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How Daryl Smith Built A Reputable Basketball Training Business

Published: 2021-11-16
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Daryl Smith is President and CEO of D-TRAINED, Inc. is a company designed to improve the athletic performance level of Elite High School, College, and Professional Athletes.

Over 500 D-TRAINED participants have competed at the highest levels of basketball including the ACC, SEC, PAC- 12, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Atlantic 10, Conference USA, and NBA/ WNBA. As a former college and professional basketball player, D-TRAIN brings a wealth of knowledge and credibility with his training protocols. Here's his story: 


SportsEdTV: So, Daryl, thank you so much for joining us. I guess we'll just start off by telling us a little bit about yourself, like you're playing history and what you do now.

Daryl Smith: Sure. So I mean, I I came out of Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, was a high school all-American. There, ended up going to Rutgers, played there for four years, was captain for postseason trips, very, very productive career there. After school, I went over and played, played overseas in Italy and Croatia for a while. Then I actually, you know, I think like a lot of guys, you know, when you kind of realize like, OK, is the NBA going to happen? It's not going to happen. And I just, you know, it's interesting. In hindsight, I think I probably stopped too soon chasing the dream because I felt like, Hey, if I'm not, you know, when you have college success, it's almost like assumed like, Oh yeah, I've been good in college. Like, I'm just going to go to the next level not realizing that, you know, a lot of guys you've seen playing or maybe even not playing right because there's a lot of guys that college kind of hinders their game a little bit, you know, and I would always have people that would be so surprised when they see me play outside of college, they'd be like, Man, you know, I didn't know you could do this. I didn't know you could do that. I'm like, Yeah, but I just don't get a chance to do it, you know, in college or didn't get a chance to do it in college. So after playing overseas for a couple of while and dealing with, you know, I hear these guys now complaining about playing overseas and I'm like, Man, at least you guys.

When we played overseas, it was like you picked up the phone. It better be an emergency because after two minutes, you know your bills at like 50 bucks, you know what I mean? And you spend all your money on trying to buy CDs to stay relevant and feel some some piece of home. You didn't have Instagram, you didn't have social media, you didn't have face time. So you were just kind of isolated out there. And for me, I just, you know, I was in a very rural part of Italy. Yes, I played in Croatia. So I was just like, Man, you know, I don't know if this is getting me closer to where I want to be. Then I, you know, put on a suit and tie and, you know, did the corporate thing worked as a major Fortune 500 companies? And then probably around the time of the dot com crash, which was like early 2000s, you know, I saw that things, you know, I was in the IT and telecom space. Things were changing and I actually had my old mentor from Xerox. He asked me to work with his son. And so I just was showing him some stuff, you know, in the backyard and the driveway or whatever.

And his dad was amazed because he was like, Man, you know, my son plays you. He goes, All these camps and the stuff you're teaching them, like, he's he's like, Nobody has ever shown him this stuff. Like, why is that? And I was like, Well, man, I was like, All I've done is basically show them what we do. You know, pretty much the first 10, 15 minutes of practice, you know, every day, which is basic fundamentals, you know, jump stop and pass, right hand layup, left hand layup inside, foot outside hand, like simple stuff. But he was blown away. And then so I came back down like the next weekend and there were like five or 10 kids that wanted the same information. And then so I was like, Wow, I was like, I might kind of be on to something here. And so literally, like I said, as my industry was, was validating. I just kind of took a blind leap and I said, you know, I'm really passionate about this. I mean, I was always the guy that stayed in shape. Eat healthy, you know, people always surprised. But, you know, I prided myself on my conditioning when I was in school. I was always the best, you know, player on my team, you know, bar none. And so I just basically started, you know, espousing the kids, Hey, listen, if you want to play at a high level, you got to have great fundamentals.

