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Today I have the absolute privilege of sharing my interview with Tyler Kepkay. He is arguably the best guard to come out of British Columbia since the two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash. After an illustrious high school basketball career at Handsworth Secondary, Tyler moved onto the College of Eastern Utah. During his sophomore year, he led the entire country in Junior College scoring and was named 1st-team Junior College All-American. Tyler then moved onto the University of Utah, where in his senior season he led them to the NCAA tournament as a 5 seed. He was picked as the Chevrolet Player of the Game in his first round game against the University of Arizona. After Utah, Tyler played professional basketball in Germany, and represented Canada for 3 years. During his time he competed against the best basketball players in the world such as Team USA Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Chris Paul & Dwayne Wade, as well as European elites like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker & Dirk Nowitzki. Currently he is playing professional basketball in Hong Kong for Winling where he also has his own elite basketball academy. He is also one of Adidas' marquee sponsored basketball players. Impossible is truly nothing.
PM: British Columbia (BC) has had some great players come out that have gone on to star in the NCAA, and even the NBA (Rob Sacre and Kelly Olynk). However, the vast majority of these athletes are very tall (>6’10) or are freakishly athletic wings (6’4-6’7). What allowed you as an “undersized” guard to not only survive but thrive at the collegiate and professional level?
TK: What I believe has allowed me to compete at every level I think is my skill level. Every time I stepped onto the court, I knew I was the most skilled player there. This was at every level I played. When you can step onto the court and know you are the most skilled player there no matter what, it gives you the confidence to play against anyone. Secondly, my competitiveness. I have never played against anyone who was more competitive than me.
PM: During your high school career, the North Shore had one of the strongest basketball contingents probably ever. There were a few division 1 players, a handful of high level CIS players in the 3 years you played varsity at Handsworth. What intangible(s) do you think allowed you to separate from the pack and have the career you did?
TK: Well again, my competitiveness. I was just a lot more competitive than everyone else. Then my dedication to the game. There were three kinds of kids growing up, kids who thought they worked hard but didn't, kids who worked hard, and those who were obsessive and dedicated every minute of every day to the sport. I was the third one. I can probably count on one hand how many kids were like me in the whole province at the time I was in high school.
PM: Going through my high school basketball career you were the example that all the coaches used to demonstrate how we should conduct ourselves on/off the court. Coaches always mentioned your fierceness, but more importantly your confidence. You were playing on the U-17 BC team, and were one of the better players on the team despite being a year younger than everyone. What gave you that unshakable confidence to play your game no matter what people said or who you were playing against?
TK: Well the fact that I knew I put in more time than anyone else. Therefore being more skilled than anyone else. Confidence is gained through work ethic. Not only did I put in more time than everyone else, I believe I trained smarter than everyone else too. When you know not only did you put more time in, but the time spent was of better quality, it gives you supreme confidence. When you work hard and smart, you are going to improve your skill level. When you add all those up, there is no other way to be but extremely confident.
PM: Follow-up to the last question. Your work ethic was even more legendary than your competitive fire. Coaches would talk about how you would attend a 3 hour BC team practice and then afterwards go to Delbrook and shoot for hours. What fueled that drive? What allowed you to not burn out and remain healthy despite working so hard?
TK: What fueled me was two things. First was the fact I just loved the game that much. I loved to train and I loved to figure out new ways to challenge myself while I trained. It never felt hard or like work. It felt fun and rewarding. That is also why I believe I never burned out. Second was the drive to be the best. I wanted to flat out destroy everyone in high school. I never wanted it to be in question who the best player was.
PM: You have been able to sustain a high level of performance for a very long time, which in my opinion is the true hallmark of greatness. Do you have any specific regiments or strategies you use that allow you to be a “sustainable athlete” and bounce back from tough workouts?
TK: For me its always been about consistency. Being consistent in everything you do from skill work, weight room, conditioning, mobility, recovery/rehab. Its everyday doing one or some of these things at a high level so that your body is always in condition. I am never out of shape, I am always in game shape.
PM: Lastly a questions I always like to ask. What would you recommend a young baller should do to allow them to have the opportunity to continue play basketball at the university level and maybe beyond.
TK: I get asked this a lot, and its a tough question to answer. Lots of people say work hard, or follow your dreams. But honestly that really wont help much. I believe there is one question one must ask oneself first before they embark on that journey. They must ask themselves if they truly love the game. If yes, then make the vow to commit and dedicate their entire mind, body, and soul to the game. Once that commitment has been made, it is about consistency everyday in improving yourself. Never look too far forward. Enjoy the process and this will give you the BEST chance to play after high school. I say best chance, because that's all you can do as a player, is give yourself a chance, nothing is guaranteed.
