Be Like Mike... and Markelle

Philadelphia 76er Markel Fultz

Philadelphia 76er Markel Fultz

Be Like Mike...and Markelle


Every basketball fan knows the legendary lore of how Michael Jordan was once cut from Laney High School's varsity squad—and how the pain of playing JV ball propelled him to unprecedented heights. Now we have a new story for our times in Markelle Fultz.

The Sixers' soon-to-be #1 draft pick likewise tried out for varsity as a high-school sophomore and found himself relegated to the JV bench. But did Fultz sulk about the demotion? Did he let fate control his destiny? Did he give up? No way, Markelle was made of sterner stuff. “I never got frustrated, really,” Fultz told Sports Illustrated. “I love the game, so no matter if I’m playing JV or varsity, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”

Which brings us to this week's MPS blog topic: Proactive vs. Reactive. One major goal of our program's mindfulness training is to teach kids how to be proactive. How to have agency over their lives. How to avoid being a reactive pawn in someone else's chess game. When the going gets tough, MP campers get going. That could mean trying out a new sport, or stretching skills in a familiar sport, or showcasing a stage talent in front of their peers. It's all about building confidence and grit.

If MJ or Markelle had merely been reactive to their situations, they might've accepted their JV status and played down to that level. It could've been a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, they took it upon themselves to be proactive and prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that they were indeed varsity material...and, someday, NBA material. Rather than act impulsively out of frustration, these heroic hoopsters opted to take a deep breath and take the long view, forging a new path with their eyes perpetually on the prize. They came up with their own game plan for life and executed it. “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop," Jordan has explained. "I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it. That usually got me going again.”

To put an even finer point on what empowered proactivity means, there's this most famous quote of all by His Airness: “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen."

MP campers make it happen!

15 Years

In 2001, I began coaching high school basketball at my alma mater, Chestnut Hill Academy.  I remember the speech that I gave to my first team, freshman basketball, in that first locker room.  I knew that day that I was beginning a new journey.  I also quickly wanted to prove that I was a great coach.  

Looking back, I didn't know what I was doing.  I knew how to play and I knew what I wanted to accomplish, but didn't know how to break it down and coach other people to get those results.  Since that time, I have had a lot of practice, and learned a lot through trial and error, and reflection.

Yesterday at 4:15p, 15 years later, I began my first Varsity season as a Head High School Basketball Coach.  Though twice in the past eight years I served as an interim Varsity head coach,  replacing head coaches during the middle of the season.   And for the first time I began a season coaching high school girls, something I never dreamed of.

What a journey! Upon reflection, I can say that even after just one day, it was worth the wait.  

I've learned a lot about coaching over the years, and one of the most important lessons that I've learned is that if you believe in yourself, and believe in something so strongly, you should never allow anyone or anything deter you from it.  And when you hear no, or you're not what we're looking for, you essentially have two choices:

  1. Give up
  2. Continue to relentlessly pursue your goals

I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to coach SCH Girls Basketball.  We have a brand new team this year with many new players.  We are beginning a new journey, together.  I can say that that ride to get here was worth it, and in the words of my father's favorite author and former Sunday Morning television host Charles Kuralt, "I can see the road is turning, I wonder what's around the bend."


Role Models: Mr. Plunkett & Mr. Berger

In the fall of 2015, I began teaching Physical Education (PE) at The Meadowbrook School in Abington Township.  The Meadowbrook School, founded in 1919, is a quaint community school that prides itself on great academics, small class size, individual attention for students and a dedicated faculty.  

To be honest, my ego had a hard time telling people what I was now doing three days a week. The words, "I'm a gym teacher," didn't roll off my tongue with pride when people asked me "What's new?"  Instead I led with, "I teach at the Meadowbrook School," but that often begged the question, "What do you teach?"

To reconcile for myself, I began thinking about role models to ease my discomfort. I quickly thought of Mr. Plunkett, a Chestnut Hill Academy legend who spent his entire career teaching 'gym' to Pre-K to fifth graders.  Mr. Plunkett left this earth several years ago, a funeral experience unlike no other I have ever experienced.  The entire CHA community packed the small Jenkintown Catholic church, and spilled onto the blocked-off Jenkintown street as the bagpiper played.   What a scene!  What a life that was lived, I thought!

I quickly began to realize that the work that I was doing was meaningful, challenging and highly rewarding.  I realized that If Mr. Plunkett wasn't "too big" for the job, then I wasn't either. The job, as I now know it, is to figure out what is the best way to reach each child and break through their shields of fears, anxieties, and insecurities.   

My son, RIchie, is in his first year of Kindergarten at Enfield Elementary in Oreland, PA.  He is fortunate to have Mr. Ryan Berger as his teacher, the only male Kindergarten teacher.  My wife and I are so happy that Richie is thriving at his new school and he looks forward to getting on our local bus each day!  I recently learnd that Mr. Berger can hit a softball that can almost touch the moon.

