Is Hard Work Always Enough?

By: Ryan Sypkens

CEO & Lead instructor at Syp’s Touch Shooting


One of the biggest misconceptions in athletics is the notion that if you physically work hard every day then you will reach great success. Hard work is definitely a necessary component to finding success, but it is not the only necessary element. To achieve great success and reach aspirations one must create the habit of working HARD, SMART, and CONSISTENT. Many are achieving one of these elements, and even less than that achieve two; but very few achieve all three on a consistent basis.

Achieving all three elements is very challenging and the average person’s mental framework hinders their ability to accomplish this. The good news is that this mental framework – habitual thinking patterns influencing assumptions that have a direct negative or positive affect on behavior patterns – can be changed with proper training!

In Sacramento California, a local basketball training Academy, Syp’s Touch Shooting, is currently developing a program – The TOUCH System – which provides a curriculum that includes mental training and couples it directly with professional level skill and shooting training. The idea is to rigorously train the physical skills and techniques consistent with becoming a successful basketball player while simultaneously training the mind to reach the capacity for the discipline and accountability necessary to work HARD, SMART, and CONSISTENT.

There will be mental training programs that focus on common struggles such as confidence or free throw shooting, or a program can be created consistent with the individual’s specific situation and struggles.

Applying these mental concepts and techniques to your daily training regimen will help you experience great improvement on the basketball floor, but this is not the only benefit. Regardless of what you decide to pursue in life, these same concepts and techniques can be applied to anything, and participating in this program is great practice for any of your future endeavors in life.

Your focus cannot only include physical skills, but must also include developing the mental aptitude to reach success. With this approach, you are capable of anything!




Effective Praise


One of my favorite past times is coaching. I’ve spent years coaching both youth sports and Special Olympics and have been lucky enough to pick up some tips along the way. Effective Praise is one of the best kept, underestimated, secrets to motivate athletes and especially teams to perform well. Praising is something that we naturally do but using the following tips have been proven to make anyone perform better and more consistently. Effective praise builds confidence and creates “winning streaks’ ultimately leading to more success.


Tips for Effective Praise:

  1. Be specific – You want to be as detailed as possible when telling people what they did correct. Just saying “good job” is not enough, it does not allow them to know what they did right so that they can do it again. Make sure the athlete knows why you are praising them. Ask yourself what they did right or why did they do it right. A better example of effective praise would be “nice job keeping your elbow in and following through with your shot.
  2. Let it stand alone – It is so easy to clutter praise with critiques. When you have more critiques then you do effective praise, the praise gets lost and means very little (if anything) to the person receiving it.
  3. Be Sensitive – Not everyone likes to be in the spot light and prefer public displays of praise. Knowing your athletes means knowing how they would like to be praised, for some that means pulling them aside to tell them what they did right. Being sensitive to this helps build trust between you and your athlete.
  4. Effort counts – The player or team does not have to execute perfectly to deserve some praise, acknowledge them for their effort. We all know that sometimes we can do everything right and still not get the expected outcome, that effort should not be ignored. Especially when trying to build confidence with a new skill or sport, giving effect praise for effort and improvement can go a long way.
  5. Pay attention to detail – Praise them for things that may not be so obvious. When you can pick up on the little things that proves to the athlete that not only do you care about them but you are paying attention to what they are doing.
  6. Let it vary– You do not need to acknowledge every time that someone does something right. Effective praise should be more often when they are learning a new skill and can be given less often as their talent advances. Also, it’s important to acknowledge good things across different skills and not always focus on one thing.

What to ask when goal-setting


January is the time of year where everyone wants to start setting new goals and focusing on what they want to accomplish for the year. I think there are several successful methods that can be implemented to help you achieve your goals. If you do not have a method, we can work on one together that fits you best. For those that already have a goal setting method that they love, here are some questions to consider, not only while planning but also while in the acting phase.

