Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Virginian of the week. This week, we interviewed Paul Easton, a Northern Virginia-based basketball skills trainer. You can learn more about his work on his website, Facebook and Instagram.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Paul Easton, I am 38 years old and I was born and raised in Scotland. I moved to Virginia in 2005. I grew up playing soccer, rugby, and golf but it was a visit to Dallas, Texas (to see my aunt) when I was 13 years old that changed my world. I saw kids playing basketball in the street and was asked to join and was quickly hooked! I came back to Scotland, found my local basketball club and immersed myself in the game.
I played until I was 19 at the club level, but also began coaching at the youth level to help out with the younger teams of the club. I loved working with the younger players, building their skill level and abilities, and most importantly, building relationships. By the age of 21, I was coaching 5 teams and coaching had taken over my playing days.
That summer I had the opportunity to visit Virginia and Maryland to work a basketball camp for a month. At the camp I built great coaching relationships and networks and also met a girl.
After three summers of visiting the camp and Virginia, I made the move in 2005 and got married.
I started coaching as an assistant basketball coach on the varsity at Bishop O’Connell High School, Arlington, Virginia for Coach Joe Wootten for six years and then two years as the Head Coach at St. James High School in Hagerstown, Maryland.
Life then took a different turn as I divorced and resigned from my position as head coach at St. James. After a few months away from the game, I found myself working with younger players to develop their skills and abilities. I really enjoyed developing their skills and maximizing their game performances. Thanks to client performances and social media, word started to spread that I was skills training.
My joy and passion had never been so high. I was working with players in detail on the court and using film to increase their skill and understanding of the game.
I started recording many of my drills and posted them to Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. I found that many enjoyed the videos but needed more explanation to know how to execute or understand what I was teaching, so I started to include slow motion, voice-overs, and detailed breakdowns to help users understand. These additions really helped and today, my Instagram has over 240,000 followers. I currently coach players at the middle school level all the way up to professional players. I have trained in many different states and countries.
Where do you live currently?
I currently live in Centreville and work in Arlington.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Northern Virginia and/or what’s your favorite thing to do there?
I love Centreville and the Northern Virginia area, because for me, it is a great mix of living in the suburbs, being close to rural scenery, but also being close to a lively city. When I am not in the gym, I am exploring Virginia with my children (11 and 8), finding fun things to do such as nature trails, going to the pool, and discovering new places to eat.
You describe yourself as a basketball skills trainer. Tell us a little bit about what that looks like and how it’s different from being a coach.
A basketball skills trainer is someone who is primarily focused on improving and enhancing the player’s skill level, so that they are prepared to perform when it comes to the game. The role itself takes on a much deeper significance as we want to improve the confidence level of the player and the understanding of the game from a mental side through film work and feedback.
How long have you been a basketball skills trainer and how did you get your start?
I started skills training in 2014 and it was really by accident. A friend of mine was a skills trainer in Arlington and was moving to another state for work, and asked if I could help one of his players after he moved. I started working with him as a favor to my friend…I really enjoyed working with the player and seeing him grow as a young man and this got me excited about making a difference.
What would surprise people about being a basketball skills trainer? What’s something people wouldn’t expect about your day-to-day?
I think what would surprise people would be how much counseling we do, and by that I mean we are in a great position for the player, especially young players, to open up and give feedback to what they are thinking, what they fear, and what they struggle with. In a way, we are building life skills, confidence, how to apply hard work and repetition, and how to overcome adversity.
It is truly a great position to be in and I am very grateful that I am trusted to work and assist so many in as positive way.
What’s most exciting to you about skills training?
When you see a player that has worked and sacrificed so much – and you have been a part of that process – and you see them reach a goal they had set. Going to a player’s game and seeing them do well and helping their team win and knowing you had a small part in it is so satisfying.
I proudly save all the texts that I receive from players and parents of players when they text me about their good games or how much they feel they have improved. It makes me very happy.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Without a doubt it is scheduling! Gym time is never easy to come by, but once you get it, trying to make it work with everyone’s schedule can be very difficult. However, it is all worth it.
Do you have a professional experience or accomplishment you’re particularly proud of?
I have been so grateful to work with so many great players, train in many different arenas and cities, and win team championships and titles, but for me my biggest accomplishment came two summers ago, when a player from Scotland that I coached when I was 20 (he was 13) asked me to be the best man at his wedding. I was truly humbled and grateful.
We formed such a good relationship through basketball over the years and even when I moved to America, we stayed in touch and became great friends. The wedding and his friendship mean so much to me; more than any trophy or award I could win.
What do you do when you’re not training?
When I am not training, I work Monday to Friday 9-5 as a Campus Safety at Marymount University in Arlington. But when I do have time off, I am usually with my children, or finding some place new to eat, going to the movies, or watching The Office (best show on TV!).
What’s the best book you’ve read / show you’ve watched / movie you’ve seen / song you’ve listened to lately?
Best book – “The Courage to be Disliked”
Best show – The Office
Best movie – John Wick 3
Best song – “Hold You Down” by The X Ambassadors
This interview has been lightly edited.