 I am really glad the Mr. Berger had role models who shaped him, for he now serves as my son's teacher and model for both strength, kindness, and empathy.  I am also thankful for having had Mr. Plunkett in my life and think about him often.




The Bigger Picture

The Bigger Picture

This year is the first year for being on the sideline watching my seven year old daughter play travel soccer.  I can now say that I know the feeling of being a parent on the sideline with a child in competitive game.    It’s a nervous, excited, happy, torturous feeling that if you are competitive person can make you crazy inside. 

I began the season by myself on the sideline, a move I learned by watching my old man who rarely sat or stood with others.  Recently, I have become more vocal on the sideline, and in my mind feel like I can help our win-less team of spirited girls play better fun and hopefully learn more soccer. 

The truth is that the girls, like our girls high school team, seems unfazed after each loss.  Cartwheels, plans for play-dates, promises of ice cream are often the topics after games. This Saturday was memorable given a regrettable interaction that I was involved in. 

Short story, I stood in the 2nd half on the opposing team’s side of the field and shouted words of encouragement and coaching for our goalie and lead defender.  I happened to be wearing a whistle and “looked” like a coach.  The other parents didn’t like what I was doing and an argument ensued.   After I attempted to share my point of view, I moved back to ‘our side’ of the field.

What did I learn?  I didn’t feel great, I missed some of the game action, and I’m responsible for the interaction and my behavior.  Another thing, whether or not I think I can impact the game from the sidelines really doesn’t matter and I need to learn how to control those feelings inside.

A trusted adviser shared that I’ll learn about the bigger picture over time. With the long road ahead I think I can already see the ups and downs and things will undoubtedly get more competitive.  Another friend just shared with me a lesson from the 7 Spiritual Laws of Success, written by Deepak Chopra.  He writes that we must “relinquish the attachment” to what we want to acquire.  Whether it be an elected official, a goal for our 7 year old soccer team, we must remove the attachment to what we want in order to remove the feelings associated.  Deepak writes, “In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty…in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from the past, from the known, which is the prison of past conditioning.” I’m up for more wisdom and happy to have learned the lesson.

The Power of Influence

The Power of Influence

What's the best way for kids to be positively influenced? Who are their role models?

Last Friday, my family and I watched the SCH Girls Soccer team host the then ranked Germantown Academy Patriots. It was a thrilling game that SCH won 4-3. It was SCH's first win against GA in some time. All four goals scored for SCH by Junior Emily McNesby, who also plays basketball at SCH and has verbally committed to The University of Tennessee to play soccer. The SCH goal keeper made some amazing saves towards the end of the game to seal the victory.

One day later, our daughter Finley played her second official game for the U-8 Springfield Supernovas. Week one, Finley played half of the game as goalkeeper. After telling me that she didn't want to play goalie, she asked me on the way if I thought she could score a goal. I listened, thought for the right words to say, and said if you think you can score a goal then I definitely think you can score a goal. Before we opened our doors to the field, out came the words of my mom that she shared almost before every game, I said, "Go have some fun."

Four minutes into the second half, and down three to zero, Finley found herself in the right place at the right time in from of the net... GOAAAAALLL! She turned over to look at her little brother and me. I had the video rolling. What a thrill... I can only imagine how Finley felt.

As I reflected, as my father almost always did, I thought about SCH Girls Team, and Em who spent some time with Finley after Friday's game. I thought immediately of the influence that Emily had on Finley, and the bond they shared from last year's basketball season.

As I think about what lies around the bend, my wife and I will continue to search for more positive influences for our children.

Big Brothers

Big Brothers

Little brother Ibraheim Campbell starts as strong safety for the Cleaveland Browns this Sunday at 1:00p at Lincoln Financial Field against our Philadlephia Eagles. “E” attended Chestnut Hill Academy before playing and excelling at Northwestern University. At CHA, he starred in Football and Track and played on my freshman basketball team. We had a play called E, where we gave him the ball and told him to score. E’s big brother Rashad was the big man on campus at the time and an all-league football and track athlete who later excelled at Cornell University.

For all who have a big brother out there, each has a story. There is something great about being the little brother. Learning, observing, and benefitting from all the lessons in the house.I have been blessed to have had a big brother, Christian, who is six years my senior. He coaches youth baseball and is a great father to his two kids. Growing up, I wanted to be just like him, but better. He looked out for me but didn’t always pick me for his team at the playground, I had to earn it.

While E and Rashad were blessed with natural ability, their work ethic to get stronger and better were second to none. SCH Academy should be very proud of one of their alumni this weekend.
Let’s not forget big brother, Rashad, who paved the way and who was the first one to win the Gold Medal in CHA’s graduation ceremonies honoring it’s finest overall student. Ibraheim won it three years later!

