Rising Stars Founder Paul Savramis says his organization is much more than basketball; and for that, he is grateful. In this short discussion, Savramis talks about what gratitude and the act of giving means to the boys and girls who have been a part of this amazing program over the past 20 years.
Q: Over the past 20 years Rising Stars has worked with a largely underserved clientele. How do you demonstrate to these children that they have something to be thankful for?
Paul Savramis: We all have something that we can focus on to help put us in good spirits. For many of our student athletes, it’s having someone that cares enough to shuttle them from game to game. I like to help each child look back at where they began as an athlete, watch them realize how far they’ve come, and demonstrate to them how far they can go. It goes to show that no matter where they started, they have the power to advance themselves, and that is something to be grateful for.
Q: Over the past 20 years, you’ve spoken to hundreds of camps, clinics, and youth groups. You’ve talked about the power of positive thinking in Europe and taught basketball in the US and abroad. You always start with “Anything is possible,” — Do you truly believe that?
Paul Savramis: When I was first starting as as a clinician with Nike, I got a chance to see a paraplegic play guitar with his feet…and he was playing beautifully. This was a man focused on all the things he had and none what he didn’t. Hearing him talk, you’d think that he was the luckiest guy on earth. I also was mentored by the late, great Jim Valvano. If you want to know anything about positive thinking, listen to his speech at the ESPYs after being diagnosed with cancer. Personally, I hadn’t had the easiest time growing up as a single immigrant’s child from Europe. We moved around a lot, which was tough. But I got through it by hearing stories like these. I came to understand that anything is possible with the right mindset.
Q: Why does Rising Stars require community service of its students?
Paul Savramis: While important for many reasons, one reason stands out: teaching our team members that they are part of something larger than just themselves. They are part of a team, a family, a school, a church, and a community. Community service is a valuable team building tool that helps develop an understanding of working together. It teaches grace, gratitude, appreciation, and humility. And it serves as a reminder that no matter how difficult your personal situation may be, there are others who wish they were that fortunate.
Q: What are some ways Rising Stars has allowed players to express gratitude to their parents?
Paul Savramis: We recently had as series of discussions about gratitude. The boys and girls took those lessons to heart and, a few weeks before Christmas, spent time after practice writing thank you notes to their parents or guardians.
The kids presented their letters along with a special Rising Stars Family t-shirt to their parents.
We were not prepared for the response that single program had! Today’s parents work hard to provide for their children. This often means sacrificing family time. But these kids’ expressions of gratitude meant more to the parents and generated a bigger response than we could have imagined.
Q: In your opinion, how does the act of giving affect the giver?
Paul Savramis: Too many kids today (as well as many adults) have no real idea about how to show their gratitude. Learning how to offer even a small token of thanks means the world to these kids. I have seen-first hand how the power of giving works to instill a sense of pride and makes our athletes really think about all that’s being done for them. I love that these kids get hooked on the feeling and want to show their appreciation all year.