1.What will happen if you don’t achieve your goal? What’s the worst thing that can happen during this goal achievement process?  – It is very important to be optimistic when we are trying to achieve our goals but it’s also important that we are realistic. We set goals for a reason and remembering that is important. We often put off our goals because we forget what’s at stake if we don’t achieve them and putting that into consideration can often give us the motivation we need to stay on task. This is also beneficial because it allows us to start contingency planning for those setbacks and challenges, so if they arrive, you are more likely mentally prepared to overcome them.

2.What strengths do you have that can be used as leverage in achieving your goal? When we attempt at things that we’ve never done before it’s easy to lose confidence in our ability to achieve it. It’s important to look at the strengths we already know that we possess and use those as leverage when we start to doubt ourselves. Strengths can be mental, interpersonal, physical or be values/beliefs that you hold on to tightly. Keeping a list of those strengths can help you be confident in your goal achievement.

3.What support system do you have? There is very little in this world that we can accomplish on our own. Having people that believe in you, will help you, support you and be there to hold you accountable is one of the most underutilized strategies in goal achievement. This must be people that you can trust to be there for you. Having someone to give you other perspectives when it starts to get hard and celebrate when you succeed takes stress off yourself and more likely will keep you working toward your goal.

Trophy Generation

I was around four the first time my basketball team didn’t win a league title (it was also the first league I played in). I remember my coach handing me this pretty green ribbon with gold writing on it. I couldn’t have been more excited; to me it was just as important as the big trophies my brothers always brought home after tournaments. Being so young I couldn’t quite make out what the gold letters meant so I asked my older brother. Without hesitation he explained that it meant that I lost and threw it in the nearest trashcan he could find. A little later my mom explained to me that it was a participation ribbon but brother explained that celebrating failure only sets you up for more failure, he followed up with a “it means nothing if everyone got one”. I was bitter and upset and at four didn’t understand how that mattered, I worked hard all season long.

As I got older the lesson my brother taught me that day was more powerful than I had ever thought. I was never satisfied with good enough and always wanted to achieve higher than the game before, than the practice before. My drive was never about the prize at the end but truly about the process of getting there and competing with myself to always become better. Sure the trophies were nice, but I wouldn’t bat my eye at it for long if I didn’t receive the biggest one. Think back to your participation ribbons, what do they actually mean to you now, what did they actually teach you then? The idea of this trophy generation is far more damaging than we would all like to admit. While it may protect kids’ feelings or give them a momentary feeling of satisfaction in the long run it hurts them more than it will ever help.

One of the biggest reasons I find myself against the idea of the trophy generation is the almost immediate effect it has on the kids who already understand the value of hard work. On the same team you have 2 kids; one works hard, shows up and gives it their all every practice and game and is constantly using their free time to push themselves. The other child barely comes to practice and puts in very little effort, maybe doesn’t even care. The effects of this “trophy generation’ requires that a coach play both athletes similar to the same amount of time because both athlete’s parents paid the same amount of money. For the athlete that isn’t committed, this is teaching them that they are to be rewarded for just showing up and that no matter how much effort that they put in they still get to play. While for the other athlete this ultimately instilling hopelessness. No matter how much effort they put in or talent they have, they are not getting anything different from every other person on the team and thus should not continue to try. It’s teaching them that hard work doesn’t matter and their success and ability to thrive is not in their control. We naturally want to see results from our actions and if we are given everything without taking into account effort and success from hard work, we are not seeing results that are going to continually motivate us to thrive and ultimately allowing extrinsic motivation, we are more likely to have as children, transition to intrinsic motivation that we need as adults.

