Tristan: All right. Welcome in everyone. We got with us on the line, Mr. Paul Easton of Drills and Skills Basketball. Paul Easton Basketball, actually. He's on Instagram and YouTube. Search Paul Easton Basketball on Facebook and on Twitter. And, of course, he's got the website, https://iwantskills.com (how appropriate!). Mr. Paul Easton, how are you doing tonight?
Paul: I'm great. Thank you guys so much for having me on. Thank you.
Tristan: Absolutely. Appreciate you taking the time here. And we are going to get it rolling just right away. Let's start right there at square one with your story there, Coach. Tell us how you got to where you're at now with Paul Easton Basketball starting up your own business, your own training platform here. And obviously garnering a huge following on social media. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got here.
Paul: Yeah. Sure. Delighted to. I hail from Scotland. I was born in Scotland, U.K. And I was there until I was 24 years old. And, of course, we're not known for basketball at all. More golf, rugby. Football was you guys call soccer. I'm not really good at any of those either. So, yeah, I played a lot of sports growing up. And then when I was 13 years old, I visited Dallas, Texas, to visit my aunt. And I remember I was in the backyard one night and there was a local park there. And neighborhood kids were playing basketball. I'd seen it before, but I didn't know how to play it. So I watched them play and I just was in love with it. I loved the fast pace of the game. I loved the camaraderie, the high fives. I loved the things they were doing. So they said, "Hey, do you want to join in?" I said, "I don't know how to play." And I remember this one guy and I wished to this day that I'd kept in touch with him. He showed me how to play. And once everyone left, he showed me how to do a layup. How to do a jump shot. How to do a dribble through your legs. And after that, I just caught on like wildfire. I remember my aunt taking me to Walmart the next day. And I bought a black Michael Jordan basketball. And I treasured that thing. I really did. And deflated to get back on the plane home. Soon as I go home, is the first thing I did was pump that ball back up. I was in love. So I found a local basketball club. Started playing in Scotland. Very low level. Loved it. Wasn't really a good player. I played for my under-16 national team. I made the very last cut. I got cut when there were 15 players left and I was the one that got cut. They kept 14. I loved it. I quickly realized that coaching was my thing because I really enjoyed interacting with the younger players. And I always had good leadership skills. So my coach kind of pushed me towards coaching. And at first, I said, "Man, he must think I'm not a really good player to ask me to coach at 18 years old." And he was right. He was completely right. So I started coaching. Fell in love with it. Couldn't get enough of it. Within a year, I was coaching about three or four youth teams. Worked at a bank. I was a bank teller. And I did an associate's degree of college. Like two years of college. Took a full-time job in a bank. And I was coaching every day of the week almost and the weekends. Every day but Sunday, I think. And one day I was coaching a game. And the opposing coach said to me after the game, he said, "Hey, that was a great game you coached." It was a senior men's game. He said, "I really enjoyed coaching against you." I said, "Thanks very much." And he said to me, "What are you doing for the summer?" And I had a vague question. And I said, "I don't know." And he said, "Would you like to come to a camp with me to America?" And I'm thinking, "I've never met this guy." And I'm like, "Thank you, no." So he says, "Let's keep in touch." So we kept in touch. And it was so ironic because the week before ... I'm a big reader, and I had read Morgan Wootten's, Coaching Basketball Successfully. If you've ever read that, it's like a bible. And it's just from A to Z, just a bible. So I'm reading it, the famous Coach Morgan Wootten from DeMatha High School, Maryland. And I said, "What's the name of the camp?" And he said it's Morgan Wootten's Basketball Camp. And I said, "Oh, my God." And I got tingles. So I said, "I'm in." So ... And I'm sorry for the long-winded story, but it's really how I get to where I'm at. So what happened was my dad and I ... I told him I wanted to go across for a month, and I wanted to take unpaid leave from my job. And he said to me, "Well, son, you've got a good job in the bank. You don't want to risk that." And I said, "No. I want to risk it." So I said it to my bank manager. He said, "Paul, we'll put you on fast track program to be bank manager. If you go, you will have to forego this." And I was like, "That's fine. I'm going to go to America." And he's like, "You should really think twice about this." And my dad was like, "No. You can't go." And my dad and I, we must have stayed up ... He's a blue collar guy and he had to wake up at 6:00 in the morning. I think he left at 6:00 in the morning. And he woke up at like 4:30, 5:00 o'clock. And we must have stayed up till 3:00 o'clock in the morning, literally, arguing of why I should go and why I should not go. And when I woke up in the morning ... I wished I kept this note. He had left a note on my pillow for when I woke up. And he said ... I'll never forget ... He said, "Who am I to tell you no. Go follow your dreams." And I wish to this day I'd kept that note. And after he gave me that approval, I was like, "Screw it. I'm going." So I went the next day, told the manager, "Hey. Take me off the course if you want, I'm going to America.