You've got to be in tremendous shape, you've got to be physically strong. And I just felt that that message wasn't being related to kids, you know, and so I just literally took a blind leap out of doing it. I think my first client was a little rich kid who was my best friend's law partner, son, right? That was my first client, you know? But seeing him get better, right? Let me realize like, OK, you know, I'm on to something. And before you know it, I had a contract with the city of Newark, and every public school in there was was made available to my services. The only one that bid on it was the school called North East Side, which is the school that Randy Foye graduated from. And then so slowly but surely, like all of a sudden, you know, I was getting a bunch of kids better and people started taking notice. Next thing I knew I was working doing stuff for Nike, you know, doing stuff for them. And then next thing I knew I was doing stuff for Jordan brand. And then I was working at St. Pat's High School, which was projects and Elizabeth Kyrie's alma mater, Korey Fisher, Al Harrington, you know, and I literally went in there, was behind the scenes doing their strength and conditioning and player development. And, you know, I think we were the number one team in the country for like four or five years straight, you know, and then it was kind of like, OK, the secret's out like, this dude is obviously doing something to help these kids out.

And I think that the embodiment of when I kind of was like, Wow, OK, I was watching, we were watching the kids during the layup line, and I think every kid, except for two, was dunking the ball and the coaches were just like, Wow, like, you know what? It's really like, you know, a pretty simple formula. Like, I said that I just maintain which is, you know, listen, you have to be in tip top shape. You've got your conditioning has got to be a one. You know, you've got to be strong, you've got to be quick, you've got to be mobile, you've got to be agile and then you've got to have top of the line fundamentals. You know, which a lot of people don't teach this kind of like, they just roll out the ball. And even now, it's interesting. I watch LeBron James tweet the other day that's catching on where he basically was like, Imagine if they rank kids my age and not by grade. Now I'm realizing like this whole, you know, class thing, you know, is a phenomenon, right? And I didn't realize like, I have a I have a 12 year old son, you know, and I'm amazed because like last year, he played 12 u, but he was 11.

Most of the time, you know, he didn't turn 12 until April. And then I'm realizing he's playing against kids that are like 13 going on 14. And I'm like. You know, how is this apples to apples? This is interesting, so it kind of reinforces the importance of conditioning, the importance of speed and agility, the importance of basketball fundamentals in terms of competing and being able to compete at a high level and listen a high level is, you know, whatever your ceiling is, right. If you're playing these three right that you still should be, you know, a top tier athlete, right, you still should be fundamentally sound. I mean, one of the best shooters I've ever worked with was a was a D3 girl. You know, she she she can shoot the lights out, you know, and when I got with her and helped her with her body and air conditioning, it was like it took her game to a whole nother level. So it's really not a secret. I'm just I'm always amazed that people trying to sort of engineer to these parents and these kids that, Hey, I have this new trick or have these new fundamentals or this new way, you know, it's really simple. It's about putting in the work. And a lot of people, fortunately, they want the fizzle, but they don't really want the steak.


SportsEdTV: Yeah. Interesting. So I mean, I'm curious, was New Jersey basketball anywhere? Where it is today, kind of in that in that when you had that aha moment in two thousand early, two thousands whenever that was was New Jersey, basketball is good. It is as it is today because if it wasn't, I question your involvement in it to rise to the top. Mr. Atlanta, please take a step back. We got a Tri-State area over here. I have to say that New Jersey has some juice.

Daryl Smith: Yeah. Well, it's interesting because New Jersey has always know been sort of in the shadows of New York City, right? And it's always the assumption that, hey, you know, New York is a mecca in New York is a mecca. But you go around and you see a lot of these other places and you know, they're, you know, they can compete, you know? And so at one time, there was a triangle in New Jersey of of Saint Pat's St. Anthony's with Coach Hurley and Saint Benedict's. Those were the top three programs. And you can just go down the list in terms of, I mean, J.R. Smith, like I said, Corey Fisher, Kyrie Irving, Earl Clark. They're a character and just, you know, you can go down the list, you know, in that era, you know, like I said, Randy Foye, you know, there were just a ton of talent in New Jersey. And so it definitely I would say a lot of it has to do with the coaching. A lot of it has to do with the competition. I think the benefit of being what I saw, too, was the transition away from the inner cities and more towards the parochial and the Catholic schools. And it was mind blowing because, like I said when I was at Newark Eastside, it's a, you know, public school. But I realized, like, you know, I literally would have to go outside and grab the kids to stop them from standing outside at three three o'clock to see what was, you know, after school drama, right? Whereas a lot of these kids, I think when there are private schools and parochial schools, it's different because it's like, you know, the bell rings and they're like running to get the workouts running to get to the gym.

