Markelle Fultz, Self Ownership and Asking Why

By December 10, 2018Ignite Articles

This article is about self ownership of your training process and the importance of asking “Why am I doing this?” I swear it only starts out reading like a basketball article.  


If your a basketball fan at all I’m sure that you’re aware of what’s happened to Markelle Fultz in the last year and a half. Honestly it’s really sad, anyone who has half a heart has to feel for the guy. If you’re not familiar I’ll give you a quick timeline.


Fultz goes from sophomore JV player at Dematha Catholic High School in Maryland to one of the top college prospects in the country.


Futz attends The University of Washington and dominates. People in NBA front offices compare him to the 6ft 4in Tracy McGrady. TMac was an absolute monster, so that’s high praise his college highlights are striking the guy could do whatever he wanted to on the basketball court, handle, finish, shoot from the outside defend, literally anything.

Fultz gets selected number 1 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76’ers, they traded up to select him number 1.


Things went south quickly. Fultz, who was projected to be a good perimeter shooter in the NBA, literally couldn’t shoot at all.


76’ers then GM Bryan Colangelo was quoted saying Fultz’s range is “within the paint.”


Unfortunately because of the the way that NBA basketball is played these days, a combo guard that can’t shoot isn’t someone who can get significant minutes in an NBA game, especially when the primary ball handler on your team (Ben Simmons) also has “within the paint” range.


Here’s a video of Fultz shooting in college.

And here’s a GIF of Fultz last year at a 76’ers practice.

There’s a story out now that there is actually an injury to his right shoulder, I really hope that’s true, since the physical problem should be easier to overcome than the mental ones. But for the sake of this article, let’s make the assumption that Fultz’s shot change has nothing to do with a physical limitation in his shoulder, but rather an unneeded  “corrective” change gone wrong.

After all, this article isn’t really about Markelle Fultz. It’s about the many voices that athletes have to deal with and the self ownership of your own skills.

As an athlete I never understood was how to assess information that was given to me. I always thought this is my coach, he or she cares about me so I’ll do whatever they tell me to do. I was a good kid, but I was a sheep. My mode of thinking was…

There were no checks and balances in my way of thinking and taking advice. I was trying to do everything the anybody ever asked me to do, which manifest at times into confusion and frustration and poor results. An athlete’s mode of thinking need to look more like this…

Being a good kid that listens is always good being a sheep that does that doesn’t know how to avoid making stupid changes is bad.


This whole thing has to start with listening respectfully. Without listening respectfully to what your coach says you shouldn’t expect to receive the playing time that you desire. This goes for everything in life, you don’t always have to agree with what someone is telling you but respect for them is really important. Your coach wants to help you get better as a player, so their intentions are pure and good. That said, good intentions don’t always mean good information, it’s important to separate the individual from the information.


If a random person on the street walked up to you and said “the earth is flat.” You’d laugh it off, and wouldn’t take it seriously.


If someone you know, like and trust, tells you “the earth is flat.” You’d think about it for a second since you like and trust them. But that doesn’t change the fact that the earth is actually round, it doesn’t matter who said it, that doesn’t make it right, and it shouldn’t change your way of thinking since there is an absurd amount of scientific evidence to support its roundness.


This should be the same way that athletes handle bad information when one of the many voices are yelling information in your direction.


Ask Why

Even more than listening, asking why you’re being asked to do something is so important for the long term sustainability of your success. Why? 2 reasons, 1) because believing in what you’re doing is half the battle 2) To protect yourself from advice that might affect your swing negatively, or in Fultz’s case his shot.


1) Belief in what you’re doing is so important for success. In order for an athlete to put in enough work for real significant results belief that it will all pay off is so crucial. To be your best self on the field of competition athletes you’ve got to train A LOT and if you don’t think that the training that you’re putting in will work what’s the point? People that don’t believe, won’t commit and that commitment is essential for success.


The only way to fully believe in what you’re doing is by understanding why you’re doing it, so asking for an explanation is the only way to get there. The old adage is, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right,” so if you don’t understand the method how can you fully believe in it?


2) You need to protect yourself from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. The only way to do that is to make sure you (the athlete) know what you’re talking about, so you can effectively sweep aside bad advice.    


I can’t speak for Markelle Fultz, but if his jumper’s demise was do to a mechanical “correction” gone wrong, why was that “correction” made in the first place? He was a great/smooth shooter at Washington and didn’t need any correction. This is why it’s so important to ask why you should make the change that your coach requests. Your swing is not your coach’s swing, it’s your swing, so if you’re going to do something differently, the reason for doing so needs to be a good one. If a coach can’t explain, or won’t spend 30 seconds explaining why they’re asking you to do something, then maybe it’s not something that needs to be a part of your game.


I always tell my hitters that they don’t have to do what I say, they have to do what makes the most sense to them. It’s my job to make the most sense out of any of the many voices and if I don’t, then I’m not very good at my job and they should fire me. Athletes need to evaluate the information that is given to them, because things like the Markelle Fultz broken jumper happen all time in baseball and softball it’s just typically not as public as what’s happened to Fultz.


Let’s say a baseball or softball player go away to school where there were recruited because of their ability to hit for power home runs and extra base hits. When they get to school their coach says “We’re not into launch angle here.” So most of the drill work revolves around hitting the ball low and hard, whereas on field BP is dedicated to situational hitting. Since the freshman hitter is focusing on hitting it low and hard, Home Runs and Extra Base Hits come less and less. Frustrated and confused, the athlete doesn’t know what to do so he or she turns to their college coach for help ready to make whatever change is needed to become better.

They show up to practice an hour early, for extra work with the assistant coaches but all that they get is more hands to the ball/low liner movement “corrections.” The athlete continues to spiral down in frustration. Spring comes and they get only a few at bats but the writing is on the wall, unless they improve immensely over the summer they might not make the team next year. Often athletes in the position transfer, sometimes they quit, others stay and try to make the team. Only a select few realize that they shouldn’t have changed their swing in the first place because the reasons for changing it weren’t good. This scenario can play out at any level, from youth all the way up to professional baseball and softball. If the athlete had realized that the whole reason they were there was to hit the ball for power than they wouldn’t have tried so hard to hit the ball low and they probably would have been an asset to the team.


If what you’ve been taught makes sense and you believe in it there can’t be anything that can stop you from making it part of your daily routine. The biggest thing that I see with most successful athletes is that they are consistent with with their daily movement training. Those that aren’t as successful don’t do their movement training on a consistent basis and when they struggle at the plate they are confused. You don’t think about brushing your teeth because you’ve done it twice a day every day for your whole life. If you want to be able to make a good swing without thinking about it, it takes the same commitment to simple everyday stuff.


Markelle Fultz jumper is a cautionary tale, the message is if you execute tirelessly on a plan that doesn’t make sense you probably will get worse. It’s really sad to see things like this happen in sports but this doesn’t have to be you. Learn as much as you can about your craft, and you’ll know when it’s smart to execute on an idea, and when it’s smart to put on your earmuffs.   

At the end of the day you’re the one who owns your swing, not any of the voices shouting instructions at you.


Thanks for reading,

Kurt Hewes 

Kurt Hewes – Director of hitting and Founder of Ignite Baseball

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