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Thursday March 28th, 2013 (2452)

Ode to the Grassroots Classes of 2014 and 2015:


Sitting here thinking about all the Blessings coming our way for these babies. I feel a little bad. I owe so much to the class of 2014 and 2015. Those kids are the Grassroots Trailblazers. They believed in us before we had FBU, before we had Rivals, before the US Army All American Game, and Under Armour, and the Chesapeake Bowl and the NFL Prep 100. In 2009, we had nothing but a vision from God, a dream, and a powerpoint presentation. We had nothing to sell. We had no website and no connections that could open doors for them and promote them. The Class of 2014 and those parents are Grassroots Warriors! I love you guys so much.

We did not have the leverage back then to do for you what we are able to do for the 2016 and 2017 kids. We couldn't pick up a phone and make calls to scouting services for you. We couldn't eblast college coaches. We did not know all the High School Coaches. We built the Grassroots Nation of the Backs of the 2014 Class! You are responsible for ALL of this. Many of you have offers now. Most of you don't. That is why we moved into the HS showcase business. For those that think it is about money, you don't know us. It always was and always will about these babies. I pray for the 2014 Class and their families. There is still time for you and will do EVERYTHING in our power to be a blessing to you.

I am so sorry that we haven't been able to do more for you like we have been able to do for you little brothers. I am trying my best, I promise. Please come to the Showcase on Sunday if you can and we will put you first in the cue when it comes to opportunities because you deserve it. 2015 class we love you too! You took a big chance as well. We didn't have much to offer you, but the relationships with you opened the doors to All of the High School Coaches. We have awesome HS relationships because of 2015. We are working for you too and you have a little more time. What you guys have done was laid the foundation for EVERYTHING that you see happening for our 2016 and 2017 Alums. What is happening is not by coincidence. The decision makers are flocking to them and answering our calls and texts for 2016 and 2017, because of the credibility that you gave us!

We will never forget about you and we won't put the babies ahead of you. Timing is just everything guys and the older brothers never get the benefits that the younger brothers received. Parents learn on the mistakes we make with the older kids, just as we are doing with Grassroots. We did our best for you but we made mistakes that we are learning from and 2016 and 2017 are the beneficiaries. It is just insane what is going to happen for 2018 and beyond. Can you guys imagine what it would be like if you were back in the 7th and 8th grade? The problem is that if you guys didn't take the chance and if you guys didn't blaze the trail, there would be nothing now. We are nothing without you and we love you so much.

Parents, don't think we are playing favoritism with the babies. They are all our babies. We just have so much more leverage now than we had when yours came through. I only ask that our 2016 kids and beyond pay homage to those kids that paved the way for you. Don't think all of this is happening for you guys just because you are good. Thatt is part of it, but there have always been talented kids in every class even before you were born.

Don't believe that Grassroots has some type of magic potion and are making all of this happen because we are so special. We are not. Don't think all the good things that happen for you are just because you are in great high schools and play for great coaches. All of those are factors. But in the end, most of the things that Grassroots can do for you and your high school coaches can do for you are based off of relationships and leverage the we have developed over the years from kids who came before you. Always remember that and pay homage to them. Always be humble and appreciative.

As for my 2014 and 2015 babies, although we may not have been able to help you very much with rankings and offers, etc., please believe that you will get what is coming to you. You guys will get to college, you just may have to be more patient for your offers. You will have great college careers because you are ballers. But, when you graduate from College, God Willing Grassroots will be a multi-state, nationwide conglomerate, and you guys from 2014 and 2015 will be the first ones to get hired when you are looking for work! You guys helped build it and you will benefit from it. That is my word and my bond.

Take Care of your grades. Be of good character. Work with your High School Coaches and we will do what we can to help you get to school. Play every game like it was your last. Get your degree. If you get a shot at the league take it. But, know that at some point sooner or later they will take the ball out of your hands. When they do, call Coach Mike and send me your resume. Then you will realize the sacrifices that you made for the 2016 and 2017 class was worth it. I love you guys with all my heart!!!

 

Coach Mike

 

Monday October 29th, 2012 (1305)

 

Some Common Sense on Question 7

 

Grassroots Nation:

 

I decided to actually do something that I told myself I would never do. I was always told to keep religion and politics out of the business arena.   I always understood the importance of that and I still do. As businesspeople, we need to be able to be able to attract clients/customers of all different religions, all different races, all different political parties, all different socio-economic backgrounds, etc. In essence, successful business people need to have access to a broad spectrum of people, with different ideals, with different beliefs, and with different mindsets.

Once a company makes the decision to start taking sides and voicing their opinions on concepts relating to politics, that company may offend potential clients that have a different political ideology and losing business.

Once a company starts speaking out on religious topics, they risk alienating those who have opposing religious beliefs and losing business.

I get it.  This is a long post, but I need for your to read it and digest because it can and will affect your child!

The Business of Grassroots:

The last thing that we can afford to do at Grassroots is lose business. We are a young company with dreams of blessing hundreds of kids and families every year through our football league. We plan on blessing hundreds of other kids and families through our soon to be launched Grassroots Youth Mentoring Foundation (GYM). Although our ultimate agenda is to provide services to these young people and help them reach their dreams, if we are not able to make the business successful financially, we will go bankrupt like too many business do, and we won’t be in position to help any of your kids.

That is not an option for us. Therefore, we must make the business side of Grassroots successful so that we can continue on our mission. We need for you all to support our conditioning clinics, our combines-minicamps, our spring league, our banquet, and all of the other services that we provide.

Even though each of our activities is designed to help your children reach their dreams, they are also how we generate the revenue needed to keep Grassroots viable. We can’t afford to lose any of you by offending you with my religious or political views.

The Mission of Grassroots:

With that being said, I am a man driven by purpose. I am a man driven by mission. When the spirit moves me, I have to act, whether it makes good business sense or not. The whole Grassroots concept was birthed out of the purpose that God has for my life. My personal mission statement reads like this: To be a positive, motivational, and inspirational force in the lives of young people. From the time I was 35 years old, it became clear to me that was what I was put on this earth to do.

It took me about 6 years to figure out the best way for me to go about accomplishing that mission. 4 years ago, Grassroots was born and it is the vehicle by which I will complete my mission and purpose. I appreciate every parent that has supported us and every child that has worn the Grassroots uniform and been a part of what we are doing.

If there is anyone who believes that our mission is about football, then I have done a poor job of communicating our true agenda. Our agenda is to be a major part of the process of turning young boys into successful and productive men. We work backwards from that long term goal. We believe that a successful and productive man needs to be an educated man, so we want each one of our kids to have the opportunity to earn a college degree so they can be competitive in the market place and real world.

We know how expensive a college education is these days, so we do everything within our power to increase our Grassroots kid’s chances of earning a full athletic scholarship to attend college. Therefore college comes before the real world that we are preparing them for. Moving backwards one more step, we know that in order for a young man to receive a college scholarship offer, they will need to be considered elite athletes and solid students. They develop into elite athletes and solid students in High School, so it is important for us to help our Grassroots kids get to the right High School for them, which will prepare them for college on the field and in the classroom.

Moving backwards from High School is where we come in. We prepare Grassroots kids for High School. Those of you that have been with us have seen us in action on the football preparation piece. What you haven’t witnessed yet is the Life Skills, Leadership, and Academic Enrichment piece that we will offer through the Grassroots Youth Mentoring Foundation (GYM). Once we successfully implement that, put your seat belts on!

GYM is truly where our hearts are. GYM is where we fulfill our mission. The GYFL is the hook to get the kids to want to come to us, and then it is the vehicle to get them to college. That is all. Football does not last forever. Most of our kids will play their last game of football when they are 21 and God willing, they will spend the next 60 years of their lives in the real world. That is what we are trying to prepare them for.