You know, they don't have that same level of distraction, even from socioeconomic standpoint. A lot of times like I try to go to the inner city and try to find kids, you know, and they if they don't have the advantage of access to trainers, access to camp, access to high level coaching, you know, I really, really do commend those inner city coaches who are able to use talent because the odds are definitely against them. If kids are talented, they're going to be leaning towards, you know, St. Pat's or the Patriot School, as it's called now or St. Anthony's when it was around or at St. Benedict's. You know, the kids are going to be drawn to those schools because of the teaching, because of again, you know, it amazes me because like I said, when I was working in the city of Newark, I went around to every principal and offered them my service. I said, Listen, there's a grant that's been approved by the city, you know, I'm available and Newark East Side again, coming off a state title, coming off of, you know, Randy Foye going to Villanova like they were the only ones that said, Hey, yeah, let's let's, you know, we want to bring you in. We want your help. There were other other teams that were not doing well, and they just they never called me back.

And then when East Side kept winning, they saw it and they were like, Wait a minute, wait a minute. How did they get him? How did they get access to it? And it's like it was available to everybody. Nobody said it. So sitting there, you know, to go back to your original question, watching all the talent coming out of the New Jersey area, you know, it was very impressive. And like I said, it's something different when you're dealing with parochial schools, private schools and their access to training their access to facilities. You can see the difference, you know, and now I'm working with a younger demographic and younger population, and I could see it like the kids who are younger, who have access to trainers, who can afford to be on certain teams or with certain organizations. There's a distinct difference in their comprehension of the game, their skill level, and it really is interesting. And also, I think going around and traveling, whether you're traveling interstate or whether you go across the bridge to play in New York, that fear, you know, is not is not there anymore, right? It's not that you walk off the bus and you're you're up 10 points because it's a hostile environment. These kids are like, Hey, like, I know I can play. I might live in the suburbs, but I have access to, you know, quality, instruction and training. So it's making a difference.


SportsEdTV: So a big question that I have, and then we'll let Mark go in for some questions. How do you build a roster of clients? You know, this is the price for trainers, and I would say, how do you build your roster of clients? But then how do you build your dream roster of clients, right? So I would like both sides of that. You've probably trained both just average and great, so

Daryl Smith: Yeah, I know it's interesting, right, because I I take a client like Epiphany Prince, who I had when she was in high school, right going into college. In fact, you know, the statute of limitations is up. But I remember before I started working with her actually, as as her going to Rutgers, you know, I gave her a big ass TV, right? Yeah, yeah. I was like, Here, you know, here's a sixty four inch TV. Enjoy joy, right? That was before I even started working with her. Then when she went pro, like I started working with her and she just, you know, her game blossomed, right? And she'd run through a wall for me, you know? But before I got to the epiphany, before I got to the Tina Charles, you know, I had the, you know, like I said, I had to get it out of the mud. You know what I mean? My first, like I said, my first client was, you know, a little Jewish kid. You know, that was the law partner who, you know, he didn't have big basketball operations aspirations, but he wanted to get better. I think what a lot of times the challenge a lot of trainers have is you have players and you have players, right? And so everybody tries to sort of intersperse the players with the players. But it's tough because what happens is the players, you know, they want the access, they want to be in there, they want to be in the lab with the kids, you know, but the stud? Right? But the players, the studs, they don't want to pay, right? And that's something that is a challenge, right? And you have to get to that point in your business where you can take on and say, OK, you know, maybe I can sprinkle you in here, maybe I can bring you in there.

But it's tough because once kids and I think this is a danger, right? And it's something that I used to try to avoid, right? Which is, you know, a lot of people go after the big name kids and say, Oh, let me get this kid and I'm to let him in free and I'll get everybody else right. It works sometimes, but sometimes it can be short lived because if your business is just based on the kids who are already good, people are going to figure that out. You know, people are going to figure that out. And so, you know, I learned that lesson. Interestingly enough, when I started to get the attention of the Nike's and the Jordans of the world right, and it was an honor right to go around the world and around the country with Jordan Brand or Nike or being in China with LeBron for a month. But then, you know, some of my clients are looking at me like, Oh, you're big time now, right? You're in China for a month with LeBron. You don't have time for us, right? So it's like, no, it's not like that. But the challenge for me was, you know, and if I had to do it all over again, I would have tried to make a mini me, you know, sooner.

