Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
I was the oops child. The youngest of five kids who came along a little later than the others, so the gap was such that from 6th grade on, it was just me and my folks. As an avid sports family, I grew up watching my older siblings play on State championship teams and we watched countless games in person and on television as well as driving across the country listening to games on A.M. Radio. (Kids, you are going to have to google this!)
Being the youngest, my siblings would try to come to games when they were back in town visiting. We didn’t have streaming services, YouTube, or the internet back then so unless you were local, you were not going to be able to see or hear the game. But my dad would record the games on his VHS camera and when the games were being broadcast on the radio, he would sync them together and so I would have a video tape with real audio broadcast of the game.
My oldest brother would come back over the Christmas holiday with his family, and he would stay up in the early hours watching my games from that season. We would spend the time he was here talking and reviewing how I played.
My Mom, who was a basketball scoring machine in the 50’s, was extremely competitive. She rode with us to a football game where my oldest son Zach threw for the 2nd most passing yards in a game in school history, but their team went down in defeat. He came out, gave her a hug, and said, “Nan, I’m sorry you had to come all this way to watch us lose. I know how much you hate losing.” She simply responded, “Yes, I do hate losing.”
My Dad, who would spend countless hours with me watching games and studying the art of the game, never got to watch my kids play when they entered high school. He only got to watch a few of his grandchildren play when they were younger due to declining health and loss of sight. He was a proud man, who didn’t want to be seen with an oxygen tank and being assisted with a walker. But man, would he have enjoyed watching my kids play.
Unfortunately, my mom never got to witness my younger two sons play in high school before she passed, but she enjoyed watching them as young kids and knew that they would be really good when they got into high school.
Now, with my youngest having finished his first year of high school ball and now traveling on the Under Armor circuit, his network of supporters has grown beyond his siblings. While at times it seems their sole purpose in life is to make sure he stays humble, they rarely miss watching him play, either in person or through live streams. They are quick to send him texts of encouragement and critique with the focus on helping him get better.
But beyond his siblings, are my siblings who also try to watch him play. Surprise visits from my brother who lives in Wyoming and my sister from Texas to watch Ethan play in a tournament. They all watch the live streams of the games and make comments during the game or afterwards if they watch the next day. But having a family take an interest as if he was one of their own kids is simply amazing. This connection was built by our parents when we were growing up, using sports as an outlet and a development tool for life.
While all my sons played “the right way”, which is the way my dad coached us and how I have coached my kids and various teams to play. My youngest, Ethan, also has more to his game. He has put in much more time and by watching his older brothers play, he has changed his game and strives to surpass them to make them proud. He is a team-first player that constantly moves the ball and minimizes the amount of time dribbling the basketball which is rare in today’s game, but when needed he can go make a play. He plays with such a high I.Q. that the most common statement I hear about his play is that he never takes a bad shot but manages to put up big numbers.
My siblings and I have talked about how much my parents would enjoy watching Ethan play today. He enters the court before every game with a smile on his face, happy to play the game he loves. Even though Ethan doesn’t remember my dad and has a few memories of spending time with my mom when he was little, he doesn’t realize how much they have impacted where he is today.
After a recent tournament he played in Phoenix, I sent him a text upon reflecting on his weekend. As I was typing it out, I had to wipe the tears away from eyes, just like I am having to do now as I am writing this blog:
“I know you won’t really understand this until you have your own kids, but you can’t comprehend how much I wish my mom and dad could watch you play. I’m proud of you and whether you realize it or not, you are representing what my mom and dad were as parents and people.”
Sports can be such a bond for families as it goes beyond them playing a game, to connecting generations. It’s wearing a number worn by other family members. It's arguing about who is the better shooter, playing one-on-one, talking trash, and sharing laughs. It’s gathering on the court after games and taking pictures, sharing memories, and looking at scrap books. It’s sharing a childhood dream and watching someone you love pursue that same dream. Sports have the ability to bring families closer and create memories that will live long Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.