Flintstone TV: Michigan Media Training

by Eric Woodyard

With so many great athletes competing on a Division I level of college basketball, viewers sometimes get pampered when they watch games. Why wouldn’t they? These players do make the game look so easy.
In a sense, every viewer feels as if they’re an expert on the game when half of them have never even consistently competed on the hardwood. Not only have they not competed for an organized team, most of them have never even played recreationally!

This includes most of the media and sparks the debate on whether or not they are certified to be even covering a particular sport if they have no experience. If you really think about it, how are they? How can you comment on something that you haven’t done?

Unfortunately this is allowed to happen in our society, and it’s really not fair for athletes to be ridiculed by individuals who have no clue of what it feels like to be an athlete. Will this ever change? I highly doubt it, but it is good food for thought.

What often gets misconstrued is all of the behind-the-scenes work that comes with the actual game. The general public doesn’t see the hard work, the mental preparation, the injuries, the film sessions and oh, yeah… the practices.

Not a game, not a game? We talkin’ bout practice?

Practicing is an integral piece to the equation of becoming a top-tier athlete, with the exception of Allen Iverson. This is why the University of Michigan decided to invite several members of the media to come participate in a training session with the athletes during their media day on Tuesday, October 12 in the Chrysler Arena in Ann Arbor, MI.

Allowing 21 members of the press to showcase their skills on the hardwood was a great way to break the ice for this upcoming season.

I was one of the 21 members selected and I have to admit that when I seen the rundown of the drills that I wasn’t bothered one bit because I consistently play the game of basketball. They were like a cakewalk.

The drill stations included:

1) Wraps [55 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball around waist

2) Hikes [40 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball between knees, drop ball, catch back, catch front

3) Pretzels [40 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball between knees, one hand front, one hand back (rotate hands)

4) Behind the Back Dribbles [55 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball dribbling behind back

5) Two-Ball Mikan Drill [Make 15 in 20 seconds]
• Facing basket, catch and lay-up with one hand

6) Tennis Ball Dribble
• Dribble basketball in one hand, tossing tennis ball with other
• Player mush dribble five times before catching tennis ball

7) Three-point Shooting
• Make 10 three-pointers in 1:00 minute

All of the Wolverine players ran the drills, and before we actually hit the court, Coach John Beilein and Tom Wywrot (Asst. Director of Athletic Media Relations) laced each of the media representatives with an official maize and blue UM warm-up. These were the authentic threads worn by the team and the perfect present to the hard working journalists in attendance.

We began the evening with a light stretch and then it was game time! My group included Rob White (isportsweb) and Craig White (The Observer) and we had a blast. Not to brag on myself, but I easily breezed through most of the drills, which left most of the media and a few of the players amazed. My past obsession with the game greatly benefited me on this particular day.

The toughest challenge from all of the drills was the three-point shooting because I generally shoot all mid-range shots (Rip Hamilton style). The Two-Ball Mikan drill was also pretty tough because I am primarily accustomed to doing this with just one ball.

Access was then granted to all of the players who were each assigned their own individual table with a tag stating their first and last name. With most of the media bombarding Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, I decided to interact with a few of the other players before I actually talked to those two.

I enjoyed the whole day. It was very laid-back and generous and we were even given Famous Dave’s to eat afterwards.

This media day should have definitely made the media become more conscious of some of the comments and criticisms that they make toward the athletes. Trying to juggle Division I basketball with academics can be pretty stressful. This was also shown when a few of the freshman had to leave the event early because they had to take a calculus test.

In my opinion, all media days should be conducted in this fashion in order to make the press become more authentic. If there are more individuals in the locker rooms covering the games that have actually played the game of basketball, than I think our media coverage will be a lot more accurate.