How Basketball Pro Adam Drexler Optimizes His Mind & Body For Peak Performance

Every day I try to make sure that I bear no jealousy, hate, or ill-will towards others. When my mind is clear and my conscience is not cloudy, I find it easier to put things into perspective and have a deeper appreciation for life. As I stated earlier, I let my heart lead me and the only way I can continue to do that is if my heart is not heavy. I love my passions, but most importantly, I love life.

As a part of our series about “How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Drexler is an American professional basketball player from Portland, Oregon and is the son of NBA Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler. Adam has played professionally overseas for teams in Japan and Mexico. He has also participated in NBA summer league camps with the Houston Rockets and the Boston Celtics.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Igrew up in Portland, Oregon, and later moved to Houston, Texas after my father was traded to the Houston Rockets. Growing up, it never dawned on me that my father was one of the 50 Greatest Basketball Players of all time. I spent most of my childhood trying to fit in and discovering the passions of my own. As the child of a celebrity, I learned quickly that a lot of attention that I would receive from my peers was due to my last name, and very few expressed interest in getting to know me as an individual. I naturally began to distance myself from others. From this isolation, I developed a passion for music. I would spend the majority of my childhood teaching myself the guitar, drums, piano, bass and the violin. I had always loved to create, and I used composing music as an outlet to escape the pressures of living in my father’s shadow.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete? We’d love to hear the story.

Despite having a basketball legend as a father, it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I had even considered playing basketball to a serious degree. I was encouraged to try out for the varsity team by my friend, (and now trainer) Jarvis Craft. It was here that I gained a penchant for competition. Over the next few years, I dedicated all of my time and energy towards honing my craft and reaching my goal of competing at the highest level. I view basketball as an art form and dreamed of displaying that art on the biggest stage.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Although my father was a huge inspiration for achieving my goal of becoming a professional athlete, I owe a lot of credit for who I am today to my mentor, Reginald Barclay. Reginald played professionally overseas. From my sophomore year of high school, all the way until I went off to play college ball, he would spend every day helping me improve my game. Reginald taught me the value of hard work, and not only helped me mature as a player, but also as an individual.

Contrary to what most believe, the game of basketball did not come naturally to me. While many professional players seem to have a natural ability to play the game, I was lacking in that regard. My only talent was a hard work ethic and a refusal to quit. Reginald and I would spend every morning, afternoon, and evening playing basketball. We would even work out as late as 3am on school days. As I continued to work overtime I began to progress rapidly and was eventually able to lead my teams.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

During my senior year of high school, a viral video came out which featured a player dunking over an opposing player, followed by saluting the crowd. My classmates throughout the following weeks would encourage me to do similar antics. In my next game, I dunked on another player in a similar fashion, and to my everlasting shame, I performed the salute… I received a technical foul, and although we won the game, I felt as though I suffered a personal loss for abandoning my resolve, and succumbing to peer pressure. To this day, I refuse to participate in competitive banter and have received 0 technical fouls.

I believe competition is a gift, and opponents deserve to be respected at all times. Banter and game antics do not make you a better player or person.

What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your career?

I encourage anyone looking to be successful in any venture, to fall in love with the process of progression. Many people who do not achieve immediate results find themselves giving up. It’s up to you to keep yourself motivated and focused on achieving your goals. If you are patient, kind and follow your heart I believe you will not only achieve that goal but will find that the true gift was the journey.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am currently working on one of my dreams to be a music composer and have been creating audio for startups, films and video game companies. Additionally, I am pursuing another hobby of mine by getting involved in the gaming industry. I am currently working on a media website dedicated to exploring the realm of video games and starting a youtube channel for that purpose. I have always felt as though it is unfair that people marginalize the various other talents that athletes may have. It is my hope that aspiring athletes will be inspired by my actions, and not limit themselves to simply playing a sport.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

I personally seek out the competition, I find that I perform better when the stakes are higher. Athletes spend so much time perfecting their skills outside of competition, so when you finally get a chance to put those skills on display it should be an enjoyable experience. Additionally, I try to keep my emotions in a healthy balance, meaning I am not too down when I lose, and not too overconfident when I win. As athletes, it can be easy to let our emotions get the better of us, but it’s important to stay cognizant of what we can and can’t control. Lastly, I always give 100% in every situation. When you always give the same amount of effort no matter how serious or insignificant the situation is, you develop consistency.

