No Ordinary Training Camp

by Ryne Nelson

When I got the go-ahead to cover Jordan Training, I laughed. To be honest, I attended my share of summer programs as a kid, and never learned a thing.

But I should have realized – this is Jordan Brand we’re talking about.

Continuing to redefine the possible, trainer Tim Grover completely changed my perception of what a youth summer camp can be.

The papers name-dropped Grover non-stop during the Bulls Dynasties. He was the man behind all the scenes – Willy Wonka churning-out superior athletes in both mind and body.

And, of course, Grover continues to invent and strive for more when he trains athletes…no matter how young. “The exercises we do with these young athletes are the same we do with professional athletes. No matter what age they are, we’re trying to make breakthroughs.”

Jordan Training, understand, is no new thing. It was born nearly 20 years ago, and unlike the fictional candy man, Grover does the opposite of keeping this secret.

The annual tour is inspired by the Breakfast Club, as Grover and Jordan famously dubbed it in 1989. The program, at its roots, applies to how we chill with friends just as much as how we perform in athletics.

Undeniably, you won’t find many programs like the Jordan Training. We live in a culture where parents too often ignore their children’s weaknesses. Focusing on what kids don’t do well supposedly is too discouraging.

Jordan Training takes that philosophy, and turns it on its head.

“It’s easy to work on things you’re good at,” says Jordan’s former trainer. “But if you can turn that weakness into a strength, it makes you an overall better athlete and better player which in turn will help your team. You also have to know how to turn that weakness into a strength, and I think that’s what this program does.”

The month-long tour is making its waves across the country. Chicago was one of those stops.

Michael Finley runs the training camp at his former high school Proviso East – the school that also graduated Doc Rivers, Dee Brown and Shannon Brown. Finley wasn’t the best player on his high school team, the best colleges didn’t recruit him, and he wasn’t a lottery pick.

Yet dude kept committed and is now relaying his message to Chicago youth.

Still sound like a fluff program?

“I enjoy showing the kids the importance of fundamental and just training, says the Maywood, IL native. “It doesn’t matter what sport you’re a part of or whether you’re just an everyday guy, the importance of training will help you in the long run.”

The same relentless intensity transformed Fin into a two-time All-Star. He believes kids gain confidence knowing successful NBA players grew up in their hometown. “I think they appreciate it. Knowing that these same streets they walk, I walked. The same stores they go to, I went to. I was able to make a pretty good profession out of it.”

Ask Finley the main message he’s trying to teach, and without hesitation, he breaks it down to one, powerful word: commitment. “When you’re committed to something, you’re going to get great benefits whether it’s on the basketball court, in the classrooms, just in life in general.”

Breakfast Club applies to everyone, regardless of age or ability. That’s why the entire program is available for download online. Not only is the curriculum revolutionary, so is the wide audience it’s reaching.

As always, being Jordan doesn’t just mean being an athlete.

“Not everybody is going to have the same intensity and same dedication [as Michael Jordan],” says Grover. “But here’s the thing. A lot of kids don’t have the knowledge. Once they get the knowledge, they can be inspired to become more dedicated and intense.”

Chicago is the fourth stop along the tour. Next week belongs to Philly, and Atlanta and L.A. are soon to follow.