What happens when those “trophy kids” become “trophy adults” is my next biggest issue. We have all had those jobs that coddle us. You may work relentlessly to learn the material, constantly practicing the content and going out on my own to find work. Unfortunately, we have all had a coworker who does the opposite, doesn’t really care, and that shows when they are interacting with clients or coworkers. The problem with this is that no matter what effort you put in you will receive essentially the same amount of work . The issue isn’t in the way that the company operates because  you have learned that sometimes that is just how life works, the issue however is in the drive that  both team members have. No one is perfect at their job, we all make a lot of mistakes and sometimes mess up the content but because when you have learned that failure is a part of life and can be overcome if you continue to work. Others have never been allowed to fail and coddled so that when they do eventually fail or don’t perform to their fullest potential it holds no weight for them because they have been rewarded anyways. It teaches adults that they really don’t have to work hard to achieve success in some cases. In other cases, it doesn’t teach them how to fail at all. When they are not rewarded for just being and showing up they don’t know how to handle it and ultimately leads to continual dissatisfaction in their job. We all know that person who is constantly looking for something new to do, claiming they are on a hunt for more money or it doesn’t fit them, but in reality they haven’t learned that effort leads to satisfaction and you actually have to continually work, relentlessly for those rewards. I’m not satisfied everyday with my job but I do know that the more I work, the easier it becomes and the more fun I have. If I didn’t work tirelessly to learn the material or didn’t know how to bounce back from failed sessions that would lead to continual stress and anxiety and constantly being unfulfilled in the workplace.

The idea that everyone gets a trophy and that everyone plays no matter how much effort they put into the performance is one of the most detrimental trends happening to young generations today. I encourage you to let children fail, and to not be rewarded for just being there. To show them how to recover from failure. I encourage you to teach them that effort is the only way to truly succeed and that you don’t get a cookie just for showing up in the real world. While I don’t encourage you to do something as drastic as throwing away their ribbons, teach them that participation doesn’t mean that you have won.

New Places New Spaces


I just recently moved to a new state and while for some making such a big move can be stressful especially when starting a whole new career for me however it was a breath of fresh air. Being in a new place and having to create a new routine and take advantage of different opportunities reminded me how I was neglecting this blog. I hadn’t been writing because while I had a list of topics I also had a terrible case of writers block. Far too often we become too comfortable in our own space. We form our routine and we get stuck in our head of where we need to be and exactly how we want to do it. Sometimes the way we want to do is determined simply by how we’ve always done it. When we stay in that same space all the time we restrict ourselves from growing to our full potential. Whether we define this space as our location, our team, our job, or just the daily routine that we do to practice our craft; to grow we have to sometimes force ourselves to go to a new space, force ourselves to re-energize.

A few years ago I was stuck in a routine that was day in and day out the exact same thing and no matter what I tried I was completely uninspired. Don’t get me wrong I was successful and quiet content with my life but I felt stagnant. I took a jump and on a whim moved half way across the country and discovered passions I never knew I had. Two years ago I had a job that I was constantly learning from and really thought I was growing with but a difference in morals forced me to quit, I left a job and soon was able to start a career that I couldn’t be more in love with. Now not every move you take has to be so dramatic, for me I find satisfaction and new inspiration just from going to work out a different gym, taking a brand new class or even seeing a new instructor for the first time. Sometimes I try a new coffee spot or restaurant or sit with someone new at lunch.

I get it, by this point you are rolling your eyes because you are completely content with how everything is going and couldn’t imagine a change that needs to be made. I ask you this however, what do you have to lose? With my athletes I always challenge them to do just one thing between sessions that is outside of the box, or their comfort zone and see where it takes them. It can be getting to know a new teammate or a coach on a different level, the order they practice, their workout routine, or for one week meditate every morning. For example when I lived in Austin I was coaching a girls’ volleyball team, the season started off great but as season went on and life happened I begin to see the twinkle in their eyes fade away. Volleyball wasn’t their stress relief anymore it was just another task they had to do every day. My solution was to take them out of their space, for one day I took them out of their space. They walked in the gym and I immediately took them outside, gave them random numbers for teams and we played soccer for 30 minutes or so. I let them just play, with no pressure of winning or losing or worrying about starting or dad’s side comments , they just got to play. What happened next? We went back in the gym and I saw them stop making silly little mistakes, they hit a little harder and communicated better and most importantly I saw them play like they loved the game. Sounds crazy for just a few minutes of practice but the reality is, they just needed a change.

I challenge you all to step out of your space and open yourself to being refreshed, re-energized and re-inspired because even making the smallest temporary step can change your perspective and increase your success.