Adam Drexler

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques to help optimize yourself?

Whenever I feel myself rushing or feel off-centered, I try to take a deep breath and slow down my heartbeat. I find it difficult sometimes to make sound decisions in my sport when I am trying to play at someone else’s pace. Taking a pause to calm yourself can guide you back to your natural rhythm.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

I am a creature of passion and when I put my heart into accomplishing a task, I obsess over that activity. I let time slip away, and make sure I don’t stop until I accomplish the goal or get the results I want. If I take a break or leave something half-finished, I find it a lot harder to gain the same focus. So to protect me from myself, I block out all other influences and distractions.

How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?

If I’ve learned anything from becoming a professional, it is that your body is to be given the utmost respect. That means watching what goes into your body, along with how you care for your body before and after you engage in sport. I think it’s important to develop a routine that works for you personally. Everyone has a different body, and familiarizing yourself with yours will definitely help you maximize your potential.

These ideas are excellent, but for most of us in order for them to become integrated into our lives and really put them to use, we have to turn them into habits and make them become ‘second nature’. Has this been true in your life? How have habits played a role in your success?

Our habits are what define us as human beings. Developing the good and breaking bad habits are key factors in shaping a person’s character. When turning a habit into second nature, I believe it all comes down to whether or not you can break out of your comfort zone. Throughout my life, I have had to battle against bad habits, whether it be something as simple as eating too many cookies, or something more complex such as battling procrastination. As I dedicated myself to my dream of being a professional, I had to learn how to find comfort in being “uncomfortable”. It’s a battle of the mind and the body.

Can you share some of the strategies you have used to turn the ideas above into habits? What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

Whenever I am trying to develop good habits, I turn the situation into a mental competition. After my first year of being a professional, I wanted to incorporate more running into my weekly workout schedule. I had previously done my running on the treadmill and while it is a great tool, I found myself lacking in motivation to keep the routine. In order to engage my competitive side, I switched over to running outside. I challenged myself to beat a certain time limit that I would lower every time. Mentally I created stakes that put me in direct competition with my bad habit.

As a high performance athlete, you likely experience times when things are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a mind state of Flow more often in our lives?

When you do something repeatedly, eventually it can become second nature. Whenever I am in a state of Flow, I am at my best, but the key is having no doubt about your ability to accomplish a task. When you block out mental doubt, everything starts to click together.

Do you have any meditation practices that you use to help you in your life? We’d love to hear about it.

Every day I try to make sure that I bear no jealousy, hate, or ill-will towards others. When my mind is clear and my conscience is not cloudy, I find it easier to put things into perspective and have a deeper appreciation for life. As I stated earlier, I let my heart lead me and the only way I can continue to do that is if my heart is not heavy. I love my passions, but most importantly, I love life.

Many of us are limited by our self talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?

I am often a victim of this thought process but I’m very lucky to be surrounded by people who don’t let me dwell on negative feelings. However, you have to develop respect for yourself and know that mistakes occur. We all have to do our best to keep moving forward.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to lead by example when it comes to pursuing a dream or a passion. My motivation has never been money or accolades. I pursued my dreams purely out of love. In a world filled with instant gratification, I believe we are slowly losing appreciation for the steps we take to achieve our goals. When I am doing a basketball clinic for kids or donating supplies to schools, etc. I always try to encourage the youth to appreciate the little things in life and to enjoy the journey instead of rushing towards the destination.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Life is a storm, you will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.” -Alexandre Dumas

Adversity affects us all in many different ways and in life, there is no guarantee that things will turn out exactly as planned. What defines you, is how you respond to that adversity. As the son of one of the greatest people to ever play in my profession, there have been a lot of pressures, insecurities, and hate that is directed towards me for not being a clone of my father. However, I have come to accept and appreciate that I am Adam Drexler, and no one else.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Barack Obama, as an African American, Obama has opened so many doors and possibilities that I previously viewed as impossible. He is a living testament to progression in all aspects.

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