We want to use the GYM Foundation to help them find their destinies and we don’t want them to be 35 years old before they figure it out like I did. Most adults don’t even know at 35 what their destiny is. Some don’t know at 45. Many don’t know at 55. Some only figure out their destiny when they are too old to make a real impact. Some go to their graves never knowing what they were put on this earth for.

If GYM is successful, your children will know what their destiny is before they leave college. You can help it be successful. We know this right now, their destiny is NOT to be a football player and I can prove it to them at 14 by asking them one simple question. How can your destiny be something that you are too old to do at 30 years old? They always look at me like I am crazy when I ask them that, but it begins to set in pretty quickly. Their destiny is something that they should be doing until the day they go to the grave, so if they are too old to do it at 30, and they plan on living past 30, then football is not it. Football may be tied to their destiny as it is for me. Football may be a vehicle to get them to their destiny as it is for me. But, their destiny is something totally different and separate and it is our job to help them figure that out.

Don’t get me wrong. We love football. It opens doors that no man can close. It teaches tremendous life lessons. It teaches teamwork and camaraderie. It brings races together. It pays for high school in some cases and college in others. It makes athletes a household name, which is more important than they realize. People will tell them, as they told us, that “it is not what you know, but who you know.” You have all heard that at least once in your life. There is some truth to that statement, but a better statement would be, “it is not what you know, or even who you know, but who knows you!” You can walk into a restaurant crowded with movers and shakers and know everybody in the room, but if they don’t know you it does NOT matter. If they do know you, the world opens up like an oyster.

Famous College Athletes can walk into a room and EVERYONE that matters knows their name.   That is powerful. Football can do that for your sons like it did for me. But, they can only play for so long and it is our job to use The Grassroots Youth Football League to help them squeeze every ounce of benefit while they can still play.

More importantly we must use the Grassroots Youth Mentoring Foundation to help them have the Life Skills, Leadership Skills, Intelligence, and CHARACTER that they will need to take advantage of the opportunities that the football career will open for them and allow them to successfully execute and implement their mission and purpose to change the world for the better, just as I am trying to do.

We must develop these children in a holistic way in order for them to take their rightful place in society. We must develop them mentally, physically, and spiritually to have them fulfill their purpose. That is what Grassroots is all about at the core and before I get into the purpose for this particular post, it is critical that you understand our purpose and you understand how much the critical the success of The GYM Foundation will be to fulfilling it.

How Question 7 Fits In:

One of the reasons that the GYM Foundation has not re-launched fully yet is because of lack of funding. We want to begin and GYM Foundation/NFL Health and Wellness Tour, where we take retired NFL players around to elementary and middle schools and give presentations every day about the alarming rate of childhood obesity, and the devastating effects of poor eating habits and lack of exercise on our young people.

Our young people are more sedentary than ever before with all of the comforts of home. Back in the day, we used to go outside and play until the sun went down. Kids don’t play outside anymore; they play on the couch with a controller in their hands. We want to put a program together that is similar to the Play 60 campaign that the NFL uses. We want to not only go around to schools during the day, but we want to hit the recreation centers during the after school and evening hours. It is going to be a great program, but it will cost money to run it.

We want to institute and after school tutorial program for kids that need additional help with their classes. We want to offer homework assistance, general tutoring, standardized test preparation, etc. We will use some of the best teachers and instructors available, but it will cost money to implement it.

We want to implement an exercise program for kids in general that will meet for at least two sessions per week to get them active and in peak physical condition. We will need to rent space and hire trainers and that cost money as well.

The flagship program that the GYM Foundation will offer will be an 8 week intensive summer program of Life Skills and Leadership that will prepare and develop them to be successful in the world as they mature. We will teach them Entrepreneurship, Personal Growth and Development, Etiquette Training, Public Speaking, etc., etc., etc. It will be a life changing program, but it will cost money to run effectively.

We are in the United States of America and quite frankly there is not much that can be done for free and be of quality. We need financial support to make the GYM Foundation a destiny changing experience and right now, we just don’t have it.

I have a number of political connections at the local level and I have reached out to all of them for help. They are excited and looking forward to assisting us as we develop this program. One of my friends is a delegate in PG County. He mentioned to me about a couple of months ago, that he loved what we were doing and he was going to do everything possible to help us get funding.

He told me that if Question 7 passed, the MGM Grand would be coming to town and they were looking for non-profit partners that they could support financially. They knew there would be a backlash from some of the constituents and it was important for them to be aligned with non-profits that were doing positive things in the community. It would be good public relations for the company and they would be able to do something good for the community.

I was excited to hear about that and I was looking forward to meeting them if Question 7 passed and the MGM came to the National Harbor. That was the end of that conversation.

I had to really think about it though because my wife was against Question 7 and I don’t do many things that she doesn’t agree with businesswise. She is the boss of Grassroots. I look like the boss, but I don’t run much in my household (LOL). I had to understand her perspective and I had to reconcile it with my religious and personal beliefs. I am sure that many of you are struggling with the same questions I struggled with prior to writing hit blog. That is one of the purposes for this. I want to share my thoughts out loud with you and have you incorporate into your decision making process.

When it comes to these kids, I will never do anything, “just for the money.” I have never sold I and I never will. I have gone almost two years with no salary because of the need to put every penny that we earned back into the business so we could keep it alive. I haven’t sold out yet and I don’t plan to do so now, for the MGM, or any other group.

In the days and weeks since then, we have all been bombarded with news stories and TV ads that were both for and against Question 7. Personally, after careful consideration, I planned to vote for Question 7, but I certainly had no intention on writing a blog about it, or sending it out to the GYFL Nation.

Before I give you my overall stance and thought process, let me state the following about me for the record:

  • I am not a smoker. I have actually never smoked before in my life.
  • I am not a drinker. I will have a social drink from time to time, but it doesn’t excite me.
  • I am not a gambler. I play a game called Booray with my friends once in a while for fun, but I am too scared to lose money to be a gambler.
  • I am a Christian by faith. I am by no means a perfect Christian. I love the Lord with all my heart, but I still have many faults that I need to work on. Gambling, Drinking, and smoking just don’t happen to be any of them. There are others, that my wife can attest to, but I am working on them. God is not finished with me yet.
  • I am politically astute. I am pretty knowledgeable about politics, but certainly not an expert.

With that being said, although I don’t smoke, I respect the rights of people that do smoke to be able to do so. Although I am not a drinker, I respect the rights of people that do drink to do be able to do so, as long as it is within the law. Although I am not a gambler, I respect the rights of people that do gamble, as long as it is within the law.

Religious Opposition to Question 7:

As a Christian citizen, I understand the reason for the separation of Church and State. This is not a Christian State where all of the citizens of the United States are Christians and therefore Christian Law should govern all of us. There are regions of the world like that. There are Islamic States, where the Koran is the basis for the laws and Muslims abide by those laws because they are all of the same faith.

That is not the case in America. We are a melting pot of all different races, creeds, and religions. I don’t believe it is right to have my Christian beliefs govern those who are non-Christian. So, even though I may not personally believe that some things are right, I don’t believe it is right for me to force my views on others that don’t share my religious beliefs.

To me, that would be like going to another country and having laws placed on me that governed by a Holy Book that I don’t believe in. We wouldn’t want that done to us and in my opinion, we should not do that to others. The law states that we can’t do that to others.

There are certain activities that just should not be legislated against in my opinion.   There should be laws around controlling the potential problems that can result from the activities if they affect other people negatively.

