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On The Whistle Podcast | Great Kids, Great Cops: How Sports Can Change a Community

October 20, 2020

Gary Goldberg

If it don't bleed, it don't lead. Media outlets depict the worst of modern society. They can find the time to cover riots, but they ignore all the positive things taking place. Like the great work of the Police Athletic Leagues. In this first episode of the On the Whistle podcast, I, Gary Goldberg, talk with Jeff Hood, Chief Executive Officer at National Association of Police Athletic/Activities Leagues, Inc. We discussed:

Jeff's background as a basketball player How PAL builds relationships among kids, cops, and communities. What modern kids need How PAL measures success ...And the real value of coaches and mentors in communities.

 

Listen now

 

Episode transcript

Gary Goldberg:

All right. Welcome everybody to another installment of On The Whistle, where today I'm super excited to introduce and welcome to the show, Jeff Hood. Jeff is the CEO of the Police Athletic League at the national level. What I've learned so much in my research, Jeff, is there's about 300 individual chapters across the United States with the sole mission of working with young people at the chapter level to promote the prevention of juvenile crime and violence by building relationships among kids, cops and community through positive engagement. Welcome to the show, Jeff. If there has ever in a time, if there has ever been a time that something like this is needed, boy does it feel like it's today.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah, no question. First, Gary, thank you for having me. I very much appreciated and always willing and interested in speaking first about our young people and the plight and the path of which they are on past, present and future. But then also, as you state, definitely want to engage your listeners with what that relates to as it engages law enforcement. As I speak a lot across the country, as well internationally, I break it down a little bit simple on these terms. Do we know young people that have done some pretty bad things? Yes, no question. Does that make all young people bad? No, it doesn't. Do we know some law enforcement officers, officers that have done some pretty bad and unscrupulous things? No question. In that same token, does it make all law enforcement officers bad? Not at all. Not at all.

Gary Goldberg:

[crosstalk 00:02:25].

Jeff Hood:

That's right there. There are some officers that are out there doing some very great things in communities all across this country and internationally, same way we have some great young people, some awesome young people all across this country. I think once we somewhat departmentalize it that way, then we can kind of use that ammunition to get to the true crux of what's going on, and be very transparent and open about it. That's why I normally start with, look, there's bad kids, there's bad cops. Okay? There's great kids and there's great cops. Where do we go from here?

Gary Goldberg:

Jeff, what's the condition of young kids in America, and where are you guys focused? Do I find this in the sticks of Oklahoma, or is PAL a downtown Detroit thing, or is it both? Is it in Beverly Hills? I'm just picking a zip code that sounds wealthy and has a lot of resources like Beverly Hills, right? I grew up in a town called Fall River, Massachusetts. It was a union mill town. Today, from what I hear, I live about 35 minutes, but from what I've heard, all the mills are gone and it's a heroine den now, I hear. Tell me what's going on in the center intersection between the young person and the town and community in the United States right now. I've lost touch, but I need to understand it.

Jeff Hood:

Yes, we are in and around Beverly Hills. So, we are in LA suburban as well as inner city. We are also in Detroit inner city, underprivileged communities of Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Wisconsin. We're in all of those places, both well to do and not so well to do. We are very much in the front lines of a lot of those communities. I, myself, I'm a PAL kid. I grew up in inner city, low income communities in New York, in Queens, New York. Yeah, I'm a product of those communities and the community that, even to this point, hasn't gotten a whole lot better from a socioeconomic standpoint, but that's the one thing I love about PAL. Not one thing, I mean, there's a lot to love about PAL.

Jeff Hood:

But one of the great things in regards to PAL is we kind of supersede a lot of those communities, right? We have an annual. Unfortunately, wasn't able to have it this year. Every year, we have, in DC, Potomac, Maryland, a National PAL Youth Mentor and Leadership Summit. Right. We have 600, 700 kids come from all across the country that converges upon DC. Yeah, we have kids from low-income, from middle-income to well to do, and they're all learning from each other, they're all engaging with each other. It's like myself, I was fortunate enough to be pretty decent, if you will, in basketball. Basketball provided me an opportunity to go to college. I get to college and so I walk in the dorm room and coach is there and all. He's like, "Okay, well ..." My roommate at the time was from West Philadelphia.

