Meet the Master Behind a Ton of Top Talent

Do you know what it takes to be physically and mentally ready to play Division I basketball? Do you know the level of skill you need to be selected as a McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All American? Each year only a couple of athletes are selected and Robert Swain is trusted to groom some of them.

I met Swain at the McDonald’s All American game in Chicago last spring when he was there with one of the players he trains, UCONN commit Alterique Gilbert. Swain is a basketball trainer located in the Atlanta area. You might question what separates Swain from any other high level trainer? He has quite the resume, he played at UCONN in the early 2000’s when they were very competitive, he has trained a number of players that play high level Division I basketball and his mind sees things in a unique way…all benefitting his players.

Unlike other trainers, Swain told me in an interview that he, “Needs to tap into a kids mind and see how much they really want it,” before he agrees to train them. He believes the mind and drive is what separates champions from good players. Swain mentioned to me that he believes that there is talent everywhere, but the separating factor is who is willing to push themselves mentally. He also pointed out that many trainers with young players go straight to hard ball handling and shooting drills, but the players don’t have the fundamentals of the game. Swain said that fundamentals are by far the most important skill in basketball.

Many may be surprised, but Swain cautioned against working too hard and too much in the years leading up to college. He stressed the importance of preserving your body and minimizing injuries before the collegiate level. While this may seem counter-intuitive for the players trying to obtain the high accolades that he trains for, he believes you don’t need to be in the gym every day until you are practicing for your college team. His advice was to keep your body healthy and stay fit.

The thing that also struck me about Swain when I met him was how he looks at issues related to the game with a different perspective. So, I decided to ask him about some problems going on in the basketball world right now. When I asked him his feeling on kids “reclassifying” into younger grades to become more dominant, 99% involved in AAU will say it’s killing the game and ruining youth basketball. But Swain told me, “I think it’s great for the game…if you look at as a redshirt, giving them an extra year to develop before college.” I was amazed, I had never looked at it like that. Also, we discussed players skipping college and playing overseas. Swain said, “You get a chance to play against grown men, who play to provide for their families, so it only makes you stronger and can truly prepare you for the NBA.” He also told me that he believes that international players are catching up to American players because they are much more fundamentally sound.

Swain preached to me that in order to be successful you must surround yourself with champions. What he meant by that, is that you need to surround yourself with people who want the best for you and share your mission. Sadly, there are often too many conflicting agendas for AAU coaches, players and family members these days.

So if you dream of playing Division I basketball or putting on that McDonald’s All American jersey one day, Swain encourages you to stay focused on your craft, block out the noise from people who don’t share your agenda, treat your body with respect and work on being mentally tough. Swain is equally focused on your mind and your skills.

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