Author: Adrian Beunder
This week’s Pure Game Field Champion Spotlight is going to be a little different because the Pure Game family member we’re showcasing this week is the one who started it all. As wide as our reach is and the number of cities, schools, and kids we’ve impacted, it is thanks to a team effort, but it really boils down to the man who wanted to make a change. He’s from the U.K where they call the vehicle we use to instill these changes “Football” rather than Soccer and he knew the youth sports system in America needed remodeling to place the lives of the kids on and off the field paramount to the skills of the kids. As you’ll read in the spotlight, he felt a need to instill positivity, structure, and encouragement for kids to realize they have what it takes to do what they want in life and inspire others to do so as well. Even in the face of immense adversity from the pandemic and a recent mountain biking accident that left him with severe injuries requiring surgery, guess who’s chipper and pushing through to keep our philosophy of growth and overcoming challenges going strong? Tony Everett is the founder of Pure Game and this week’s spotlight is highlighting what inspired him to start this hugely beneficial organization that changes the lives of thousands of kids.
PURE GAME: What inspired you to create Pure Game?
TONY EVERETT: As I have reflected on this over the years, I have got to understand that it came from my own childhood. I didn’t have the most engaged parents, I was the fourth of five and it seemed they were not that interested in what I was doing or what my future might look like. I can’t remember a time when my dad came to any of my sporting activities. I grew up with “could do better” on my report card was acceptable. I knew when I had done something wrong, but rarely heard about when I had done something right. This type of upbringing has created in me a need to prove myself, and a feeling of not being worthy. I believe this might be called the “imposter syndrome” that so many leaders are dealing with.
I don’t see the need for any child to have to go through this battle in their life, so I created something that helps children understand they are good enough and have what it takes to make something with their life. With the right guidance and encouragement, kids can become their best selves and therefore live a purpose-centered life.
PG: How did you get involved with Pure Game?
TE: I was coaching club soccer for an Orange County club team. I saw how expensive it was, how over coached the kids were, and how most kids played to perform for their parents and coaches vs paying for the love of the game. This realization got me thinking about how I grew up playing the game and how that came with so much more freedom and joy for the game. I wanted to recreate something similar to that which I grew up with, so I started to look at the Street Soccer format of play to help kids play the game for fun without the pressure parents can bring to the game. I launched the first program idea with my club team players, and they loved it every time I arrived at practice with my Pure Game Pugg goals. It was so much fun, and so I knew the format would be a great way to engage any kids from any background. It has proven to be a great way to teach kids life lessons, provide them with positive mentors, and help them create a positive emotional connection to the game.
PG: How has Pure Game helped you in your personal development?
TE: Every time I deliver the life skills curriculum it is like I am teaching myself. The lessons we pass on to kids remind me to live the same fife as I was teaching. The program makes me think about my own decision-making process and regularly ask the question about how they align with my values and those of the organization.
PG: What school and how many schools do you service?
TE: I now help with programming as opposed to operating any of them. When I first started the program, people would tell me I would need to replicate myself. I believe I have successfully done that with the staff we have at Pure Game. The programs I now focus on are the specialized high-risk teen programs, so juvenile hall, and targeted high schools.
PG: How would you describe the Pure Game in your own words?
TE: A program that gives kids an experiential learning process that they can put into practice through the skills we are teaching in the curriculum.
PG: What kind of impact have you seen in the schools the Pure Game services?
TE: The biggest impact I have seen is the kids who come out of the juvenile hall system with a reason to change. They get involved with Pure Game as volunteers or we mentor them and help them clean up their lives and give back to their communities.
PG: Why should people support Pure Games Programs?
TE: Imagine your life without sport, without mentors, or without a structure that allows you to learn and grow. By supporting Pure Game you are making sure that no one needs to imagine the life you just created in your head. We are doing the important work of making positive change a reality for youth who have little to look forward to.