Jeff Hood:

So, he's, "Okay, well, that's your sleeping over here. Kevin, that's your sleeping over here." I'm looking and I was like, "Wait, wait a minute. So, we all get our own beds. We get our own closets and our own space?" It's not how I grew up. Didn't know what I didn't know, because that's not how I was brought up. There was nine people in my family and there was three bedrooms. One of course was my mom and dad's, and then there was some for the boys and some for the girls, and then we had a basement. You get in where you fit in. I didn't know that we were poor until I went to a situation, it's like, wow, this is nice. This is nice thing here. So, we grow up with that, even in our PAL Programs. We have kids that are growing up in inner city Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and all the other places that I named, they don't know some of these things.

Jeff Hood:

One of the things that opened my eyes to us having to teach things a little bit different is at this mentor summit. We had some kids from, I won't mention where they were from, but they were from an inner city and not knowing. So, we're in the lobby getting ready to go to DC to meet with congressmen and officials and elected officials. We noticed that there are some kids that are missing. So, we go over, and it's like, hey, what's going on guys? They're sitting in their room and they're like, "Mr. Jeff, we didn't know how to turn the shower on."

Gary Goldberg:

Wow.

Jeff Hood:

They're in their room trying to figure out how to bathe, but they can't and did not know how to turn the shower on. That's when it was like, wow, we have to really be very strategic about this and intentional, and not take for granted that everybody knows how to turn the shower on. Not everybody knows how to wash their clothes in a washer and dryer. So, we have to really kind of make this thing very basic and intentional.

Gary Goldberg:

Jeff, how much of the supplement of the work you're doing this either in concert with, or in placement of public education? Because I'm hearing things like one, thank you for sharing that with me. Thank you for sharing that with our listeners. We need to get to the truth and understand the disparity across the entire country so that we can come together and heal what is clearly broken. But when I hear that kids don't know how to do some basic functional stuff around that, is that broken home? Because I don't live in a home that has that. Is that because I didn't learn that at school and I should have learned that at school? Is it a combination of both of them, and how is PAL working to glue all that together?G

Jeff Hood:

Yeah. Well, I think it's a combination of all of the above, because I don't know how you teach a class of how to turn the shower on in school.

Gary Goldberg:

Well, neither do I.

Jeff Hood:

Right. So, I'm not gonna put that one on the school, but I will say this though, there are some challenges growing up again in inner city, New York. So, we had classes such as home economics. We had wood shop, we had automotive shop. We had a lot of these things that help to teach you certain trades, certain skillsets. Well, schools have taken a lot of those things out of the school now. One of the classes, and even now to this day, is still sitting in my mother's living room. I took and I really loved taking ceramic shop. So, I learned pottery. I knew how to fire up things and work the kiln, and mold things, and shape things and all that. Well, if I was growing up today, there's no such thing as ceramic shop. I wouldn't have learned that skillset, or wood shop, how to make planners that I made in wood shop that are still sitting in my mother's house today. Wouldn't have learned those traits. I wouldn't have learned that.

Jeff Hood:

That could have wind up developing into a potential career in automotive or wood shop or ceramics or pottery or any of those things. Or home economics about cooking and those types of things. They're taking a lot of those types of things out of these schools, which lessens the opportunity for what? Our young people to explore and look at potential career paths.

Gary Goldberg:

Sure.

Jeff Hood:

You talk about how was power helping and diving into some of those things. First, one of the things that we started backing up from, PAL used to be PAL to police athletically, so everything was primarily about athletics. As I state, mentioned a little bit ago, I'm a former athlete and all as well.

Gary Goldberg:

I want to get back to that because I want to hear about your basketball, and I want to learn about who coached you and how it made you feel, but let's circle back onto that. I want to wrap up the blooming work that you guys are doing at the community level [crosstalk 00:11:53].

Jeff Hood:

Yeah. We took it and changed athletic to activities.

Gary Goldberg:

Nice.

Jeff Hood:

So that we're more holistic. It's not just about being an athlete, and you've heard the adage as well as about dumb jocks and all of those things. Okay. Fine, but we need to be more strategic in that of teaching these kids, okay, yes, being a part of a team is important, but you can also be a part of a robotics team. You can also be a part-

Gary Goldberg:

Or a chess team.

Jeff Hood:

Chess team, STEM, technology, all of these other things that are out there than just this thing called athletics. So, we've started diving a lot more into the athletic side, still keeping the athletic piece there, because that's been very successful, but we need to teach, at the end of the day, and we say that if all you've gotten out of being a PAL person or a PAL kid is athletics, we failed you as an organization, as a program.

Gary Goldberg:

So, what do you want a kid to feel he or she got out of a program. If I'm a successful participant in a PAL program, and I go in not having these things, what do I leave having?

