Coach Macky Bergman founded Steady Buckets in 2010. Based in Downtown Manhattan, Steady Buckets currently has a roster of over 600 young players and offers basketball training and instructional games seven days a week, all year round. Prior to starting Steady Buckets, Macky served as head assistant trainer at Sports University in Fairfield, New Jersey. He is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and received his bachelors degree at The University of Rochester where he played four years of varsity basketball under the supervision of Coach Mike Neer. In his sophomore year at Rochester, Macky’s team reached the NCAA Division III Final Four. He was a three-time member of the University Athletic Association’s All-Academic Team. In his 12-year career of coaching basketball, Coach Macky Bergman has helped NBA players, international professionals, Division I NCAA players, top high school prospects, and young people ages 4 to 18, develop their skills.
What inspired you to form Steady Buckets?
Growing up in downtown Manhattan I knew first hand that very little was going on in terms of fundamental basketball instruction. When I was a kid, I played a lot of ball and spent countless hours playing pick-up games but didn’t focus enough on my skills or athletic development. As a result, I learned the hard way when I showed up at the University of Rochester and found that my teammates were stronger than me, had better jump shots and high basketball IQs. Despite my weaknesses I was able to play four years of college basketball, but looking back at my playing days, I wish I had had a coach to teach me the importance of the fundamentals and pushed me to train rather than just play.
I started Steady Buckets to help players learn the skills that they would need to succeed in their basketball careers. Steady Buckets is designed to help young players achieve their goals of becoming better basketball players by providing them with hard-to-find available court time, advanced equipment, and knowledgeable coaches. It’s a neighborhood organization that prides itself on being accessible to all young players in NYC and aids in building character and delivering results. Over the last six years I have worked to bring a better brand of basketball to my neighborhood, and I take pride in the fundamental brand of basketball my players are learning at a young age.
What’s special about basketball in NYC?
Basketball can be played in so many styles, and NYC definitely has its own. There is no doubt that NYC players can be identified by their free-flowing style, ball handling abilities and toughness. I think there is a part of the playground pick-up game/king of the court/21 mentality in all of the great NYC players.
I’ve read about how Brazilian futsol with a heavier ball and smaller court is responsible for the development of skillful soccer players. I think the playground basketball game that often includes more than 10 players on a small half court is similarly responsible for great NYC ball-handlers and point guards. As a result you see a lot of successful point guards from NYC. In the playground there is more emphasis on crossover moves, toughness and an ability to get to the rim. However, NYC players have a bad reputation for not being great shooters or knowing how to run a team offense. This doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, when players are taught proper fundamentals to accompany their playground roots, the sky is the limit.
How do you inspire kids?
I inspire kids with results. There is nothing more powerful than when young players feel like they just got better and did something that they weren’t able to do before. When players make 10 shots in a row for the first time, or 20, or cross-over through the legs to go past a defender, when they do more push-ups than ever before or handle a full court press with poise and decisiveness, they inspire themselves. I strive to give my players the tools that they need to be successful and fuel their own dreams. I communicate with honesty and a touch of tough love that emphasizes the feeling of success when it is earned.
Through repetition of fundamental skill, striving for constant improvement and in operating outside of ones comfort zone, players gain experience; only with experience can one gain confidence.
Who are some of the well-known players you have worked with?
Kyrie Irving (Cavs), Kyle Anderson (Spurs), Raymond Felton (Mavs), Chris Copeland (Knicks/Bucks), Ashton Gibbs (Pitt), Donovan Mitchell (Louisville), Eric Paschall (Villinova) and Mike Williams (Rutgers).
In my experience coaching great basketball talent, I feel lucky to have been around many exceptional players. While the trainer/coach is expected to refine his players’ skills, I’ve been blessed to have learned a great deal from the players that I have coached.
I only had the chance to work with Kyrie Irving twice, both during his junior year at St. Patricks, but the experience left a lasting impression on me as a coach. I was 25 years old, in the best shape of my life and serving as head assistant at Sports University in Fairfield, NJ. At Sports U, I had trained many of NJ’s best high school talent and played against many of the states future DI players. Close to 10-years their senior and with the experience of playing four years of college basketball I was able to out play all of them until Kyrie. After the workout, I had a chance to play 21 with Kyrie and his father Drederrick. We played three games and Kyrie won all three. It must have been just at the time that Kyrie was able to beat his dad because he wasn’t very happy about losing to his 16 year-old son and I wasn’t happy about losing to a high school kid either. Every time we seemed to have Kyrie trapped he effortlessly split the defense and breezed by the two of us on the way to a reverse layup over my out stretched arm. He quickly made all three free throws and went right back to work. It was humbling and a little embarrassing. Within a few years, Kyrie became a standout freshman at Duke, the NBA’s #1 overall pick, a regular all-star, an Olympian, and NBA champion! My ego quickly recovered.
I went home that night and started brainstorming. How could I teach my players to do what he had just done to me?. I always knew it was important to get low to the ground as a ball handler, but Kyrie redefined what I called low. Since than, I have developed a unique set of drills that teaches players to get their back knee low to the ground during change of direction moves. I point to Kyrie, Steph Curry, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and other great NBA point guards as examples of how to use a low knee to succeed at the highest level.
