Inside the Business of Basketball Training with Bobby Whyte
Tristan: All right. Welcome in everyone. We have with us on the line Mr. Bobby Whyte. He is a basketball trainer and athletic trainer hailing from the east coast. He's here to talk to us a little bit today about his background, how he got to where he is today, and really where he is going in the future. Coach, how are we doing tonight?
Bobby: I'm doing fantastic. How are you guys doing? Thank you so much for having me.
Tristan: Not a problem. Not a problem. We're doing great. We're happy to talk to you. We're happy we could schedule this time out. You have your organization there going with HyPower Performance. You can check it out online. But, before we get into that, I want to hear about you, coach. How did we get to high power performance? So, did you play college ball back in the day? And where at and sort of what led you in that direction?
Bobby: Yeah. So, I played college ball up at Utica College in upstate New York. It was a division three program. I ended up being there for five years, missed an entire season with a herniated disc in my back. But I played D3 ball. I was a good high school player and I was a good college player, but I definitely struggled on the court and off the court at times. So, I did play. And I kind of fell in love with the game when I was young, but I was able to take it to a level where I played in college. And then, even after that, I was able to play in Dominican Republic a little bit.
Tristan: Right. And so, you mentioned something real quick right there. You struggled off the court a little bit, and we don't have to get into that or anything, but you think that sort of helped shape you, helped teach you a couple of lessons and get you where you are today?
Bobby: Oh, I've learned so much from struggling. I honestly don't even know where to start. But I maybe didn't do it justice. I struggled a lot off the court and that really held me back. I didn't really start to get my life together until I was about 24. I wasn't the superstar growing up. I'm six foot seven now and I was always one of the bigger kids, but I struggled a lot mentally and emotionally growing up, just whether it was worried about fitting in and stuff like that. And I didn't have that superstar attitude that a lot of the great players have, or that super level of confidence that the great players have. And I didn't really start to develop self confidence, I'd say, till I was like 24 years old. And that definitely helped me back on the court.
Tristan: Wow, okay. Well, hey, it's never too late. At least you did find that right path to get on there and we're definitely happy you did. Now you played over in the Dominican Republic for a little bit. What was the path afterwards? Was it jumping immediately into the training side? Or where did your life take you at that point?
Bobby: So, back when I got out of college, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life. And the only two things I knew, I always knew I how to work hard. No matter how much I struggled, my dad instilled that in me of just working really hard. So, I was always trying to strive to be the hardest worker on the team. And I carried that with me through high school and college. And when I started to really get my life together and I figured out... For me, I don't drink, I don't do any drugs. It's actually about to be seven years of complete sobriety. But, when I started that journey, I knew I loved basketball, I knew I loved working out, and I was blessed to have phenomenal trainers, both in the athletic performance side of things and on the basketball court. And I pretty much went out to them and I was like, what do I have to do to get a job here? And they told me what certifications to do. And I went through the internship process. And I was really fortunate to get around some of the smartest minds that I've ever been around at that point. And they kind of nurtured me and grew me into the trainer that I've become today.
Tristan: Wow, that's great. That's definitely a great story. So, we get to the point where you decide to jump into that training world. Is there a certain age range you started with, maybe a certain group? How did you really start to garner that following?
Bobby: So, I started with the local basketball program. The trainer, he was my trainer when I was in high school and he is phenomenal at doing it. And I was working for him. I wasn't making much money, but I was around a game that I loved and I was working crazy hours. In summer, I was doing the summer basketball camp things from nine to three, then I'd have a couple of private sessions until five. And then, there was also AAU part, travel basketball part of this program. So then, I was coaching like four or five teams at a time, working insane hours, but not making insane money, which didn't make sense to me after a while. And I got to a point where I thought I could go do it on my own. So, I started with that as I was still actually trying to play. And my goal was just to get overseas. I always wanted to be labeled a pro. And I really wanted to be a pro. And, once that happened, I saw that... I did it. I got over there. But I saw about how good of a trainer and a coach I could be. And I came back and I kind of made the decision, after a couple of failed attempts, not that I wasn't doing well, it's just it's really hard to do it. And I started doing really well as a trainer and put everything I had into that.
