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Presidents Pen May 2016

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President’s Pen

5/4/2016

 

This is the very first President’s Pen entry for 2016, and I was only able to create a few of them for 2015.  There always seems to be a thousand things going on at once and so many things to deal with that I don’t end up finding, or making the time to address some topics that are very important for me.

The President’s Pen was initially created as a forum to speak directly to the Grassroots parents, student athletes, coaches, administrators, and anyone who may be interested in my perspective on different subjects.

With so many alumni in the past 6 years it is impossible to be able to address each and every person, although I truly wish that I could.  Although our numbers grow each year and we add more alums to the database, Grassroots is still a very small organization and I still have to be very hands on in every aspect of the operation.

I have decided to revive the President’s Pen for 2016 and plan on addressing important issues at the very least on a monthly basis, and possibly even on a bi-monthly basis if need be.  I will see how this first one goes and take it from there.

I made a vow to myself at the end of 2015 that I would strictly use Facebook as a means to market and promote the vision of Grassroots.  Those that know me are aware of how emotional I can be and I normally wear my emotions on my sleeve.  As I get older and try to mature, I am trying to do a better job of not being so emotional, but it is a tough transition for me.

I always want people to know the truth and know how I feel, but that is not always the best way to be in such a competitive environment like youth sports.  I had no idea back in 2010 when I set out on this mission that the youth football arena was like it is.  But now I know.  As I rolled into the new year, I promised myself not to get involved in Facebook battles and tit for tat and I am trying my best to stick to that promise. 

There is so much controversy swirling around right now regarding Grassroots and me personally.  There are a number of forces and individuals that are not supportive of our mission.  The good news is that the people that I need to help my vision for the youth and families of Grassroots are very supportive of us.  The kids and parents who have benefit ted over the years are very supportive as well.  But as with anything that is considered to be successful, there will be naysayers and adversaries.   I don’t know why I expected it to be any different for me and for the league.

What I refuse to do on Facebook, or on the President’s Pen is to attack those that are attacking me.  I have been there before and choose not to go back there.  There have been attacks on my reputation and character for the last several months.  I have chosen not to respond or defend myself on any public forum.  If I have the opportunity to have one on one conversations with friends or parents that I have relationships with, I explain to them my side of the story and to a man or woman, they all have their “Ah Ha” moments, or their “Now it makes sense” moments.  But I have just chosen not to engage in social media to the masses, and I won’t do it here either.  I have to have faith that the people that have spent time with me and know me can look back on the history that we had with one another to judge me, as opposed to believing in what they may hear from a 3rd party that most often does not know me, or have a different agenda that is predicated on discrediting me.  Those agendas will be flushed out in the end, but not by me and not here.

What I am willing to do for you guys is explain some basic principles that you guys can use when you hear the critics take shots at Grassroots in general, and me in particular.  That is what I will use the President’s Pen for.  I will not address any individual situations on this forum, but I will address concepts so that you can be educated enough to detect deception when you hear it. 

So this first entry is going to discuss one of the Topics that has been used to attempt to discredit us since the inception of Grassroots in 2010, which is the Non Profit vs. For Profit Topic.

I have been hearing from the naysayers since the very beginning that this was “All about money for Mike.”  “If Mike was about the kids, Grassroots would be a non-profit entity.”  I am responding to this for my coaches, who hear this all the time, for the parents who hear this all the time, and for the naysayers who repeat this myth all of the time.  Hopefully this will educate you and give you a different perspective, which is the real and true perspective.

The Myth of Non-Profit vs. For Profit:

One of the most disingenuous concepts that the naysayers want you to believe is that Non Profit, means Non Salary.  Nothing could be further from the truth folks.  The issue that some folks have with me is that they believe I am making a ton of money from the GYFL venture.  First of all, that is the farthest thing from the truth.  But they say it as if it is a crime to make money to support your family by means of a dream that was birthed in you and by providing a product and a service that kids, parents, and high schools all benefit from.  Grassroots is the ultimate win-win for all of us who see the big picture.

The issue that some have is purely over salary.  It is not really over for-profit vs non-profit.  The educated naysayers know that it is merely a play on words.  But the real issue is purely salary and those that oppose me wouldn’t care whether I was generating a salary under for-profit or non-profit status. 