Paul: So went to America. Loved it. Met Morgan Wootten. Made great networks, great relationships. When I was there I met a girl, an American girl. And we ended up being together for a few years. Sorry, two and a half years. And our family made the move across America. We got married. And when I came across, I made new friends with Joe, who's Morgan Wootten's son. And he coached at the Bishop O'Connell High School. And I said, "Hey, I'm here in America. I would love to work for you. He said, "Great." So he had me as the freshmen team assistant. And I came there. I didn't have a job. I just moved across. I didn't have a car. I didn't have a bank account. Nothing. And I was just kind of making my way. And that summer, I really made a good connection with a player there called, Jason Clark, who actually played at Georgetown and he plays overseas Pros now and I still work with him to this day. And we had a really good relationship. We were both really shy people at the time. And we would get shots in the morning. We would get shots up in the evening. Workouts together. Everything. So by the end of that summer, he said to me, "I want you to be on the varsity with us." And I was like, "Wow." So I was on the varsity. And it all just took off from there. I just started like ... I'd never seen anything as intense as the basketball in D.C. The WCAC., the conference with DeMatha, Gonzaga, O'Connell ... These schools are nationally ranked every year. And for me, it was just a Mecca. I mean, I was in love. We were doing recruiting. We were doing video editing. I'll never forget the video editing ... Nobody was doing the editing. This was way before Krossover and what's the other one that's popular? Hudl. This was way before them. We were actually cutting the tapes and stuff like that. So I started doing it. And I didn't have a clue what I was doing. But I was learning from the manual and the help desk and stuff like that. And what I didn't realize was I was watching the game ... We would play the game. I would watch the game at night. Then I would edit the game. I would edit individual clips. And then I would watch it again the next morning before I handed it to my coach. So I was watching one game four or five times. Break down slow-mos, patterns and offense, defense. And I was a nerd. And I was pretty much learning the game. Because I didn't know a lot of stuff that the American coaches were talking about. I didn't know what flare screen was. So they were saying, "Oh, the flare screen." I'm thinking to myself, "What the hell is the flare screen?" So I started learning all this stuff. And I really just became such an absolute nerd. I watched so much video. And then I would grab players and say, Let me show you what you're doing. You're leaning to the left on this shot. Or, "defensively, you're not closing all the way." And before I knew it, I was teaching myself. So I really prepared myself. I tried to be a college coach. I had a couple of interviews. I was close to getting one at Virginia Tech. I interviewed for American University in D.C. I was very close to getting that. And I didn't get any of it. I just couldn't get it. And I was very disappointed. That was my goal. It was my dream. So I said, "I'm going to try and be a head high school coach." So I applied. And I became a head high school coach at St. James High School. It's in Hagerstown in Maryland. It's way up there. And, Tristan, you're from Maryland. You know that's way up there.
Paul: In hillbilly country. It was a boarding school. So I was lucky enough to recruit players and bring them with me. And we did really good in two years. We did really, really good. We won our league championship. And with the finals, the another one, we did really well. Three guys, division one ... No. Four guys, division one in the two years. And did really well. And then my wife and I decided to divorce. And that was a stinger as you can imagine. So we divorced. And it was just too tough with the day job, traveling an hour and a half to St. James, coaching, and having two young children. So I quit basketball. And it was the first time in all my years that I'd done so. I think It'd been like since I was 13 years old, 14 years old. And there I was. I think I was 30 years old. So 16 years. And I was like, "This is it. It's over with. I got to get a real job now and try to make some more money and support myself." And I had to move out and all that sort of stuff. And I really kind of hit rock bottom, to be honest. So a friend of mine said, "Hey, I've got a kid that I'm training and I'm moving away. Could you train him?" I said, "Look. I'm just mad at basketball right now. I feel like my dreams didn't come true and I wasted so much time on basketball." He said, "Well, it pays." I was like, "How much?" And he told me how much it paid. So I was like, "Okay. I'll do it." Well, I came to this kid. And I got on great with him. He played in the Little League. And within a month, his dad was saying, "He's posting the top score. He's really soaking in what you're saying. He loves the attention that you're giving him. It's really good." So he said, "Is it okay to pass your number on to other people?" I was like, "Yeah, sure." Within two months, I had 40 clients.