Craig: Yeah. You find your fit. So, when you were starting out, let's talk about that a little bit. How did you find new clients? It sounds like you had a ton of connections through a lot of different coaching opportunities. But what did you do starting out?
Bobby: So, initially I worked for my first boss who actually trained me when I was in high school and even through college and trying to play pro. And then, I also had trainers on the athletic performance side. And I looked at them like they were... I mean, they were actually gurus. I mean, my mentor Eric D'Agati, I mean, he is big with, I don't know if you know, Functional Movement Systems. But he's an awesome guy. And I asked him what I had to do to get into the personal training and performance training side of it because, at that time, I was just doing the basketball training for the other program. And again, he told me what certifications I had to get. And I went through the internship process. And, in that, I started training people for free. And I was also the stuff with the basketball where I was building a bunch of relationships where I was training people. And, as the two kind of just started to grow, I came to a point where I was working so hard but I didn't feel like I was being valued as much as I should have been for how much work I put in, and I made the jump. And, in the performance facility I was at was at Back Dance Studio. And that's the studio I still train in today. But it was literally like a spin studio with mirrors on the wall. And it had hardwood though. And it had a high ceiling and hardwood. And I would go back there some times and work on my handle and stuff like that. And I would look in there and be like, I think I could put a hoop in here. But, at that time, when I was 24, 25 years old, I was too afraid to even ask if they thought that was a good idea because I looked at this guy like he was like a mentor to me. I looked up to him. And I knew, at the level he was at, and I didn't want to get made fun of for this idea. And a couple months into working for him, he had seven full time trainers at the time. He sat us all down and he was like, I don't want to be in the gym business anymore. He had a full time job with the New York Giants. And I was actually blessed to work with them as well. But he just wanted to be a trainer and I completely understood it. But he was like, you're going to have to start your own business. I'm like, what? I'm 25 years old. I'm working for you. I'm learning. We had team meetings every week where we actually like... I'm big into the science, I'm big into learning. I really enjoy learning about training, both on the basketball side and the athletic development world. And I was like, what am I going to do now? And he kind of, him and other people, awesome people I have in my life, walked me through the process of starting my own business and filing an LLC, and getting an account to do the billing side of things, and all this stuff that I didn't want to do. Right? I had to do it. I really wasn't given a choice. And, now that he was gone, I had this Back Dance Studio. I'm like, no one is stopping me now from putting a hoop up there. And so, I put it up. And now, five years later, I think I've trained... I don't know the exact number, but I've put it at thousands of kids.
Bobby: I've trained in the skill development in a small dance studio. It's just about a three point line. It's got a three point line in there. It's probably not even a third of a full basketball court. But now, in the same facility, I've got my own business that I can work out in the weight room on the turf, I've got all the free weights and that stuff where I can work on athletic development. And, in the same facility, I have a small court where I can put a ball in their hand. And my dream and goal as a trainer was to marry those two worlds. In the beginning, I was told, you got to be an expert in one thing. Just pick one. Just pick one. And I'm like, well my one thing's going to be the basketball player, right? The basketball athlete. And I'm going to get as smart as I can, and I'm going to read, and I'm going to study as much as I can, and surround myself with as many smart people on both sides of that as I can. And that's what I've done. And it's really hard. The people who are telling me to be an expert in one thing, they are right to an extent. But I took on the responsibility, I put it on myself, to study both aspects of it. And now, I set myself department and I have carved that niche where, if you're a basketball player and you want to get stronger and move better, I've got a bunch of mobility certifications as well. But, if you're a basketball player and you want to work on your performance. I'm that guy. And I'm the only gym like my gym that there is, that is as good at what I do in both aspects.
Craig: Nice. Let's talk a little bit more about that expertise. So, obviously strength training and some of the things that you just mentioned, but would you say you have a specialty in terms of specific skills? Like, is it shooting, footwork, defense, ball handling?
