Idan Ravin is not a household name even to some of the most rapid sports fans, but he should be. Idan is known as the “Hoops Whisperer” and he has trained nearly all of the biggest names in the NBA—from LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to Stephen Curry and James Harden. If you’ve been watching an NBA Playoff game this spring, chances are you were looking at some of Idan Ravin’s handiwork.
It’s been a fascinating journey for Idan. Before he was customizing challenges for the best basketball players on the planet, he was slogging through paperwork at a law firm and coaching basketball at a local YMCA on the side. When he was finally fed up with work at the firm, he quit and moved back in with his parents, where he continued to coach youth basketball. Ravin’s teaching caught the attention of former NBA All-Star Steve Francis, who asked for some training help. Shortly thereafter, Francis was spreading word of Ravin’s talents all over the NBA network.
Now, some fifteen years later, Ravin is the author of The Hoops Whisperer, which chronicles his journey from the outskirts of the courtroom to the center of the basketball world. We had a chance to chat with Ravin about his career, his recent partnership with Dove Men+Care and how vulnerability plays a part in his training as well as his guilty pleasures.
How did you partner up with Dove Men+Care?
Companies approach me all the time looking to partner up, but I really related to Dove Men+Care and their focus on making products that break the stigma that men can’t pay attention to what kind of cosmetic or hygiene goods they are using.
When you decided to ditch your career as a litigator, what was the breaking point?
I grew up in an immigrant family that was very religious. In those types of families there is usually on a limited amount of career paths—priest, rabbi, doctor, and lawyer. So I kind of checked off the lawyer box. But LSATs, law school, the bar exam and sitting in an office all day—it was never for me. I was desperate for an answer and a way out. I started volunteering at a YMCA and coaching youth basketball.
One day, a partner at the firm asked me to come into his office to look at a memo I had submitted. He kept asked me a question about the document and I answered him. But then he kept asking me the same question over and over again, raising his voice each time. After a while I said, “You know what, I don’t need this anymore.” So I walked out.
It’s scary to just do that because you don’t know what the next day is going to bring or if you’re going to survive, but I had to take the risk.
How did you build up your training sessions and regimens once you quit the firm? You have some unorthodox drills such as the one where you throw tennis balls at Carmelo Anthony while he dribbles a basketball. Where do these exercises come from?
I wish I could say that there was a grand plan in place, but there really wasn’t. I just started putting together drills that I had used when I played basketball as a kid. I was basically operating on my faith and intuition. Throughout my life, one of the constants has been my compassion and understanding for other people and that’s what has helped guide my career as a trainer.
In your New Yorker profile you are quoted as saying that tears during a workout lead you to the source of vulnerability in a player. Can you explain that?
When you are an athlete at the highest level, showing vulnerability is a good way of learning. These players have always been the best at what they do, so it’s not often that they can admit that they are lost or show vulnerability. During my training sessions, the gym is like a sanctuary; there are no cell phones, girlfriends, friends, brothers, or any kinds of distractions. It is an environment where you can experiment and try to reinvent yourself. Reinvention requires vulnerability and transparency.
It’s something that Dove Men+Care addresses in their products. Men are not supposed to be vulnerable or care about the intricacies of their hygiene and Dove Men+Care is trying to help change that idea. Even on a business level, reinvention requires that same vulnerability and transparency.
You’ve worked with an impressive range of NBA and WNBA talent. How do you alter your approach to each player?
It all depends on who I am working with, their personality and their tastes. Working with a Chris Paul is not going to be the same as working with a Stephen Curry. Everyone has a different life story and approach to what they are doing, so you have to account for the inherent differences in tastes and life experiences. I’m working with players that are getting ready for the NBA Draft and working with a Jalil Okafor is absolutely different than working with a Willie Cauley-Stein or Justise Winslow.
Can you give our readers a few good workout tips that they might utilize this summer?
Well, on a macro level, commitment is your king and diet is your queen. Nothing happens without commitment to a workout—consistency. Once you have that down, then you can start focusing on the micro level; honing your workouts to build flexibility, mobility, balance or strength. And then, if you don’t listen to your queen, your diet, you’re not going to get anywhere.
Do you guide your clients in their diets?
No, not really. The teams have very impressive nutritionists working with the players, so they have their dietary guidelines in place. I’m more about sensibility. I try to help the players in their decision-making where I can. Help them find what works best for them. Like if a guy is noticing a rash or irritation on his underarm from whatever deodorant he’s using, and it’s something I’ve experienced myself, I’ll recommend the Dove Men+Care Clean Comfort Non-Irritant Antiperspirant.
How do you maintain your own diet?
It’s tough for me since I spend the majority of the year on the road and in hotels. Basically, what I do is try to find consistency by picking the best out of the worst options that are available to me. Keeping a healthy diet while faced with limited options, or options that I can’t truly control.
When I took the LSAT, there were these questions that asked you to pick the best of the worst option. At the time, I thought it was such a stupid question; but now, I’m living my life according to that kind of thinking. It’s funny.
Do you ever relax with a drink or cocktail? If so, what’s your favorite?
You mean, what’s my guilty pleasure? I’ve never been much of a drinker due to some of my allergies. But for guilty pleasures, there’s a place called Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co. near Union Square in New York City that has all of the gluten-free and kosher desserts and sweets that I treat myself to.
I also have to say that I love burritos. That’s probably my biggest guilty pleasure!