Six Strategies To “Play the Long Game” and Win by Jeff Becker

I’m the Co-founder and Program Director of Powerhouse Hoops, a nonprofit basketball academy in Phoenix. One of our local basketball clubs has stated repeatedly that they “want to beat and be better than Powerhouse Hoops.” They are obsessed with statistics, trophies, and counting wins and losses. I call their frame of reference the “short game perspective”, which unfortunately, many parents today are motivated by at work and at home.

At Powerhouse Hoops we’re about developing character in young men through basketball. We embrace a concept we call the “long game perspective”. The local “short game” club and Powerhouse aren’t actually even competitors. Yes, of course we compete against each other at tournaments, but we’re actually playing in two fundamentally different types of games.

Often times organizations that have a “short game perspective” are filled with absurd parental behavior that contains entitlement, hyper-competitive attitudes, and a win-at-all costs perspective. This is damaging to the young men (and women) who must try to compete in this difficult environment. What can be done about it?

This isn’t just a behavior that needs to change; rather the entire narrative around overly competitive parents in sports needs to change. It’s going to take massive courage on the part of the men and women who are the leaders in these organizations. Here are six suggestions:

  1. Call Out – You have to call parents on their unacceptable behavior, without joining the fray. The leaders in sports, arts, academia and other places where kids compete, have to tell parents when they’ve stepped over the line, and how that’s damaging to their children. Many parents just can’t stomach seeing their kids experience any type of emotional pain. But for the good of the child and the family, they need to let their child handle difficult situations on their own.
  2. Vision – Your vision must be greater, higher and loftier than the current reality. A compelling vision inspires people to live into their best selves. Most people, while wanting things to be better live the “definition of insanity,” which is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
  3. Values – Define and live out enduring values. Strive for values that align with the long game perspective. When you do this, you will have lots of short game wins without sacrificing the more important long game vision and values.
  4. Empathy – Seek to understand the parent’s perspective. They do love their children, and yet, many of them have a faulty parenting strategy. You have to say, “I get it, I can see how much you care for your son, but our organization, in the best interest of your child, does not endorse that kind of perspective.”
  5. Strategy – Your program, whether it be the band, theater, soccer team or robot club has to be built on a solid foundation of great curriculum and best practices, as well as strong leadership principles around character, integrity, and building solid young men and women for life.
  6. Courage. Consistent, relentless pursuit of higher ground is necessary. It will not be easy. As a matter of fact, you will be misunderstood by parents who just don’t get it, and if it comes down to it, you may need to ask those parents who are the constant complainers to leave the environment so they don’t pollute other parents or their kids.

If you’re struggling with which organization or club to have your child dedicate his time and energy to, here’s a simple chart to help you decide which will be infinitely better for you.

Short Game Perspective                                            Long Game Perspective

Inward/Self Focus                                                        Outward/Other focus

Statistics and trophies                                                 Skill building and Character development

Mission is undefined                                                    Mission is about service to kids and families

Egos are prevalent                                                       Egos are checked at the door

Individual performance is praised                            Team success is paramount

Others in the program are rivals                              Greatest rival is self and self-discovery

Controlling pressure-filled environment                Winsome and fun environment

Leader-centric                                                               Kid-centric

Leaders, by the quality and content of their character, become the glue that holds organizations together. They provide a healing agency to the organization because of who they are and how this is exhibited on a consistent basis. The exact same principle can be said for your role at home or at work. 

If you want your relationship to grow, deepen and mature in a healthy and loving way with your child…take it easy! Breathe. Love, appreciate and affirm your child for being involved, making progress, learning good listening skills, support and team building skills, dedication and commitment to the greater good of the team.

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