The Blog of Jake Kelfer
Success Spotlight with Jamaal Benjamin: Founder & NBA Skills Development Coach at Game Shots Basketball
Jamaal Benjamin is the founder of Game Shots Basketball and an NBA Skills Development Coach. A former collegiate basketball player, Jamaal has skills development experience at various levels.
Jamaal has worked with the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, Chinese Basketball Association, Chinese National Basketball League, UCLA as well as with several professional basketball players from NBA and International teams. In addition, Jamaal has coached at numerous basketball camps including the prestigious Pangos All-American and Adidas Nations Global Challenge.
A graduate of Dickinson College with a B.A. in International Business & Management, Jamaal earned a Master’s degree in Organizational Development & Leadership while also serving as an Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.
How do you define success?
To me, success is maximizing your personal potential. If you put everything you have into your craft and you utilize all the resources that you have available to achieve your goal, then you’ve been successful in my opinion.
Everyone has his or her own journey and story to tell. Can you talk about your journey up to this point?
After I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to work in sports but I did not know in which area. I spoke to a college teammate of mine, who was coaching at Shippensburg University. He told me they were paying for him to go to graduate school. I thought that would be something that I’d love to do, so I started looking for opportunities to coach and go to grad school. Later that summer an assistant coach at Shippensburg left the program. My friend introduced me to the coach, I interviewed and was hired as an assistant coach.
In the second semester, I started classes to pursue a graduate degree in Organizational Development and Management. Initially, coaching was just a vehicle to get grad school paid for. I did not know what I would do after I finished grad school. After a road trip during basketball season, a friend of mine asked what I did over the weekend. I told her that I went on a two-game road trip with the team. She responded by saying: “Oh! So you worked all weekend!” It never had occurred to me that it was work. That’s when I knew I wanted to make a career out of coaching!
From there, I’ve worked hard, networked and looked for opportunities for professional advancement. This has led me to positions with UCLA, the Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando Magic and New York Knicks. Ultimately, I believe that my love for basketball and my passion for coaching has brought me to this point in my career where I am the head coach of an American pro tour team in China and running my own player skills development company, Game Shots Basketball.
I started Game Shots Basketball because there is a void in the skills development industry. A lot of players work with trainers in the offseason that do not focus on in-game situations. I’m a coach, not a trainer, so I look at skills development as 5-on-5 game preparation. At my company we focus on game situations, hence the name Game Shots Basketball. We work with players to improve their development using on-court skills training tailored to game situations, film analysis and written development plans.
What is your favorite part about coaching?
My favorite part about coaching is the relationships that are formed with the players. In order to coach players well, you have to have good relationships with them, on and off the court. I enjoy spending time off the court with the players to learn about their background and form a relationship. That enables me to be a more effective teacher on the court. Once I get to the teaching portion, the most satisfying thing for me is seeing players execute the skills that we’ve worked on together in practice.
What is the biggest difference you’ve noticed coaching in America versus China?
The skills set of the players. Typically, in America the bigger players are not strong outside shooters. In China, however, all the players can shoot regardless of position. We’ve seen some 7-footers knocking down 3pt shots. That’s not as common in America.
What is your best recommendation for people trying to break into the sports industry, either on the player side or business side?
Network, study the industry that you’re looking to get into and be prepared to sacrifice. Networking or relationship building is important because one of the most effective ways to get into the sports industry is through personal contacts.
Additionally, it’s important to study the industry you’re looking to enter because you want to be prepared for your opportunity. I’ve seen a lot of people focus on the networking aspect but lacked the knowledge to be a contributor in the field that they aspire to be in.
Lastly, be prepared to work long hours (early mornings, late nights & weekends) for low-wages. Early in your career expect to have more than one job at once and to make a lot of personal and financial sacrifices. It’s not a glorious lifestyle by any means, you have to really love it. Most likely, you will have to move and travel a lot as well.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Say yes until you have to say no.”
This was in reference to potential opportunities. To me, it means hear things out and do not be quick to turn things down until you hear all the details.
If you could have lunch with 3 people, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Phil Jackson: I’d love to hear the way he motivates, manages personalities and builds relationships with players. So much of coaching is relationship management.
Oprah Winfrey: I respect her accomplishments and how she built her brand. I’d like to ask her questions about entrepreneurship as well as personal and professional development.
Pat Riley: I’ve read several books regarding his leadership skills. It’s something that I admire. I’d like to ask about his winning strategies as both a coach and executive.
The Fundamental Round
Favorite food: Seafood. I love shrimp.
Favorite book: “More Than A Game” by Phil Jackson & Charley Rosen
Favorite actor: Denzel Washington
Favorite athlete: Kobe Bryant
Favorite sports team: New York Jets
Favorite quote: “If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.” Pat Riley
Biggest role model: Family, both my parents and my sister.
You can connect with Jamaal here:
Jamaal Benjamin Twitter
Game Shots Basketball Twitter
Game Shots Basketball Instagram
Jamaal Benjamin LinkedIn
Hey, I'M JAKE!
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