It is being spinned as if Non-Profit, means Non Salary and this is purely false and I will prove it to you shortly.  I could have easily turned the league into a non-profit entity to try to please the naysayers if it was our desire to please them.  By the end of this President’s Pen you will know exactly why we decided to change the league to for-profit status and I believe it will make all the sense in the world to you.  But, before that, you must understand that Non-Profit has nothing to do with Non-Salaries.

My wife works for a very successful and prominent Non-Profit entity, and without her salary, health benefits, and employment packages we would be out on the street.  Many of you have friends and family that work for Non-Profit entities, but if they are not volunteering, then they are paid a salary.

First and foremost, can we all agree that there is NOTHING wrong with making an honest living.  That is what American is supposed to be about.  That is what we spend 12 years of school for, then 4 years of college for, then some go on to get post graduate degrees and law degrees in order to put themselves in position to provide for their families.  As men, we have a responsibility to the higher power that we serve to provide for our families, and to do that we must earn a living.  If I am able to make Grassroots work for my family financially, is that a crime?  Is that something to be vilified for?

Where is the crime in earning a living doing something that you were born to do?  Where is the crime in earning a living doing something that you love?  Where is the crime in earning a living doing something where parents are being educated, kids are being prepared to increase the chances of making their dreams come true, and High School and College Coaches are having an opportunity to evaluate kids? Where is the crime in having God show you your mission, passion, and purpose in life, and giving you the courage to step outside of your comfort zone, take a huge risk, leave a good paying job with benefits, to chase a dream that HE shared with you?

Those are rhetorical questions.  There is no crime in any of them.  Creating a living for ourselves should be celebrated.  Many people spend their lives working jobs and in careers that they honestly can’t stand.  They feel their lives slipping away from them because their passion is somewhere else.  I know that feeling because that was me. But I never hated on anybody else for finding theirs, taking a bold chance with no guarantees, and turning a dream into a reality.  I just took my own chance and it is finally paying off. 

It hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface for me financially that many seem to believe, but thank God I am able to take care of my family and pull my weight, which I took me 5 years to finally accomplish.  That should be celebrated and used as an example for others to do the same thing.  It has done that for many.  But for the naysayers that are mad because they wish they could do the same thing have to constantly take shots at me, as if I am doing something wrong.  It is truly sad.  But, my skin is getting thicker by the day.

There is nothing more difficult and challenging in this world than entrepreneurship.  Most businesses fail in the first 3 years and go bankrupt.  The small percentage that don’t go bankrupt in the first 3 years don’t make a profit until the 5th year, if they make it that long.

For any of you that have tried to start your own business, either Non-Profit, or For-Profit, you understand the harsh realities.  It is not for the faint of heart.  Both models are still businesses, and if an entity does not generate more revenue than it incurs expenses, it will be out of business not matter which designation it decides to take.

Please don’t be fooled by the For-Profit vs. Non-Profit rhetoric folks.  That is all it is.  Both models are businesses.  To survive they need revenue.  To thrive the revenue has to far exceed the expenses and the expenses are lease space, electricity, gas, water, salaries, health insurance, unemployment insurance, etc., etc., etc.   Non Profits have the same realities and For-Profits, with the only difference being that IF the For-Profit is wildly successful, the owners of the corporation have the ability to take the net profit at the end of the year and divide it amongst themselves to spend how they wish.

If a Non-Profit has revenues that exceeded expenses in any given year, a Fund Balance is created.  It is almost like a credit balance.  At the end of the year, it goes back into the entity and will be spent based on the decisions of Directors of the Entity.  Instead of the owners splitting the profit, the Directors can increase salaries, hire more employees or use that money as they see fit to fulfill the charter of their Non Profit.

The first thing I wanted to do was to prove the statements I made above with facts.  After I have done that, I will explain to you the origin of the league and WHY it was converted to For-Profit.  We are not hiding from it, we are proud of it and you will see why by the time you finish reading.  My prayer is that if this one example of me taking the time to explain the TRUTH to you can get you to realize that if you had a negative opinion initially that was changed by these facts, that you had been misinformed, and manipulated to believe something that was false.  If you had been misled on this topic, how many other topics were you misled on?  If I can’t disprove the myth, then I would not expect you to trust and believe in me anymore, assuming that you did.

