I like to share real-life, inspirational stories. You may have noticed a series of instructional videos that we have been promoting lately on our facebook page from a rising start in the coaching world: Alandis Maxwell A.K.A.: A-Max from Columbia. I discovered this treasure trove of basketball fundamental exercises on YouTube on his MaxXpotential Channel, and immediately reached out to him to ask if we can share them with our followers. He generously said yes. So I hope you will keep coming back to see new videos as he produces them.
What drew me to Mr. Maxwell is his obvious passion for the game of basketball but his larger enthusiasm for helping kids achieve their dream, and to become good citizens in this world with respect for others and good sportsmanship. I wondered where that came from? I am always curious to find out what inspires people that seem to have such obvious fire in the belly. And how can we bottle that and help distribute it to our athletes?
He told me that growing up, you might not have assumed him to be a “natural” (but neither was Michael Jordan – he had to work at it!). Alandis was not blessed with a large family of brothers to show him the ropes or the loving guidance of a father in an intact family structure. He had plenty of love from his mother who he considers to be his best friend, and his grandmother who was the one who introduced him to our Heavenly Father. “My grandmother was the one who got me started in church as a child.” Maxwell explains; She brought him up to love the Lord and be a good man, but without a mentor, there were troubled times in his spirt.
Kids everywhere are not always kind, and criticism even among friends, as he tried to teach himself the game that he loved, was harsh and sometimes their teasing stung. The early days growing up in Missouri, in a small town called Howardville, at the boot heel of Missouri were times of self-doubt and insecurities for Alandis until his sophomore year in New Madrid County Central high school when a coach by the name of Andrews changed his life with just a few kind words.
So, to you coaches out there, take note. There is a fine line you walk between building up and crushing a young spirit, between instilling values and shining as an example in your students minds forever. And you never know who’s life you are changing. My bet is more than you could ever know. The role you play in these kids lifes is huge! This next part of the story illustrates the difference between two coaching styles, both valuable but at opposite extremes of the spectrum.
“Coach Andrews really helped me with my confidence, he could play the game too, and he allowed us to showboat a bit. My ball handling skills improved, but there was this one game… I felt like it was all my fault that we lost, and Coach Andrews found me crying in the men’s room. He just said; “It’s gonna be alright. You are a good ball player” and it was that little bit of encouragement, that I will never forget.
In my Junior and Senior year I made the Varsity team, and Coach Crews was my coach. Coach Crews did not believe in showboating. He believed in fundamentals and team effort and in following the coaching given – no matter what!
“There was this one kid I remember” A-Max reflects “Shamar Davis, he was very talented, and that kid could jump! When he went up for a lay-up, he was above the rim, and had no need for the back board. But that was just not the way Coach Crews wanted us to do our lay-ups. He thought it was showboating, and threatened Shamar that if he did a lay-up shot like that again, he would be off the team. Davis tried to contain himself, but I guess he got caught up in the moment and he ended up getting kicked out of practice for laying the ball up three times without using the backboard, which went against what coach Cruise had taught, he always wanted us to use the backboard, from a fundamental prospective. Coach had Shamar’s grandfather, who happened to be a custodian at the school, come get him and take him home right then and there! There were other incidences: A kid by the name of, Joseph Howell dunked the ball in a game once and was benched for being “a lil flashy”, against coach Cruise wishes.
And you know, that affected me too. I can not to this day advocate playing like a robot. I understand that you have to maintain a certain authority as a Coach, and fundamentals are very important. They will help you win games – but there is a line. You shouldn’t squelch talent. So as I got older my game continued to improve. My ego grew too. I learned a lot from both coaches and some schools were looking at me. I was also pretty good at track and so when basketball season would end, I ran track. It was quite possible that I might scholarship in track. I received some letters of interest from Missouri Baptist and another school in Eugene Oregon. But I still loved basketball.
One day there were some scouts coming to an important track meet. I had won the conference in track. Coach warned me not to do anything physical. We had been training hard, and he wanted us all healthy. But I was cocky, and I wanted to go shoot some hoops that night, you know a little pick-up street ball after my big conference win, and as fate would have it, I came down wrong on the slick surface. It had been raining and the paint on the basketball court was still pretty slick. I was hurt badly enough that I had to go to the hospital with a nasty high ankle sprain. Needless to say, I did not get to run the rest of the season. I eventually recover and I did end up going to school at Iowa Central with a little assistance. It wasn’t like a full scholarship, but they said if I did well they would pay at the end of the year. I was still working out the kinks from my previous ankle injury. So I got my education but I was categorized as “unattached”.
And you know, it was a blessing in disguise. I am glad life happened the way it happened, because I was arrogant back then, and had all this not taken place I might not have the perspective I do now, or the compassion I now have for helping kids.
After college, my travels took me to Columbia where I now live, and I have to admit that I did lose my enthusiasm for basketball for a while, and I could feel it dying in my heart until one day I was watching some kids play at the Armory (which is like the boys and girls club), and there was this kid. Keith Fletcher, not a particularly big kid, and not particularly talented at basketball, but I could see that he understood the game. He was obviously smart and he had basketball smarts, but few skills. And for some reason I felt compelled to help him out. I talked to his mom about showing him how to play, and we met. I introduced Keith to my family and I sort of started mentoring him… not only in basketball, but in life. He was smart, but he was a little rough around the edges, so as we practiced basketball, I taught him how to speak respectfully and say, Yes Mam and No Sir and good sportsmanship. And one day we were playing some 1:1 Usually I throttle my game down a bit. Just enough to make it challenging for him, but not enough to annihilate him. As we played I discovered that I was going to have to pick up my game to beat him this time, and eventually he was able to beat me. This re-ignited my passion for basketball and inspired me to teach others.
So, now, as we speak, I have just completed my certification for training, and I have been building my coaching business. The videos you found on YouTube are my entry into this new endeavor, and for me, I am excited by it. It’s not about making a bunch of money. If I can earn a decent living sharing what I have learned about the game – and in the process mentor some kids to get an education and become better citizens. That is what it is about.
As for Keith Fletcher, he is doing fine. Like I said, he is smart. He went to college, but it was not with an academic scholarship. He is still a fine ball player though. And has become a fine gentleman. And remains a good friend to this day!