For example, as Christians, we may not believe in smoking, but there are no laws against selling and buying cigarettes. People have the right to smoke if they want to. The laws are created around where they can smoke, so as not to harm the lungs of people who don’t smoke. Those are good laws in my opinion. In addition, people get addicted to cigarettes every day, and there are treatment centers for the addiction, but we don’t have laws in place to stop it. It is called free will. As a matter of fact, we tax the cigarettes at 6% and use the revenue to pay for schools, roads, police, etc.

We may not believe in drinking or becoming drunk, but there are no laws against having saloons, bars, or serving alcohol (unless to minors). The laws are around driving while intoxicated because intoxicated drivers kill innocent people every day. In addition, people get addicted to alcohol every day, and there are treatment centers for the addiction, but we don’t have laws in place to stop it from happening. It is called free will. As a matter of fact, we tax the sales of alcohol at 6% and use the revenue to pay for schools, roads, police, etc.

We may not believe in gambling, but there are no laws against playing the lottery in America. There are no laws around the after effects of winning the lottery either. As a matter of fact, we use the revenue from lottery sales to pay for schools, roads, police, etc. It is called free will. We even tax the sales of candy, cigarettes, and alcohol that people buy when they are in the liquor stores, and 7 Elevens buying their lottery tickets.

I could go on and on, but you are getting the picture. I haven’t even gotten to the actual Question 7 issues on the TV ads yet, I am just saying that from a common sense standpoint, I can’t even make a religious argument that hold water against it, unless we are going to make a religious pitch to ban all of the activities that go against what we believe is right, and refuse to tax and benefit from the sales of those activities. Gambling is just no different.

Our God is a God of free will! He makes it clear for us the paths that we should take and the paths that we should not take. He lays out the consequences of our actions if we go against His will and the benefits to us if we remain within His will. When that is all said and done, he still give us the Free Will to do what we choose to do, and even when we fall flat on our face, He is there to grant us mercy and give us another chance.

From a religious standpoint, if we are not out picketing against bars, saloons, and any place that sells alcohol, I don’t see how we can in good faith vote against Question 7, even from a religious stand point.

I went to a pastor the other day and asked his opinion to see if I were crazy or not. I asked him what he would do if he had this scenario with one of his members. The member came to him at the end of service with a check for $10,000,000 and said that he wanted to tithe 10% of his income. The $10,000,000 was 10% of $100,000,000. I asked the pastor what good he could do in the kingdom of God with $10,000,000 and he said there was much he could do. He could feed the hungry, he could provide shelter for the homeless, and he could provide education and health services to the needy.

He said he would have been excited and felt blessed that he had moved the member enough that he would actually tithe such an amount. Then I asked the pastor if he would still take that check that he could use to bless so many people, if he found out that the member won that money gambling in a casino on the National Harbor.

After a significant pause, the pastor quite honestly stated that the greater good of what could be done for the Kingdom with those resources outweighed the manner in which it was received. He said he would have taken the money and counseled the member about the dangers of gambling and urged him not to continue with it, and that gambling would not be tolerated in the church house. But, he would take that money and use it for good. I respected this pastor and my mind was made up after that.

Television Ads about Question 7:

This is the area that I believe the real common sense has to be put in place. I must admit that I am very cynical when it comes to politics and politicians. I understand that the politician’s job is to remain in office if he or she is currently in office, or to gain the office if he or she is not currently in office. It is pretty much that simple for me. I don’t trust what Democrats or Republicans say at face value. I check the facts for myself and vote for the party whose policies benefit my family and my community the most.

The individual candidates are just faces of the party’s ideologies. They may look different and sound different. They may be more or less eloquent. But, at the end of the day, they are the face of a party that has an ideology and if they did not support that ideology, they would have never been on the podium in the first place.

No Democrat is every going to give a Republican credit for a great program because that will not help him unseat the Republican. Conversely, no Republican is ever going to give a Democrat credit for a great program either. That is not the nature of politics.

The nature of politics is to SPIN. No Democrat is every going to admit that WE SCREWED UP! Nor is any Republican going to admit it either. They are professional spin doctors and when they do screw up, they have to spin it in a different direction. When their adversary does something good, they have to pick holes in it. That is why watching debates to me is very interesting, but it doesn’t mean much in the overall scheme of things. Salesmen are trying to sell us something and they are not going to tell us what is wrong about their product and what is right about the other product. That is not the nature of sales, nor is it the nature of politics. Nor is it the nature of the debate between the two sides of Question 7.

That is why I entitled this piece, “Common Sense on Question 7.”

You have all heard the pros and the cons just as I have. The pros will have us believe that revenue from the Casino will go to support education. The pros will have us believe that the building of the structure will create jobs. The pros will give you a ton of statistics about all of the benefits that will come to Prince George’s County if the MGM Company comes to National Harbor.

The cons will have us believe that all of the money will go to the schools. They say that the education fund will not necessarily increase as a result of the additional revenue. I saw Delegate Jay Walker from PG County debating this with a Delegate from Montgomery County on Fox 5 last week and many people thought the Montgomery Delegate won the debate.

I thought it was very interesting that just like in the 1st Romney vs. Obama debate, people were not saying that Romney won necessarily because his facts were more accurate, or that Obama lost because his facts were less accurate. Even most Democrats acknowledged that Obama lost because he was not Aggressive enough and Romney was much more forceful than Obama.

Is that what it has come to for us? Who is the most aggressive and the biggest asshole? Obama stepped up his aggressive game in round 2 and people said he won. Why? Did he win because he talked over Romney more and tried to intimidate him? They said he won round 3 because he was on the offensive and Romney accused Obama of attacking him instead of focusing on the facts?

This stuff is just silly to me. It should be about the facts and the truth and not about style. The Delegate from Montgomery was very forceful with Jay on TV and appeared to be the aggressor, and people said he won, but what did his style have to do with the facts?

When it comes to dealing with politicians and TV Ads, we will go crazy trying to figure it all out. I don’t know who to trust to be honest with you, so I decided to use some plain old common sense, and I decided to share it with you for a couple of reasons that I will share at the very end.

Money to the Schools:

Here is the common sense approach as I see it. I am listening to all of these folks, who are going on TV saying,

  • “I don’t believe that the money is going to go to the schools.”
  • “Get the facts”
  • “Vote No on Question 7”

From a common sense standpoint, I don’t make my decisions based on what other people believe. People used to believe that the world was flat. So, what the lady in the commercial believes is her right, but where is the proof? There can’t be any proof about where the money is going to go because it is going to happen in the future. All we can do at this point is to either believe that it will go to the schools, or believe it won’t. All there can be at this point are rules in place to legislate that money go to the schools. Then we will have to wait and see what happens, and then evaluate the facts.

In addition, I personally don’t understand why the supporters of Question 7 are letting the opponents stay focused on whether or not all the money is going to the schools. As long as the money is not going into the bras of PG County politicians, I could care less about whether it ALL goes to the schools or not.

We still need roads, we need library’s, we need recreation centers to be refurbished, we need more police, we need the purple line, we need so many things in Prince George’s County for ourselves and our kids, in addition to better schools, that if 100% of the money doesn’t go to the schools, are we really that upset about it? I know I am not. The opponents are distorted the argument and taking it to an unnecessary place in my opinion. Let’s collect the needed resources, just like the pastor would and put it where we need it.

Then they say, “Get the facts, and vote No on Question 7.” Shouldn’t it be, “Get the facts, and then make your decision about Question 7?” Of course it should be, but it is just another trick in my opinion, that is designed to scare us.

They have evolved the ads now to focus on the Education Fund and how it was “Raided” for other things. What a tricky word that is, “Raided.” Now all of our politicians are crooked. If the fund was accessed for anything other than education, let’s find out what it was used for. It may have been used for a pressing need. We have all tapped into our savings for emergencies have we not? I am sure if someone wanted to attack our credibility that could try to make it seem like we “Raided” our savings on some frivolous use. Use your own common sense when listening to these ads family.