But, prior to that, please study the following facts to make my case.

I did 2 Google Searches to make these points:

GOOGLE SEARCH #1 was “Highest paid Non Profit Salaries” and I came up with this article from the Huffington Post.  Please read in detail when you have a moment: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/10-insanely-overpaid-nonp_n_3038162.html

But I also copied and pasted the top part of the article and am including it below for a quick review.  Some of the links will take you to some very surprising results if you believe that Non Profit means Non Salary.


BLAIRE BRIODY
The Fiscal Times

Nonprofits take your donations and give them to a good cause, right?

To be fair, most do, while paying their employees competitive but modest salaries. But a handful of nonprofits pay their top executives shockingly high salaries that could make their for-profit corporate counterparts jealous.

PHOTO GALLERY: The 10 Highest-Paid Nonprofit Execs

While you may be scrambling to make your annual charitable contributions, nonprofit executive compensation is rising faster than inflation, though not by much. Median pay for executives at the largest charities and foundations increased 3.8 percent in 2011 to $429,512, according to a September report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, whereas the inflation rate was about 3 percent during the year.

More from the Fiscal Times:
10 Insanely Overpaid Public Employees
10 Insanely Overpaid Public College Presidents
7 Places Where the Wealthy Hide Their Money

In 2010, one-third of nonprofits surveyed provided bonuses to their well-paid executives, and the median bonus was over $50,000. This year, top executives are expected to receive modest increases, from 2.5 to 3.5 percent. But when you’re making what the highest-paid executive on our list does — $2.5 million a year — that’s a decent raise. More than 20 nonprofit groups paid top executives more than $1 million a year in 2010 and 2011, according to the report.
The rising nonprofit salaries prompted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue an executive order in May that limits some charities from using state funds to pay salaries of more than $199,000. Other states, such as New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts, have also made efforts to curb nonprofit executive pay.

Click here to see the 10 highest-paid nonprofit executives in the field (excluding those at colleges and hospitals), according to 2011 and 2010 tax return data compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The data come from 400 charities that raise the most money from private sources or grant makers.

 

GOOGLE SEARCH #2 was a Google of “Average Salaries for Non Profit employees.”  Here is a cut and paste from that article as well:

Industry: Non-Profit Organization Median Salary by Job

Job

National Salary Data 

$0

$27K

$54K

$81K

Executive Director, Non-Profit Organization

5 salaries

$63,546

 

 

 

 

Executive Director

5 salaries

$50,868

 

Chief Operating Officer, Non-Profit Organization

3 salaries

$80,900

 

Program Manager, Non-Profit Organization

2 salaries

$38,000

 

Development Manager, Non-Profit Organization

2 salaries

$47,000

 

Director of Development, Non-Profit Organization

2 salaries

$78,850

 

Grants Officer

2 salaries

$49,675

 

Country: United States | Currency: USD | Updated: 29 Apr 2016 | Individuals Reporting: 74

 

 

These are just two of many examples of Non Profit Salaries.  I would like to bring it back to the Youth Football Business to make it more appropriate.

Most of folks who try to convict me on the Non Profit issue are youth organizations, which are all Non Profit.  I don’t know of any individual youth football orgs that generate enough money to pay salaries, but there may be some out there.  I can assure you that is the goal of many and that is the reason some are so upset with what they think I am making.

Grassroots is not a Youth Organization; it is a Youth League.  Although is only in one region right now, the goal is to be in multiple cities before I leave this earth.  Pop Warner began small.  AYF began small.  UYFL began small.  Every organization began as an idea.  Pop Warner executives get paid salaries. 

Another quick Google Search breaks down the salaries of the Top Youth Sports Organizations across the country, ALL of which are Non Profits by the way.  Please Read.

http://youthsportsparents.blogspot.com/2009/01/top-10-salaries-in-youth-sports.html

Some of the best youth football leagues in the DMV are run so well because their executives and decision makers are either on salary or paid stipends.  Mid Maryland for example, which is one of the best run leagues bar none in the region has employees who get paid salaries from Howard County Parks and Rec.  Same deal with the Fairfax County Youth Football League, which is outstanding.