Life Lessons I learned From Kobe Bryant (part 1)

If you’ve ever come across me, you know that Kobe Bryant is my favorite athlete of all time. It is no secret that ever since I was 5 I looked up to him and was inspired by him. Part of the reason I chose sport psychology was because I wanted to understand his mentality and wanted to help other athletes gain the same mental strength. While his talent is undisputable he is often discredited because of his attitude and personal life, but in all honestly his attitude is one of the reasons that I look up to him the most. His attitude is the reason he is the monumental success that he is now, and whether you love him or hate him, he is still respected. I have watched countless hours of film, interviews and documentaries on my idol and wanted to share a few of my favorite lessons that have changed the way I see myself and my drive for success. I could honestly post 100s of quotes and lessons so I decided to break this into my first series.

  1. Break it into pieces-

In 2003, I was going through the Colorado situation, and it was very tough. I had to ask myself what I wanted to accomplish. I want to keep my family together. Have to focus on that. I’m a good basketball player: I want more championships. Focus on that. Every endorsement I had, they dropped me. Every marketing person said, “You can’t be fixed.” So I start chopping the problem into smaller pieces, and I focus on them. What else are you going to do?”


Life happens and it’s not always easy and sometimes your problems seem bigger than you can ever handle. It’s so easy sometimes to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you can never get it off. The more you focus on the problems in full, the more impossible it seems to overcome. If you take the time to break your problems in to smaller more manageable pieces then your problems will no longer seem so huge. Take everything one step at a time and you will be amazed how much easier solving your problems will be, one day you’ll look back maybe they won’t even so big.



  1. Never stop learning-

It’s really about wanting to learn and feeling like your cup is always empty, because there’s always more that you can fill it with. That’s really the important thing and just continuing to learn, learn, learn.”


To be successful you must continually want to feed your brain, grow your knowledge. The sooner you can admit that you don’t know everything and that there is always more you can learn or become more proficient at. It’s so easy to believe once you’ve reached certain levels of success and obtained some achievements you know all that is needed to be known. That is not the case, there is always more you can learn and always places for you to grow. You need to be hungry for knowledge and constantly strive to get better at your craft.


  1. Reflect with purpose

“I’m reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward. I reflect with a purpose.”


It’s natural to look back on our past and want to dissect everything that happened. Reflection is useless if you do not use your past to help prevent the same problems or duplicate the same success in the future.  This is really simple but often over looked. Focus on your past only with the sole purpose of making your future better. Focusing on the past for any other reason is a waste of your future.





The Importance of Meditation


Take a deep breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take another one, this time make sure that the breath out is longer than the one that you are taking in.  Take a few more breaths, only focusing on your breath and not a single thought that may cross your mind. How did that feel? Hopefully it was refreshing, hopefully it gave your mind a moment of calm. Hopefully, naturally all the rapid thoughts that were jetting through your mind had a moment to calm down.

Meditation gives your mind a moment of peace that sometimes we neglect and overlook the importance of. I first started meditation when I was a senior in high school in my sport psychology class, then they were long (about 20 minutes) and I couldn’t for the life of me focus the entire time. Over time however things began to click. It’s pretty ironic, to me that you have to train your brain to think the right way or rather the way that you want it to. For me, I find short meditations in the morning or throughout the day to be much more effective than a long 20 minute one.  Taking 5 to 10 minutes in the morning or at night have benefits that last most of the day and even throughout the night. I just wanted to share with you some of my favorite reasons to practice meditation.

  1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety– The obvious is that it gives you a mental and physical breath that allows for you not only pause and gather your thoughts but it also encourages to stop thinking about anything specific at all. Anxiety is often caused by distracting thoughts and meditation helps you control what thoughts that you focus on. Scientifically, meditation works to reduce stress hormones like cortisone and increase your happy hormones like serotonin.
  2. Promotes Better Sleep– Meditation helps you calm down all the distracting thoughts going through your mind, ultimately improving the quality of your sleep. Meditation before bed even allows you to fall asleep deeper and faster. Added bonus is that a meditation session in the middle of the day can give you the quick pick me up and energy boost you need to get through whatever else you may have planned.
  3. Increases Healing and Reduces Pain– To me this is the coolest part about meditation. Meditation and imagery have been proven to help speed up the healing process of injuries and even reduce pain. When you focus your mind completely on the healing process through meditation the body responds and begins to heal faster and returns to a healthy rate faster. Meditation also changes the overall structure of the brain which allows for you to longer feel pain at the same intensity.

