If David Robinson were playing in today’s NBA, he’d be considered an endangered species. The days of offenses running through dominant bigs are long gone. That tectonic shift in strategy, however, has done little to impact Robinson’s post-playing career. The Admiral remains an immense figure in sports, and a leading voice in the conversation on youth sports. As a member of the recent NCAA Commission on college basketball and investor in multiple youth sports companies (including LeagueApps), when Robinson speaks, the sports world listens. Luckily, we had a hot mic to capture his advice for sports organizers. Here are three tips from Robinson for turning parents into invaluable allies.
Establish Your Culture
Robinson seemingly has a master’s degree in culture. He cut his teeth at the Naval Academy, an institution synonymous with tradition, honor and an everlasting culture of service. During his playing career, Robinson was coached by Gregg Popovich. Pop, as he’s affectionately known, set the standard for what a successful culture looks like, not just in the NBA, but in all sports. And right at the heart of it all was David Robinson. He is now creating his own culture in the finance sector as a co-founder of Admiral Capital, a real estate and private equity firm with a focus on community impact.
“It takes people who are focused on a vision, a mission, and I think you’ve got to understand who you are and what you bring to the table. We have a society now that points to the television or points to the superstars. That’s pie in the sky stuff, man. There’s people all around your kids every single day who are phenomenal models, whether it’s your friend’s dad, the teacher; your friend’s dad, the lawyer, or the people at the church. I mean there’s some phenomenal people around you. And so to build a culture you just have to have committed people that are there for those boys and who are willing to give up their time and their energy to mentor those boys and teach them. So if you want to build a great culture, build a culture where the fathers bring their talents to the table.”
Define The Parents’ Role, And Allow Them To Own That Role
It should come as no surprise that The Admiral believes in giving everyone a mission, especially when it comes to dealing with parents.
“The parents want to be involved but if you don’t let them be involved they’re going to be involved in the way they think they can best help you. They’re going to try to be a coach or they’re going to try to tell you how to run the team or something. You don’t need that. We got the coaching stuff taken care of here. We don’t need coaching. But they do need you. I know you need the relationship with the kids. So I’m going to create a place for that because I think that’s valuable. I think your kid is going to be so much stronger, so much more confident because dad is there and dad is involved and that’s fantastic. But you’ve got to give them an avenue to really vent that passion and it’s not in coaching. We didn’t have any of our parents telling our coaches how to coach. None of that stuff. That’s foolishness. Right? Like we’ve got a plan because winning and losing that’s always there. We’re not concerned about whether we’re going to win this league. We want the good experience.”
Harness That Energy
As an organizer, you want to work with passionate people. But passion can cut both ways, it can lead to unnecessary headaches. Robinson looks at that passion, that energy, as an opportunity.
“Parents are a tremendous asset. You just have to know how to manage that asset. It’s sort of like fire. Right? Fire can burn the house down or it can warm the house.”
Harnessing that “fire” requires expertise, savvy, and most importantly technology. Clear lines of communication between organizers and parents set the stage for success. And once those logistical hurdles are out of the way, fruitful relationships come into focus.
“Your parents are a tremendous asset. They’re not just going to drive you crazy. You should use them in a positive way to help other kids grow and build your organization and it’s got to be a place where they all want to be. That’s what I learned from the Spurs.”