Bobby: So, because of my knowledge in the athletic development side of it, without even knowing it anymore, I analyze kids and I study them as they move, whether they're dribbling or walking down the street, or whatever. I have an ability to see how they're moving. Right? And putting them in positions on the court, right, and teaching them how to efficiently carry themselves. So, whether it's ball handling, or shooting, or driving to the basket, or creating force, or absorbing forces, which is huge in basketball, or even stuff like single leg stability, how to be strong on one leg and absorb forces. Right? I can teach them how to do that because I have the background in athletic development.
Craig: Okay. Got it. Let's talk a little bit about some of the drills that you use. So, you mentioned single leg stability. Like walk us through this. Here at Hustle, we have tons of drills on our app that we walk players through. But tell us about some of your favorites.
Bobby: So I actually heard it, the coach is Rob Fodor. He is The Shooting Guy and he's with the Miami Heat. But he said something that I hadn't been able to put into words. And I love when I hear people say something that I've been trying to say and they said it better than I did. And then, I steal it from them, right? So, how we're taught the game of basketball at a young age, right, the first thing we do, we pick up the ball and then we want to put the ball through our legs, right? And, when we do that, we don't do it comfortably. We lift our leg up and we kind of throw the ball under our leg. And right there that's developmentally wrong because now we're learning to move our body around the ball or the instrument rather than being able to move the ball around our body. So, we have to have body control, right? And the ability to maintain posture, and get in the positions we need to on the court, and then move the ball around our body and not the other way around. So, for most of the kids, I'm pretty vocal with actually why I'm doing it and the purpose behind it. But a lot of stuff I do, just from being able to walk comfortably with the ball in the beginning, and then walk with the ball through our legs like you'd be walking through the park, and just being comfortable moving the basketball around your body, doing various things. And then I progress them into even like skipping. Skipping is an athletic movement. And, if you can't skip putting the ball through your legs, but you want to work... We talk about footwork and ball handling. I'm not trying to negate how important all the different footwork and all the different ball handling drills are. But, if you can't move comfortably with the basketball, what are you doing?
Tristan: Right. Yeah, no. I can definitely see you sending your kids home with the basketball, sleep with this and make sure you wake up with it too. And keep it held that entire time. Do you like to incorporate any tools in your training, cone drills? I know you said you have the free weights that you use outside of your facility. Any kind of favorite tools you really like in your specific style of training.
Bobby: Yeah. So, when I went on my own, I don't know if you know him, big time trainer, D.J. Sackmann. He was my point guard in high school. So, I've known him for like 20 years. And he actually works for the same guy I worked for. Then he went off and he started to work with Michael Lancaster in I'm Possible Training. And I'm still with this other like more local company. That was good, but I'm seeing what he's doing. I'm like, man, that's cool. Right? And their YouTube... At that time, YouTube was huge. And they were getting millions of views on YouTube. And my boy who I grew up with is like becoming this famous trainer all of a sudden. I'm like, what the heck? Right? And now he is what he is today with the sponsorships and everything he does. And he's phenomenal at what he does. But, when I made the decision to go out on my own, I was like, what do I have to do to get involved with the I'm Possible stuff? And I went and I flew down to North Carolina and I met those guys. And I got certified with I'm Possible. And that really helped with the terminology and not just using the cones for the sake of using cones, but knowing the purpose behind whether it's cones, or med balls, or tennis balls, or foam rollers. Any instrument that I think can add a benefit, I'll use it. But I don't just use them for the sake of using something that's cool or flashy. I want to use them because they have purpose and they get my players accountability or get them into the positions that I want to get them into.
Tristan: So you mentioned there... Yeah, we've talked to a few coaches here on this podcast about their backgrounds and certifications. You mentioned the I Am Possible training that you've done, and the certification you've gotten there. Can you just walk us through a little bit more of what that entails and exactly how they go about teaching their peers?