Paul: Kids were just coming from everywhere. And this is kind of before the training phase took off. And I was loving it. It was just pure. It was just training. There was no politics. There was no coaching. I was getting paid better than I was when I was a coach. I was enjoying my work. School work. Development. It was great. And then one day, my friend, I saw he posted something on Instagram. And I'd just got an Instagram account. So I said, "I want to make a video." So started posting videos. And I had no idea what I was doing. He still teases me to this day. I was using it like Facebook. I was posting all the time. And I saw all these other trainers doing so. I was looking at them and I said, "Well, that's good." Like the drill, the was down the back, the spin move, the fast handles, and the music playing in the background. But you're not really teaching anybody. So I was like, "I think there's a niche here for me to teach someone." So what I did was I started making teaching videos. And then I thought, "How can I get this across more?" And I remember watching something and it was a soccer thing. And there was a voiceover. And I was, "I'm going to try a voiceover." So I did a voiceover. And at first, people would laugh and say, "Oh, my goodness. You sound like David Attenborough, you know the guy that does the documentaries on animals?
Paul: Like here we see the lioness, I'd talk like that. And then people would make fun of me because of my accent. And at the time, it was a little stronger. And they'd make fun of me. But it's good that I'm getting the attention from it. And I just kept doing it. And then one of my pros, Jason Clark, and his friend, actually, Quinn Cook, as well, they saw the fact that I was training. And they were, "Oh, are you a trainer now?" And I was like, "Yeah. I guess I am." So they said, "When we come in, can we bring some of our friends?" And I was like, "Absolutely." And I had all these pros. And I'll never forget. One Saturday morning, I posted a video on how simple between the legs were, I really broke it down in slow motion. And Instagram just blew up. I think I went from something like two thousand followers to like eight thousand followers on a weekend.
Tristan: Yeah, they call that viral. Definitely.
Paul: Like, yeah. I was like, "Wow." And then it kind of came to a stop. I ran to like 20 thousand for a long time because a lot of other people were doing it. And I kind of went in a weird phase. I tried to be like all the other guys because I really did ... I lost sight of things. Like I was really trying to be cool. And the thing is like things like self-awareness, I'm not really a cool guy. I'm not a cool guy. I mean, I think I'm fairly intelligent. I'm kind of funny. I'm a good father. But I'm not cool. So I said, "Well, I'm just going to be who I am." So I stopped kind of doing that. And I just focused on just teaching. And it was like jump shots, reverse pivots. Simple stuff like how to use a ball screen. Like how to step into your jump shot. And people just loved it. And it was amazing that people wanted the kind of fundamental side of it. And I think I almost carved a different niche for myself back then. And the followers just grew and grew and grew. And it was amazing. And I'm so proud. I've never paid for a follower. I've never paid for advertisements. I've never done any of that sort of stuff. And I realized to do that, it could be good for your business. I've just always thrived on being a purist of the game.
“I just focused on just teaching. And it was like jump shots, reverse pivots. Simple stuff like how to use a ball screen. Like how to step into your jump shot. And people just loved it. And it was amazing that people wanted the kind of fundamental side of it. ”
Tristan: Wow. That is quite the story. I mean, that's the broadcast right there. That's the whole episode. I mean, we heard it all. You start off, you go off from coming from overseas and then you come over here. You teach yourself basketball. All of a sudden, it kicks you down the road years later. And then you bounce right back with coming on to social media and everything like that. Now, how do you balance it all today? Where do you go from here? Are you still trying to just work that fundamental lane? What is your tactic with the social media now. Is it still that niche?
