Community//

How DJ Sackmann Thrives As An Athlete Turned Entrepreneur with Ming Zhao

Investing time vs. spending time. We can get caught up in today’s technology and literally waste hours a day doing absolutely nothing. It’s important to sit back and evaluate our schedules and cut out the time we feel we are spending”. As a part of our series about how successful “athlete turned entrepreneurs” thrive both […]

Investing time vs. spending time. We can get caught up in today’s technology and literally waste hours a day doing absolutely nothing. It’s important to sit back and evaluate our schedules and cut out the time we feel we are spending”.


As a part of our series about how successful “athlete turned entrepreneurs” thrive both professionally and personally, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing.DJ Sackmann.

DJ Sackmann is an NBA Skills Coach and a world-renowned basketball clinician, who has trained some of the best players in the world. He is known for his unique ability to combine advanced player development skill work into game-like situations. Most recently, DJ was asked to join adidas Basketball as one of six trainers in the world to represent the Global brand as well as join McDonald’s for the B/R Chicago 2020 event during All-Star Weekend to promote the 2020 McDonald’s All American Games in Houston.


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?

I grew up in a small town in New Jersey named Pequannock. It was not necessarily a basketball environment, so I was fortunate to have a family that saw my love for the game and surrounded me with basketball people outside of our regular community. I worked very hard as a player at a young age and was always a big student and fan of the game.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete?

It actually all started with And 1 Mixtape tour. I was infatuated with the creativity the players had when I was in middle school and just started mirroring moves that players were making in those games. I found early success playing ball because I developed ball handling skills at a young age. Looking back at it, I feel like that success I found at a young age eventually triggered my work ethic and real passion to continue to pursue this game after middle school.

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?

I did a photo shoot with a large brand and decided to wear a hoodie with the logo on the back. The picture was everywhere from social media to billboards but no one knew it was me because I wore the wrong hoodie and every picture was the back of my head. I guess I learned that brand awareness matters and make sure it’s taken into account at all times!

Did you ever get a serious sports injury? Do you feel comfortable sharing that story? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that incident?

I had back spasms my entire junior year of college. It really hurt my game. I would have to come out of the game every 5 minutes and get worked on, then go back in. I later switched out my mattress in our dorm room and the back problems went away. Wish I knew early how important your sleep environment is!

As someone with a background in ‘wellness’ I’m interested in stories about interesting wellness experiences. Do you have a story about the weirdest or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.

I was in China and had someone use electric shock treatments. The guy was literally using his body to transfer the electricity into mine. I still am unsure what was actually happening, and also pretty sure I could have died, LOL.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you tell us the story of your transition from a professional athlete to a successful business person?

I randomly started working some local kids out while I was still training myself to be a player. I was fascinated by trying to figure out the best approach to getting the players better. I started researching the best techniques and realized there was a real lack of educational content for trainers to learn from. So I took my knowledge of the game, kept studying, and started putting out educational content that I thought would help out other trainers and players. Then I transitioned that into building multiple platforms from online training to private training to running events all over the world.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now?

I have three projects right now I’m excited about. My newest project is a school called HSA Middle School (HoopStudy Academy) that we are starting up that focuses on a dual curriculum focused around learning through the sport of basketball. The curriculum is focused on helping kids who are passionate about the game understand the wide spectrum of job opportunities there are within the game. All the kids want to be NBA players, but the majority of them will not have that chance, so educating them on all the other opportunities basketball can bring is so important psychologically because it allows them to keep pursuing different avenues after they realize the NBA is out of reach. I have always felt our educational system was flawed, so this middle school is going to allow students to learn through what they are passionate about. We are essentially “trimming the fat” of a traditional education system and allowing the kids to learn and train during the school day. I’m very passionate about changing our approach to the way we are bringing up our youth. These kids are waking up mad they have to go to school, and proceed to sit in classrooms bored, tired and daydreaming. It’s exciting to provide a platform that will hopefully empower our youth to truly chase something they’re passionate about.