Bobby: Yeah, so it was different when I did it about five years ago. So I actually had to fly down to North Carolina. And I stayed down there and I went through it. It was a full weekend course. And at that time, there were less than 20 I'm Possible trainers. So it really meant something. And I was proud that I got it, because there weren't a lot of I'm Possible trainers at that time. Right after I did it he kind of opened up the flood gates and kind of made it easily accessible for... And now, I think there's 300 I'm Possible certified trainers, which I was a little mad about honestly. Because like for me it was something that was out there, and now he just opened it up to online courses and health certifications, a lot. Which I got, from a business perspective, but for me it kind of watered down what I was after.
Tristan: Chopped liver over here, come on.
Bobby: Yeah, to go back to your question of kind of their method, do you mean in terms of actually training on the court or in terms of like getting the certification?
Tristan: Getting the certification, and if they do teach you that encore training, how does that go about? Is it weekly blasts? Is it a yearly conferences? What is the process there?
Bobby: So, there's actually... So I have a couple of trainers that work for me now, But it actually speeds up the process of me and take... Of me educating my trainers that come under me. It definitely helps me out with that. So they have an online course that they give you all the material online. You can do it, youyou study the material and then you have to pass a test. And then there's a... They're big on terminology, giving names to the steps and the different types of dribbles and all the different movements. And they actually have set names that we use now. So now trainers can speak pretty universally and we know what a drop is. We know what a split-through is. We know what that is, which I like because again, we can establish that language now. So after we do the online material and study that, one, you have to take a written test and pass that and then you have to film a workout and send it in. And then if they like what you do, they certify you. But they give you, one, all the different terminology and you know how to use the cones and all that kind of stuff. But it really speeds up the process for me if I'm trying to bring out a new trainer to teach. Go get the certification and I'll help you from there. It makes my life easier.
Tristan: Nice. Got It. So let's switch gears and... Tell us a little bit about the types of players that you work with. You work with youth athletes, high school, college, into the pros. Tell us a little bit about who you train.
Bobby: Yeah, I started with mostly youth athletes and I'll kind of go through the progression of how I got to where I am now, working with pros and know elite level players. But initially, I was just happy to train people. I was just... I can't believe people are paying me money to do what I love. And it was awesome. And then I got so busy with my... So I used to go to LA Fitnesses and stuff like that. And I would go in there, and at that time I could 360 dunk. And I'd find out when the kids are going to be at the outside courts or at the LA Fitnesses of the world. And I would go there and I would show off a little bit and they would come up to me and, "What do you do?" "Oh, I'm actually a trainer down the street." So I got a lot of kids like that, initially. And I actually met some really good kids doing that. The one I work with now is Tyler Roberson, who's at Syracuse, and he played the last two years overseas and in the G-League. But I met him at an LA Fitness five years ago. And even today I work out with them three days a week. And we're trying to get him... He had a phenomenal season last year. But we're trying to get them into the NBA. And then I would kind of target... So from my town an the surrounding towns, I would try to build relationships with the best players on the team. So it started with the best player on the team from my town. I trained him, I got him better, right? And then he told everybody else on the team what he was doing. And that kind of opened up the floodgates by doing that. And I... Not that I don't like training kids that aren't good, because I do. I do enjoy it. I want kids to just really want to work. And the kids that don't want to work don't last with me. But I've done it long enough and I've stuck to my guns with that, with... I believe there's a right way and a wrong way. And I am pretty hard when I train kids, but I tell them the truth. If They're struggling something, I tell them they're struggling. And when they're good, I tell them they're good. But it weeds out the players that aren't in it, that don't really want to become great. Not that they're all going to be professional basketball players. Not that they're all going to be college basketball players. But I want kids that come in that have the desire to grow and mature and become better athletes. That will carry over to not just basketball. Whether it's, careers or whatever they end up wanting to do, I can still the work ethic through the game of basketball.
Tristan: Yeah. That's great. So how do you... Let's stay on that. How do you adapt your training strategy based on... Maybe it's the age level, the skill level, the types of experience of the guys that you're working with? How do you adjust? How do you go back and forth between entry level and kind of high-end ultra-skilled players?
