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Kevin Cotton and my faith restored


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.  





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!

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.