I think it is very disingenuous to compare Grassroots to individual youth organizations, when those same youth orgs know that many of the best run local and national youth leagues have board members on salaries, and/or stipends.

As far as I am concerned, there is nothing more important that the people that are guiding our children.  I want my daughter’s teachers to be compensated well for the role that they play in my daughter’s education.  If those teachers are excellent and bring a tremendous level of value to my child’s life than they deserve to be compensated accordingly.  My wife and I have no issues paying her tuition because we value Elizabeth Seton HS.  I could care less whether Seton was For-Profit or Non-Profit.

If my child’s dance teacher is exceptional and adds value to her development than she is an integral part of the “village” that I need to help her evolve into the young lady that will change the world.  She deserves to be compensated and my wife and I have NO issue paying her dance fees, because we value Ms. Rhonda of the Expressions Dance Company.  Again, I could care less whether Expressions was For-Profit or Non-Profit. 

That goes for any other member of the “Village” that is helping to raise my daughter and help her reach her dreams.  I don’t want any of the adults helping to raise my child to be stressed out financially and wondering how they will keep a roof over their heads.  Many of us KNOW how it feels to struggle to make ends meet and the stress and anxiety that goes along with that.  It is very difficult to provide maximum service to kids when you don’t know how you will take care of your own.

If you consider Grassroots a part of the “Village” that is helping your son reach his dreams, then I would hope that none of you would have a problem with me being able to help take care of my family by paying reasonable fees in exchange for the services that we provide.  If we are not providing the service for your sons that we marketed to you, we would expect you to remove him from the league.

History of the Transition

Since I am sharing so much with you I may as well share it all.  Back in 2001 I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I was 33 years old.  My life was a lot easier before 2001 because back in those days I actually was chasing money and success.  I believed that the key to life was being successful.  Success back in those days was a six figure salary, a 4-bedroom house, a Lexus, a Benz, and a big bank account.

Once I attained all of those things and I was not happy, I began to realize that the purpose of life was NOT to become successful, it was to find your purpose in life and begin to chase it with all of your zeal.

It became clear to me that my personal mission statement was to be a positive, motivational, and inspirational force in the lives of young people.  On another President’s Pen I will share with you the amazing story as to how I came to this conclusion, but for the sake of time just know that my purpose and mission is to mentor young people.

With that in mind, my mentor inspired me to start a Non Profit Youth Foundation.  It was all focuses on Life Skills, Leadership, and Academic Enrichment.  I was so excited in 2003 to launch my new life.  With the support of my mentor, we launched the GYM Foundation, which stood for Growing Young Minds.  We started off with a vision and I spent an entire year of my life attempting to build it.  I was so sure that as a Non-Profit I would be able to get donations from “All those folks who need tax write offs.”  I was so sure that I would be able to access “All the Grant Money” that was available for the youth of America.  To make a long story short, after a year of recruiting students and attempting to secure grants and donations, I was unable to generate .15 cents in the bank account, nor was I able to get any students to want to give up after school time, weekends, and summers for Life Skills and Leadership.

I was out of financial support and had to go back to my job as an auditor for an accounting firm.  For the next 4 years I was one of those people who was making a good salary but hating my job every day of the year.  It was even worse for me because I had seen my purpose and mission 4 years ago and I knew I was supposed to be working with kids.

That is when the vision hit me like a ton of bricks.  The Grassroots Youth Football League was born and I realized that in order to draw kids to me to fulfill my purpose, I would need to offer them something that THEY wanted.  Kids are not asking their parents to sign them up for Life Skills and Leadership Camp.  They are obsessed with Sports just like I was.  If I could create a draw for them with a focus on football, I could potentially draw hundreds of kids per year and over time generate enough kids and parents, along with enough revenue to take care of my family.

For the next 2 years I tried to do it part time like most youth organizations do.  I realized after 2 years that what I was attempting to do was very different than any individual youth organization and that it was designed to expand into 10 different counties throughout the DMV.  By 2009 it was clear to me that if I was going to do this, it would have to be full time.  I was so afraid to even consider trying to do this full time.  How would I pay my bills?  I had a wife and a daughter.  I had a mortgage and car notes.  I didn’t see how it would be possible to turn it into a career.  But, I also didn’t see how it would be possible to fulfill my vision part time.  It wasn’t working.

