Lydell Young, a basketball skills trainer, has coached young people in Rochester for about five years at Practice Perfect Training.

Lydell began skill development after an injury in high school -- he trained his two siblings “they’re actually way better than me,” he laughed. After moving to Rochester, he met longtime coach David Norris and clicked with him. After a conversation about how Rochester youth needed to “practice perfect training,” he and Norris created the company, which has grown mostly through word of mouth.

We caught up with the coach about upcoming training days, the skills learned in basketball, and how “the same way you clean your room is the same way you make a layup.”

Lydell Young with Practice Perfect Training students. Contributed / Tyree Ready (ReeEditZ)
Lydell Young with Practice Perfect Training students. Contributed / Tyree Ready (ReeEditZ)

So what does Practice Perfect Training do for players?

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What Practice Perfect Training does is provide perfect training habits to kids in Rochester. When I first came here, I noticed -- me being from a city -- there was a big skill dropoff. A lot of kids weren’t exposed to the things I was. So we started working kids out and it started from there. But it’s more about habits and routine and system than it is about information. What we learned is that it don’t matter how hard you go about something on the day, it’s all about how you plan for the future and what you do day after day. So we try to inspire kids to develop good routines, day after day -- not just with basketball, but with schooling and everything. Just to practice perfect, because it’s imperative to success.

… We definitely teach balance. I myself am a Christian, I don’t push Christianity on kids, but I definitely think about God, and I encourage them to spend time on their spirituality, spend time on their education. … I get really upset with kids if they come to a workout if they have homework. I had a girl the other day say, “Oh, I gotta get home to finish my homework.” I’m like, “You gotta get that done before.” I’ve realized that the same things you learn in basketball are a microcosm of what you learn in life, and if you can learn to correlate the two, being happy or being successful is almost inevitable. But I think somehow we separate it, and I’ve seen good players in basketball or good players in sports who are not necessarily successful in life. That’s because no one connected the two for them.

That’s a very different approach from what I remember growing up, where some coaches expected you to commit to sports before almost anything else.

Right away, when I meet a kid, I talk to them about their aspirations on and off the court. When we do our evals, I speak to the kids one on one and it’s like, “What are your interests? How could we help you?” We have a lot of coaches, and we have a lot of people involved, like Pastor Andre (Crockett), he’s been a great resource when kids start businesses and things of that nature. Of course, basketball and training are always first when they come into a basketball training environment, but we also try to remind them, constantly, that this is not separate. My daddy used to say, “The same way you clean your room is the same way you make a layup. If that’s sloppy, then this is gonna be sloppy.” You ain’t gonna make a layup if you can’t keep your life together. That’s my mentality, and that’s the reason I partnered with SMA, because I went to a camp and they talked about Christianity and mentality. I was like, “That’s what we do.”

So there are two training days with Practice Perfect Training coming up on October 23 and 24. What would participants do in a two-day camp like that?

That’s like a tune-up, because I don’t think the season’s starting until, like, January. So we’re going to do ball handling, footwork, shooting techniques -- but most importantly, IQ and awareness. We’re going to do a little bit of planning. I think a lot of times, when people get ready to play in their sport, they can be selfish, a little bit. “How can I score, how can I assist, how can I be effective?” But a big part of making a team is “Are you a team player?” So I’ll spend at least 30 minutes teaching people how to be an unselfish player. Then how to make an unselfish screen, or set up an unselfish blockout. You don’t have to go for every rebound. Just blocking your guy out does a lot for the team. And stuff like that, coaches notice. And just like how the skills are a microcosm of life, if you do the little things like that, people will notice, people will want to play the game of society with you.

Lydell Young with Practice Perfect Training students. Contributed / Tyree Ready (ReeEditZ)
Lydell Young with Practice Perfect Training students. Contributed / Tyree Ready (ReeEditZ)

That circles back around to the skills you learn in basketball being the skills you learn in life. What skills have you gained, either as a player or a coach?

First thing -- there’s so many, I could go on for days. I’m gonna try to just say three. First thing is teamwork. I was always a point guard, so I had to learn to communicate in a way that didn’t seem offensive, and that was so hard for me. My dad was so direct. He would tell me right away if I sucked. … I used to tell my big man, like, “Dude, you can’t catch.” And that didn’t help them, they still couldn’t catch. So I had to learn to use my body language, my words, to be like, “We’re still on the same team, I’m with you, but we need to work on this or we need to focus on that.” … Without that, I wouldn’t be able to communicate with these kids today without offending them, let them know we’re all on the same team. Number two, I say just work ethic. It’s impossible to be good at anything in life without work ethic, but basketball, it breeds that competition that you don’t get, necessarily, anymore in school systems. … You don’t get that competitiveness from anything else in life, except sports. And basketball, it allowed me to learn how the world actually works. The harsh reality is that no one’s gonna give you anything, you have to beat other people to get it. And I think the kids need that, especially in Rochester. Where I’m from, we have a grueling understanding that the world is necessarily a nice place, because I’m from the inner city, but out here -- it is a nice place. There’s nothing bad happening on a daily basis. They grow up in a fairy tale, then they step onto the court, and it’s like, “Oh my god, this guy that’s my friend is trying to take my head off.” Lastly, therapy. I still play basketball to this day, not necessarily because I’m trying to make it to the NBA, but because when I play basketball, there’s nothing else in my head. It’s impossible to be telling a guy there’s a screen left and also be thinking about how my bills are due. I can’t think about both. So it’s like a meditation for me. When I’m on the basketball court, there’s nothing else that matters, and I’m in the moment. I think anxiety happens when we think about the past and future too much, and not reaching into the present. … I’m really good, now, at focusing on what I’m doing. If I’m writing a poem or if I’m making a workout at camp for a kid, I’m good at not letting distractions come in. Because, you know -- “Airball, airball!” In the crowd, they’re screaming, “Airball, airball!” and I had to focus on making the right pass and doing the right stuff.