The Beginning of a Legacy
Dandrick Moton founded Excel Sports LLC in 2006. The name came from his mom, Thelma Mot0n, owner of Choosing to Excel, located in Conway, Arkansas. It is a top nonprofit organization in the market of teaching children how to become academic eligible. It’s a highly successful organization, and Dandrick helped her operationally, establishing a great foundation for his future organization, Excel Sports LLC.
Dandrick played at the University of Conway Arkansas, the same school as Scotty Pippin (NBA 6 time champion and 50 Greatest NBA players of all time), before coming to Arizona State University (ASU) for graduate school. After earning his MBA in communications, he also taught classes at ASU.
He became the regional director for Liberty Sports, a sports organization that had a nationwide contract with Lifetime Fitness to manage their adult basketball league product. Liberty Sports had been created by Marcus Liberty, the well-known basketball player who played for the University of Illinois alongside Kendall Gill and Nick Anderson (former NBA players).Liberty Sports was not able to uphold their contractual obligations, so an opportunity was presented to Dandrick to manage the local adult basketball product for Lifetime Fitness. Lifetime – Tempe contacted Dandrick, explaining, “Hey, we marketed this program, and we have momentum. A large volume of teams have signed up. Can you get yourself certified and salvage this business?” Dandrick was able to create the LLC, Excel Sports, hence the birth of a lasting legacy…
Having a third-party basketball league at a fitness facility was a great business opportunity for Dandrick because the Excel Sports Men’s Basketball League brings Lifetime Fitness unsolicited traffic to help with sales. After Dandrick registered the business name Excel Sports LLC, Excel Sports became the basketball product for Lifetime Fitness in Tempe, Gilbert, and Scottsdale with adult basketball leagues, basketball training, and youth basketball camps. Then he scaled into Mountainside Fitness in Ocotillo, Gilbert, Scottsdale as their basketball product too, for adult basketball leagues and youth basketball products including basketball training, after school basketball programs, Raja Bell Jr. Basketball League, and youth basketball camps.
The Budding of A Wonderful Business Partnership and Friendship!
I joined Excel Sports in 2006. Dandrick and I were both basketball referees at the high school level. After being introduced to Dandrick for my refereeing services, we clicked immediately, and many conversations later he invited me to coach at a youth basketball camp at Lifetime Fitness – Tempe.
Dandrick was large in stature, 6’4 and approximately 280 pounds, which gave him the look of a defensive end for football. He had lots and lots of charisma and personality. He also had the ability to reach any audience, at any time, in any environment.
At the first camp I attended as a coach, he was in the corridor talking to a parent and I was on the court working with the kids. He must have been watching me from a distance, you never know who’s watching. He walked toward me on the court, raised his voice with excitement and said, “Do you have any idea how I can market this energy you bring?” I didn’t realize what he was talking about. After all, I was just being me. I learned what that meant later on for sure, because basketball is full of energy, excitement, and emotion. Little did I know that I was on a journey to learning the business side of basketball, off the court, a journey that would last a lifetime.
How Coaching Fell into My Lap?
Through our conversations, Dandrick asked me what I wanted to do in his organization. I told him, I wanted to work with kids. He then asked whether I was interested in training and I was thrilled at the thought of training. That’s when I began as a trainer in 2007. I enjoy teaching young players the fundamental techniques of basketball.
However, in training young players, it’s critical to teach them how to “undo” their bad habits by correcting these habits physically, mentally, and emotionally. Changing a player’s technique can reduce their confidence short term because they are trying something new. However, constant repetition using the correct techniques, will increase their confidence, and when they see that it works, and it’s explained to them where they understand it, and it’s shown to them by looking at fundamental players using these techniques, they are more willing to try it, and trust and confidence increases from their perspective with their basketball trainer. Now as a trainer, you are reconditioning the player both physically, mentally, and emotionally. Three dimensional training where the player understands it becomes very exciting! For example, when a young right handed player learns how to do left handed layups for the first time, with the proper footwork, brings on a tremendous amount of excitement to the player, the parent, and the trainer!!!
At the end of the first camp I attended as a coach,, a parent approached Dandrick, inquiring, “Does your organization provide one-on-one basketball training? A parent pointed at me and said, “Because I like what that coach is doing, and my child really likes him. I want my child to train with him.””
“Coach Mike,” Dandrick said, “you have your first client.” I was ecstatic. It was a natural transition for me to train kids and I enjoyed it. Six months later, I was providing private instruction for eleven kids and it happened organically through word of mouth and referrals. (Another valuable lesson in operating a business. The value of your referrals, your reputation in the community, and how fast positive or negative energy compounds is not to be underestimated!)