The dream kept getting bigger and bigger.  After I began to expand my mind I could see a Grassroots in 32 NFL cities before I had even started in 1 city.  When God shows you a vision you better watch out!

I was able to find a couple of businessmen who believed enough in my vision to support me financially enough to get Grassroots off the ground.  It was initially designed as a Non-Profit.  My goal was to create this unbelievable entity that would start with the football league, and then expand into the Life Skills, Leadership, and Academic Enrichment component that I tried to start in 2003.

At that point, I was aware that I couldn’t start with the Life Skills and Leadership.  I would start with the football league and build it up to the point where we had enough kids and generated enough revenue to successfully relaunch the Foundation piece.  I was all in for the league beginning in 2009 and took on laser sharp focus.  From Day 1 I knew I would need to make it successful enough to create a salary for me if it was going to thrive.  I never hid from that then and I am not hiding from it now.  It was just initially under the Non-Profit format.

So why did it change you ask………...?

One of the first things I had to do was get financial support for the entity.  I began taking meeting after meeting with successful business people trying to get them on board.  One of them was a very successful former Washington Redskin that I idolized growing up.

It took me almost a year to get him to look at my PowerPoint presentation, but when he finally did, I knew that we were on to something.

This icon of mine was so excited by this Grassroots concept that he told me that he wanted it to be his future.  He gave me an example of riding in a car and there is a large front windshield and a small rear view mirror.  The reason is because we are supposed to spend the majority of our time looking ahead to where we are going, and we should only glance from time to time in the rear view mirror.  He said that was how he viewed his life.  People always wanted to take him back to the past and talk about his former days as a football star, but he was laser focused on his future and looking ahead.

He told me that he was so engrossed in my Grassroots concept that he wanted it to be his future…….  I was truly floored and humbled.

He told me about how many successful retired NFL players, NFL Hall of Famers, etc., were not happy with their post career business ventures.  Although the majority of retired players are not successful financially after retirement, many of the ones who are successful do NOT enjoy what they do.  Some owned trucking companies.  Some owned restaurants.  Some owned fast food franchises, or restaurants.  He made it clear to me that SO MANY successfully retired NFL players truly hated what they were looking at in the front window, including him.  He wanted to something that he loved and that he was passionate about.

He wanted to be able to make a living at it, but he wanted it to be something that truly captivated him and inspired him.  He wanted it to be Grassroots.

To tell you that I thought I was dreaming is an understatement.  This guy was one of my childhood heroes and he was telling me that something that God put in my spirit was something that he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

So how did this make us change the organizational structure you ask?

During a meeting with my original group of partners, this man told us that he only saw one issue with the current plan.  He suggested that we change it from a Non-Profit to a For-Profit status.   We explained the origin of it and that the Life Skills and Leadership was where our hearts were.  He told us that most successful companies have a Non-Profit arm along with their For-Profit arm and that we could and still should create that.  However, he gave us the following brilliant idea.

He began to name some of his personal friends who were all over the USA that were former star athletes just like him.  I won’t say the names, but trust me they were household names, NFL Stars, and Hall of Famers who were friends of his.  He told us that most of them did NOT enjoy what they were doing in their businesses, similar to him.  He seemed certain that his friends and business associates would be just as excited about the Grassroots concept as he was.

He was convinced that they would want to be involved with it just like he was.  He gave us the name of a heavy hitter in Miami, another one in Dallas, another in San Francisco, Detroit, and other cities.  He said that he was confident that he could get those guys to bite on this Grassroots Concept.   He thought that franchising this concept would Change the Game.

Our only issue was that, “You can’t franchise a Non-Profit Entity.”  This great man inspired us like you could never believe merely by expressing his sincere interest in wanting to be an integral part of the Grassroots Youth Football League.  He showed us from a business perspective that, if we could make this successful, we could take it to the other 31 cities by way of a franchise model.  It was absolutely brilliant in concept.

We saw the vision and within a week, we had a Non-Profit Entity called the GYM Foundation and a For-Profit Entity called the GYFL.

