03 May

How Coaching 4th Grade Basketball Made Me A Better Entrepreneur

Lessons From My Real World

During the summer of 2015 I decided to stop working on ThePhatStartup and focus more on my number 1 business; MY FAMILY.

After 3 years of the grind, building a great community and challenging myself beyond belief, I was thirsty for some family time. Especially time with my 9 year old; my mini me. I wanted to put him on a basketball team and see what he could do. It was his first year playing basketball after 6 years of soccer but I knew he had what it took to be great.

I can’t even describe how good it felt to walk in and sign him up for a basketball league around my neighborhood. What I didn’t know while walking in was that I too was going to be challenged this year. They asked me if I could be the assistant coach for our team.

I didn’t even wait for the details, I immediately said YES! I didn’t even think about the time commitment and even the heart aches ahead. I just knew I wanted to spend more time with my son and figured this was a great way to do so. I am all about that #PresenceOverPresents life!

I just ran a business for 3 years with no experience, how hard could it be to coach a group of 9 year olds? I was wrong about how hard it could be and it reinforced a few business lessons along the way besides the importance of being PATIENT!  

You Won’t Win Every Time, But The Game Must Be Played!

The very 1st game we played, we won. Everyone including myself was excited for the season; our kids with no skills might actually win a few games.

Then the 2nd game came, and it hurt our souls!

We lost to the “ringers” or the goliaths of the league by double digits. The kids put their heads down in shame along with the parents. The head coach got us all in a huddle after the game and said “We won’t win every time we play, but if we don’t play, we have no chance of winning!”

After that our practices become more intense and you could see the hunger in the kids eyes. We went from bums on the court, to a 10-6 record. It only happened because we understood we could lose, but we weren’t going to lose because we didn’t play the game, the teams would have to out execute us.

Just like basketball, business can only happen in the trenches, not on the sidelines. Your idea is just that, an IDEA! It will stay an idea until you get your hands dirty and start building a real business. Many get caught up in the day dreaming phase. You know exactly what I am talking about and I suffered from this for a long time. Where the fear of losing kept the dreams in my head. I would look at others playing the game and swear to myself that I could do better but never even tried.

What I didn’t realize was that I was losing automatically because I wasn’t even in the game. I was giving myself fictitious wins by criticizing those that actually played the game, I wasn’t building my own skill set sitting on the sidelines. There were no real wins while I sat and day dreamed. The real wins came when I played the game and loss a few times. Give your self a chance, play the game till the game becomes part of your life.

Regroup With A Purpose!

Meetings just to have meetings suck, I wrote about that very thing here! Same thing can be said for a time out in basketball.

A time out is used in basketball to regroup, to get the team focused. However unlike business, time outs in basketball are limited. In our case it was 2 time outs per half, which didn’t seem like much, but it was perfect. Those 4 timeouts a game actually helped me with my own business meetings.

Whenever we called a timeout, there was a specific reason. It wasn’t for a water break or to give each other high fives. We left the water cooler talks for after the game. For these timeouts or meetings, we focused on what needed to get done to WIN. We analyzed the way we played, the way the defense played and made adjustments in a very FINITE time range.

Sometimes those times outs led to a win but it was never a guarantee. What was certain was that if we didn’t take the time to regroup, we would definitely lose more than the game.The same applies to business. Many use meetings as a way to catch up, extend their water cooler talk or sometimes even show their authority. All horrible reasons to stop playing the game.

Make sure your meetings or time outs have a purpose. Limit the amount of meetings you have a week but also limit the time spent in these meetings. This will teach you how to focus and talk on what’s important, not waste everyone’s time.

Worry About What You Can Control

Kids are emotional, and guess what, so are adults! There were days when we played certain teams that we knew we were going to destroy. But the refs kept the games close with questionable calls.

At first some of the referee’s bad calls would get to my team and even myself. I had one player who played hard, suffocating defense, which made it easy, for the refs to call fouls. They would pick on him, the other teams knew it and so did the parents. The worst part was that the kid knew it also; he would break down crying even when we were winning our games.

Every game and practice I would sit with the kid and explain to him that we couldn’t control the referees. Every evil stare he gave them, or smart response was going to affect us instead of benefiting us. I had to reinforce that we had to play our game and forget about the refs. The refs weren’t going to win the game for us but we couldn’t let them be the catalyst for a loss either.

Eventually all the kids started to get it and would laugh at a bad call. They were focused on playing the game, scoring and playing solid defense. When we lost, it was due to something we could control like our effort. We never lost a game by something we couldn’t control.

There are many variables in business, many of which you have no control over. Think of your potential customers or even competition. There’s nothing you can do about their actions so there is no reason to cry over the things you can’t directly change.

Focus on the things you can change, like your effort, quality of work, your product, and especially your EMOTIONS. I’m not perfect it took me a while to get my mind right. There were times when haters or not getting a certain deal threw me off my game. What I realized was that I being thrown off by things I couldn’t control, those emotions made the things I could control harder to appreciate or even execute against.

Don’t let the things you cant control dictate how you hustle. Learn how to work around them or through them. Changing the world is hard enough; don’t give the opposing team even more ammunition.

Know Everyone’s Role, Delegation Is Good

This lesson by far has been the most difficulty for me to adjust to. Just like my 4th grade basketball team, I sometimes think I can do everything myself. When we 1st started the season, every kid thought they were a guard or Steph Curry. Everyone wanted to dribble and everyone wanted to be the shooter but many lacked the skills or confidence.

We even devoted a whole 2 hour practice to assign positions or roles to each player because we knew we needed the whole team in order to win. We not only assigned roles but we also told each person why their role was important to the team’s success. We delegated work just like you must do in business; we gave team member the roles we felt fit their talents the best.

Now everyone knew exactly what their job entailed and could focus on being the best at it. In business delegation is the key to success. I know or at least think I know that I could do certain jobs better than others on my team but I also know that it’s impossible to clone myself.

By assigning the best team members to the jobs they could actually do, my stress level decreased. I feel like it also helped my team stay emotionally correct because the pressure was on them to do their jobs, not doing everyone else’s. If the role didn’t work, we would change things as needed while reiterating the importance of doing so.

It also helped my personal development because I could then focus on the things founders have to think about the most, the vision and execution of it. Someone else’s 75% effort in their job was better than 0% and to be honest sometimes that’s all you need to win.

Entrepreneurship gives and it takes! But when you actually play the game, the lessons are endless and can be applied to almost anything else in life. In this case I used my entrepreneurial experience to lead a team of 4th graders to a 10-6 record. Not bad for a 1st time coach with 1st time players, PLAY THE GAME!


Would you like to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

  1. Jamelle Sanders

    May 4, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Awesome insights! However, the main thing I love is that you said you have to actually play the game. That’s truly the difference between success or failure.

    • james

      May 5, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      spot on!!!


Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Built On Wax: #Bars4M… April 29, 2016 Built On Wax: #Bars4Motivation Vol. 5 Built On Wax: #Bars4Motivation Vol 6 Built On Wax: #Bars4M… May 6, 2016