Hello, everyone! I’m Michael T. Eckhardt. Many of you might know me from my TEDx talks about the future of networking. Well, I’m not exactly shifting careers at this point, but I do like talking and writing about sports. And when it comes to sports, there’s no better place in the world than Miami!
So, what makes me write about sports? Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always played one sort of team sport or another. My first sport was baseball, where I played shortstop, then a coach noticed my throwing arm and suggested I’d make a decent quarterback. Then I had a growth spurt and got a bit faster so I shifted over to wide receiver. In my junior year in high school, I had seven touchdown receptions. My dad also suggested that I try out for the basketball team. I made it as a shooting guard even if I was barely six feet and one inch in my sneakers.
Throughout college, my whole life consisted of training in the morning, then classes in the afternoon, then games in the evening. The schedule got a bit lighter when I moved to WPI, a Division III school, but the academic side of college became tougher when I started doing my internship at Bain Capital over the summer before my senior year. I ended my college career averaging a shade under nine points a game in a high-scoring system.
Sports took a backseat when I moved to Florida for work. Sure, I played a few pickup games here and there, but sports weren’t much of a priority, especially when I met the woman who would later become my wife. Fortunately, I started watching the big-league teams, such as the Heat, the Marlins, and the Dolphins. Instead of playing the game, I was fine with being a spectator for the moment.
Things changed when a colleague at Cisco asked me to help coach an AAU team that he was supporting in Liberty City. That team, Bimini Ballers, has since produced athletes who played at the D-II and NAIA levels. It gave me an outlet for my competitive streak while helping underserved young people get a shot at a career in sports. Since I spun off from Cisco and started my own IT consultancy, I’ve had more time to coach and scout players from all over northern Miami.
Sports, in my opinion, keeps us young. A regular jog, studies show, adds a few more years to your life. It could also be a catalyst for a healthy, united community. I will always remember how the whole of Miami broke out in celebration when Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal won the first NBA championship for the city. There’s nothing I like seeing more than inner-city kids working their guts out for a rebound; that work ethic will get them to places they never imagined they’d reach.
As I was writing this blog post, a letter just arrived from Kaunas, Lithuania. It was from one of the kids I coached in the earlier days of the Bimini Ballers AAU program and the Michael T. Eckhardt Sports Foundation. He’s now earning good money in the Lithuanian Second Division. Getting letters from these fine young individuals who are now plying their trade all over the world really makes me proud of them. After all, sports is all about pride.