I also have a company in China with Jordan Lawley, Tyler Relph and Micah Lancaster that is really shaping the basketball landscape out there. We are currently the largest basketball certification company in the world and we are educating trainers on how to become better at their craft. We are projected to have a couple thousand certified trainers in just our second year as a company.

My third current project is our online training platform HoopStudy. We have been growing the brand over the last two years and this year our company has launched memberships and educational guides. It’s been great being able to help the basketball training world with our educational content.

I also had a blast at All-Star Weekend with the McDonald’s All American Games and Bleacher Report activation in Chicago. Hyped to get out to McDonald’s Game this year in Houston and watch the future leaguers get after it!

Do you think your experience as a professional athlete gave you skills that make you a better entrepreneur? Can you give a story or example about that?

100%. I would say it all comes down to habits for me. The habits I built through the game of basketball transitioned into business and allowed me to really invest the majority of my time into making an impact. I worked hard and diligently since I was 10 to be a player. Which meant, no video games, minimal TV and movies and a constant focus on improving my craft. These habits, without question, have carried over for me into life after basketball.

Most athletes have not been able to transfer their success from the sports arena to the business arena. But you have. Can you share with our readers three main strategies you have used to help you succeed?

  1. Investing time vs. spending time. We can get caught up in today’s technology and literally waste hours a day doing absolutely nothing. It’s important to sit back and evaluate our schedules and cut out the time we feel we are spending”.
  2. Consistency X Persistence Write down a plan and stay consistent. If it doesn’t go as planned stay on track and be persistent in your approach. Starting any new career is going to be difficult and there will be ups and downs. Staying with this formula has really helped me get through the difficult times.
  3. Investing $ back into yourself and your business. You can’t be afraid to spend your own money to build something. Once it comes in, allocate a certain amount back out to invest in yourself.

In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

My morning routine is very important to me. I’m on the road 1/3 of the year, so waking up and having a consistent routine is so important for my internal clock. Once I wake up I go through 15–20 minutes of stretching no matter where I am in the world. This routine has really helped me build a daily healthy schedule and keeps my body feeling good.

I try to workout 6 times a week no matter what. There’s days when I feel horrible and don’t want to get in the gym, these days I really focus on just getting a sweat. This keeps my headspace clear and gives me energy.

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

I meditate multiple times a week with the Calm app. I think mindfulness is a major component to success. We are constantly trying to distract ourselves as human beings. It’s important that we can be in our own thoughts at times for some true perspective.

Finally, can you share with us two routines that use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

When I drive anywhere the first half of every drive I listen to an audiobook. This has tremendously helped me over the last 4 years because it gives me a new perspective. I developed the idea that every time I drive I can have a new idea or perspective by time I get to my destination. That’s exciting!

You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving family member at home?

If we are growing there’s always something that can get done. There’s always more work, no matter what. It’s hard to turn it off, even at home. So knowing that it never ends has actually helped me be able to turn it off. It means I can do this tomorrow, because it never ends. This has allowed me to really focus at home and build my relationships with my family.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want to change our education system through the sport of basketball. I want kids waking up in the morning excited to go to school. I want them to feel like they have a purpose. That’s what I’m most excited about with our new school.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” At the end of the day being kind to people and doing the right thing is the most important. Honestly, for me being kind and treating everyone with respect has multiplied my business 10 times. The relationships that I have built over the years have had an enormous effect on my company’s growth.

What are the best ways our readers can follow you on social media?

Instagram and Tik Tok is @djsackmann and @hoopstudy

YouTube @Hoopstudy

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

“Be about the transformation, not about the transaction…be empathetic and CARE.” With Ming Zhao & Jordan Lawley

by Ming S. Zhao
Community//

NBA All-Star Metta World Peace: “How I Thrive As An Athlete Turned Entrepreneur”

by Ming S. Zhao
Well-Being//

My Q And A With Former WNBA Player Michelle Brooke-Marciniak On The Sports-Sleep Connection

by Arianna Huffington

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.