Bobby: It's honestly not that much different. All right, so my job as trainer... They want to get better at basketball. We acquire new skill or we get better, whether it's stronger or better at basketball or just... We gain new skill at the edge of our ability. And that's a very uncomfortable place. So when I'm bringing players to the edge of their ability, right, that's where they get better. But I want them struggling. In terms of basketball, I want them dribbling the ball off their foot. I want them making mistakes. Because that's the edge, right? And that's where I want to take my players, is to that edge. So if it's a girl that's never touched a basketball before... Yeah, all right, so let's say it's a fourth grade girl. I'm a big, intimidating six-foot-seven guy with tattoos. I'm going to be a little bit softer. I'm going to smile more, I'm going to make it fun and interesting. But I'm going to teach them that making mistakes is okay. Even the great players, right, the guys that I have that are now trying to get drafted into the NBA, the same thing. I need to teach them that, as good as they are, they still have weaknesses. And we need to bring attention to those weaknesses. But they're great players, sometimes they don't want to expose their weaknesses. But after training with me a little bit, where I show them that they still have it and they see the improvement that they can still make, it's like... When they find their weaknesses, it's like finding gold. And the players that really want to do good, they're not scared of finding their weaknesses, and they're not scared of training at the edge of their ability anymore, because they know when they get there it's like finding gold. And that's what's going to bring them to the next level and get them sharper and sharper and sharper.
Tristan: Yeah, for sure. No, I definitely like the... I like how you just put that there. It's really not that different. You want to bring them to that edge. That's fantastic. Now, speaking of that edge, let's say you're bringing on a new client, or maybe somebody that you've worked with for a long time, do you notice anything consistent in your client base, in your experience, that most players do need to work on from a skillset?
Bobby: So, yes. It's funny, because I have so many dads or even moms sometimes, come in and, "He just needs to work on his jump-shot." And then I watch him play and I'm like, "He needs to work on a lot more than just his jump-shot." A lot of dads or whoever. Whatever, they come in and they think they know exactly what... "He needs to work on his left-hand passing," something ridiculous. Something whatever. And I watch him play, I'm like, "He's just not very good at all. He needs a lot of work.". So from... What do most kids... They need a ball in their hand and they need consistency more than anything. And that's what... People don't want that. They want the quick fix. They want the quick answer. And I think my method of training is very advanced and good and gets players better quicker than, maybe, some other trainers. And I take pride in my ability to do that. But generally, they need consistency. They need their hand on a ball a lot. They need to put in the work. And you don't get better without that work. So if there was one thing that kids or athletes need to get better, I would say it's consistency. At that edge, right? Whether you want to call it deep practice or finding the edge of their ability. But it's consistently training at that spot.
Tristan: Sure. Yeah, no, that definitely always... Practice makes perfect. And the more you do it, the more you get it down. Well coach, I want to sneak in one more question here before we get to our rapid fire round. And here at Hustle, we're all about the use of technology and advancing your training. I want to know, when it comes to training these kids, or pros, do you utilize any sort of technology today? And where do you see the future of technology in training going?
Bobby: There's definitely... In what I do, I use a lot more technology on the athletic performance side. My assessment process, I've got a full assessment, a movement assessment, where I'm bringing them through an entire movement screen. And I'm checking their different patterns, whether their squat is off, and a whole bunch of other things. And just how they move. If they're, one, dysfunctional, and two, asymmetrical from right to left. And we want to clear out any of those dysfunctions or asymmetries. And then from a capacity standpoint is how well do they create power and how well can they control their impact? So I've got a whole bunch of diagnostic tools and different things I do. And I'm always looking for new ways to test and measure development, right? So on the athletic development part, definitely. On the basketball side, I don't use... I don't think I use too much technology at this point. If you want to call cones and head balls and stuff like that technology, I do it. Just film analysis. I like to film my players a lot while they're training so I can show them the pictures of what they're doing and show them the video of what they're doing. I think just that instant feedback, that now we can do in 2019, is amazing, that we can film them while they're working out. And sometimes they think they're doing it right, but they're not. Just giving them that instant feedback. "No, you are actually doing it wrong, Johnny." And show them video. "Oh, okay." Then he can process that information and see it. And that speeds up the process.
