University. I remember not seeing any of the rim. I just literally threw it up, and it fell straight in. There was a couple of seconds left on the clock. The guy threw it from half court. He missed it. We ended up winning and going to the state championship. That still sticks out in my head. I still tell that story here and there.

Tristan: That's awesome. I'd say for good reason. I was getting pumped up just listening to it. We all have those. Whether it's high school, little league, whatever it is I'm sure that we can all relate to it. No doubt. Again coach, definitely appreciate your time here tonight. Before we let you go here, I want to know where we can find you? Let's hear the social handles and all that. You mentioned you're developing the online training program as well right now. Where can we find that? Let us know.

Marcus: Yeah, www.separationteam.com, my online training program. My Instagram is marcushodges1, and Facebook Marcus Hodges. And Facebook for my company Separation Team also. So @separationteam1 and @marcushodges1 on Instagram is what you guys can find me. Follow, engage, comment, do all that good stuff. Share, do all of it for me.

Tristan: All of it. Yeah we know. Download, rate, subscribe. Yeah we know all the terminology. Mash it all. We can turn it all in there. As we say goodbye to Marcus tonight, hopefully we can take a couple of tips from this interview here. Marcus, appreciate your time again. And you take it easy. We're looking forward to seeing what you got on the horizon here.

Craig: Yeah thanks coach.

Marcus: Thank you. Appreciate your guys time. It means a lot.