Tools > Trophies

My wife was named Illinois’ Miss Basketball in 2006.

If you didn’t know, now you know — Theresa had way more game than me!

We have this golden basketball stored away in a closet to prove it. Twice, however, I’ve found it in our dumpster. It’s now surrounded by legos, puzzles and trucks.

Last week, I ran a basketball camp. 125 kids participated. They worked hard. They competed. They got better. Not one medal, trophy or plaque was given out. It’s not that I’m against hardware…I’d just prefer to give them something they can work with. So they all went home with a basketball.

A trophy sits on a shelf. It collects dust. That’s it! I told the kids, I wanted their basketballs to get dirty. It’s not designed to sit on a shelf or stored away in a bin. Put it to work!

The balls weren’t expensive, although I’m sure my margins would’ve been bigger had I gotten everyone a ribbon or trophy. And I’d bet most kids would’ve even left camp feeling better about themselves with a medal around their neck.

But I’m confident there’s a few kids that walked out of that gym cradling their new ball pretty tight. Why? There’s something special about holding something so ordinary but with a new mindset towards what’s possible with that thing. 

No kid is going to become a pro in anything in just a few days. But if I can teach a few skills and encourage them in the process, who knows what they can do from there?!

The ball is just a simple tool to help them stay with it. No excuses now.

And it isn’t just about basketball, either. It’s a reminder that we don’t need much to make progress. A little guidance + some basic materials is all that’s needed when we bring the effort. Sometimes all the extra stuff only gets in the way.

At the end of the day, I want to be someone who gives people something they can use to get better. I want to leave others with something they can work with. 

Trophies may look nice but tools will get you further. Let’s build!

P.S. I could still use your help! If you know how to use a trophy to inspire improvement vs. as an end in itself, then let me know. 

P.S.S. Check out this short video highlighting my camp and the themes we emphasized


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