Paul: I think so. I do realize that it's harder to grow social media-wise. I think the training market, in my personal opinion, has become saturated. I feel like so many people are doing it. Some are copycats. Some are just really, really good. There's a lot of good stuff out there. So I think for people, they don't really gravitate towards who's always the best. I think it's always kind of like what's the most common or most popular. Though, for me, I think I just have to ride it out. I know that teaching the basics and still learning along the way is what's right about the game. And I do think like pure skill will come back in fashion. I see guys now that like to teach a lot of these moves. And I still look and I say, "That's a great move for Kyrie Irving. That's a great move for James Harden. But your 12 year-old, whose parents are paying you money to teach them basketball and improve their confidence and improve their skill level, they can't execute that. I remember a long time ago when I first started, I was doing a lot of fancy stuff. Tennis balls. Always like four different counters to each move. I used to go and watch my players play. And I watched one kid play. He touched the ball three times in the game. He missed the layup. He missed the jump shot. And he got blocked. And I'm teaching this guy, euros, step-backs, reverse pivots and spins. I'm wasting his money. I'm wasting his money. So after that, that really hit me hard. And I felt guilty. Without what we did was we worked on coming off screens, catch and shoot, pump fake, one bounce shoot. And when people see my stuff on Instagram, obviously, we post a little bit of flash. That's one percent of the workout. Like I worked four pros and two college guys today. And each person shot 100 threes. Each person shot 100 curls into mid-range. Each person did a catch and rip 100 times. That's boring. That's really boring. But that is what we do. And I believe that will come back in fashion.
“I worked four pros and two college guys today. And each person shot 100 threes. Each person shot 100 curls into mid-range. Each person did a catch and rip 100 times. That’s boring. That’s really boring. But that is what we do. And I believe that will come back in fashion.”
Craig: No it's awesome. So you mentioned quite a bit about your Instagram page and then the amount of followers, I just wanted to mention, you've got 250,000 followers right now, and growing. So that's pretty awesome. I know that you're sharing just a tiny fraction of what you're doing on Instagram, but how do you get the message across in just a 45 seconds, 60 second clip.
Paul: I think is just picking one skill. For example, I've been doing a lot of ball screen stuff lately, so just say we say the read's going to be slipping the screen or splitting the screen. So what I like to do is show it live and then talk, slow it down in slow motion, and show how you make the read, and when you make the read, and why you make the read. So I think making things as basic as possible is the easiest way. That's what I think. And I think you can kind of monitor from there what the engagements like and if they want more, then you can expand on it. I think sometimes I get kind of revved up sometimes and I try and do too much and it becomes a little bit too confusing.
Craig: Yeah, no I got you. So within your training activity and your training business, would you say that you have a particular specialty that people come to you for, expecting that you can deliver on this particular specialty?
Paul: Honestly, no. Honestly no. And I've always said I admire the guys who are really good and just focus on ballhandling, or the guys who really focus on just shooting. Because I believe being a specialist is really important. I think for me it's overall, I think it's probably Basketball IQ. Like when I teach, I explain almost everything. I speak to the pro and college guys like I do the middle schoolers. I talk the exact same way. They just ask more questions, which is good. And I'll break everything down, I don't want any misunderstandings or any confusion. I just break it down. So I think if I've got anything as a specialty, it's probably just the way I break things down in basketball IQ.
Craig: Okay, yeah. You had mentioned working across different skill levels and age groups. At Hustle here, we find ourselves with a lot of youth players, youth coaches. How do you adjust your strategy down from, you spend a lot of time with the pros, how do you then translate your focus areas for youth players?
Paul: It's tough. I usually struggle with it. At first I used to really struggle with it because you're working with a pro guy and you're revved up, you're juiced up, it's great. He's doing every drill to perfection. And then you go to a player who's struggling to shoot a left hand layup or struggling to... You've told them a million times to hold or follow through and they don't, it becomes frustrating. But I think now what I do is with the youth players, really, really focus on having them walk away and learning one or two points. So we do an hour session. I'll talk to them afterwards and say, "What two things did we focus the most on today?" And they'll say, and I'll say, "Tell me about them." So I can get some feedback, so I really slow it down for them because I want to make sure they get it. With the pro guys, a lot of those guys want more of a.. It's not so much of a skill workout, they want an actual workout. They want to get some game time reps up, game related stuff and go hard for 40, 45 minutes. So I think it's just mental preparing before you go into it.