Well, 6 years later a lot has happened.   We were not in position financially to meet the requests of the Redskin great at the time.  The initial investment capital that we secured was gone in 6 months.  The initial partnership group fell apart.  Yes, we have been successful at attracting some of the best student athletes, parents, and coaches over the past 6 years.  But, financially it has been a true struggle.

We did go bankrupt twice already for those who wish my demise.  Thank God for a mother that took care of her money and loved her 44-year-old son enough to carry him through the tough times.  The Good Lord took my father home on July 1st 2011 and he left enough money to survive the 2nd bankruptcy.  Thank God for a wife that works tirelessly and never gave up on her husband.  Thank God for a tight knit group of coaches that have believed in us and supported us over the years.  Thank God for the parents who have paid the Combine fees, and registration fees, along with the $5 at the gate so we can pay the heavy expenses each week.  Thank God for the volunteers who come out and grind for us every weekend.  Thank God for Under Armour believing in us to give us a chance to prove ourselves to them.

I thank God for so much!

We are nowhere close to being there yet.  The plans to expand to 31 other cities is on hold (LOL).  We are still fighting for our lives right here in the DMV.  But, we are getting closer to our dreams.

I pray that one day Grassroots will be financially successful and in 32 NFL cities with a headquarters that is providing jobs for thousands.  I pray that God will bless me to be wealthy one day so that I can truly be a blessing to my community.  It makes me sick that every time some kids needs helmets reconditioned, uniforms, new shoulder pads, safer equipment, money for a tournament, etc., I have to go beg some wealthy guys to help me help kids.

I do so much begging each and every year to help kids pay for tutoring, test preparation, tuition assistance, registration fees, football cleats, etc.  I am so tired of having to beg wealthy people to help the kids that I love and believe in.  One day I want to be that guy that people can come to because I care so much.

I am not chasing material possessions, cars, boats, and all of the things that I chased and coveted until I was 33 years old.  I am not the same person.  I am not perfect by any means, but all I am chasing are the destinies of kids.

When we have a GYFL in 32 NFL cities and our babies get a scholarship to Temple, or Georgia Tech, for example.  When we encourage them to get that degree in accounting or marketing, they won’t have to go outside of the family looking for job.  They will be able to work for the league that they help build when they were in middle school.

There is so much more that I could say on this topic, but my fingers are getting tired.   And if this is not enough to convince you that my motives are pure than Grassroots is just probably not the right league for you and I am not the right person for you to want your son to be around.

I have always tried to get you to understand the concept of the right fit with regard s to your High School Selection.  I guess that same thought process should be considered when considering what youth league you want your son to play in.

I hope that you will consider this Presidents Pen the next time that someone tells you that Mike is all about the money because his league is For-Profit.

Ask any of my coaches if there has ever been a kid that didn’t play in Grassroots, or that didn’t come to a combine because he didn’t have the money.  I have NEVER turned one kid away in the history of Grassroots.

For All that we provide for our Frosh and JV we charge $750 per team in the Spring.  Anything above that has NOTHING to do with Grassroots.  Your youth organizations have expenses that have to be incurred so if they charge you a reasonable fee, it is up to you to determine whether or not they are worth it.  But, only $750 comes to Grassroots. 

In the Spring for Varsity we charge $125 per player because we provide so much more for them.  Again, any fee above that amount is what your organization charges to cover their expenses.  Please don’t be fooled when you hear figures being bantered about that are not true.

We do charge $100 for combines because they are worth that and then some.  We make them mandatory because we must ensure that the scouting services keep coming back and if the kids are not there they won’t continue to come back.  But, do I really exact the $25 penalty for kids that don’t show up?  We had 2 combines this Spring with a total of 200 kids between PG County and Loudoun County.  We have over 600 kids playing in the league this Spring and over 400 did NOT attend.  Not to mention how many we extended financial aid to because they had legitimate financial hardships.

This has never been about money for me and it never will be.  We have a business to run and until or unless the Sponsorship dollars begin to come in and amazing rates, we need every penny that we charge to provide the top notch league that you have all grown to expect.

That is all for now!

 

God Bless,

 

Coach Mike

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