Headline Performance Analysis

Trainer: Scumbag or Savior?

The following is a guest contribution from Dan Barto.  Barto is the lead NBA trainer at IMG Academies in Bradenton, FL.   He has worked with over 120 NBA players using his “Hybrid Training System” as well as coaching over 80 Division I basketball players.  The son of a 30 year high school coach and having studied Sport Organization with Coaching at Miami University of Ohio, he has spent the last 9 years working with the likes of IMG Academies, International Performance Institute, Athletes Performance Mark Verstegen, Bommorito Performance Systems Pete Bommorito, Steve Shembaum of GAMEON, Joe Abunassar’s Impact Basketball, NBA Trainer/ ESPN analyst David Thorpe, Under Armor Basketball Combines and Combine 360, Inc.

Stories about elite athlete training are everywhere.  The importance of the NFL Combine Testing and where guys prepared, Barry Bonds “trainer” Greg Anderson not testifying, and finishing the week with the Oregon Football program coming under attack for paying for recruiting services by “trainer” Willie Lyles begs the question: What role does a trainer play?

In the 80’s and 90’s, players in just a few sports had trainers in the off-season, and in other sports, a coach who may help them with their tactics and mental approach.  Two of the most famous trainers were David Leadbetter and Nick Bollettieri, whose innovative swing techniques helped accelerate phenom players through the ranks.  Individual sports were the pioneers for the paid “trainer”.

Trainers have now become influential pieces to major sports agencies growth like Wasserman Media Group and Boras Corporation, as well as “family” to many elite amateur athletes, the talented ones and the rich ones.  Facilities are opening in every city and town bearing the names of those with impressive client lists, as sponsorship dollars are following.

In the basketball industry, players are sometimes more loyal to their trainers than their agents.  In many cases basketball players are using “trainers” for skill, physical development, psychology, and in-season mentorship.  As we look into the future of shortened contracts, less signing bonuses money, bigger player pools, and performance based pay, what will the word “trainer” mean?  How will professional teams who employee these players handle “trainers”?  How will “trainers” be judged for their ideas, methodology and return on investment?

The players see value and like the consistency of someone that knows their body, abilities, learning style, and dreams.  The only money conversations are weekly or yearly fees. Training players is now a desired position with a healthy, sometimes enormous salary.  We also have a generation of young athletes that begin individual training at very early ages creating a near co-dependency on the concept.

In the coming weeks, I will be covering this emerging topic to help agents, families, and trainers with the history of the industry.  I look forward to your comments and questions.