The fast-growing youth travel team industry has given rise to a parallel, equally massive athletic instruction and training industry, which has threatened the quality of baseball training, the integrity of the game, and the fabric of youth development. Matthew T. Barrett, Founder and CEO of PremierSports, a unique athletic training service that connects premier private coaches with passionate athletes, aims to subvert that threat.
Launched in 2013, PremierSports has recruited 100 coaches and has facilitated 3,000 coach-athlete searches. As Matt explains, “We believe our market place has a window of opportunity to modernize the athletic instruction and training industry. We see the need for a service that connects premier private coaches with passionate athletes, and PremierSports provides that service.”
As baseball futures go, Matthew T. Barrett has always stayed focused and realistic, and he has always seen himself involved in sports. You do not often see those qualities in young players, but Matt had a different idea. Graduating from high school, and having had training by some of the best baseball trainers in the New Jersey-New York metropolitan area, he knew he could play at a high level. As with all talented young players, though, the question invariably became, how far could he advance?
Although his interests at Little League levels lay in pitching and playing infield, he soon learned to adjust to playing where his team needed him. His training made him a versatile player and taught him a valuable life lesson, which helped him develop the entrepreneurial instincts he has today. Those instincts, fashioned at early ages, enabled him to test his mettle and succeed in different lines of work.
Matthew traces the life adjustments he learned to make to his family moving from South Plainfield to Hopewell, when his Dad got a new job. Not long after, Matthew enrolled in the Hopewell Valley School District and began participating in sports programs in the area, most notably baseball. He recalls “the tremendous growth experience” he had playing for Hopewell Valley High School and the Hopewell Valley Baseball and Softball Association (HVBSA) American Legion team. He cannot say enough in praising the baseball instruction he received in those programs, particularly from Legion Coach Randy Voorhees.
“My parents supported me at every level, making sure I always had the best individual trainers, the premier private coaches.” Matthew says. Among them, he names The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) head coach Rick Dell, Princeton head coach Scott Bradley, and Bayside Yankees coach Marc Cuseta. “I received the best instruction from passionate coaches; it drove me to be a better player and a better individual. From each coach I learned to set realistic but measurable goals as well as principles of hard work, persistence, and dedication. They taught me that baseball is only one facet of life; it gave me good balance. I believe that sports programs exist to provide balance to academic life and to promote principles and life lessons that are difficult to teach in a classroom setting.”
For a while when he started in baseball Matthew played catcher; but owing to his well-rounded training, he soon gravitated to pitching and playing shortstop. He did well at both and overall performed well enough, in the classroom and on the field, to advance to Virginia’s George Mason University on a 75% scholarship. He started for the Patriots for three years before transferring back north in 2007 to TCNJ and childhood mentor-coach, Rick Dell. “By my third year at GMU I realized that a pro career was not in the cards.”
Matt’s transfer to TCNJ served him and his new team well, as he helped lead the Lions to their 3rd consecutive conference championship in 2007, and led the team the following year in home runs. Later that year Matt, along with some other enterprising TCNJ students, formed ‘RateTheCoach.com,’ an online ratings directory of coaches. “TCNJ is a great academic institution and it challenged me. My first academic project at TCNJ led me to an exciting and unique entrepreneurial venture, and that venture taught me which business models to emulate and which ones to avoid. TCNJ is a great school!”
After graduating from TCNJ, Matt served as General Manager and Head Coach of the Tulln Ravens Sports Organization in the Austria Baseball Federation. Yes, you read it right, that’s Austria as in the overseas, European country. As Matt explains, “Before I joined the Tulln Ravens the team had three losing seasons in a row. After a few weeks of evaluating the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, I introduced new training procedures, practice regimens, and player recruiting methods which made the Tulln Ravens into a winning organization. It was a life changing experience at 23 years-old.”
Before starting PremierSports, Matt returned to the states and led a talented baseball team of underclassmen at Princeton Day School (PDS) to a state title. “We dominated all year, winning the Parochial B State Championship.” It’s a sports achievement not often seen at an institution like PDS, which prides itself on its academic accomplishments.
Among his professional experiences, Matt has also worked as a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley and an IT recruiter at KForce Tech in New York City. Although Matt downplays his professional experiences, his successes in baseball and the private sector stem from an ambitious, visionary business acumen which, in conjunction with these experiences, have shaped his development and future in sports management. Together they have given him a marketing sense for business opportunities that escapes all but the most seasoned entrepreneurs. In particular, his experiences as a player and a coach alerted him to areas of need in youth sports. For example, “In 2012, when I was working in New York City and coaching on the upper east side, I realized that no organization is connecting athletes with premier coaches, and that’s why I started PremierSports.”
Matt believes that the Athletic Instruction and Training Industry’s infrastructure and business models have broken and gotten old. In turn, as he describes, coaches nationwide have felt and continue to “feel the pain from enormous information holes, lack of appropriate relationships, costly marketing, complicated operations, and large monopolizing sports academies, health clubs and fitness centers that concurrently increase pricing but drive down quality. Locally, quality coaches have gotten squeezed and pushed out of the business, while up-and-coming coaches find the barriers to entry harder to overcome.”
He also understands that money making influences have long threatened the development of young people who participate in youth sports, most notably travel baseball. The number of tournaments that overcharge for the privilege of playing there boggle the rational baseball, youth development mind. Unwitting parents who tend to live vicariously through the on-field exploits of their children contribute to wrong-headed beliefs and practices that we see throughout youth sports today. That people will find ways to finance exorbitantly priced training and tournaments represents probably the saddest, most poignant fact about youth baseball in the 21st century. Matthew calls the phenomenon ‘daddy play ball’ and adds for emphasis that, in youth sports, “Pay to play has to change.”
He further points out that “millions of young, aspiring athletes who play competitive sports and their parents, who have expressed demand for finding qualified coaches, have no mechanism to vet, compare, and schedule coaching sessions.” Long before his business interests and his thinking about market inefficiencies emerged, he was, as previously mentioned, a three-sport athlete at Hopewell Valley High School. At a young age his sports career included many town and club baseball teams close to home. Once he reached high school, though, larger, more well-known, nationally recognized, baseball organizations came into play.
His parents’ unflagging support combined with his success as a player, a coach, and an entrepreneur helped form his philosophy about what youth sports should represent. That philosophy comes full circle in PremierSports.
Matt proudly notes that he “loves to build teams and products.” In the ever-mercenary world of youth travel tournaments and training, his voice resonates with what’s good about the youth travel team industry. Specifically, the facilities and organizations who teach kids in the right ways for the right reasons, although outnumbered by those that promote winning at all costs and a strictly remunerative outcome, reflect this observation. Through PremierSports he hopes to reverse the current trend at the youth sports level to make kids little big-leaguers – the trend he calls ‘daddy play ball’ – by introducing sensible training methods and policy, and by reinstating the value of letting kids enjoy playing the game for its own sake.
NJB Magazine supports Matthew’s business model for kids and his view that, “This is the ideal time to teach passion for the game, to teach dedication, to make them better players and people, to connect quality players with high level coaches.”
Check out the PremierSports website for more great information! www.PremierSports.com