Tristan: Got It. Yeah. So again, I'm still going back to your story here. Obviously it took a while, it took longer than you'd like for you to get to where you're at now. I want to know, and just to put it into perspective, how long you really have to dedicate yourself to the game to make yourself a master of it? How long do you typically work with a client? How many lessons, is it years? Is it months? Is it four lessons and they're out of there? And how long maybe is your longest tenured client right now?
Paul: Great question. I think that the longest client right now would probably be, I don't know if you guys ever see on Instagram, a kid called Chris Kuzemka who we actually train in a barn. His house, they had a barn on the property and-
Craig: Yeah I've seen that.
Paul: ...Basketball court, it's pretty cool. We train there and it's crazy how I met him. I did a clinic once, this is when I first started. When I first started, I had at least 40 client, and I kind of thought, 'Hey, I've made it.' I advertise in a different town, and I thought 'I want to clean up in this town, I'm from here, it's where I stay right now, I want to work.' And I advertise, I hired coaches, I bought the gym, I bought the big blocking pads. And we did it, and only one person showed up and it was Chris. And I didn't know him. And they just saw my flyer on Facebook or something and he came. And I worked him over three hours because it was just him. So I sent all my coaches home and I still had to pay them something, and I probably was 500 down in the hole. And I was like, oh man, this sucks. And the dad said to me, "Hey, we should work out again, I have a barn." And I'm thinking, 'Dude, I just lost 500 bucks. What are you talking about barn?' And so a week later he calls me, I'm like "Who is this?" He's like "You worked out my son." I said "Oh yeah yeah." So I came over to the barn and I'm like, oh my goodness. And from that client, he probably put me on to three or four youth teams that I've trained. He put me onto an association of house teams that I work with, I train them. Chris has brought me tons of teammates, and I still work with Chris. And it just goes to show you that I think the right people find you. Chris is now a sophomore, he's starting to get division one looks, which is good. He's going up to these elite camps and before he was this tiny little fifth grader who had good handles. And it's been great to watch the evolution of him, it really has. But I think your original question in terms of clients, most of my clients had been with them for a long time and that's what I prefer. I would prefer to have a smaller group and have them long term than a whole bunch and only seeing them once every month. Because I think that to really get developed you have to see them consistently. I like to see these clients at least twice a week.
Tristan: Right, yeah. No that's definitely a good point. We're talking with Paul Easton here of Drills and Skills basketball. Paul Easton basketball, formerly drills and skills I should say. So let's get right into those drills and skills. What are some of your favorite drills that you like to use for your athletes?
Paul: I love read and react, I love read and react. So what I'll do is, well first of all I love to build up a skill. So let's say we're teaching the in and out drill which is my favorite. Stationary position, working on the balance, the shift in the weight, the hand movement, the foot movement. Then we'll do it against a stationary defender. So we're learning how to go past that player and pointing out the key things like staying low, your shoulder should be lower than the defenders, close the gap, make sure you hesitate. And then after that we'll show a counter move. If the defender jumps, takes that away, which is a crossover. Then we'll do against the cone in transition. And then after that, we get to my favorite part which is read and react, where they've got to come down, and if I yell out 'one' they have to make it in and out to a pull up. If I yell 'two', they've got to make an in and out to a counter move, to a pull up on another side. And I'm getting them to react to what I'm doing, or I may yell out a color. And I do the same with shooting as well. I have the five spots on the floor, top, wing, corner, wing, corner, and I'll yell it out and they have to get there and set their feet before the ball comes. So I'm big on having them think while they're tired.
Craig: Yeah. It goes back to what you had mentioned before, developing that mental game. What about pro players? What's a drill or so that you find is especially effective with them?
Paul: I usually speak to them and I ask them what do they want to work on. And most of the guys come across from Europe all say the ball screen . That's big for them, ball screen is huge in Europe. I mean, it's huge here too. So we do a lot of ball screen work with those guys. And I'll say to those guys, "Where do you get your shots from? Are you curling from the corner, are you flashing to the top?" And wherever they give me, we'll work on stuff like that. So I try and tailor the workouts to the program. That's why I usually try and do.
Tristan: So Paul, I think you've pretty much talked us through all the favorite drills, all the favorite exercises and what you like to put your athletes through, depending on what level they're actually at. Let's talk a little bit about technology in sports. How much do you utilize technology today and where do you see the future of technology and training going?
