Over the lifespan of our non-profit organization, National Alliance for Youth Sports, I have been asked many times about what motivated me to create such an organization. After all, no one had ever done so before. Never in the history of youth sports had there been anyone wanting to tackle the issue of volunteer parents coaching their kids and the inherent problems while they do so.
I finally told the story in my new book titled, Unsinkable Spirit.
When I was 12 years old, I moved with my family to Johnstown, Penn. To put it mildly, times were tough for the family. We moved in with my grandfather who had a one bedroom apartment. There was my mother, my 4-year-old brother and an older brother and things were tight in that small apartment.
Moving to a new town and having to go to middle school was a challenge. The other kids in school were not friendly to an outsider coming in to their school. The only outlet for my constant sad state of dejection was the local YMCA. The building was right around the corner from our little apartment. It became a haven for me and little did I know that the experience in this YMCA would someday change my life.
I would go to the YMCA almost every day. I'd swim in the pool and, most of all, play basketball. I was small and being considered a basketball player was a stretch. But I practiced constantly and became a good ball handler and even a pretty good shooter.
The YMCA had a youth basketball program and I couldn't wait to sign up. I was designated to play on one of the teams and while we practiced, the other kids were surprised at how good I was. My self-esteem grew daily.
My older brother came to town to visit just in time for the first game of the season. I was so excited for him to come and see me in my first ever game. Since the YMCA was right around the corner it was easy for him to come to the game and I was full of pride as I saw him sitting in the stands just across from the bench.
The game started and to my surprise, the coach didn't start me. He put his son in the line-up and told me he'd get me in later. The game went on and on and with each minute my embarrassment grew. There was my brother sitting straight across the gym and with each look at him my heart sunk. I begged the coach to let me play and all he would say is, "Not now." The game ended and with it everything I felt about myself died with it.
I'm sure I speak for millions of people who went through a similar experience, but what grew out of it many years later was the creation of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, an organization dedicated to making sports a fun, safe and positive experience for all young people.