I am not trying to tell you how to think, I am just sharing a perspective with you.

Always Follow the Money:

Wise business mentors told me to “Always Follow the Money.” We know who is funding all of the Pro Question 7 Ads and we know why. The MGM is pumping millions into the campaign to bring their casino here so they can make millions. We get that. We expect that. If they were going to come here and make billions of dollars per year and PG County not get any benefit from it, I would be opposed to it to, just on principle.

We know what the agenda is of the MGM Grand. There is nothing wrong with making money in America. That is what this capitalistic society that we live in is based on. I expect them to lobby for it and to pump as much money into as they need to pump in to sway us the voters. But, who is funding the opposition? Who is paying all of these teachers to go in front of a TV camera and try to sway you NOT to bring the MGM here?

The companies are Penn National out of West Virginia, and the good folks in Anne Arundel County that recently approved slots in Arundel Mills and are making millions for Anne Arundel County. Penn National owns the casinos in West Virginia and has pumped in about $50,000,000 so far to convince us that gambling will be bad for PG County.

They are the ones footing the bill to get people to stand in front of a camera and say that “They don’t believe the money will go to the schools.” They are the ones funding the opposition to get those of us that care about the safety of citizens to believe that Gambling will bring crime to our county and it will create gambling addicts. They are preying on the sympathy that we all have for our fellow man.

My question is, don’t they have gambling in West Virginia? Has it destroyed their community? Does the money generated from their gambling NOT get back to the schools? How about Anne Arundel County? Has crime skyrocketed at Arundel Mills, or have restaurants and shops sprouted up like wildfire?

C’mon guys. We have to use our common sense. The same people that are funding the opposition have gambling and they don’t want to lose their business. They could care less about the school system in PG County, or the crime in PG County. What they don’t want is for PG County residents to choose not to drive up to West Virginia and spend hundreds of millions of dollars building their economies and funding their schools.

I have never seen anything more hypocritical in my life. It is unreal to me. When I see the Delegate from Montgomery County being so concerned about the PG County Schools and the crime in PG County, I want to puke. Give me a break guys.

The reality is that 70% of PG County revenue right now comes from Residential Sources and only 30% comes from Commercial Sources. The Residential Sources are US, the people. Our county survives off of residential tax dollars, income taxes, personal property taxes, etc. We only get 30% of our revenue from the 6% sales taxes that are paid on shopping, dining, entertainment, etc. Therefore, as residents we are un-proportionally taxed and have to carry a much heavier burden to run our county.

Conversely, Montgomery County generates only 40% of their revenue from Residential Sources and a whopping 60% from Commercial Sources. People flock to Montgomery County for dining, entertainment, shopping etc. That is one of the reasons that their school systems are so much stronger, they can afford to pay their teachers better, etc. They have the resources. They generate resources from shopping, dining, entertainment, etc. Good for them.

The last thing they want to see is the MGM come to the National Harbor and have Montgomery County residents coming into PG County to gamble, shop, eat, go to movies, drink, celebrate, and be entertained. If that happens, their commercial tax base will decrease and our will increase. We don’t need politicians to tell us that. It is plain common sense.

All of the opposition that you see is about one thing and one thing only, the preservation of wealth. It is wealth that West Virginia, and Anne Arundel County don’t want to see leaving their regions and coming into Prince George’s County. It is pretty much that simple. It’s either the preservation of the resources, or maybe they really do care about our crumbling schools system and our safety. If they care so much, why don’t they send $50,000,000 down to the county to help us out? Rhetorical Question! We know that will never happen. But, they will gladly drop $50,000,000 to keep us from generating our own.

It is not like I don’t get it. It is not like I don’t understand the agenda. Self preservation is the first law of nature. I just don’t like to be manipulated and I don’t like for my people to be manipulated. Don’t spend $50Million dollars trying to convince me that something is bad for my community while you benefit from it in your community. I am not stupid and I don’t believe that any of you are either.

In Conclusion:

I am not going to go into any more detail about the pros and cons. You have enough information. We will all go crazy trying to decipher each side’s position and they both make great cases on the surface. It is under the surface where the deception occurs.

Just use your own common sense and think about this:

  • If the MGM comes to National Harbor, does your common sense tell you that there will be a whole lot of jobs available to construct the buildings and infrastructure or does it not?
  • After the MGM is built, does your commons sense tell you that there we be a need for a whole lot of jobs to be filled to staff the building and service the customers or does it not?
  • If thousands of good paying jobs with health benefits are available for PG County residents, do we believe crime will decrease as a result of it, or will it not?
  • Does your common sense tell you that people will come from all over the region and the world to the National Harbor to spend their weekends or will they not?
  • If they are coming from all over the world, will they be spending money our restaurants, shopping centers, and entertainment venues or will they not?
  • If thousands of locals have good paying jobs, will they be spending money in our restaurants, shopping centers, and entertainment venues or will they not?
  • If they are spending money, will that increase the commercial tax base of the state of Maryland and Prince Georges County or will it not?
  • If the commercial tax base of Maryland and PG County is increased, will that be a benefit to Prince George’s County or will it not?
  • If the laws are set up and accounting policies are in place to ensure that money from the slots will be slated for education, will that make it better for the children of PG County or will it not?

If the answer to all of most of these questions is positive, than the answer is clear about what you should to on November 6th. You should vote Yes on Question 7. If you answered in the negative on all or most of the questions, then you should vote No on November 6th.

GYM Foundation Impact:

Every single word that I wrote in this post was how I have felt since I first heard about Question 7. I never make decisions with self-interest being my goal. I always think about what is best for the kids (your kids). I always felt strongly about my position, particularly after I gave great thought to it. Once I was able to reconcile it with my spiritual beliefs, it was truly a no-brainer for me. It always made sense from a practical standpoint for me to vote yes for Question 7. I just had to reconcile it with my spirit.

About 2 weeks ago, my delegate friend sent me an email and asked me if I would consider making a formal stand on Question 7. He said, that he didn’t want me to feel any pressure and if I wasn’t comfortable doing so, he would understand.

However, he has been following Grassroots very closely, and all he hears out in the streets from the kids is Grassroots, Grassroots. He said that we have created a major following and that he believed I had a number of parents that would listen to me if I spoke.

He thought I may be able to convince some of those that are on the fence to support it. He said that the ads opposing it were very effective and that the race was going to be close and go down to the wire. I was blown away and honored that a politician that I respected would believe that an endorsement from this little ole football league could have a profound impact on the legacy of an entire county and state. But, he did.

He asked me if I would reach out to my database and share my heartfelt opinion on the matter. I told him that I only had a few thousand folks in my database. He told me the vote could come down to less than that amount of voters. He also believed that I had the ability to touch people’s hearts in a way that if I reached them, they may decide to forward it to their friends, and before you know it, “Mike you could actually have an impact on the entire vote.”

I was truly humbled by that and I took some time before finally deciding to do it, because I remembered the old adage, “keep politics and religions out of business.” I was initially hesitant that those that opposed Question 7 may choose not to support Grassroots anymore. I decided it was a chance that I needed to take.

He told me that he couldn’t make any promises, but as he told me months earlier, the MGM folks needed to form partnerships with local non-profits that were helping kids in the community that although he has already planned to plug the GYM Foundation in with them to make my pitch, he couldn’t imagine how much stronger the possibility would be for them to partner with us and fund us, if were to help them be successful in their bid.

I had already decided to do it anyway, but when I thought about the possibility of what we could do for your children through the GYM Foundation if we had real funding was mind boggling to me. When I thought about all of the Youth Organizations that I would be able to plug into the MGM for funding their football and cheer programs, it was awe-inspiring.