Tyler Kepkay is truly an inspiration. He embodies the virtues of industriousness, passion and discipline, and how far they can take you. To come out of North Vancouver and to excel not only at the Junior College and NCAA level but also at the professional level is a testament to his dedication to his craft. During my basketball career, he inspired me to push myself further than I thought possible because he was an "undersized" guard that had not only made it to the NCAA level but was excelling there.
I was not able to achieve my goal of playing NCAA division one basketball but I know because of having the opportunity to coach with and learn from Tyler that I most definitely gave myself the BEST chance to play at that level. I really appreciate his humbleness and maturity to realize that nothing is guaranteed and you need to earn everything. For all you young ballers out there, do not take for granted the privilege you have to chase your dreams. The opportunities to turn your dreams into reality are fleeting. Make sure that you take these lessons Tyler has so graciously shared with us today and implement them! Knowledge is NOT power but only potential power. You need to apply what you learned today!
To continue to follow and learn from Tyler Kepkay's during his career make sure to like his Facebook Page and check out his Basketball Academy.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
Today I have the privilege of interviewing Mark Stewart. Mark received his Bachelors of Physical and Health Education from the University of Toronto and his Masters in Kinesiology from Western University. During these years, he was named University of Toronto’s Male Athlete of the Year (2006) and won 3 national university championships in the 60-meter hurdles. He went on to become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) as well as a Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT) Master Specialist.
Mark currently works online with clients to help them reach their strength, conditioning and mobility goals. He also consults with companies on implementing fitness and health related strategies. When possible, Mark likes to spend his time being active outside or reading. To learn more about the brilliant work he does, please visit www.biokineticsconsulting.com.
I visited Mark after I had finished my Track and Field Career at Boston University for an MAT session. Not only did I feel great but he also inspired me to begin this journey of exploring applied kinesiology/muscle testing to help me regain the joy of pain-free movement. His expertise and his ability to clearly communicate is phenomenal, and only paralleled by his compassion to ease the pain of his clients.
PM: You have had quite a decorated athletic career but if you could go back and tell yourself one thing at the beginning of your athletic career to be a better athlete, what would it be?
MS: Just one? That’s tough. Probably to pay attention to the details. When I was in track, I never had an issue giving 100 percent for a workout. That part was a no brainer to me; however, I wish I could have paid more attention to the details of hurdling, or block work, or running mechanics. There are so many details that comprise these components of a race. Racing over hurdles doesn’t allow you to focus your attention on these details. These are things that I was totally blind to but looking back I should have been more receptive to. I think that would have really made a big difference in my performances.
PM: Similar to me, you transitioned from a team sport (basketball) to an individual sport (track field). How was that? What did you learn from track that would have been helpful when playing basketball?
MS: At U of T, I found it to be a smooth transition. You’re right, I had always been involved in predominantly team sports but they did a great job of creating a team atmosphere for an individual sport. I had great training partners that would always push me and that made track feel like a team sport
Track taught me that you need to be present in order to perform at your best. Dr. Peter Jensen, a sport psychologist who worked with our team, called it “riding the wave.” With an event like hurdling (or jumps for yourself), the second you start to think of what could happen, you’re done. There is a zone that you get into when competing and living in that zone and allowing your mind to get out of the way, is an incredible feeling. I think this would have been great in basketball. There’s always mind games going on, or missed shots, missed plays but you can’t allow yourself to think of these things or even the thought of those things happening again. You need to always be in the moment.
PM: What got you interested in exploring applied kinesiology/muscle testing and activation in general and muscle activation technique (MAT) specifically?
MS: Ever since I was young I was interested in muscles. I was always drawn to strength and power. After university, I realized I had accumulated a lot of knowledge but knew I wanted to further that knowledge with some added skills. At that time, the therapist for our track team had mentioned this new method called Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT). It sounded like something I would be interested in since it involved optimizing the muscular and nervous system. After shadowing for a few months and seeing the changes that could be made in someone’s body, I signed up and flew to Denver to begin learning MAT.
PM: What is the biggest change in how you approach or understand training after completing your MAT training?
MS: MAT helped me to look at the implications of my decisions when training. I was very guilty of choosing exercises without taking into account the individual I was working with and what their muscular system needed/could tolerate. I began to see that exercise isn’t inherently “good” at all and can, when prescribed haphazardly, be detrimental to people.