Tristan: Yeah, I'd say so. And probably another way to to... Like you said, your athletes want to stick with you if they take a look at the video and say, "No, that's exactly right." Maybe another red flag. Well coach, appreciate your time here tonight. We want to do... We went close out here with something we do with all of our coaches and players here that we interview. A little rapid fire round. A little catch and shoot action. We're just going to fire a question at you and first thing that comes to mind, you just fire that right back. Sound good?
Bobby: Yeah. Nervous.
Tristan: All right. No, don't be nervous. If there's anything I've picked up on in this interview, you're passionate. You'll definitely knock this one out of the park as well. All right-
Bobby: All right, we'll do it. J.
Tristan: Joe, we'll start easy on you. Favorite sports movie of all time, coach?
Tristan: All right, good. What is your favorite basketball shoe of all time?
Bobby: Ah, the Kobe Six. I've heard that before.
Tristan: Yeah. I like that.
Bobby: And not... Some of the other Kobes are good, but the Kobe Six is the best you've ever made.
Bobby: Don't even try to debate me on that.
Tristan: You got it. I'm going to give that one to you. All right coach, best pregame meal?
Bobby: Man, best pregame meal? That's... I don't know.
Tristan: I'm sorry. And I think you're hungry right now, too, so I'm sorry if I'm bringing that up.
Bobby: Yeah, no, it's late-night. Right now I want Ben and Jerry's. But best pregame meal? Let's go with a grilled chicken salad. Maybe some-
Tristan: That's good.
Bobby: ... Sweet potatoes or something like that on the side to get some carbs.
Tristan: There we go. That's healthy. Who is the coach across any sport that you admire the most?
Bobby: Across any sport? I'd Popovich at this point, maybe. Or Belichick. Yeah, I'd go Popvich or Belichick, but I know that's football.
Tristan: No, that's fine. Two solid options right there. All right, coach, you are... I feel like you pride yourself a lot on the consistency and getting the ball in kids' hands as much as they can. Who do you think is the best ball handler in NBA history?
Bobby: In NBA... There's so many good ones. People have different skill sets, but right now, you look at what Curry's doing, or even... Kyrie, Dame Lillard, then Curry. Of all time? I think the best basketball players of all time are in the NBA right now. So you take any of the elite guards right now, whether it's Kyrie Irving, Dame Lillard, Curry. Any of those elite level guards, I think... Even Crawford, his handle was crazy. He wasn't as elite as them.
Tristan: Yeah, no, that's-
Bobby: ... In terms of what he put-
Tristan: That's fair. I wasn't sure if you're going to dig deep, go to the Muggsy Bogues type or something like that. But hey, no, that's... I like-
Craig: Pistol Pete.
Bobby: Yeah, so I... Yeah, Pistol Pete. Yeah, no. You want to go back then? Yeah, Pistol Pete is-
Tristan: No, no, no. Yeah, I agree with you-
Bobby: Revolutionized the game. He kind of... I think that he got a lot of credit for revolutionizing even skill-training in general.
Tristan: Right, yeah. Well, coach, again, appreciate your time. One more time here tonight. And I think that was a great, great interview, and certainly some great insight you provide here. Before we let you go, let's hear your... Where we can find you. Instagram, your website, all that.
Bobby: Instagram is probably the easiest. It's at Bobby Whyte, and that's B-O-B-B-Y-W-H-Y-T-E. A little curve ball in there with the Y. And then the same thing, hypowerperformance.com. And it's H-Y power performance.com.
Tristan: Oh, I see what you did there with the Y. All right, that's awesome. All right, coach, appreciate your time, again. I hope we're going to be able to check in with you at some point down the line coming soon.
Bobby: All right, thanks guys, so much, for having me.