After being a part of my first tournament with the JKP organization I learned so many new tips and tricks on how to effectively run a youth basketball tournament. Now you may think it is a lot of work to run a basketball tournament, which it is, and all at the same time, there are lots of moving parts. The key is to have a team of people behind you on the same page and everyone wins.
Before I tell you some of the lessons I learned let me tell you about the tournament. We had five different age groups of participants ranging from 7th and 8th graders to varsity level. JKP sponsored all the teams so they had no entry fee to participate. This was a two day tournament, starting bracket play on Saturday morning, everyone was guaranteed games, and then ending Sunday night with championship games. We had two courts running games on them at the same time all day both days. The brackets and seedings were determined by the point spread of win/loss differential.
Why are the JKP tournaments different? The expectations for a positive experience by all was communicated clearly from the beginning. Anyone threatening to make the experience unpleasant for anyone involved would be removed, including parents. Because of the good sportsmanship and positive environment expectations, participants didn’t experience the negatives often associated with youth sports. Below is an image that was circulated to all those participating and attending the tournament.
Growing up in youth sports, I saw first hand how the JKP tournaments approach worked. Their goal was to create a safe positive environment for athletes to play the game of basketball. We had no problems at the tournament with reffing; the games were not only refereed well, but you could also tell the refs were there for the kids. Growing up I saw refs who didn’t care and wouldn’t call the game well at all which isn’t a conducive learning environment for the players. The refs at this tournament were joking around with the kids and talking with them while still being able to ref the game well. Helping them to learn the game and enjoy it without having an ego or power trip. A well-reffed tournament makes for fair play and better games. From this aspect the tournament was a huge success.
Most teams must pay to play. JKP sponrosed all the teams so everyone entered on an even playing field. The pay for play scenario that you typically see leads to entitlement and enquiries amongst teams. At these tournaments, I witnessed teams all having fun and there were no problems with people being late or not showing up. The best part was seeing all the kids get to just have fun and play basketball. With so many people hit hard by the pandemic, this was a way for JKP to give the kids a fun normal experience. Talking with Jimmy, he said that “it’s not about the money, it’s about the kids.” The whole purpose of these tournaments is to give these kids the opportunity to play a sport that they love.
Jimmy and his partners have huge hearts for the kids in the community. We had raffles for the kids to enter for free so they all had a chance at walking away with something fun. The faces of some of the kids, the coaches, and the parents made once they found out they won something was priceless. They were so happy to win, and it was great honestly to see that excitement. There was also lots of JKP merchandise being sold, like hats, t-shirts and wristbands. The t-shirts and hats were hot commonedies and they were selling fast. You could tell that the people wanted to take memories of the experience with them. They wanted to proudly rep the JKP brand and keep the positive attitude going beyond the event.
Another thing that I loved was how much support that these kids were getting from loved ones that came to watch them play. We didn’t have parents “coaching” their kids from the spectator seats. The message for a positive growth minded environment was clearly heard and carried out through the actions of all this weekend.
Throughout this whole week of shadowing Jimmy and the JKP foundation, I have witnessed how open hearted people will just walk up to Jimmy and start a conversation with him. And also how welcoming Jimmy is to those conversations with people. Another thing that I noticed is that for every single conversation that we have with a stranger in public with Jimmy, he always knows their name. Jimmy is taking what he is doing to another level and he’s making it so it’s not just like these people are just another number or another person passing by in the world, he takes the time to personally know their name and remember their face for the next time he sees them. Jimmy is taking the term “more than a game” to a whole new level. With everything that Jimmy has going on, he is still firing on all cylinders and isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.
Lessons I Learned:
- Surround yourself with a team who are like minded and have a clear mission.
- Empower your team to do what they do best.
- When you have a great team things go well – even the things you don’t expect to.
- Communicate clearly the vision and mission to all involved, and even if it gets hard, stick to the mission.
- Your main WHY can’t be about money, it has to be about passion and purpose.
- You’re going to rub people the wrong way making it better, you can’t worry about who doesn’t get on board.
- Give back and you will be the one blessed.
- Be kind and have conversations with people.
- You won’t always get it right every time. BUT you have to Just Keep Pushing!
I feel like the lessons I learned can be applied in business and life. I am enjoying this internship so much, networking and having fun working with the JKP team in Arizona. I am more than ecstatic to get to work at the upcoming tournaments. We’ve had two in June, we have a few more in July and then one in August before I head back to school. I am absolutely blessed to be getting the opportunity to be working this internship and I couldn’t thank Jimmy and the JKP organization enough for their partnership with Epiphany. Also I owe my mom a special thanks for helping me through it all.