Today’s podcast guest is Ganon Baker, the owner, operator, and skills development coach at Ganon Baker Basketball. He is a world renowned basketball trainer who has coached in nearly 50 countries across the world, training almost 20,000 players a year.
After his college and professional playing career, Ganon spent six years as an assistant coach at Division I and Division II colleges, and for the past two decades he has built his skills and development company, Ganon Baker Basketball which includes personal skills training, coaching mentorship, online tutorials, and public speaking.
Recently, Ganon Baker paired with a company in China and has committed to educating coaches, trainers, and players in the emerging Chinese basketball market. Ganon has worked and shared the court with players such as Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, and many more. You can read an overview of the interview with Ganon Baker or listen to the podcast below for the full interview.
Q: As the skills trainer at Ganon Baker Basketball, you often only have these kids for a couple of sessions at a time, so how do you go about forging relationships where criticism and honesty will be well received?
A. For me, it’s always about what they want and what their goals are. A lot of times they have too many goals or skills they want to work on, so a lot of the times I tell them to focus on one. So the first thing is getting clarity and establishing a vision. Then, as a coach, you have to be self-aware. You have to start evaluating the player has soon as they walk in the gym. You can find out a lot about people by just watching them, and if they are disrespectful to their mom, for example, that tells you a lot about how they will be with a team. I start to evaluate their psychological strengths and weaknesses. And then in the first workout, I try to challenge them. I put them through adversity to see how they respond. Then I hit them with the truth. If you’re giving them the truth and you’re not lying to them, you have the confidence and the solutions to their problems. To me, there’s the buy in, there’s the trust.
Q: Different cultures have different experiences with what a coach should be and different expectations from a coach. During your time in China, how have you seen this play out, and have you changed your approach coaching?
A. No, I haven’t changed my approach with coaching basketball in China, because the US, Europe, Australia, Canada are the best at basketball, so I don’t conform to their culture. I tell them they need to be willing to change the culture of how they coach. Now is the time for them to implement, to change. I tell them they have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable… We’re changing a basketball culture. The only way to change is to have confrontation. Hopefully, with confrontation comes resolution. They tell me they’ve always been doing it the Chinese way, and I ask them to tell me when the last time the Chinese way was the best way in basketball. They all say the best coaches and players are American, well I’m an American. If you want to keep getting what your getting, keep doing what you’re doing. But if you want to get to another level, you need to change the level of your thinking. That is probably the biggest thing I talk about— changing cultures.
Q: What would be your one piece of advice to give to a coach or a trainer?
A. I would say if you want to be a coach or a leader, take some time for self-reflection, for prayer or meditation, to see if that’s what the universe wants you to do. Usually you can identify this if 1) you do it for free outside your real job, and 2) you love doing it even on the worst days. Second, you can’t let that passion get in the way of your family. You can’t let the passion of your calling get in the way of being there for your family. Family has to be at the top of your list. Third, once you decide to be the best you can be in this industry, you need to learn, grow, put yourself out there, ask questions even if they feel stupid. You need to develop regardless of the pain. It’s painful to do something you don’t want to do or go somewhere you don’t want to go, but regardless of the pain, grow as much as you can.