The other big thing MAT showed me is how much I don’t know! Even though I have studied, read and experimented with many clients, there is still so much going on in the human body to definitively know what our force inputs are actually doing to the muscles and nervous system. There is a lot of amazing research coming out but again; those researchers are just scratching the surface.
PM: Lastly, a question I always like to ask, what is the best piece of advice you would give to an up and coming athlete?
MS: Be consistent and stay focused. If you can consistently put in your best effort doing the things that will progress you at your sport, the results will come. Have a clear outline of what you want to achieve and then work backwards from that. Break everything down to measurable components that you can track. Most people lose sight of what they need to do. They see this grand overall view but cannot create the proper steps to achieve it. Create this path and put all of your efforts toward it and you’ll be surprised at what can be achieved.
There is so much invaluable information for any aspiring athlete who wants to take their game to the next level in this interview. However, I think the biggest take-away is how powerful being humble and having an open mind is. It is remarkable how knowledgeable Mark is, but what makes him so excellent at his job is that he is always learning and applying his knowledge to help his clients. The breakthroughs in applied kinesiology and muscle testing have had huge impacts for many professional and olympic athletes, and it’s so exciting to see how it is starting to gain general acceptance.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
Today I had the privilege of interviewing the lead Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach of University of British Columbia (UBC), Spencer McKay. He had a storied playing career, most recently being capped off by induction into the Basketball BC Hall of Fame, class of 2014. A five-time Canada West All-Star and three-time All-Canadian as a player at the University of Victoria from 1986-91, McKay remains the program's all-time leading scorer, averaging 18.4 points per game during his career. He played three seasons under legendary coach Ken Shields and two years for the late Guy Vetrie.
Following his time in the CIS, he went on to play 16 years abroad in Hungary, Belgium, Austria, Spain, France, Portugal, Mexico, and Taiwan. He also was a member of the Canadian national team for 10 years (1985-1995), highlighted by an appearance at the 1994 World Championships in Toronto in which Canada finished seventh.
McKay graduated from Victoria with a Bachelor of Education in 1991 and is currently working toward his Level 4 coaching certification at the National Coaching Institute in Victoria and continues to run his annual Nothin' But Net Basketball Camp in his hometown of Oliver, B.C.
He has an astounding level of knowledge and experience to share that will help any aspiring basketball player not only become the best player they can be, but also sustain their success!
PM: When reflecting on your highly decorated playing career what would you say is the most important intangible that allowed you to excel during your playing career?
SM: There are several intangibles necessary for any athlete wanting to play at a higher level, none more important than character. Every athlete will face adversity- from injuries to poor performances to fatigue to outer/inner pressure- an athlete’s ability to deal with all of these things in a way that does not interfere with performance or improvement is vital to success, particularly in the long term. I would also say that an athlete’s ability to hold him or herself accountable is also a trait of a successful athlete. Athletes who point fingers rarely make it to the next level. But if there was one trait that every guy I played with at the professional level shared, it was that they were all fierce competitors. You must hate losing more than you love winning.
PM: At UBC you recruit some of the most talented and skilled players in the country, what are the most important skills/tangibles you are looking for in a recruit?
Depends on the position really, but obviously athletic ability and size are two of the most important things we look at when recruiting any player. Certain skills and athletic abilities (like jumping and quickness) are coachable and we can help the athlete improve, but as the old saying goes, you can’t coach height. As far as skills go, that largely depends on the position, but the fundamentals of basketball at every position need to be at a very high level regardless of where he plays on the court. For example, all of our guards need to possess superior ball handling, passing, and shooting abilities. Not that our forwards or “bigs” don’t (and we work on this every day), but these skills need to be very solid in order for a guard to play on our team. We can usually forgive a 7-foot recruit who can’t execute a double crossover.
PM: Continuing on with recruiting, has there ever been a time when a recruit has done something that immediately made you lose interest in the recruit? If not, what is the biggest mistake a recruit can make during the process?
SM: I think every coach who has ever been involved in the recruiting process has experienced a “letdown”- whether it was something the recruit did (or didn’t do) on the court or off. Again, we are looking for players with a high degree of character, so if a recruit does something illegal or has consistent discipline issues at home or at school, we’re not interested. Luckily that doesn’t happen very often. But we have had a couple recruits come in and play with our guys and just not compete. We want ultra-competitive players, and if you don’t come in and show us how badly you want it, your days of being recruited by UBC are probably numbered. But I would have to say the biggest mistake a recruit can make is lying- whether it’s lying about your height or your grades or your stats, the truth will eventually come out. Be proactive, but above all, be honest.