There are an unbelievable amount of benefits to meditation and I really encourage you each to look into how it can strengthen your daily life and overall health and well-being. If you want more information on the benefits of meditation, check out the link below. Also coming soon will be some brief daily meditations that you can use throughout your day.


Additional information:

Compete with yourself

Are you afraid to compete with yourself?

Most athletes by nature are competitive, that is nothing new, but there is this small part of the battles we face every day that are over looked. We are constantly battling and competing with ourselves way more than we will ever compete with any other competition in our lives. There is this little voice in our heads constantly telling us the wrong things. It’s the voice that tells us to cut short of the line during drills, the voice that tells us when we are injured that we hurt too much to get up and get ice. It’s that pesky little voice in your ear telling you to put the alarm on snooze and go back to sleep, to order the extra plate of fries, to stay up all night watching Netflix, or to skip your workout.

When no one is watching you, that voice in your head is going to tell you don’t do it, you don’t need to do it, that’s not true. You have to reach down and remind yourself that you, if no one else is, are watching and do it. You have to compete with that voice in your head, you have to beat that voice. Do it no matter how tired, hurt, exhausted you may be. It’s not the games that matter most it’s the practices and recovery, that is where you become better, that is where you put in the work. If you can’t beat yourself in competition, how are you suppose beat anyone else?

You can’t be afraid to compete with yourself. You can’t be afraid to tell yourself no and push yourself harder than your brain is telling you that you can go. Keep score if you have to, maybe you hit snooze yesterday morning but you put up extra free throws at practice and ate a salad instead of pizza. Now you are up 2-1, how big can you get the lead to? It is the little steps every day that we take against ourselves that make us better players. Compete with yourself, and beat yourself.

Student of the Game

The other day I was talking to a friend who had just been cut from his high school basketball summer team, for him it seemed like the end of the world. For me I thought that it was the best thing that could have happened to him. When athletes are stuck in their ways and comfortable in their abilities, any type of failure seems detrimental to who they are as an athlete.  For me this was a great opportunity for him to go outside of the minimal that he was requiring of himself and dig deep. In his head he thinks he has already failed and that any effort to improve is instantly a waste of time.

He is very lucky that his family believes in his ability because they have filled his summer with camps all over the country that will allow for him to improve his skills. Before every camp I asked if he is ready and of course says he is but his body language tells me that he already feels like it is a waste of time and that he is not open to the experience.

To get better we all have to be open to the experience, be open to suggestions, to change and welcome failures and down points with open arms. The reality is as athletes we all have failures, whether it be being cut from the team, missing a pass, missing the game winning shot or letting a penalty kick go we have to take it as a learning experience. No one is perfect all the time and at some point everyone will fail. We cannot let our failures discourage us from trying again but must rather let it be the driving force that pushes us to continually try for improvements. What most athletes forget is that we are students of the game and that there is always something that we can work on and improve on but we have to be open to taking the steps to advance. What we know and what we can do now is not the limit to our talent and if we are not willing to be students of our game than we will never be able to rise to our full potential.

When you’re in school do you wait until you fail to start studying for the test or do you constantly study and review so that when the test comes you are prepared? The successful students are constantly doing the work as for the other students it usually only takes one”F” for them to change their study habits. It is the exact same thing with sports. We are all students of the game.

Instead of letting the failures we face cause anxiety and deter us from trying we must learn from it. The moment you accept failures is the moment we accept defeat.  We must all use those failures no matter how small or big they are as a lesson. We must study our mistakes and practice for improvements so that the next time we face the test we can accomplish more than we could have imagined.