Rhynia Henry's Rules for Life (and basketball)
Recently, I sat down with a friend to discuss ideas for starting my own photography business. Rhynia Henry is an entrepreneur, basketball coach, artist, and photographer. Rhynia (pronounced ron-yay) shares my passion for taking beautiful pictures. However, I learned so much more than photography workflow tips from our meeting. In fact, I began to take copious notes as he spoke about his philosophy of teaching, learning and the application thereof to life at large.
Rhynia's Rules for Life (and basketball)
1. Show Up
2. Practice the Long Game
3. Stand and Deliver
4. It's all about the TEAM, not the ME
Having spent more than 18 years perfecting the craft of growing young hearts and minds, Rhynia helps children become better adults through physical fitness.
His business is called Next Level. Next Level offers basketball training and development in small group experiences which focus on skills, strengthening, and game basics for children ages 5 and up. Rhynia’s coaching business is so successful that he has a wait-list filled with players hoping for an open spot in the program.
Coaching is an Art
Some may say that the graceful game of basketball is an art. But for me, coaching is the true art form. Rhynia attended Rhodes College in Memphis and graduated with a degree in art. Like many of us, Rhynia’s undergraduate degree doesn’t seem match his job. If you look closer though, I would say that Rhynia uses that art degree every single day coaching young people. Here’s why.
Before an artist picks up a brush, pencil, or camera, he observes his subject. Memphis artist, Martha Kelly, once told me that she loves sketching things in everyday life because it forces her to record little details that might otherwise go unnoticed. If we think about an artists' renderings simply as the fruit of keen observation, then it is easy to draw the conclusion that a coach is an artist using similar observation and communication skills to help identify issues and then creatively communicate with players. (of interesting note: The word 'render' comes from an old French word meaning ‘to make.’)
Rhynia Henry's 4 Principles for Success in Life (and basketball)
- Show up. Just be there. Be present mentally and physically. Be disciplined in striving toward better; better attitudes, better people, better communities, better world. Choose the skills you want to work on, and be diligent in practicing them. Do work! (as my husband says to his team) Practice is work. Learning is work. Work is holy, and (IMO) learning to work is one of the reasons we are all here on earth.
- Practice the Long Game. Train for long-term success, not winning right now. To illustrate this concept, Rhynia told me about teaching basketball defensive strategies. Apparently zone-type defense is easier for players to learn and implement. Zone defense requires less cardio endurance, and allows for a slower playing game. In contrast, man-to-man defense is difficult to learn and it is certainly more difficult to play in a game as it requires much more movement and constant situational awarness. Although I am sure that zone defense is useful sometimes, Rhynia advocates for skipping the easy way.
- Stand and Deliver. Follow-through is key. Games in basketball are like tests in school. You study all week or month only to show up and demonstrate the results of your disciplined practice. Games are important, but they are not the most important thing. Even if you lose, you learn something. Losing is hard, but anything worth doing usually is. Be resilient in the face of a loss. Get back out on the practice court and keep doing work.
- It’s about the team, not the me. You need your teammates. We should always strive to raise the playing level of those around us. Rhynia used the example of one player named Eli who greatly exceeded the skills of everyone on his school team. Eli had never needed to develop team-oriented skills. Although Eli was already a great player, Rhynia helped him learn that he could grow even better by thinking with a team mentality. Eli eventually played basketball for a division III university, and is now a successful real estate agent. Teams are about relationships. Relationships are life, the interconnected fabric of humanity. We gotta stick together to get better.
3 Pairs of Shoes
“During the summer before their senior year in high school these three guys joined my program. These young men had tried out for their high school basketball team for three years without making it,” said Rhynia.
Trying out for a varsity team as a senior is a pretty lofty goal. Normally, senior spots are reserved for players who have been long-term members of the team.
“But, I told them if they made their school team, I would buy them new shoes. And they did it. They made the varsity basketball team as seniors that fall. And I bought three new pairs of basketball shoes,” said a smiling Rhynia.
Those boys are now men working in successful careers in medicine, business, and recreation. None of them played college or NBA basketball. But, that’s okay with Rhynia. Because life is all about the practice, not the game.
Purity in the Practice of Entrepreneurship
In the business world, Rhynia’s Next Level program is called a high-touch service. High-touch means that the service provider is very involved with every customer paying for the service. In contrast, a service like Amazon Prime is a very low-touch service in that a consumer rarely has to interact directly with a person when they use the service. Both types of services are useful.
Usually, we all pay premium prices for higher-touch services (think doctors, lawyers, stylists, etc.). I asked Rhynia why he doesn’t charge more for his services or hold larger clinics over small groups. And although he does offer a few elite classes at a premium price, he wants his services to be affordable and therefore available to a wider majority instead of a wealthier minority. As for larger groups, he said more numbers per group means less learning for each child, and that’s not a sacrifice that he is willing to make in exchange for a buck.
In pursuit of the best possible service, Rhynia became a certified trainer because he saw players doing strength conditioning with other professionals off the court. He knew that he could train his players just as well, if not better. This is called diversification of product in the for-profit business world. Yes, diversification helps increase profits. But for Rhynia, I think it’s about a love for the purity of practice and learning how to be the best person you can possibly be.
"Athletics is really all about the practice," said Rhynia, "It's not about the sport, and it's not about the game. I care about the practice, I don’t care about points for winning. If my players show up to a game and do what we practiced, that’s a win for me."
The vast majority of his players will never play basketball past the high school level. Rhynia hopes his players will apply the training principles from his Next Level program to their lives. He says, “Let me teach you the right way to train. If you follow my principles, you will have tools to be successful at both life and basketball.”