Kevin Cotton and my faith restored

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Kevin Cotton and my faith restored

It was 2:30p, Saturday March 24, and I stood in the gymnasium at SCH Academy.  We were scheduled to have completed our 6th Annual Hoops Madness Tournament an hour and a half earlier.  We had more younger kids this year, more girls divisions, and a lot more 4th graders for some reason.  In short, we were oversold and undermanned, especially when it came to managing each division.

Most of the groups played for two to three hours, and I ended the day as the referee for what I thought was the semi-final game amongst very competitive 4th graders.  I made an executive decision to have the remaining teams do a one game knockout round, given the fact the day began at 8:00a with registrations.  The parents lined the sidelines, some coaching and some cheering, showed their unhappiness to me while I attempted to get control.   One father whom I knew, looked at me and acknowledged that I was making the right decision.

Fast forward, the 2nd best team beat the undefeated team in what was scheduled to be a double elimination tournament.  Now we had two teams who had one loss, and another two teams that were still playing as well on the other court.  The parents started to walk towards me again to see what bright idea I was going to come up with next.  I had started a nice dialogue with a group of parents, acknowledging that we didn't administrate a couple of divisions very well and that we were well beyond schedule. 

I began getting the same questions from a different people in the same area and I was losing my patience.  Frankly, I wished they would have asked me if I needed a bottle of water.  At 2:30p, seeing the was not near, I called an executive decision and offer a five minute lighting round where teams play a single game final four like format.  The kids looked disappointed that it was only five minutes, but most of the parents where happy except for one mom who wanted to leave.

On the main court two teams played, one remained for the championship game, where the team would win a pizza party to Cosimos Pizza in Chestnut Hill.  This set up a rematch of one game I refereed, this time the intensity was much greater.  Parents lined the sideline with front row seats, and were as vocal as Jack Nicholson at Lakers games.  Back and forth game, the team who was initially undefeated prevailed in a nail biter.  There was jubilation and tears, the effects of a long but great day.

Here are a couple of observations:

  1. It's very difficult to referee a competitive game with parents watching and sometimes questioning every move and call you make, even if your name is Matt Paul Basketball.
  2. Some parents have no perspective on how crazy they look or sound and I hope I remember my view from the court the next time my kids play.
  3. One young man from another age came up to thank me for the event,  His name is Kevin Cotton, and his parents should be very proud of him.  He was the shining light that I needed, as I stood on an island surrounded by tension and judgement.
  4. Two other boys came up to make, shook my hand, and thanked me as well.  I needed that to restore my faith in humanity.

I told my six year old Richie how many kids thanked me out of the 250 participants, on one of the longest tiresome days I have experienced.  Without hesitation, he thanked me, which made me feel better as well. I share this to bring some light to how difficult it is to be a perfect referee, and also to give some perspective to parents reading this about what lessons are most important to teach kids.  I don't remember who won the 2017 5th Annual Hoops Madness tournament in the 4th grade division, but I do think I will remember this one.  

 

 

 

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Sometimes

I asked my eight year old daughter if she cared if she won or lost her soccer games. Without hesitation she responded, "Sometimes."  As her parents, we have struggled with how much to push and emphasize sports, especially the game she says she "lives for."  Just recently, my wife and I have discussed how competitive the other teams have gotten at this age.  We've learned that other teams are training twice a week and playing in one to two winter leagues and mini-tournaments.  This, mind you, is in the off-season.

Being in the business youth sports, my daughter's answer has given me pause on how to help her and how to guide other parents in their own journey.  It's hard for me to remember what it was like to be eight years old, but I do remember winning was the important thing, not how I played the game.  I cared a lot about winning, but was fortunate also to win a lot.  But I am not my daughter.

Although, I could make the case that soccer would be more fun if my daughter and her friends had better skills or even won a few more games, I am going to do my best to ask better questions and listen more to her.

Personally, I have agonized over watching her team play when they are intimidated by a more aggressive or talented team.  One anecdote, I started doing cheers on the sideline when the team went down 0-5 this past winter session, that is winter session one of two.  "Be Aggressive, Be-Be Aggressive!", a cheer I learned from watching my brother play high school ball and the good looking cheerleaders.  Back to the eight year old soccer game, I got the girls attention, but it didn't change anyone's behavior except my own.  I was slightly embarrassed, but I thought I could make an impact on a group of girls whose motivations I didn't really know. Thinking back, I do wonder what they were thinking when one of the dads on the sideline starting doing cheers.

At this age, it seems, the fun of soccer is about being with her friends and having a chance to run and play.  I guess that I am the one is learning the lesson tonight.  I just hope that I remember it when our team goes down 0-5 again.

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No Shortcuts to Success

I recently reached out to a high school baseball teammate of mine, Mike Koplove. I played two years of high school baseball with Mike at Chestnut Hill Academy. He was fun and always ready to play. He especially loved warmups, especially peppering the infield with his signature ‘red-hot grounders’. He went on to have to a heck of a professional career as a member of the World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, a AAA World Series ring with the Tuscon Sidewinders in 2006, and an Olympic Bronze Medal in 2008. He was the only American pitcher not to give up a hit in the games. Looking back, most said he didn’t have a shot of making it that far! At 6’0, Mike’s drive for success is a lesson for us all.