My mind was already made up, but I got even more excited when I thought about all the good we could do for the community if we received that funding, it just made me smile. I can’t promise what the County will do with their money if it happens. I can’t promise what the Board of Education will do with their money if they get.

I can promise you what we will do with GYM Foundation money if we get it. We will change this world, one destiny at a time and you can help us.

A vote for Question 7 is a Vote for Grassroots. We have always had your back and we hope that you will have ours. When you have Grassroots back, you have your son’s back and we will never let him down.

Vote Yes for Question 7 on November 6th.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Spread the word.

We love you!


Sincerely,

N. Michael Anderson
President
Grassroots Youth Football League

 

 

 

Wednesday July 4th, 2012

Blog #2: Southern MD Venue Change (530)

I made a very controversial decision to change the game venue that was scheduled at St. Mary’s Ryken to Bishop McNamara this week and it did not go over well with some of my St. Mary’s County and Calvert County parents and I totally understand why. I felt the need to pen this open letter to the entire GYFL family to explain the decision and address some of the many questions that will arise as a result of it.

I have received a number of questions from some of the parents who were irate. They felt like the decision was made because parents from the other regions were not willing to make the trip to Leonardtown. The Southern MD parents have played the early games for most of the season and they live over 2 hours away from most of the venue so it has been very difficult for them. I totally understand that and how they feel. I hated to have to give them as many early games as I did, but as the president I have the need to try to get as many people in the stands as possible for a myriad of reasons. We must pay a lot of people at the end of every Saturday and the only we can pay them is from the money we generate at the gate. The more fans we can get to come, the more revenue we can generate. We must generate revenue in order to pay our bills and keep the company operating. Just like the NFL does, they schedule Monday Night Football Games with teams that will draw fan interest. It is hard to draw interest from the general public for losing teams.

We won’t truly be able to survive as a company until we can get more than just parents out there watching their sons. We must get the casual fans out there. We must get the coaches out there. The casual fans will come to games that are compelling and teams that are compelling. The casual fan is not going to come out at 9am in the morning. They will come to the afternoon games and the late featured games, so we did our best to have the teams play in the afternoon and late games that were compelling and winning teams. We tried to play our other games earlier in the day so that we could generate more fans and more interest. It worked, but it put a hardship on the Southern Maryland fans and the Fairfax fans, who played the majority of the early games.

As President, I made a hard decision to change the venue for the final weeks slate of games.  My heart goes out to the parents and kids that were negatively affected by this decision and I did not make it without much thought and much prayer. 

I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause any of the families, and I pray that you decide to bring your sons to the final games on Saturday.  We will be taking team pictures for the website and post season banquet.  The decision was not made as a slap in the face to them or with the thought that we in the GYFL don't love and appreciate Southern MD and the sacrifices that they have made in the first 3 years of the GYFL.  We couldn't be more appreciative of what Southern MD has endured for 3 consecutive years and our hearts go out to those kids and parents, particularly my “16 Strong.”  They know who they are. I was originally going to call them the Sweet 16, but I decided to change the name to 16 Strong because it sounded more masculine. I am referring to those 16 kids that made did not quit on their teammates and on their coaches and that stuck it out on that Southern MD team.  After writing this I was informed that I missed one of the young men on the list, so the name must change again to "17 Strong." 

Their names are: Alex Alvarado, Brandon Beavers, Randy Burke, Deandra Bush, Bradley Ditmars, DJ, Dunlap, Derrick Easter, Jhordan Greene, Justin Hansen, Reyquon Holland, Dejuan Marble, Josh Murphy, Tyler Payton, Jessiah Rojas, Rylan Sweetney, and DeMartez (Petey) Thomas (Liam Magee is the 17th member I left out initially.)

I am proud of all of my Fairfax County kids that stayed strong. I am also proud of all of my PG County kids that did not quit. My Loudoun County kids that have fought to the end have my undying devotion. I am proud of the DC kids that stayed and fought to the end. But, there is something special about those kids because of the way they have lost all year long. There has only been one game that they had a chance to win. There has only been one time that they have stepped on the field with the belief that they could come out victorious. I can’t imagine how it feels every week to step on the field knowing that you don’t even have a chance to stay close. It takes a special level of character to play through pain and humiliation like that on a weekly basis and still come out fighting. No team has faced the adversity that the Southern MD team has faced.

We agreed to schedule the game at Ryken for all the right reasons prior to the season. We had every reason to believe that the Southern MD team would be a healthy and competitive franchise this year. I won’t go into all of the details, but believe me, we had a plan for a healthy and competitive Southern MD franchise and I am confident that if the commitments and agreements that were made were adhered to, we would have had a successful and competitive Southern MD team this year.   We made a number of recommendations that would have changed the fortunes of this team, but the agreements and expectations were not met. I won’t go into any more details than that right now, but trust that we had a great plan. Part of the plan was to schedule a game down there at the end of the season that would allow us to showcase the Ryken facility and show off the Southern MD Wildcats. That was our main reason for scheduling down there.

One of the things that has hurt us in the region is the perception that the team had for the first two years. The team went 2-4 in year one and 0-6 in year two and they were not competitive in any game last year. At the beginning of the season, when we had so much excitement, the thought was that the plan would be executed, the team would be competitive, and at the end of the season, Southern MD would play a competitive game on their home field in front of the fans and help build the organization by giving it momentum. The goal was to use the momentum to take into the fall and prepare for an even better season 4. In order for that to happen, we needed to have a successful season 3 for the team and use it to showcase the program to the Southern Maryland community.

Well, to say that didn’t happen was an understatement. The plan backfired because the agreements were not adhered to. The team was not supported and this season was the worst one yet for the Wildcats. There was no way that playing at Ryken this Saturday was going to benefit the recruiting for next year against a DC Warrior team that is loaded with talent and hell bent on revenge. It may have actually done more damage to the fledgling organization than if we did play it there. How would the Southern MD community have responded to seeing the Wildcats get blown away up close and personal? They would have never supported it after that. They have refused to support it as a result of hearing about the woes of the team and the struggling record.

I don’t believe it was in the best interest of the health and future of the Southern MD Wildcats to take a beating at home like that, based on the psyche that I have witnessed over the first two years. I haven’t seen a propensity to want to build something from scratch from the masses in the region whatsoever. There have been individuals like Gary Wynn, Lee Davis, and the parents of the “16 Strong” that are fearless warriors who believe in building. But, I haven’t seen that from the masses, so one of my fears is how the community would respond to seeing the struggling Wildcats get punished. Would that have made folks want to come out of the woodwork to support the team for next year? Or, would it have made them want to head for the hills? If I had to bet my mortgage, I would put my money on the latter. That would have been a terrible blow to the GYFL and the Wildcats. It would have made a few parents, grandparents, and friends happy that wanted a convenient opportunity to see them play. It would have destroyed the franchise and it would not have helped the kids or the league. I believe that from the bottom of my heart and was a major factor in my decision to move the game.

On another note and in hindsight, it was not in the overall best interest of the league to play a game at the far end of the regional spectrum if we couldn't do one for every team that was at the far end.  Our goal has always been to try to showcase every region by moving the games around to every region, but political factors, county regulations, and a myriad of other factors have made it impossible for us to complete that vision.  We have not been able to play a game in Loudoun for 3 years and those parents have had to pack up and trek all over the region since the beginning.  We did not have a game in Baltimore this year.  We did not have a game in Prince William County because of lack of facility space, same thing with Howard County. 

You guys have no idea how challenging it is to find fields space in the spring and summer that are high quality and have field turf.  We begin at the end of lacrosse season, there is travel soccer being played, we don't have a lot of resources to outbid anybody, in some regions the fields are controlled by the county and it is virtually impossible to get the space, so we have to go with what we can get.  Baltimore, Loudoun, and St. Mary's County represent the 3 extremes with regards to geography and in hindsight; we made a mistake by committing to one extreme region, when we couldn't commit to the others.  If I could not do all 3, I should not have committed to doing only 1.