PM: There seems to be this misnomer that once you get recruited and sign your letter of intent to your school of choice that all the hard work is done. Unfortunately, too many athletes learn the hard way that their spot on the team is not guaranteed for four years. In your experience have you noticed any patterns between the players that stick around and have a successful career vs. those that do not?
I think every university player should enter his freshman season and ask himself this: “How do I want to be remembered when my career is over?” Most guys (unless they flunk out), finish their university playing careers and graduate. Those who don’t either don’t love the game enough, can’t handle the enormous demands of being a student-athlete, or would rather party or play video games than study or go to the gym. Those players usually don’t last very long and are certainly not remembered (in a positive way) by coaches, teammates, fans, and alumni. We always tell recruits that we can’t promise playing time, but we do promise opportunity. Signing that letter of intent is the opportunity. It’s what the player does after that will determine how he is remembered.
PM: After an excellent university career you were able to sustain a high level of success at the professional and international level for a very long time, what allowed you to keep playing at such a high level? The average NBA career is roughly 3 years, but you were playing professional basketball for 16 years!
I think a few factors came into play here. I’ve actually thought about this question many times because it has been asked many times! In no particular order:
1. Genetics. I was lucky to have very strong joints, a good strong frame for basketball, and I am athletic and tall. All of those factors definitely helped;
2. Taking care of myself. Staying fit, strong, putting the right things into my body, etc., all played a factor in my longevity. I was always really paranoid about my fitness. I hated the idea of getting tired before my opponent and I took great pride in being able to outrun nearly anyone at the end of a game. A lot of injuries happen because guys are fatigued, particularly in training camp at the beginning of the season. You can’t start a season unfit or you stand a good chance of struggling with injuries all year.
3. Loving the game and loving to compete. A lot of guys I knew who retired “prematurely” either didn’t love the game as much as I did, or they lost the love of competing. It’s really hard to keep coming to the gym every day if you no longer have the love or that fire within.
4. Never stop trying to improve. I was still working on improving my jumpshot the morning of my last pro game in 2008. You can never be satisfied.
5. Luck. Although I took great care to ensure I was physically ready to play, I didn’t miss a practice ( in any sport, ever) until I was 26 years old. Nobody does that without at least a little luck.
PM: Lastly, for a young upcoming basketball star growing up in Vancouver what would you recommend they do to allow them the opportunity to potentially continue playing basketball at the university level?
SM: In my opinion, young athletes today are being encouraged to “specialize” in a sport way too early. They choose one sport at the age of 10 and don’t give themselves the opportunity to develop other skills that other sports offer that will actually help them as a basketball player. Guys who have played multiple sports are always more desirable than “one sport” guys. Volleyball, track, swimming, soccer, baseball and football- all good.
Young players these days also play way too many games in the summer (AAU for example) and don’t practice the fundamentals enough. Summers should be spent going to camps and playing pickup against the best competition you can find, not playing 75 games to get “exposure”. Many of these kids are sitting on the bench anyway, and would improve way quicker if they went to camps and worked on fundamentals. I think it’s great that there are opportunities to play basketball and that is never a bad thing- but often the fundamental skill work is tossed aside in favor of team practices that focus too heavily on tactics.
I grew up in a small town so I didn’t have immediate or easy access to a lot of really good players. A young player in Vancouver is really lucky because there are a lot of very good players in a relatively small geographical area. My advice to a young player living in Vancouver is to seek out the best players in the city- whether it’s at UBC, at Kits Beach, or one of the local high school gyms- and play against them. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Find out what you have to do to get better by playing against them and by talking to them. Last week I invited 2 grade 11 players come to one of our open runs. These guys are stars at their respective high schools but when they came to play with us, they got their eyes opened really quickly; they were no longer dominant- in fact they got their butts badly kicked- but that’s what they needed to experience first-hand in order to find out where they need to be. Although it was a tough day, both of those players couldn’t wait to come back. Those kinds of kids have an immediate advantage over the high school kids who only want to play against their peers.
