On average, it takes about 15 years to land in the C-suite. But what if you could have experience at the executive level before you were 15 years old?
My parents, David and Evelyn Magley, owners of The Basketball League in Noblesville, Indiana, had a simple answer for why they decided to use senior-level titles. “We wanted youth to run our youth initiative,” my father wrote in an email. “This free component of TBL, with 49 professional teams in the United States and Canada, by design is to give back to local communities through events and activities that empower youth.”
Okay, so maybe they were a little biased. But when they chose my sons Blake, 10, and Grant, 8, as CEO and president, respectively, it stopped and made me think. As a working mother who has never been in a chief level role, I researched all angles before signing the permission slip.
I found the pros of my children having a front-row seat in the executive suite outweighed the cons.
The Challenges Of Being A Professional Sports C-Suite Child
As a former NCAA Division I student-athlete and head coach, I have worked in the sports business. Knowing which decisions to make was challenging because the input of the group we served often went unnoticed. Since JrTBL is a youth initiative appointing youth leaders allows the organization to keep a finger on the pulse.
Most leagues are structured like startups and need better funding; they often fail or merge to survive. The NBA is a result of a merger in 1949 that, according to the History Channel, “was the result of a damaging three-year battle for fans and players.” League formation can be messy, with a historically high rate of extinction. Wikipedia lists that since the 1800s, over 186 professional sports leagues have become defunct worldwide.
Potential league failure is not limited to basketball or my parents. More recently, the XFL, a professional American football league, ceased play after five weeks of competition and filed for bankruptcy, only to be rescued by actor Dwayne Johnson and long time business partner Dany Garcia two years later. Despite deep pockets, it is still being determined how long the XFL will last. There are no guarantees that JrTBL, which started 5 years ago for young players to be scouted by the NBA, will be a long-term or peaceful experience for our sons.
But even if our sons were to witness the power of loss and a lack of money firsthand, they would at least have a sense of what it takes to hold these positions in the real world.
How Children Can Lead The Way
The most significant advantage of my kids getting a taste of the C-Suite is that they can experience their grandparents taking a huge risk in a professional league that helps players, referees, announcers, and coaches land their dream jobs overseas and in the NBA.
“TBL is a development league or stepping stone for professionals looking to enter the industry. That’s what makes us different,” said my mother, Evelyn, the first woman to own a men’s professional sports league. “We are unlike other organizations because we do not have buyout clauses for players’ contracts. They are free to go to other countries to compete.”
The core beliefs in after-school programs like Girl Scouts of America are the freedom to follow your dreams and the diligence required to achieve them. This opportunity with JrTBL is similar to “Take Your Child To Work Day,” but with a permanent twist. Creating roles for children with access to company executives is as simple as saying yes to mentoring youth and backing their ideas to serve the community.
The hope is that the unlikely success stories regularly occurring in the organization will inspire the boys. Of the 36 players that have been called up from TBL to the NBA G League, the biggest standout story is guard Lindy Waters III’s journey from delivering Postmates to playing in TBL to a multi-million dollar two-year contract with the OKC Thunder.
Regardless of the longevity of TBL, it has already been a success by my parents’ standards. “We’ve helped 362 players land in teams worldwide, and 16 referees, 25 dancers, six announcers, and three salespeople have moved up to the NBA ranks,” my dad said.
Kids Should Learn It’s Not Just Athletes Involved In The Sports Business
In their roles at the helm of JrTBL, my children and other program participants meet regularly, organize free basketball clinics, and even make decisions on financial literacy programs.
They recently designed a shirt and official basketball for TBL that has continually sold out at games this season. Just recently, my 8-year-old had the opportunity to speak in front of 3,000 people about the JrTBL mission statement he wrote with his brother to “help young children become leaders, problem solvers, and innovators.”
When we asked Blake why he agreed to such an unusual role, he had a senior-level manager response ready: “I want to help kids because we can change the world by teaching them skills that can last a lifetime.”
If only every CEO saw things as clearly as children do.
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