I asked him recently about his experience growing up, being coached by his father and what it took for his success.

“I think the one thing that I would say to parents and kids about how I made it to professional baseball is that there are no short cuts. Obviously it takes talent and some level of natural ability but every kid has the ability to get the absolute most out of themselves and it is usually much more than either they or their parents realize. My father realized this from when I was very little and to his credit he was incredibly determined in his effort to make me the best baseball player I could be. From a parental standpoint it took a lot of sacrifice and effort to make sure that I practiced every single day. I literally worked out 360 days a year from the time I was probably six years old. And that was my father pushing me to do it. Because honestly there were times that I hated doing it and didn’t like him very much either as a result. On the flip side my mother was also there to be at the opposite end of the spectrum and keep me sane. She knew when I needed time to get away from it and that balance was huge. No matter how it comes about that balance between hard work and also relaxation and enjoyment is crucial. Because you don’t want to end up really hating the sport that you are playing.

For me personally I had to give up a lot of things that other kids were able to do. Instead of hanging with friends a lot of times I would go to the field and work out. It isn’t always the easiest path but if you really want something then you have to be willing to make sacrifices somewhere. Not every kid is going to be a professional athlete but every kid can get the most out of themselves if they really want it, and that’s the most important thing I think.”

We hear a lot of kid who say they want success. We, at Matt Paul Sports, take on the challenge of helping kids realize the daily steps that are required for success. There are no shortcuts to success. Helping kids to develop that daily mindset is what we aim for in our programs.

Success is a Choice!

Philly Philly - We All Need A Cheerleader

Philly Philly - We All Need A Cheerleader

I'm so proud to be a Philadelphian, and always have.  Philly is tough, rugged, blue collar, and we like it that way.  Having experienced my own share of failures and disappointments, I especially appreciate the story line of Nick Foles. By now, you know that before the season Nick thought about giving up on his NFA dream.  Someone, along the way, told him not to, and thank God they did.  Nick shined, and delivered Philadelphians a Super Bowl victory. Click here to read more.

It reminds me of how important it is for people to have cheerleaders.  As human beings, we all have doubts and struggles, regardless of what your facebook page says, a line from Nick Foles himself. 

Action Step: Find someone in your world who needs a word or two of encouragement.  The key is to ask good questions, and simply listen.  Take deep breath and let them know you believe in them, especially when they are your kids.

Register here for all programs.

How to Stand Out in Tryouts

How to Stand Out in Tryouts

The NBA season began this week, and basketball players are looking forward to playing ball.  Regardless of the age or level of play, there are three simple things to remember when playing or trying out for a team.  

1. Stand out

Find a way to stand out in a positive way.  Use your voice and talk to your teammates.  Be loud!  "I got ball", "Help left", "Shot" are just a few things that all players can say when playing.  Avoid standing out in a negative way, like when you are you the last one to the huddle or the baseline when the coach.  You can also stand out by practicing extra free throws or layups at the end of practice.

2. "Be a star in your role"

To borrow a phrase from former Bulls and Sixers Head Coach, Doug Collins, for a team to work each player must play their role.  Coaches look for players who will have a team-first mentality, who help others score the ball.  Especially if you are a rebounder or screener, have that be a focus in the tryout.

3. Smile & Have Fun

Playing a sport is supposed to be fun.  Get to the tryout early and introduce yourself to the coachesWhile playing, have fun and smile. Say "Nice Pass" when someone hits you with an assist, or say "Good Shot" when a teammate scores. Coaches will notice that you are fun to have on the team.  When they are deciding, that could make the difference.

Good luck,

Coach Matt

Click here for all current basketball programs.

When to start sports

Parents often ask us about the difference between travel and local recreation programs.  They fear they will miss out on the path. The answer is not always simple or clear.

  • Given our experience with youth sports over the past twenty years, people also often: When it's appropriate time for your child to start sports.  Answering when to start and what kind of program to choose are not always clear. There are many choices for parents to decipher.
  • Our experience has been that at the age of five, kids are at school learning different sports and games in their physical education classes.  In our programs, we start at age five and have found most kids are ready at this age.  Travel ball may be an option for you for soccer at the age of seven or eight, depending upon your offering.

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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.”

Day 1 - The Summer of 2017 Officially Begins

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Day 1 - The Summer of 2017 Officially Begins

A Day @ Matt Paul Summer Camps

Day One at MP Summer Camps @ The Meadowbrook School

The "Word of the Day" was COURAGE—and Meadowbrook's campers showed their  courageousness every step of the way. MPS veteran Coach Rich and rookie Master Leader Gregory (his whistle always proudly at the ready) led their Meadowbrookers through a chock-a-block schedule of soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, scooter hockey, gaga, tennis and more. It was a hot one out there, and so the site's beautiful campus offered two different shaded playgrounds for down time in between activities.

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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.

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?"

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.