As there is not a template for Grassroots to follow we have to learn by trial and error and I learned a lot from this year.  In an effort to try to be as fair as we possibly can to the masses of people and do what I felt was in the best interest of the kids on a whole and a league on a whole, I decided to move the venue to the closest field turf facility to Southern MD that I could find, that was available, which was McNamara HS in Forestville MD.  What apparently happens is, most parents don't google and map out the entire season at the beginning.  It appears as though most people MapQuest the game for the next week at the beginning of that week.  Because St. Mary's County is not fully on the football radar yet, not many people know where Leonardtown is.  When parents began googling and realizing it was 2 hours away from Prince William County, 2.5 hours from Fairfax, 3 hours from Loudoun, 3 hours from Baltimore, 2.5 hours from Howard and Montgomery, 1hour and 45 minutes from PG and DC, they got alarmed, concerned and pretty upset.  Coaches were asking for game time changes in order to make it on time, parents were complaining and it was a mess for a couple of days.  A mess created by me. 

As a business man, when you realize you made a mistake, you can't compound that mistake by making another mistake based on an emotional response and a desire to maintain a well intentioned commitment.   You must evaluate the situation, look at all of the ways the decision will impact your business model, understanding that there will be collateral damage, assess the amount of damage, and make a decision based on minimizing the damage.  There was no way to make everyone happy with this decision, but I had to think about the best interest of the masses and in this case, it was clearly less damaging to move it then it would have been to keep it there.  With that being said, the decision was made to move.

For the record, nobody demanded that I change the game and no GM's told me they would forfeit.  But, I heard from a number of parents voicing concerns that they just couldn't make it out there.  The unfortunate part about the end of the season is that at this point, much of the original excitement is gone.  Teams realized two weeks ago that some were out of the playoffs, and some of them that didn't see the big picture began to pack it in.  That lesson is part of the reason why we are going back to 6 games, with flex game schedules that we can control.  We will be able to control the intrigue.  Even if both Baltimore and DC are not in the playoffs, the hype of the Battle of the Beltway will keep kids engaged.  The Montgomery County versus Charles County Game will always have intrigue because of the history of battles between Montgomery Village and Westlake.  Fairfax and Loudoun are border rivalries. 

The other issue is that the 4 playoff teams were officially locked in last week, so the only intrigue for this week is whether Charles County or Baltimore will be the 3rd seed.  On top of that, with Montgomery and Howard being the 1 and 2 seeds, where is the easy game?  What is the benefit of being the 3rd seed?  Getting the opportunity to play the red hot Howard County Stars? If you get the 4th seed, you have to see the undefeated and on a mission Bearcats.

If you are the Bearcats, are you more excited to see the explosive and speed Stallions that can run folks out of the gym?  Or are you happy about seeing Charles County who has a high school sized team that can beat you on the ground and through the air?  The truth is that although this last game of the season is very important to all of us, the kids and parents that don't understand the big picture can't see that.  How many parents from Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, may have chosen to forgo the lengthy drive because there was nothing at stake?  Even Montgomery County parents could have chosen to stay home an even had they forfeited for not having enough players, they would have still been the #1 seed.  Howard County was going to be the #1 seed if they won or lost, forfeited or played, so where was the incentive the make the tremendous sacrifice?

The Southern MD parents have made that sacrifice every week, as has Loudoun and all the other regions that did not get a game because there was stuff at stake in their minds.  That is not the case in the final week.  It was a reality that I had at least 8 regions very upset with me for scheduling this game so far away, not to mention my staff, my athletic trainers, my security, and my referees.  I couldn't come up with a really good reason for not changing the venue to accommodate the masses if it was possible.  We are already losing money every week and we could not afford to have another minimal gate like we did at Wilson last week.  The facilities expect to get paid no matter how many people show up.  That goes for the referees, the trainers, the security folks, and everyone else.   We use the money that we generate at the gate to pay those fees.  If people don't show up, we are in the red like we were last week.  We can't afford that as a company.  If GYFL can't stay solvent, we will not be around and none of these kids would have the opportunities that we currently provided.  When it became possible I had to act on it for the betterment of the masses of families and some in the Southern MD regions will believe was to their detriment, but I disagree.

Big Picture and Long Term Goals:

All of my decisions are based on the big picture of what I want for your kids, which is to do everything possible to increase their chances of competing for a college scholarship when they are seniors. Every decision is ultimately based on that and if I feel one change can improve that chance that is what I will do.  Not all of them will receive one, as a matter of fact most of them won't.  But, those that make the necessary commitments, and the necessary adjustments, will weather the storms and the cream will rise to the top.  Our job is to equip all of them with the information and the opportunity then watch to see which ones will grab their destinies.  We never want to minimize and opportunity.  We only want to maximize it.

This is not about Grassroots for me. Grassroots is a bait and switch. Grassroots is a vehicle to help me develop relationships with kids and parents. For the kids it is way to improve their skill sets, play against great competition, get great exposure and promote the individual athletes brands, so that in less than 4 years, a college or multiple colleges will offer your child and chance to alter his destiny.

It is not about Grassroots. Grassroots is a vehicle to provide all the things listed above and help kids get into the right high schools for them.  May be public, may be private, but we have to plug them into the best HS system for them. But it is not even about just HS. HS is the vehicle to get them to the next level, which is our goal, which is college. Any decision that does not factor that in is non effective as far as I am concerned. It is all about the college recruiters and what they want and what they look for.

The reality is that college recruiters do not flock to Southern MD right now and they never have. If we are successful with Grassroots in the long term, they will begin to and the next generation of St. Mary’s County and Calvert County kids will be the beneficiaries.

If the dynamic does change, it will be the families from the Charles County Heat and Southern MD Wildcats that started off the revolution. If Charles County can win a GYFL Championship, you can’t fathom what it will mean for the reputation of Southern MD football. It will begin a paradigm shift that will begin to bring the best HS coaches to Southern MD to recruit kids, and subsequently, the college coaches will follow. But, it is a process and parents have to trust that I know what I am doing and what I am talking about, no matter how angry they may be with me in the moment.

Many parents were upset at me because they said that moving the game was not fair to them. Although I believe it was in their best interest and I will share with you why, I can’t honestly say that is was fair to them and I understand how they may feel betrayed. But, life is not fair. Football is not fair.

It is not fair that college coaches don’t come to St. Mary’s County and Calvert County to recruit kids historically. There have been tons of talented student athletes over the years that have gone unnoticed simply because of the county that they live in. There is nothing fair about that. HS football and college football are very political. It is not about fairness and talent. It is unfortunately, more about what HS your child attended, what college connections does that high school have, how much publicity and notoriety does the school get, etc.? If a tree falls in the forest, but nobody was there to here it fall, for all practical purposes it did not fall. That is what has been happening to Southern MD kids historically.

There is nothing fair about the process of getting a kid a college scholarship, and as I said, what I have to keep at the forefront of my decision is always the same thing: Trying to maximize each of your children’s chances to make their dreams of playing college football come true. That is my goal and I keep my eye on the prize in every decision that I make.

At the end of the day, it is not fair that Southern Maryland is disrespected as a football community and has been overlooked for decades. The part of the reason that I set the GYFL up the way I did was to include all of the counties that have been overlooked for so long. Charles County has been overlooked. Calvert and St. Mary’s have not even been on the radar screen. Prince William has never been on the radar, nor has Loudoun County. The perception has been over the decades that the best football players are all in DC, PG County, and Baltimore.  Perception is not always reality, but it is very powerful because it shapes decisions that people make about where they are going to go to recruit. 