Wow, there was such a plethora of insightful knowledge in this interview. The biggest takeaway from this discussion is to realize that who you are as a person is much more important than your athletic skills. Further, to be able to sustain athletic excellence you can not just be a one-trick pony. The best athletes have extensive athletic skills because the body requires a diverse set of movement experiences to optimize performance and remain healthy.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
Today, I have the privilege to share an interview I had with Dan Millman. Dan Millman was a world champion gymnast and is now a renowned author that has produced many books that changes people's lives. He is an athlete and author who inspires me to be the best that I can be. The knowledge in this interview can most definitely aid any athlete seeking to take their game to the next level.
PM: I absolutely love your philosophies and approach to athletics that you share in Body Mind Mastery. Through competing at the highest levels in gymnastics and coached at the prestigious Stanford university, you have found a way to successfully meld your philosophies into the rigorous, results driven, and cut-throat world of high level athletics. I have had troubles integrating your teachings while competing in track and field for Boston university. Would you have any recommendations to allow athletes and/or coaches to integrate your teachings into such an environment that is obsessively focused on the results?
DM: In reality, different coaches and athletes approach sport differently. There is no way around this axiomatic truth: We can control our efforts, but not the outcomes. But by making a strong effort over time, we increase the odds of reaching our desired outcomes. Period. Thus, effort is success (since it is all we can control). In fact, I define ‘success’ as: ‘progress toward a meaningful goal.’ Which can be in sport or in everyday life.
Sport is a metaphor of our larger life. The question is, how do you want to live? Life is a game we play as if it matters. The same is true for sport. Best to keep a perspective, and not tie our self-worth or identity too tightly to how fast we run on a given day.
PM: In your most recent audiobook that I have had the privilege to listen to, you mention how low self-worth is a common cause of a high rate of injuries. What are some recommendations to help athletes, who are more interested in championships than everyday enlightenment, improve their self-worth to allow them to achieve their full potential?
DM: See my book Everyday Enlightenment - first chapter on “Discover Your Worth” - or you can enrol in the (inexpensive) online course (via email), “Master the Path of the Peaceful Warrior” — the first (or second) lesson deals with essentials of self worth (and avoiding self-sabotage). It’s not magic, or any sort of technique to feel more worthy. It’s about recognizing the issue and treating ourselves as innately worth (as a human being).
PM: A follow-up on the previous question, in any competitive sport it is so easy to tie your self-worth to your performance in competition. Do you have any tips to allow athletes to discover their intrinsic self-worth no matter how poorly they performed.
DM: I believe I answered, or referred to this issue, above. You are not your performance. It is just one of the numerous things you do. You can control your behavior, but again — not the outcomes. Mistakes, and good days and less good days, are a natural part of the process.
PM: One of the pillars of talent you mention in Body Mind Mastery is suppleness. This is something that I particularly struggle with along with many of the athletes I work with. I have been fascinated with learning healing bodywork methods to help decrease the tension, but I found that the benefits tend to be short-lasting, and the tension comes back very shortly. What would you recommend is the best practice to sustain the quality of suppleness?
DM: I presume you checked out Bob Anderson’s book, Stretching? You know how to develop strength - applied, progressive training over time. Same with suppleness. You probably also know that too much stretching before a competitive event may reduce performance. Don’t make a fetish of it; you don’t have to be as limber as a ballet dancer. Just enough to reduce the risk of injuries. Research the Russian Martial Art of “Systema” online. Their fitness disciplines related to breathing, suppleness, and strength are unique.
PM: In the way of the peaceful warrior, you briefly allude to a form of self-massage that Socrates taught you to ease the stored emotional tension in your body. You briefly mention in other interviews and books you have written that it is a Mongolian self-massage. Are there any resources you would recommend to learn more about this powerful technique, or could you briefly walk us through a quick example about how to get started?
DM: Look up “Chua Ka” — the massage taught through Arica Institute. A big investment of time, but does help clear tension from the body. Occasional visits to an experienced practitioner of ‘myofascial release’ massage (Rolfing or Hellerwork) can be helpful as well.
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Dan Millman. If you enjoyed this interview with Dan Millman and would like to explore his teachings, I would highly recommend all athletes to read Body Mind Mastery. One of my best friends and teammates gave me this book and it propelled my performance to the next level. If you are looking for a riveting parable that not only entertains but teaches, I would check out The way of the Peaceful Warrior: The book that changes lives. It was a book that came to me at the perfect moment that most definitely changed the course of my life for the better.
If you can't sustain it, it's not worth it.
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I am a medical student who is obsessed with the Be Activated Muscle Activation Technique, mastering movement and understanding what makes humans thrive.