In last week’s newsletter, we talked about the difference between “raising a champion athlete and man” compared to “raising an athlete and man who wins championships” – about how focusing on the process as dads is most important, and how that focus actually puts ours boys in the best position to achieve the success we want for them. I was on spring break this week with my family when I literally ran across a great reminder of that truth.
I was out for a jog one morning when I ran past a house that was run-down and disheveled. In between the sidewalk and the street, there was trash strewn everywhere. As I ran past, something glimmered in the sun and caught my eye. Maybe because of last week’s newsletter topic, I was struck by what I saw lying there in the middle of all that trash. It was a trophy. I don’t know who it belonged to or what that person had done to earn it. All I knew, at that moment, was that the trophy lying there had been thrown out with the garbage, and now it was considered garbage, too.
That trophy had gone from the penthouse to the outhouse, and as I jogged on I considered its story. At some point, that trophy was a prized possession – maybe the sole obsession – for a young athlete living in that house. I imagined him – so committed to winning that trophy – driven to early morning workouts and late night practices. He laid in bed at night dreaming about how that trophy would feel in his hands and the satisfaction that’d come with winning that championship. That piece of garbage lying by the road side was all he ever wanted in life.
The day the trophy was won, it came home and went right there, front and center in the marquee spot on the mantle. It was a symbol of who he was and what he had accomplished – it may have even helped define his identity. It stood, centered and spotlighted, for a while.
Over time, though, the value of the trophy started to fade. The commitment and dedication that were so closely tied to the award were soon re-directed to another endeavor, and its place on the mantle was occupied by a more recent achievement. Before long it was moved off the shelf entirely. Then, finally one day, someone was forced to confirm or discredit its worth. And at that moment of choice, the envy of a young athlete’s life – the one thing he’d pay any price to be able to hold in his hands – got tossed in the trash and forgotten forever.
Why? Because that’s the reality of what happens to trophies…they fade. That same trophy that was the envy of a young athlete’s life is now lying along the roadside in a heap of trash. It is literally, today, a worthless piece of junk. The same can probably be said for the trophies in your life, too. Where are the trophies you won as a kid? In a cardboard box, collecting dust in your parents’ basement? Lying along a roadside in a heap of trash? They were the pride of your existence once upon a time. What do they mean to you today?
It may seem kind of depressing to think that something you valued so much now has so little meaning, but that’s what trophies do…they fade. At least, they’re supposed to fade. I hope your trophies are in your parents basement or in the trash somewhere. I mean, what’s the alternative, that they don’t fade? That they remain right there in the marquee spot on your mantle, now all these years later? That your trophies are still, after all this time, the symbol of who you were and what you once accomplished? That they remain, to this day, how you help to define your identity? That’s not kind of depressing; that’s downright sad.
Here’s the point: raising a champion athlete and man keeps our focus on moving forward. Does that mean that winning a championship – and the trophy that comes along with it – has no significance? As we said in last week’s newsletter, of course not! But it does mean that for us as dads, and for the sons we’re working to develop, that we believe the best is yet to come. I hope for you and your boy that there are more trophies in your life than either of you know what to do with. But more importantly, no matter how many you win, I hope that your focus is always on what’s next, and that neither of your identities remainrooted in some trophy you won long ago.
Ganon Baker is a renowned basketball skills trainer who works with elite level NBA guys like Lebron James and Kevin Durant. I heard him speak at a coaches clinic a few years ago. There he talked about the idea of building individuals into living trophies, that the reflection of our effort and purpose should be evident in the growth of a human being instead of the attainment of some temporary award. I think that’s really what we’re talking about here, building our sons into living trophies. That’s what it means to raise a champion athlete and man. As dads, those are the trophies we should all be pursuing.
Developing your son as a living trophy means that the proof and result of your labor is evident in who he’s becoming. It means that you’ve been intentional in defining what makes a champion – those qualities we’ve emphasized here in the newsletter:
-That he loves the game.
-That he gives his best.
-That he overcomes adversity.
-That he seeks improvement.
-That he gets coached.
-That he’s a great teammate.
-That he takes risks.
-That he does it all with a positive attitude.
And most importantly, developing a living trophy means you’re invested in the process. You’re invested in the never-ending pursuit of helping your son move closer to his full potential in each of those areas. Developing a living trophy means you believe he can continue to improve and develop, and that you’re committed to using the events and experiences in his life today to make him better for tomorrow. That is the kind of work that keeps you and your son moving forward. Work that keeps you more committed to the process and less captive to the outcome, good or bad. And most importantly, that’s work that gives you a purpose and a passion for creating the kind of trophy you can be proud of for life.