The Prince George's County, DC, Montgomery County, and Baltimore regions are primarily where is where the elite, high level HS coaches go to recruit, and colleges flock to the HS that they consider to be elite, and produce top quality prospects every year. Until we can change that dynamic, the colleges are not going to come down there and you guys are going to have to continue to sacrifice as you have been doing.

To have Howard County at 7–1, Charles County at 6–2, and both with chances to win a Championship is a very big deal because people are watching Grassroots.  We have gotten 1 million hits to our website in consecutive months, which we have never done before.   Coaches are watching us at the high school and college level.  Reporters are watching us.  Rivals is watching.  FBU is watching.  Junior Rank is watching.  Under Armour is watching.  We are changing the entire perceptions slowly but surely throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area. That is going to mean the world to those kids from Southern MD, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Howard, etc. We are making changes in paradigms, but it takes time. It is not going to happen overnight.

Nobody is more connected or knowledgeable about what it takes to get a scholarship than I am. For example, I had never even heard of the Pax River Raiders until they joined AYF and began playing outside of St. Mary’s County. Had they not played in AYF and driven all the way up to Baltimore to play in the regionals, I would have never met any of them and they would have never been a part of FBU or Grassroots.  The football down there was virtually non-existent up here where the football Mecca is. The travel is what got them noticed.

All of the major football is played in the DC Metro Area right now. Southern MD kids benefit more when they are seen by MORE Coaches, by more analysts, by more camp directors. We have college coaches that come to our games. We have writers from Rivals and MD High that come to our games. Unfortunately, because of the current dynamic and the distance, they will not come to Ryken.  So if we play in St. Mary's County on Saturday, the kids won’t be seen by All of the people that I want to see them.  The local HS coaches down there may see them, but they already know about them.  That goes against our long term focus of increasing scholarship chances, and that is not smart for the kids, in my opinion.

We a have representatives from the best camps in the area at our games. Camps like FBU, Junior Rank, and the National Underclassmen Combine are examples. We have significant movers and shakers like Lavar Arrington and Doc Walker who both talk about these games on their prominent radio shows that is giving these kids major exposure. The GYFL has made these kids household names. Those guys will not come to St. Mary's County yet. Maybe if we are successful enough, we will make Southern MD a hotbed and the people that matter when it comes to the football world will flock. But today is not that day.

The sad truth is that it is not just about whether parents of other teams want to come, it is about whether or not the people that will truly be able to have an impact on those kids futures are willing to come. They are not going to drive down there right now, so we need to be where they will come.  I would love for all of the family, friends, grandparents, etc., to be able to see those kids play close to home, but the reality is that the family, friends, grandparents, etc., don't have the power to make those kids dreams come true.  For what we are trying to get done for Southern MD football and for those kids, we need for them to be in front of the people that can make the dreams come true and we need to make it convenient for the dream makers, not the friends.  There is too much at stake and the friends can still get in the car and drive up to McNamara to see them play if they choose to.

In order to GYFL to have the credibility that we need to have with the people that can move us to the next level, we need to be in places that are convenient for them. I am in no way saying that the Southern MD parents don't matter.  They mean the world to us.  I love those kids and I believe this move is in their best interests as well if they focus on BIG PICTURE.  Kids can't comprehend big picture at 14, but as adults we must be able to remove the emotion and see if for what it is.  We must be able to take lemons and make lemonade.  We must be able to roll with the punches.  The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Sincerely,

Mike

 

Monday May 28th, 2012

Good Day GYFL Family:

Each Monday from now on, I will be entering a blog with my thoughts for the week.  We refer to it as the President's Pen.  We hope that it will generate dialougue and be thought provoking.  We hope that it will make for interesting Message Board discussions, but more importantly that it will be insightful and beneficial to the kids and the parents of not only the GYFL, but in the youth football community in general.  Please feel free to join the discussion, comment, critique, or whatever you feel the need to contribute to the discussion.

Blog #1:  Is it safe to let your children play football?

I wanted to speak on this topic because there is a lot of discussion going on right now from youth club coaches, high school coaches, college coaches and players, and even professional athletes about whether it is safe to let their kids play football.  Concussions are a hot button topic right now.  We have retired pro athletes suing the NFL right now claiming that they were not informed about the potential dangers of concussions and that they are feeling the effects of those concussions in their adult lives.

We have former players like Curt Warner stating that he would discourage his kids from playing football, while other players are attacking those that are critical of the NFL.  It is truly a topic that is worthy of debate.  I have been asked by people that I respect how I feel about the concussion and safety aspects of football now that I am the President of a youth football league.  I have given it so much thought and prayed before finally coming out with a statement that captures my feelings on the issue.  I love these kids so much that the thought of any of them being seriously injured makes me cringe, so this is not an easy or simple issue for me to address. The rest of the blogs won’t be this long, but this is such an important topic that I wanted to fully deal with it.

I have thought long and hard about all the games that I played from youth league through college.  I have thought about all of the pro players that I know personally who played the game at the highest level and for me the easiest way for me to come up with an honest opinion on this is to ask myself and ask all of my friends who placed their bodies in jeopardy every weekend the following question.  If we could go back in time, knowing what we know now, would we do it again?  There are many mistakes that I have made in my life over the years and after experiencing the pain of from the consequences of those decisions, I would NEVER go back and do those things again.  But, when I ask myself whether I would go back and play football again, the answer is an empatic yes.  I have never found 1 retired NFL player that has told me knowing what they know now that they if they could go back in time and choose to play or not to play, that they would choose NOT to do it again.  To a man, every one that I have spoken to said they would do it all over again.

I think that says volumes about the subject.  There are many retired guys that may say they would not prefer for their kids to play like Warner, but I think it is interesting that most of them would choose to go back and play again if given the chance.  I know I would do it all over again.  The retired players would do it again because most of them understand what the game of football provided for them.  The game gave them the lifestyle that they currently have.  The game gave them the notoriety that they have.  The game opened doors for them that can never be closed.   Most of us don’t' want our kids to have to suffer through any of the pain that we had to suffer through and if a parent has a comfortable lifestyle and their kids don't need football to open up doors for them and provide opportunities for them.

We needed those opportunities initially, and football provided them.  Had many of the former players who say that they would not want their kids to play today, chosen not to play in their childhood days, the chances of them providing the type of lifestyles for their families would have been slim to none.

Any decisions that I make are always a function of balancing th pros against the cons.  Are there cons to playing football? Certainly!  Is it a safe sport to play? Absolutely Not.  It is a violent sport where injuries are a part of the game?  Most definitely.  There are very few sports that I would consider safe.  Some are more dangerous than others.  For example, basketball is not supposed to be a contact sport, but ask the Pacers and the Heat how physical a game of basketball can be.  There is not the level of contact built into the game, but anytime physical bodies are banging into one another, injuries can occur.  Torn ligaments, torn ACL's and MCL's, ruptured Achilles, etc., are a natural part of the game of basketball.

A home plate collision in the game of baseball with metal spikes in the air on a slide is one of the most potentially violent events in the game of sports.  Although baseball has much less contact than football, kids can still get hurt.  Lacrosse has violent collisions.  Wrestling is very physical and injuries are a part of that sport as well.   None of these sports are "Safe", but I believe football is the most dangerous because contact and collisions are built into the fabric of the game.

Our job is to try our best to make these games as safe as we possibly can, but we can't make the game of football safe.  What do at GYFL is to take great steps in making the game as safe as possible.  We have our coaches certified in CPR and First Aid.  We have our coaches certified in identifying concussions.  We hire certified Athletic Trainers and place them on each sideline during the game days.  We have an AED device present for each game.  We encourage our parents to have all of their children get a baseline concussion test through a relationship we have developed with Children's Hospital and the SCORE program, which is the top youth concussion program in the country.  We do not provide equipment for the GYFL.  We don't have the resources to do that.  We are working on trying to secure a sponsorship deal with one of the equipment companies to provide state of the art equipment (helmets and shoulder pads).  We encourage each of the partner youth organizations that loan their helmets and shoulder pads to ensure that the equipment is reconditioned.  Parents must take an active role in ensuring that the youth organizations that they support have a consistent re-conditioning program.

