This week’s story, "Positioning Youth for Great Success" is about Robert Ware, President and Founder of Real Athletics Foundation. I met him the night my son Jamel tried out for the Real Athletics 7th grade basketball program this spring.
That night, I was so irritated when Jamel told me he had left his basketball shoes at home for the second time within a week, and didn’t realize it until we were halfway there. It was a 30-minutes detour. I wanted to scream at Jamel...and I did a little.
The outrage went something like this:
- “You’re 13 years old. You’re not a child anymore!”
- “Do you want to be the type of person who always needs someone to tell you what to do?”
- “Your choices will always impact others, your team and your life."
- "We are investing a lot of time, money and resources to support you...So STEP UP!"
It wasn’t my best moment, and Jamel probably retained less than 5% of what I said. Jamel does really well in school and can be responsible, but I likely discouraged him more than helped him that day.
For a while, it felt like almost every day we struggled to get Jamel off his electronics. Even though he always participates in sports (football, basketball and track), there are so many electronic temptations to distract him from life, responsibilities, and connection with the family. Playing on Xbox Live with other gamers, snapchatting and texting friends, or playing with the latest mobile app on his cell phone. When Jamel left his basketball shoes at home, I said it’s because he’s focusing on the wrong things.
When I stayed at the tryouts to observe, I realized right off the bat that there was something different about Real Athletics. Coach House introduced himself, and then began what sounded like a motivational speech for all the athletes. His teachings were centered not only on skill development, but on life, school, and responsibilities to team and family.
To my surprise, many of the topics he brought up were the same topics I shared with Jamel on the car ride. His teaching, however, was far more effective than my rant of anger. He used stories and basketball heroes to teach his lessons. He asked questions to engage the athletes. “So what separates you from the next basketball player?” he asked.
I laughed when he used snapchatting friends as an example of distractions in life. He took out his phone and acted like he was texting his friends. “Let’s say it’s after school and you’re snapchatting with your friends. Then, another friend comes up to you and asks, ‘Wanna play basketball down the street?’ But you’re too busy texting and snapchatting. ‘I'm busy!’ you say. ‘I’ll go next time...’"
“You make the choice!” he said. “Do you want to be great?! Or do you want to be average?”
Coach House continued, "Want to know something about that athlete? ...He’ll be average. I guarantee you, he'll never be great.”
“You’ve got to work hard!” Coach House continued. “You’ll never be GREAT unless you put in the time on and off the court as often as you can. How much time do you invest in perfecting your skills?”
"Ouch!" I thought. Suddenly, I realized he wasn't just talking to the kids. He was preaching to me. I had to ask myself, “What separates me from others? What could I be doing daily to continue to learn and grow?” His challenge is simple, but relevant to all of us.
I really enjoyed listening to Coach House, and I believe Jamel and other kids were hearing the message too.
Are you on the pathway to mediocrity?
This is what led me to introduce myself to the Founder Robert Ware, the man behind the whole program. “I really liked what I saw tonight with your program,” I said. He was gracious in thanking me. He said, “We try to reach the kids at their own level and use stories they can relate to. We want to build them up so they can be successful both on and off the court.”
I thought, “I could learn a lot from them if I’d use the same techniques with my children.”
Robert has a relaxed personality and uses kind encouragement with the kids. Although many of the players wanted to talk to him and he was being pulled in multiple directions, he took his time with each of them. He seemed very intentional about making the athletes feel valued and important.
When you read Robert’s story, you’ll learn about his experiences as a child and what drove him to build a youth development program that focuses on connecting and supporting kids on an emotional level.
I truly believe Robert’s philosophy and program will make a difference in many kids lives, including Jamel. Extra support from strong role models and mentors outside of the home will always make a difference. Now that Jamel is participating in two different sports programs, we've seen that he is more focused, more committed ... and less distracted.
We all make choices, every single day. Do you want to be great? Are you making the right choices to lead you to greatness? Now is the time to make the right choice.
Founder, Real & Inspiring