Excel Sports provided adult basketball leagues, basketball training, and after-school basketball programs that led to Excel Sports becoming a household name in the local community.
Leaving a Legacy
In 2009, Dandrick went to the doctor with chronic back spasms. After a few visits to the doctor and more bloodwork investigation, he was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer. At that time, approximately a thousand individuals a year were diagnosed with that disease. There had not been enough cases to sufficiently study that type of cancer, therefore, no cure had been provided.
Less than two weeks after being diagnosed with Kidney Cancer, Dandrick was admitted into the Houston MD Anderson Center, a center to combat cancer. I received a call from Dandrick’s wife, Enjolie, who told me that if I wanted to talk to him on the phone, he could hear me but he could not respond. It was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had in my life! To talk to someone who you know is about to expire, when they can hear and understand you but can’t respond, is really tough. How does one prepare their last words to someone they love? He was my closest friend, who was passionate about doing things the right way when no one was watching, passionate about basketball and impacting our youth positively, very passionate about his family, and very, very passionate about his love for Jesus Christ!!!
The following morning, the phone rang, and I knew in my spirit Dandrick had passed. Reluctantly and overwhelmed with sadness, I picked up the receiver, and was unable to speak. Dandrick’s wife said simply, “Coach Mike, I can hear that you’re there. He’s gone…” Devastating!!!
My wife, Carolyn, and I attended the funeral in Conway, Arkansas, where Dandrick was buried on the mountain with his deceased family members who laid to rest. A very beautiful ceremony. During the funeral, I spoke to the youth in this family expressing what Dandrick would want for them to know for their own benefit. My message was simple: “While we may be sad, we are here to celebrate because Dandrick Motem left a lasting legacy for all of us.” I provided a message to the youth to do what’s right, to exceed your own expectations, to be your own worst critic, and to raise the bar for yourself and to strive to be the best you can be in life.
Dandrick was 33 years old, and I discovered he had spoken to approximately 50,000 kids, urging them to turn their life over to Christ. I knew he was a devoted Christian, because we had studied and prayed together. I feel honored to be part of this legacy.
Excel Sports was dormant for about six months. Dandrick’s wife had opportunities to sell what he had built, but she was emotionally attached to the organization he and I helped grow. Declining offers, she eventually said to me, “Coach Mike, you take it, because I trust you to do the right thing. Whatever you want do with it, just do it.” So I got out of the adult basketball business in order to focus on kids. Developing the youth in the community has been a passion of mine for a long time now. Today, we’re carrying on Dandrick’s legacy through our values and vision to help develop kids in both basketball and life.
What Excel Sports Provides
In 2013, I stepped away from collegiate basketball officiating. Since I have more time to develop and invest in Excel Sports, we’ve grown the organization tremendously.. In March 2014 we had one team and one coach. Today we have seven teams, 10, coaches, and a Booster Club.. Two of these teams compete regionally. Since 2014, we’ve grown from one team, to a program, and now transitioning from a program to an operation…
We are a competitive based program with two tournament / travel teams. We are scaling our business to now include intermediate, competitive, and tournament teams. This provides a greater opportunity to develop players with a platform to transition to as they increase their skill level.
The nine players we had in March 2014 have now grown to more than sixty players. Lessons learned from our experiences have equipped us to provide a niche training tool for the youth of our community, enabling us to encourage them to pursue the sport they love.
At the end of the day, we’re mirroring parenting. We are helping kids develop their personalities, teaching them how to embrace and deal with adversity, improving their teamwork and goal setting strategies, while encouraging in them the discipline they need to be humble, positive, and successful in life. They learn how to be self-motivated, to persevere, self-disciplined, self-critique, and how to teach and motivate through the leadership skills they are being taught .
When we teach kids to embrace adversity, so that no matter what challenges they face, they have a foundation and insight to pull from. They are able to say to themselves, “If I accomplished this, I can make accomplish that.” They learn that they can use these same tools in their academic work, in their collegiate life, in their job, as well as to address problems or create successes in the community.They can use the life skills we give them for anything in life.
It’s our intention to communicate the disciplines required for improvement on the basketball court in a manner that translates to every aspect of life. So when little Johnny comes to the gym, he doesn’t have to change mental hats. He can wear the same hat all week long, whether he’s at school, church, the grocery store, the park, a birthday party, or the community center. No matter where he goes, he feels empowered to be authentic by believing in himself.
We teach kids to do the right thing while no one is watching, to help people in need, and to display humility and LEADERSHIP. They become willing to lead not only when they feel the inclination, but when no one else is willing to do so. They also learn that they can trust their instincts. After all, they have been sharpening their instincts all along with our program development strategies.
Now you understand why our motto at Excel Sports is “Excel In Sports, Excel In Life.”