Right? And you know, it's almost like I use the analogy of of of of Denzel Washington, right? Or any Broadway star, right? The people come to see that person. So you as a trainer, like when you get a big personality and a big following, it's tough to start to pinch off and say, OK, well, you know, you're not going to come to me today. You're going to go with, you know, my understudy, right? And this is something that again, I learned through my experience with Nike and working with Jordan Brand because like I had to give them a run a show like account for every minute I do this drill, we're going to do that drill. This works on this. This works on that right? I learned very much like how to put on a show, how to put on an event, how to, you know, and obviously my experience would be with college and pro coaches, you know, and Mark can attest to this when you go to a high level practice coach got he's got the the whole practice printed out, right? I go and I watch guys work people out, and it's like, there's no cohesion to what they're doing. It's just like you. And you can tell the influence of social media because, you know, they're doing things that look cool for the camera, right? But there's no real cohesion to it. I remember, like early on, another aha moment was when coaches would come into my workout, but they wouldn't bring players and I'd be like, Yo, like, what are you doing? You know what I mean? Like, I was very taken aback because they would sit in the corner.

They wouldn't say anything to me, and they would just be kind of discrete. And then I'd look and they'd just be writing everything down. And I used to really get get me worked up until I realized I was like, You know what? I was like, You don't have the command and the presence of the drills, number one. Number two, you don't have progression, right? Once these kids figure this out, which they will eventually. You don't have anything else to take them to. So if you're running around just stealing drills and I call it copy and paste, you know you're you're really going to have a tough time, right? And so I would say really balancing, you know, staying current right, going to coaching clinics, you know, talking with other trainers, talk with other people, gathering information, reading books. I mean, I. Have a whole library downstairs of books that I read, you know, over and over and over again, you know? And we all learn from other people. But the thing is to put your spin and your twist on it. But I do think the challenge is, how can you have because everybody's like, Oh, well, who have you trained, who have you trained? Who have you trained? You know, I can name drop all day.

But again, I don't like to do that because now I'm basing my program on people who are already talented versus my my feel good stories of those kids who, you know, didn't have a snowball's chance of actually playing, but actually introducing them to, oh damn, like I got my body right. You know what I mean? Like, Oh damn, like, I got better. Like, I had a great high school career. I got into college. Like that to me, is what it's about. And now, like, I see kids that walk up on me and they're like grown men, you know, and they're big and strong and they and they're like, man, like, like, damn. Like, you know, if you if you took training that serious when you were with me, you know, who knows where you would have gone with the game, but I'm glad you adopted a love of fitness. I'm glad you adopted discipline and hard work and perseverance in those things that you know, work with me, part you. So that really is what I would say. It's a delicate balance between getting kids who are already good, right? Because a lot of times they're not going to want to pay right? And then if you have too many kids that can't play but can pay now, you're sort of masquerading as a babysitting service. And to the train die, people will see that. So it's like trying to find a happy medium. So I let Marc jump in. So I, I mark. Sorry.


SportsEdTV: I just I like that you put in the conditioning part of it because you see a lot of training. It's just basketball or basketball. Basketball with Hoop Dreams program down here. I try to put in the conditioning part, but I want to ask you, how do you get the younger players, your players to do things outside of your training? That was my biggest problem. They really believe that they're going to come to me twice a week and become better. I'm like, Man, I'm giving you stuff that you can do in the driveway. You can do in the park. You can even do it in the garage. How did you get the seat? I call it the judge saying, If you have to see your nose, how do you get? Ok. I can't just work with Coach. I have to do things outside of what coach is giving.

Daryl Smith: Yeah, it's it's funny. It's funny. You say that because I remember I had I had started strictly, like I said, with high school kids, right? And then I remember because what would happen is like, I would be swamped from, like I would say, like probably April to like June or July. Then everybody would disappear and everyone call me in September. But then what started happening was I would get callbacks and I would be burnt out in November. Right? Like Thanksgiving tryouts come. I would be like, I literally I remember the first couple of years I literally would like just disappear for like two or three weeks because I was so burnt out owing six or seven days a week, just like going crazy. But then I would get older.