Like Ibraheim, I benefitted from having a big brother in who pushed me to get better and I’m grateful. It should be noted, that E also benefitted from having ten older brothers and sisters. He is the youngest of 11 in his family. I can only imagine how they will feel on Sunday when E plays his first down in his home town. I know that I will be watching with pride. #goblue

Transformational Week

Transformational Week

There’s a little girl in our camp this week named Finley.  She’s five and a half. Before this week, Finley would have chosen to do things in her free time such as play with dolls, sing/play the piano, or color.  She enrolled in this week of All Sports Camp with us, because she wanted to be with her Daddy.  Finley is my daughter and of course that makes her my best friend.

Yesterday, she hung out with me after camp, as I spent an hour with two of our young coaches doing their own training.  About half-way through the hour, Finley was looking for an activity and picked up a lacrosse stick and started to throw a ball against a wall.  Then she picked up a basketball and began to shoot on the 10′ rim.  In thirty minutes, she made six shots! She was very excited, and I was proud.

We have a hoop at home (of course) and she has never shown this level of interest–and we haven’t pushed her, working off her cues. After making the 6 shots, she was so excited and eager to tell her brother and mother ALL about it when we arrived home.  She stated her new goal was to make 10 shots by the end of the week.

Before bed, she said she wanted to shoot some more hoops, a stall tactic perhaps-kids can get awfully creative with these around bedtime- but out we went to our driveway hoop. She was serious and determined. She made four more shots to reach her goal of ten!  And then….she wanted MORE, and set a new goal of 20…. and, after a lot of effort and many missed shots to go along with those she made, she achieved her goal. 20 shots!

What We All Want for Our Kids

A few weeks back, we learned something new. We learned something new because we did something new and completed a week of camp at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia. Frankly, it was uncomfortable.

Each morning, as we waited to greet campers as they arrived with their parents in carline, I noticed a difference in the music that I could hear played in each car. On Tuesday, we began integrating our camp with the camp and church groups that were also using the amazing facility- a $70M space. We asked our older Matt Paul Sports kids-half suburb and half city-to compete against the Kroc camp kids who had been training together for several weeks. There was some hesitation and trepidation–from players and coaches alike! However, after a few timeouts, our kids settled down and simply played and did well. As I think about the purpose and mission of the Kroc Center, funded initially by the founders of McDonalds, I know they were smiling down on the environment that they’ve created for these families, all of them.

I met a former world boxing champion on the turf fields of the Kroc. He was playing with his kids. We chatted for a few minutes about life, philosophy and what he wants for his kids. The takeaway for me, he wants the same that I do for my kids: opportunity.
I also met Jim Ellis, a nationally recognized swim coach who took a group of kids from North Phila (PBR) to new heights and levels in the 90s, so successful that a Disney movie (Drive) was made about them.

I now understand that today’s youth is not doomed, as the media will anxiously predict. Today’s youth simply needs me and others to be better, smarter, and to lead the way in all things positive. They need parents, local leaders to help teach them what they don’t know and don’t understand.

Today’s parents are doing the best they can, and we all need to do better, especially in understanding that we can’t let our our fears and models of the world affect those of the next generation.

We all share common hopes and dreams for out kids: opportunity. Let’s allow them the opportunity to understand that we’re all the same inside. Let’s teach them that we all have a choice, to do right. And finally, once we do understand, let’s create the space to be understood.

Goal Setting Day

This week at Matt Paul Sports Camp, we’re focused on the teachings of the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

Here is one of our favorite quotes of his:
“Talent is God-Given. Be Humble. Fame is man-given. Be Grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be Careful. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”

Today’s focus is preparing for each day by setting goals. We began today with a discussion about goals- contemplating questions such as “what IS a goal?” and “what makes a good goal?” We discussed both short term and long term goals. Campers and coaches broke into groups to discuss and now, all campers and coaches have an index card with a life goal on one side and a TODAY goal on the other. Two of our coaches, Coaches Grace and Max, led the discussion and taught the kids about SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Six year old Will shared with the camp that his life goal was to become a black belt in karate. When asked when he would complete this goal, Will said that he wanted to achieve this goal by July 4. While the camp enjoyed a smile, Will taught us a lesson. While becoming a black belt is an excellent goal, achieving this before July 4 is not actually realistic for him as he is just getting started in his karate lessons.

Will’s sharing opened the door for others to share. Four year old Richie said he wanted to do three flips in the pool later today. He got the lesson about setting a SMART goal for the day. Sharing goals can be fun and a great way to work together. It’s easy too, all you need is a piece of paper and a pen. It also makes sports more fun and a great way to stay focused throughout a busy camp day.

While we have the choice to make our goals big or small, Coach John Wooden reminds us to be humble, grateful and careful about how we handle our successes along the way.