Etienne Brower opened Infinite Athletics in 2014 along with his business partner Kevin Burton to provide quality basketball instruction in NYC as well as youth travel teams, private and group instruction and strength and fitness training. The two met at Boston University where they were teammates on the basketball team. Etienne grew up in West Hempstead, Long Island where he played tennis, track, soccer, and baseball. Bas-ketball was his first love and eventually led him to Boston University.
What brought you to New York City?
After playing professional basketball in France for a few years, injuries cut my career short. I was rehabbing my knee when an old college teammate asked me if I wanted to help run a summer camp the week I returned home. Evidently I garnered quite a response from the kids and was hired the next day to work in the company full time.
What did it take for you to play Division 1 basketball?
Dedication, sacrifice and support. My parents were both educated and hardworking individuals but we all understood that if I didn’t get a scholarship to school we would not be able to afford the financial demands of an out of state education. Fortunately, I was in a position where I could dedicate a great deal of my life to become special at my craft and earn a full athletic scholarship. Based on my family genes I was bound to be tall, but I certainly attribute a great deal of my athleticism and skill to thousands of hours practicing alone, playing competitively, and strength training with professionals. Earning a Division 1 scholarship is still my proudest achievement and my biggest “thank you” to my parents.
What do you tell parents who are convinced their kids are D1 bound?
We pride ourselves on telling all of our program’s parents the truth above all. The truth behind Division 1 athletes is basically threefold.
First, it is nearly impossible to find a child so naturally athletic that they can just stroll into a college scholarship. Second, there are just as few players who are that driven to dedicate their lives to one sport. Third, there are very few families out there who are able, or willing to sacrifice their free time (weeknights, weekends vacation, etc) to the amount of time and traveling required for their son/daughter to compete at that level.
Rarely do we need to tell parents their child may not be able to play at the highest level, because the kids choose to spend their free time away from basketball doing other things. That is completely fine and we value life balance for student athletes. But unless a child is willing to sacrifice many things for one thing, the goal remains a dream.
What made you open Infinite Athletics?
After seeing how some programs taught their players and influenced their kids we saw how great the demand for quality sports instruction was in the city. It became evident to us that we could and should provide it ourselves. We love basketball too much to allow it to be represented by those who don’t value its contribution to youth athletes.
Our goals are to teach life lessons to youth athletes through the game of basketball. Our program offers youth travel teams, AAU programming, private/group instruction and strength and conditioning to our older athletes by highly qualified strength coaches and trainers. Our basketball program is called the IA Warriors.
What were the challenges of starting Infinite Athletics?
Some parents/players looked at us like we were crazy. The amount of passion that Kevin and I bring to coaching assured parents that we were the right fit once they saw us with them. So, the biggest challenge was probably remaining patient and trusting our plan.
Our model was just a very different feel versus what was presented to people prior to our coaching. The amount of passion that Kevin and I brought assured parents that we were the right fit once they saw us with their kids. It took people longer to realize the value in the product we provided youth athletes, but we knew we were doing the right thing. So, the biggest challenge was probably remaining patient and trusting our plan.
What makes Infinite Athletics different from other youth basketball programs in NYC?
Our backgrounds in basketball, attention to detail and passion for improvement seem to have identified a niche market for us. We prioritize teaching players who enjoy the sport, and finding parents who trust us to teach life lessons through basketball to their children. We promote accountability, teamwork, effort, and what it takes to be successful. Our program teaches basketball very clearly, but we aspire to teach much more than that so our players can take these lessons into the classroom, the household and eventually the workplace.
What in your background prepared you to launch a youth sports program?
I played professionally for several years, was taught by very notable Division 1 coaches and I am a certified strength and conditioning coach. My business partner Kevin Burton teaches at NYU, has a law degree and works at Columbia University so is surrounded by successful DI student-athletes in the Ivy League daily. He implements lessons learned there into our curriculum and together we focus on the off court development of our players.
You must have lots of great stories from your years working with kids. Tell us about one that inspired you.
A few years ago our 7th grade team pulled out a win against a more athletic/talented team. After the game a parent approached us and asked, “How do you get your kids to play like that?” The simple response was, “we teach them how to.” The parent seemed impressed with the simplicity of the answer so he had his son attend one of our practices (and we invited him to attend as well). After the practice this father was sold on our teaching methods and had his son play for us for the next two seasons as well as take part in private training and strength training off the court.
His son was a very motivated young man (who shall remain nameless to avoid a teenager’s embarrassment) who simply wanted to get better. Sadly he was very skinny, was not incredibly coordinated at the time and had not been coached well until he met us. He now starts for his high school team as a freshman on the varsity team. It is still so gratifying to coach him because he hasn’t changed at all. Granted, we may have changed his trajectory for sports but we are just so pleased to be able to have a motivated kid who stuck to the game plan. We are now very close with the entire family and his son is probably going to have, at very least, an extremely successful high school career. After that who knows, but his story has certainly been an inspiration for us to keep doing what we do.
What was the best advice you got from a coach?
My father (my first coach) always told me “don’t shoot it just to shoot it, shoot it to make it.” Looking back it was really the idea that if you are going to do something, do it the right way. It always stuck with me.
What do you look for when you hire a coach to work with kids?
We seek people who are honest, passionate, professional and reliable. Those may seem like arbitrary characteristics, but it is difficult to find people with all four traits. We try to surround our kids with those people as often as we can. Those that do not possess those characteristics are just not right for us.
How have you seen the landscape of youth sports and basketball change since you played?
Social media has changed everything, and this has brought along it’s own positives and negatives. The positives are that there is so much great information from quality trainers and coaches for kids to get their hands on very easily. The negative is there is no filtering process so it becomes difficult for parents/players to know what information is accurate or valuable. Without a filter how can you know what to practice, whose methods are most effective and what is actually hindering your child’s games if they replicate it? Sadly the amount of Instagram followers someone has does not correlate to the quality of what they are teaching, which makes the education portion of sports difficult.
What is your most treasured sports possession?
My first professional uniform. I still have it in my parents house locked away in a closet!
Favorite sports book?
Fab Five by Mitch Albom
Favorite sports movie?
He Got Game
Best sports memory?
I initially played at Boston University but transferred to UMass after my sophomore year. During my senior year at UMass, we were down 20+ points late in the second half vs. Syracuse at Syracuse in the NIT quarterfinals and came back to win. It is still the greatest comeback I’ve ever been a part of, and it was in front of a crowd of 20,000 people!See more New York Sports Connection articles
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