We are doing all that we can possibly do to make the league as safe as it can be, but as I stated, football is not a safe sport.  It is a gladiator sport played by young gladiators.  Football is not for every kid.  The GYFL is not for every kid.  We state to all and are consistent in our message that the GYFL is a league for kids that are passionate and serious about taking the game of football as far as they can possibly take it.  It is not for the casual football player.  The fall youth leagues are open to all kids of all ability levels and all desire levels.  For those that just want to play for fun, there are leagues for those kids.  Grassroots is for the kids that truly love and are obsessed with the game.  It takes a different mentality to play this game at a high level and it is not for everybody.  We understand that.  Not only is it dangerous from a standpoint of head injuries, but there are strains, sprains, tears, broken bones, lacerations, and a litany of other injuries that are commonplace if you play this game.

Those are all the negatives that have to be considered.  Now we must weigh them against all of the positives and make objective and intelligent decisions about whether this is a sport that kids should be playing.  The reason that all of us would still go back and play, knowing what we know now, is because the game offered so many opportunities that can't be denied.  Every one of us watched Daryl Stingley get paralyzed on the field when the Patriots played the Raiders back in the 80’s. We knew the dangers of playing football. The concussion syndrome was not something that anybody knew as much about then as they do today, but we knew it was dangerous. We all knew, but we still played because we loved it that much. We were trying to use football to get us to a better life.

An elite youth football player will be recruited by some of the top public and private schools in the area and many will receive financial aid packages that are mind blowing.  Playing at the right high school for an elite athlete can set the stage for the rest of their lives, as it did for ours.

Being an elite HS football player makes a kid a household name is his local region, and in some cases if he is good enough, he can become a household name on a national level.  Being a household name provides advantages that regular students will never understand.  When you are a household name, the businesspeople in the region want to open doors for you.  Your resume will automatically move to the top of the pile if you even need it.  Job opportunities are provided, business opportunities are plentiful, and post career opportunities are boundless.  Playing football gives athletes access to a very powerful network of very influential people who are obsessed with this game and there are not many of us that would be willing to give us access to that powerful network.

Elite HS players have opportunities to play football at college on a full athletic scholarship.  I can tell you from experience that nothing compares to having colleges and universities that you dreamt about as a child offering you a chance to put that uniform on and live out your dreams.  When you receive a scholarship to a university, you gain access to and influence with an entire university network of even more powerful individuals and groups.  To get a free education, and chance to play on National Television, be written up in National publications, etc., is like nothing most people will ever experience.  For those that take full advantage of it and get a degree they come into the world of work with a tremendous advantage over other students.  It is not just about what you know in this world.  Many people will tell you that who you know is more important that what you know.  I will tell you that both are equally important and that you can't depend on one to sustain you.

If you have all the knowledge, but you don't have the right connections to get you in the door, your resume sits in a pile with all the rest.  If you have all the connections but don't have the knowledge, you may get an opportunity before others, but you won't have the knowledge needed to excel at the position you were offered.

I would maintain that even more important that what you know and who you know, is WHO KNOWS YOU!  You can have the knowledge, you can know who people are, but if those people don't know who you are, does it really matter?  The key that I have found in my life has been WHO KNEW ME.  Being an All American HS football player at DeMatha meant that a lot of powerful and connected people knew who I was when I was 17 years old.  By the time I was a 22 year old Senior athlete at the University of Maryland, almost everyone in this region that mattered knew the name of Mike Anderson.  Every opportunity that I have had and have benefitted from in the last 23 years has been connected in some form or fashion to the name I developed from playing the game of football.

The fact that we have been able to create this Grassroots Youth Football League is tied directly to the football career that I had, that JB Brown had, that Chad Scott had, and that Lamont Jordan had. All of my coaches played the game of football and played it well.

I could go on and on about what the game of football has meant for me. I could write a book with a list of all the contacts that I have made and all the doors have been opened. The lessons that I learned from the game about how to win with honor and lose with dignity were invaluable. The relationships that I developed with teammates will never be forgotten.

I learned how to work hard. I learned how to never quit, no matter how hard things got or how bad they got. I played on winning teams and I played on losing teams. I learned to lead my teammates. I learned how to push myself past the point of fatigue. I learned how to play with pain. I learned how to deal with politics and unfairness, and I learned how to overcome that.

When I was 20 years old, I encountered a battle with Leukemia that could have taken me off of this earth.   I leaned on the competitive instincts that I learned on the football field to carry me through the scariest period of my life. I was a winner and football taught me how to compete and how to win. I competed with cancer and I won and I attribute that to the lessons that I learned on the Gridiron and a God that had bigger plans for me.

Part of God’s plan for my life was to start this Grassroots Youth Football League and teach the next group of young boys the lessons that my father and my coaches taught me.

So, if you care about what my opinion is, the answer to the question of whether or not football is safe is NO. It is not a safe sport. I don’t believe any sports are truly safe and football is one of the least safe ones. As far as whether or not kid should play football, I think it depends on the mentality of the child.

If he has a real passion and love for the game, he should play. If he has a passion for the practice and the hard work that goes into being a good football player, he should play. If he dreams about being a football player, and he eats, sleeps, and drinks the game, he should play. Football is not for the faint of heart. It is a violent game, but it is a beautiful game. It separates the gladiators for the non-gladiators. Nobody said that every kid has to be a gladiator. You can’t teach a kid to have a mindset like that. Most of them are born with it.

Some have more of that spirit than others, but they at least must have the spirit. There is no question in my mind that for the gladiators, the pros outweigh the cons leaps and bounds. Your kids don’t have to be great players to play this game, but they must have great desire and great heart. If they have that, the GYFL will deliver for them.

As parents, you must do everything possible to ensure safety. You need to ensure that the equipment is reconditioned and certified. If it is not, you need to make the investment and purchase new equipment for your kids to play. You need to invest in a baseline concussion test prior to your child having a concussion so that if he has one, you will be able to compare the post concussion to the pre-concussion and the doctors will be able to say 100% when they are ready to come back to action.

We initially tried to make it mandatory for all of our parents to have their kids baseline tested. We got push back from parents and coaches that gave us numerous reasons why we should not make it mandatory. We decided to not make it mandatory, but to encourage each of our 350 parents to get the test done. As of today, we only have 21 who have signed up for it and only 8 that I know of have actually had the procedure done. I don’t know how to process that information, but those are the facts.

In addition, parents must take advantage of all of the clinics, camps, etc., that teach their kids the proper way to tackle on the football field. Proper tackling does not include using the head as a weapon. There are some great camps available to address these issues. Bobby Hosea has a camp that will be in the DMV on June 9th that we will be promoting on the site this week. His “Train EM Up” Academy teaches proper tackling technique. Lavar Arrington has created a company called Extreme Procision that teaches proper techniques for all positions. XP and GYFL, in association with Under Armour, have partnered to bring a series of free tackling camps during the month of July (Stay tuned on the site for details).

When I weigh all of the pros against the cons, and consider the additional steps that we can take to make the game safer, I conclude that football is not for every kid. However, football should be played by kids who are serious and passionate about playing the game of football the way it was meant to be played, and the GYFL will be on the cutting edge of making the game better and safer for those kids who have what it takes to play the game, end of story.

Read 8584 times Last modified on Friday, 06 March 2015 05:00

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