Maybe the coolest part of my experience with Kyrie is that for the majority of the workout we broke down the footwork involved in shooting a step back three pointer from the wing – the shot he would later use to hit his game clinching shot of this years NBA Finals!
With every great player I’ve met, I’ve learned about success. I can point to my experiences with Kyle Anderson and his drive to be great. Kyle was always a strong player, but with less than NBA level foot speed, he worked tirelessly on his core strength and agility. While claiming the nickname “slo-mo”, people don’t realize that his foot speed is the part of his game that he worked at the hardest. Kyle taught me that to be great you need to work on your weaknesses more than your strengths. Chris Copeland taught me the importance of the guide hand in shooting and how important it is to always fine-tune your technique. Raymond Felton redefined how to apply backspin to the basketball just as Kyrie had redefined getting low. Ashton Gibbs, was the biggest gym rat I’ve ever met and I watched him put in the hours to go from back up point guard at Pitt to Big East First Team. I coached Donovan Mitchell, Eric Paschall, and Mike Williams as head trainer for the City Hoops en route to an AAU National Championship when the boys were 15 years old. Along with their teammates, I’ve never been around a group that loved to compete as hard as them.
I am so thankful for all I have learned from these great players and can only hope that I had a fraction of the impact on them as they had on me.
What about Steady Buckets is special because it’s in New York City? How is Steady Buckets different than other basketball programs?
Growing up in Greenwich Village, I was always taught the importance of diversity. New York City being the mixing pot of the world was something I took pride in. I always had friends from different backgrounds and the impact they had on my view of the world is something I will always carry with me.
Unfortunately, many aspects of NYC life are becoming more and more exclusive and divided by socio-economic lines. Steady Buckets brings people together in a way very few programs do. We currently have players living in over 50 NYC zip codes, all five boroughs and New Jersey. Our program is a united nations of youth basketball players and nothing makes me more proud than when I see friendships blossom between people who without SB never would have met. New York City gives us this unique opportunity to bring people together. Like New York City and America, our diversity is our greatest strength and its what makes SB truly special.
What are the particular challenges of doing what you do in NYC?
The biggest challenge of running a NYC basketball program is finding affordable court time. In the past this meant bouncing around a handful of gyms, moving equipment and constantly searching for more gym space as the program continued to grow. Thankfully, we have solved this problem by partnering with the Clinton Middle School. Clinton opened its new building in September 2015 at 10 East 15th Street just half a block from Union Square. It is a beautiful new gym in a location accessible to all of our families. Last year we ran programs at Clinton every Wednesday and Thursday from 6-8pm and every Saturday and Sunday from 9am-6pm. This summer we ran four weeks of summer camp (Monday-Friday from 8:30am-6pm). Having a home gym has allowed us to invest in three state-of-the-art shooting machines, as well as giving our players a sense of pride in having one of the city’s newest and best places to play!
Additionally, in 2016 we will gain access to the Clinton library and begin to build an academic support program that will offer our players a chance to thrive both on and off the court and pursue their dreams of becoming student-athletes at the collegiate level. Building an academic piece is a new challenge that I look forward to and which I feel is a vital component of any successful youth sports program in NYC.
You must have lots of great stories from your years working with kids. Tell us about one that inspired you.
One day, a young player named Marlow showed great improvement on behind the back dribbling. I commented on his improvement and told him I was proud of his achievement. He told me, “it’s easy coach, I just watch Russ and do what he does.”
Russell who is two years older then Marlow and a regular at SB since the age of 6 is one of the strongest ball handlers in our program. Marlow’s comment inspired me to build SB into a basketball community where players learn as much from each other as they do from their coaches.
What was the best advice you got from a coach?
While working at a basketball camp during the summer of my junior year in college, Ira Bowman (76ers, Hawks) taught me how to keep it simple. He taught a reverse pivot series and told me to do just one of three things – open and go, open fake and go, or open go and crossover. After that lesson I simplified my reads and found more success playing fundamental basketball. Basketball is a game with so much room for creativity, but players must first master simple decision-making and learn to take what the defense gives them.
What is your most treasured sports possession?
I have an autographed photo of Muhammad Ali that my father gave me hanging above my desk. Steady Buckets is about developing skill and will and about influencing young people to be leaders and world citizens. Our mantra is “Out Work Em.” What better inspiration than The Greatest?
What is your favorite sports venue in New York City and why?
I have three.
Favorite sports book?
The Fighters Mind, by Sam Sheridan and The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle
Favorite sports movie?
He Got Game, a Spike Lee joint and Wolves, written and Directed by Bart Freundlich (coming to theaters soon).
What do you look for when you hire a coach to work with kids?
First is their presence around kids. A good coach is able to control a group of players by gaining their respect. They must carry themselves with a level of confidence that inspires children while also relating to them and being humble enough to kneel down to their level. First and foremost, basketball is meant to be fun. A good coach shares his knowledge of the sport and is attentive to the games details, but equally important is the ability to grow and care for our players’ love and passion for the game.
If you’re not out playing sports or watching your kids play sports what do you enjoy doing?
I am getting married this September to the love of my life. I have two great loves; basketball and Melissa. I spend my free time with friends and family and look forward to starting a family of my own. When the time comes for my own kids to play basketball I feel blessed to have so many positive role models in the Steady Buckets community. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child and Steady Buckets is my village!See more New York Sports Connection articles
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