Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
As we head into summer, most families are planning out their vacation schedules. But as a basketball family, we are sorting through our basketball schedule to see if there are any tournaments that we can piggyback some vacation days onto. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.
In the month of June, we take a break from travel basketball and focus on playing what we call school ball, as the high school summer camp leads to shootouts where the high school coaches can coach their teams against other teams made up of kids from the same school. It’s a nice break from the $20 gate fees for the high-profile exposure tournaments where one-on-one and trying to embarrass your opponent to get a highlight on someone’s mix tape seems to be the norm.
Don’t get me wrong. We love travel basketball. While many people do it for the exposure, that is low on our list.
As much as we enjoy travel ball, there is something about coming back and seeing your son wearing the jersey for the school that he will attend. In smaller communities like ours, where we have only one high school, when you put that jersey on you are representing more than the school, but the entire town as well. Kids grow up dreaming about the day that they will wear the jersey just like their big brothers.
Our feeder program starts in 3rd grade for boys and girls that live in our town. We require that jerseys have either Rolla or Bulldogs on the front and that the colors coincide with our school colors. The varsity basketball coaches sit on our Board to make sure the programs are aligned and connected. I would have my older son’s varsity teams show up to my younger teams' practices to build the connection with the younger kids but also, it was a treat for those younger kids to have their idols show up and watch them play. These are not some kids that had a YouTube mixtape, these are kids that played at the school gym, that they watched play, that would high five them during warm-ups. These are kids that represent what the younger kids want to be when they grow up.
When my youngest son’s team entered Junior High, there were some high expectations for them as they had a reputation in the area for how they played. They spent a lot of time going to city tournaments playing youth travel teams so they could be pushed. They may not have won every tournament, but they always competed. They were blessed to go undefeated in 7th and 8th grades and the B team only lost 1 game.
There is something about competing alongside the kids that you walk the halls with. The same kids you play football, baseball, soccer, and track with. Kids who attended the same daycare and who have sat together at the high school games cheering on your teams. It’s the power of a school program that is so clearly different from travel ball.
My youngest child enters high school in the fall. He is now working the high school basketball camp as a “coach” for the younger ages. The same role his brothers played when he was attending the younger sessions. He will be playing alongside kids whose brothers played with his brothers. There is a rite of passage as well as a sense of belonging as you enter the summer school ball schedule.
In school ball, it’s not about the next tournament. It’s about coming together and representing those that came before you. Having the school’s name on your jersey and walking the halls in your travel suits. It’s taking the bus to and from games with the kids you have grown up with. In school ball, you are not just representing the name on the front of the jersey, but in a town like Rolla, you are representing the community as well.
The summer shootouts are an opportunity for the kids from different grades to grow and connect. To gain confidence and comfort with each other on and off the court. It is about building upon the established connection of the school and the community and to add in the personal relationships, recognition of each individual's talents and abilities, to harness them for the greater good of the program. To be part of a legacy that adds to what those before you have built and what those who will come after you will grow.
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.