Paul: I think it's going to be an all time high. I think there's a lot of money to be made in sports tech, if you want to call it that. And I think, for example I was in the gym the other day and this guy just came up to me and said, "Hey, are you a trainer?" And I said, "I like to say coach." But I was like, "Yeah, yeah I train." And he says to me, "Have you heard of this app?" And I forget the name of it, and he showed me it. And he showed me a video of him taking shots and it was counting how many misses and makes he had, and the feet he was from the basket at distance, and also the trajectory on the ball. And I'm like holy crap, just from your phone? And I just think that we're seeing so many of these great new apps even for reaction drills as well. And I think it's so good, and I think it is the future. Everyone's on their phones all the time. They're bringing them to the gym. I know guys have said to me they've said, "Hey, I go to the gym and I play your videos on my phone and I imitate the drills." So I think that is the way forward, I really do. I think apps... I have an online worker program that I've made for one for coaches and one for players, and I sell that and it does pretty well.
Tristan: Well yeah, no, definitely can see you taking over that online space. And obviously you are super dedicated to your craft and whether you fell into the training spot or you're destined for it all along, leave in the eye of the beholder. But what advice do you have for aspiring trainers out there?
Paul: I think first of all, whatever you're good at, emphasize that with your players. Don't just do what's cool, do what works for you or what you know works, what you've coached that works, and coach and teach that to your players. I always tell everybody, quality over quantity. If you can work two or three clients out, start with them and really get them better. The best advertising there is is word of mouth. Because the parents don't care how many likes you have an Instagram. They care about what other parents are saying to them. "Oh hey, little Johnny works with Coach Paul or Coach Craig, whatever. And he's really good with them. He's helped him with his jump shot, he's helped him be more confident." And that's what gets them going because obviously the players have to like it, but the parents are the one who pay the money. So I think word of mouth is always the best. So for aspiring trainers, give great quality work and the quantity will come.
“Whatever you’re good at, emphasize that with your players. Don’t just do what’s cool, do what works for you or what you know works, what you’ve coached that works, and coach and teach that to your players. I always tell everybody, quality over quantity.”
Tristan: Got it. Coach, appreciate your time here tonight. Again, we're talking with Paul Easton, Paul Easton Basketball. You can see them on Instagram and YouTube like he's talked about all night here. Drills and Skills Bball, it's Paul Easton Basketball on Facebook and DSkillsBball on Twitter. He's also got his website, Iwantskills.com. And real quick coach, we're going to get into a rapid fire round. We're going to throw some questions at you. You just fire back with whatever comes to your mind first. Are you ready?
Paul: Okay, got it.
Tristan: All right, let's start off easy. Favorite sports movie of all time?
Paul: White men can't jump.
Craig: Yeah, that's a good one for sure. Besides your channel, are there any YouTube channels you like to check out for coaching tips?
Paul: Not so much for tips but I love Dave Williams 10,000 hours.
Tristan: Okay, got it. Need to check that one out. All right, so you just got through with training some of your closest clients, you told me it was a long three hour training session. It's getting to burn the midnight oil, what's the best post workout meal?
Paul: Oh, for me or the players?
Paul: For me. Can't answer that one. I honestly, I usually toast an egg. I usually make an egg sandwich for myself when I come in.
Craig: Nice. I got one. Who is the coach across to any sport that you admire the most?
Paul: Oh Wow. Probably Phil Jackson. I love his books. I love his books.
Tristan: Got It. All right. Well I might have an easy one for you here. MJ or Lebron?
Paul: Oh MJ all day.
Tristan: How did I know? How did I know?
Paul: Not even close.
Craig: Started off with that basketball.
Tristan: Ever since that black deflated basketball, that was.
Paul: 20 bucks at Walmart, best 20 bucks ever spent.
Tristan: Yeah, I'd say so too. I'd say it definitely panned out for you as well. Coach, appreciate your time here again tonight. Really appreciate you doing what you do and dedicating your time. Here at Hustle, we're all about advancing the youth of America and certainly teaching them the fundamentals, which obviously it seems like you've got that in your back pocket as well. So thank you again for the time and I'm sure we'll be in touch down the line.
Paul: Awesome. Thank you guys so much for what you do, really appreciate it.
latests news from us