Getting Kids in the Game
Sports entrepreneur Jordan Fliegel, IBS MBA’10, vividly remembers the long and winding road trip in Maine that led to his eureka moment.
He was with his best friend from his Little League days. “We were having a deep conversation about what I wanted to do with my life,” recalls Fliegel, who spent his weekends coaching kids. “I said the thing I cared most about was helping young athletes.”
At the time, Fliegel was working at Zintro, a Massachusetts-based online consultant marketplace created by fellow Brandeis alum Stuart Lewtan ’84. During the soul-searching conversation in the car, Fliegel realized he could marry his passion for youth sports with his technological expertise.
“I thought, ‘What if I created a marketplace similar to Zintro, but to help kids find coaches?’” he says.
The result, CoachUp, was born five years ago. Today, backed by $15 million in venture funding, it’s a 35-employee firm that connects 20,000 personal coaches in 35 different sports to hundreds of thousands of kids (and adults) across the country. The online portal screens personal trainers and coaches, then matches them with athletes looking for one-on-one coaching. The company also tracks reviews and responses, continuously updating its information so parents and athletes can find the best local coaches.
Fliegel understands how powerful a good coach can be. As a young basketball player, he turned to former Brandeis basketball captain Gregory Kristof ’04, who became his personal coach and helped him go from an average high-school player to a starter at Bowdoin College. Fliegel led Bowdoin to its best-ever record and went on to play two years of pro ball in Israel and Europe.
Golden State Warriors star and NBA MVP Stephen Curry, who credits his own athletic development to personal coaching, is a CoachUp partner and spokesman, as are New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, and Boston Bruins president and retired NHL star Cam Neely.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Fliegel says. “So many former collegiate and professional athletes want to help kids. Ultimately, it’s about making sure kids around the country have great experiences with sports.”
— Dave Wedge