Always right. But then I would get the call. Yeah, then I would get the call. After the tryouts happened the second week of December, I'm burnt out and these people are like, Hey, well, can you work out? Donny, can you work out Suzy? And I'm like, Work out like, it's the season now. Where were you? You know, when it was preseason? And you're exactly right. And then what would happen? I started working with younger kids, right? But then what I started noticing as soon as they had a little bit of success, right? I would I wouldn't hear from them again, right? They can make a left handed layup. They can make a little jump shot. Little Donny scoring 15 points in middle school or c y o. And now all of a sudden, he's a star, right? And you don't see them again. So to Jackie's point, now you get into high school, bro, you're not strong enough, right? You were bullying everybody. Now everybody's caught up to you. So now you're not as effective, you know, until it is a child. Even I turn away business because people want, you know, the miracles, and I'm like, Listen, like LSU and let's like, I can do this with you seven days a week. But are you going to? Are you going to compensate me for my time for seven days a week? Because what you're asking for? Yet you like even right now, the perfect example.

So my son is practicing with a high school varsity team right now. He's in seventh grade. I'm trying to get him to go as many of those practice one just because I'm like, I trained him so much. I like him here in different voice. Right now, I'm struggling because he's supposed to be lifting three days a week right in between homework and the way their practice schedule is, that there's been days that he's he's been missing, right? So it is it is very difficult right to do that. And listen, I'm. About as anal as they come, right, when it comes to that type of stuff. The average parent, unfortunately, right, that's that's a lot of wear. You know, it kind of does fall on because if you don't have a situation where your parents are kind of saying, Hey, keep up with your nutrition, hey, keep up with this. Hey, keep up with that. Then the average kid, you know, like most kids, don't even make up their bed consistently. So getting them to go spend an hour like, you know, I got a kid, I told him at the end of the summer, Hey, bro, your biggest thing like you can chew, but you got to get in shape, right? He's in seventh grade. He's not super tall. He's not super athletic.

Can shoot the heck out of the ball, right? But what's happened is he's being forced into being a specialist because he doesn't really handle the ball well. And I'm like, and I saw him the other day and I said, Dude, I said, I told you your conditioning, bro, you know, you got to get your conditioning right. But it's very difficult because they just want a lot of times. They just want to play what they want to just do basketball workouts and not realizing that when you get to certain levels, like everybody's athleticism, right, is through the roof. So if you haven't done those things, if you're not physically strong, if you're not athletic, right, you're going to be at a disadvantage. And that's the other thing too, I see, is that, like you said about the basketball, is that, you know, the phones don't play defense right. The cones aren't pushing on you, right? And I grab you. They're not holding you. So a lot of these kids look great playing against the shadow. But then when physicality comes in, it's like they become neutralized and they just, you know, when they don't want to invest in those other things like it, just relegate you to be an average or worse, you know, worse off, actually below average because you're not doing the things that are going to give you the competitive advantage. So.


SportsEdTV: I want to know where the D train came from.

Daryl Smith: Actually, so that came, believe it or not, my freshman year I was playing. It's funny. I was I was on the white team. We all know that a team is a scout team, so the guy that was playing in front of me was a guy named Tom Savage, right? And I felt to this day, I felt like that. He literally defined my career because he was only one year ahead of me. He averaged 19 points as a sophomore, was MVP at Atlantic 10. And when I tell you, I had to guard this dude every single day and I used to go to my room like in tears because it was the first time in my life that literally I'm like, Oh, I can't stop this dude. Like, I can't. I like there's nothing I could do if I back off. He has a jump shot. If I get up close, you know he's bigger and stronger. He goes to the basket, you know what I mean? And so then basically, I just started, you know, playing my ass off every day, you know what I mean? Just just as hard, you know, going over people's backs, trying to get tip dunks running the floor.

Just I was just nonstop. So actually, Eddie Jordan and Jeff Van Gundy basically were like, Yeah, he's like The Rain Man. He just keeps going. He just keep going. And then that's basically it stuck. And what's funny now is when I hear somebody say my first name, like, I see, sometimes I like, I do a double take because it's very outside of my my friends and family, like everybody just calls me and my brother said to me, he's like, Man, you must have did some telemarketing because, you know, every like people don't even call you by your first name, everybody. It's like when they say DeTrani, they're like, Oh, yeah, yeah, I know, I know Detroit. And that's just it stuff. And actually, I use it for my business because of the acronym discipline training. Always intense, never at all. So that's that's the acronym. Yeah. So that's what it stands for. Discipline, training, always intense. Never, ever dull. So that's where it came from.