Price A. Thomas
Everything has an origin story. For superheroes it’s some sort of injustice of the past, like the death of a family member, that spurs them on the be a protector of justice and champion of all things good.
And to wear tights.
For businesses, it’s usually a combination of luck, intelligence, and that secret ingredient that people rarely reference:
Gradum is no different. A leading, youth soccer academy that is one of the first to combine sport and data-focused science at the youth level, and to provide wraparound services and opportunities for economically-disadvantaged aspiring athletes, Gradum was the brainchild of former soccer players with “day” jobs.
I won’t bore you with all the mind-numbing details about status reports, and timesheets, and progress meetings. Days filled with empty business buzzwords like “synergy” and “optimization” and “low-hanging fruit.” And g-chat conversations that were I’m sure solid entertainment for some desk-jockey on a remote NSA farm.
What I will tell you, is how inspiring it is to be surrounded by intelligent, like-minded people.
Back in 2011 when I was in Europe, I was first introduced to the theory of individualized training. Each player had a plan built specifically for him (or her) that was meticulously created to address specific areas for improvement technically, tactically, and physically. All players weren’t rated on a single rubric. Instead, they were evaluated specifically. From a technical standpoint it was based on key performance indicators at their position (pass completion, key passes, aerial challenges won, chances created, etc.), and physically based on their own levels of improvement. It was Moneyball for soccer. No longer were players having to pass the “eye test,” they were being broken down and analyzed with irrefutable data. It was incredible to see the development of my physiology and technique when given laser-focused tools to improve backed by science.
Why wasn’t this happening in the US?
Back in a stale, austere, office building in Virginia, I talked, as I did every day, with Willie, arguing about politics and sports among a multitude of other things. I finally decided to pitch him my idea. An idea for a holistic, science-based, training program that would allow for players to get individualized training to address what we saw as 4 pillars of development: technical, tactical, physical, mental. I can be convincing. He was in. Gradum was born. We don’t regret it. Our wives might.
We rounded out the staff with some of the finest minds in a diverse array of fields, and are excited to continue to grow our offerings and establish ourselves as the premier youth soccer training center on the east coast.
With the launch of the Ireland Street Foundation, and within it, the Gradum Equity Project, we are committed to using sports as a vehicle for social change, and providing young players from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds the same level of resources and opportunity as their peers.
We remain true to our core principles of providing each and every player we work with a customized experience based on their level of development and particular areas for improvement.
I speak on behalf of my entire staff when I say that we are thrilled by the opportunity to continue to grow, innovate, and #redefinequality.