The things we do from 9-5, they seem important. When you’re talking about volunteering, coaching, it’s bigger than you. You don’t realize it until one of the kids that you coached succeeds.
Location: New York, New York
Profession: Manager of Ad Product Solutions at Time, Inc.
How are you giving?
I volunteer as an assistant coach for the boys wrestling team at Delbarton High School, where I attended and wrestled. It started one year when my high school coach asked me to come visit the team if ever I was in town. And it’s since turned into a seven-year engagement of going to the school every day and working with the team.
Every day is an extraordinary commitment. What keeps you motivated?
It’s hard. You think that by living in the city with so many people opportunities you’re interested in will just come to you. The thing is, you have to be active about it. My assistant coach asked me if I would come help, but no one was begging me. I wanted to do this. When I started, I wasn’t in shape and my main job was to get beat up. That’s not a glamorous thing to come into every day. But I came back every day.
When deciding how and where you’ll give, it can’t be something you force. You have to be proactive, otherwise you’re not going to last.
How did you get involved in giving?
At Delbarton, volunteering was part of core curriculum. You had to be involved in at least two to three projects each year. Some of my projects included bringing food to homeless people in the neighborhoods around Newark and working with children through EPOCH (Educational Programs of Children Handicapped).
The school emphasized the importance of being a part of the community. It’s a Catholic school and although I’m not particularly religious, that’s something that did stick with me: giving back and being part of a larger community.
How involved are you with that community today?
The alumni network is very big and a lot of people in the Delbarton community return to give back. We still do projects today. My class of about 100 students just recently participated in a coat drive where about half of us showed up. Right now, another alumnus, who’s actually a kid I once coached, and I have volunteered to put a website together to honor kids that won State this year.
Why did you specifically choose to coach wrestling?
I wrestled in high school and in college and I know firsthand that a lot goes into wrestling. It’s not just the competition, but the mental discipline of maintaining your weight is unlike most high school sports. For a lot of the athletes, having someone that’s been through it all is really important because unless you’ve gone through it, you’ll never really understand it.
If you’re really serious about wrestling, it can be a very lonely sport. You compete as an individual, you maintain your weight as an individual. My parents didn’t understand and neither did many of my friends. But I think it’s a great sport not because of what happens when you win but because of what happens when you lose. Wrestling teaches you how to lose, and what’s important is what you do to get back up. When you lose, it’s just you in the stairwell of the gymnasium, crying, and being willing to put yourself through that is tough.
Is there a specific instance that stands out in your volunteering experience?
I ended high school wrestling on bad terms. I quit my senior year. At that time, my assistant coach, who’s been at Delbarton for 35 years and is now like my second father, said, “One day, hopefully you’ll come back and coach, and help them through the challenges you faced.”
My poor wife didn’t get it at first, but eventually she met one of the kids I coached and understood why it’s so important for me to do this. The first time I met this student he was in the 5th grade. The last time I was his coach, he had broken down and was crying, asking why he was putting himself through all of this. I was able to help him learn from my mistakes and get through it. He’s now a senior at Harvard, is an All-American and ranked top 10 in the nation.
When you think about it, the things we do from 9-5 they seem important. When you’re talking about volunteering, coaching, it’s bigger than you. You don’t realize it until one of the kids that you coached succeeds.
How do you balance work, family, and giving?
Not well. [Laughs] Sleepless nights. States is held in Atlantic City and the person who scheduled my bachelor party is the assistant coach for Randolph High School. He scheduled my bachelor party in Atlantic City so that we could coach the next day. So my bachelor party was a steak dinner, some drinks, then coaching the state competition the next morning.
Delbarton’s an all boys school so since your daughter can’t attend, will you be the one to pass on those giving values to her?
My wife is Pakistani Muslim and I was raised Catholic and even though neither of us is really religious, we often talk about where our daughter is going to get her core value system. It’ll have to come from us.
One of the things I liked about Delabrton was that it made your parents participate, too. So we would work in a soup kitchen with our fathers. I will definitely be doing those activities with my daughter and teaching her the value of giving.