Jeff Hood:

Well, it's a number of things. One, you learn that you can be a part of something that doesn't just have to be what everybody else seemingly is doing, and be secure in that. We also talk about life living skills. I talked to you about not being able to turn on a shower or know how to wash your clothes. We do a lot of those types of soft skills types of things as well. I think that's where a number of kids all across this country, and I'm just not talking about inner city kids. I'm talking about kids that are well to do, a great number of these kids, and I've been interviewing a number of them here recently for a position that I have open, and unfortunately, they are so far behind when it comes to soft skills.

Jeff Hood:

How do you even communicate? How do you have a conversation with someone instead of texting and the characters that are you make up on your phone or in the computer? How do you literally have an interview and you're sitting across from someone and you're able to have a meaningful dialogue and discussion? Those are things, toastmasters, things like that, that we are trying to engage our young people at as early age as possible that, hey, it's not just about this ball because sooner or later that air is going to come out of that ball, or you're not going to be able to throw that pitch 98 miles an hour any longer. Then people are hitting you, okay, now, what do you do? You still have to be successful in life. So, we are teaching more about life living skills. We're talking about the soft skills, we're talking about career development, we're talking about how to have a conversation with someone.

Jeff Hood:

Those are the things that we are backing up and reaching with these young people, and we're looking at engaging more with companies and corporations of setting up meaningful internship opportunities. Instead of just saying, yeah, you know, Mr. Jeff, for example, now, one of the things that's out there, we're great partners now with Microsoft. A number of kids are into this gaming thing, Xbox and all of these things. That's great. Well, now you can make a great living in gaming. There's colleges that are out there now that are giving away college scholarships in gaming. Now, it's like, okay, you like gaming, let's look at that from a career path opportunity, instead of you just sitting home, or at somebody's house, and you're gaming all day long, but it's not advancing you anywhere.

Jeff Hood:

Now we're trying to even implement that in conjunction with Microsoft, from a career path. So, we're looking at those things, and we have to make some changes. We can't always say, well, it's been this way. We're just going to always do it this way. And young people are failing at that. We have to be creative.

Gary Goldberg:

Jeff, turn the clock back for me. So, you're a kid growing up in a tough neighborhood in New York. You have self-admittedly told me that you were good at basketball.

Jeff Hood:

[inaudible 00:16:42].

Gary Goldberg:

I haven't said you were good at basketball. You said you were good about it.

Jeff Hood:

That's why I'm backtracking.

Gary Goldberg:

I'm forced to believe you, and I will. So, you ended up with a gym somewhere and you find a program called PAL.

Jeff Hood:

Yep.

Gary Goldberg:

How did it work and how did you personally connect with it, and how did it help you?

Jeff Hood:

Well, it was one of those vehicles that, that, that obviously helped save my life a little bit, because in the community that I grew up in, I could have went left or I could have went right. PAL was one of those vehicles that helped me from a number of standpoints. One, it helped me from a standpoint of establishing positive rapport and relationship with law enforcement.

Gary Goldberg:

why is that important?

Jeff Hood:

Well, it's important, because it's not always an us against them mentality. I'm not a law enforcement officer, but it helped me to define and understand that all police officers aren't bad, and if all police officers are bad, well, then those that were coaching me growing up, that means that I'm saying that they were bad, and I know that they weren't. They were a part of helping to define who I am as a person, helped me to understand that, yeah, this may be your current situation of living, but it doesn't have to be your end destination.

Jeff Hood:

There can be other opportunities for you out here if A, you're willing to put in the work, and B, you're also willing to allow us to help you to get to that next destination. So, it's a two-prong thing. First, yes, I have to be willing to put in the work, but then secondly, I also have to be willing and allow someone else in to help me to get to where they see and I see of where I'd like to be.

Gary Goldberg:

And did you go through that process personally, where you let somebody in?

Jeff Hood:

Yeah. I had to. I had to, because I was raised in a house of nine kids with single parent, and my dad was around and all, but yeah, by and large, it was primarily my mom. Yeah, so I needed some other mentors that was out there that was willing to invest time in me and believe in me and see something in me that I, at that time, couldn't see for myself. Because everywhere else I looked, I saw people just as poor as I was. You look at that and you had people said, look, that's what today looks like, but let me give you a little insight as to what tomorrow can look like for you. We continue to go down that path through that and some other opportunities that I was involved in outside of even PAL. All of those things helped me to define that I knew one thing, I was not going to stay here.

Gary Goldberg:

Jeff, was it just that you were just a good kid?

Jeff Hood:

No, because I wasn't always a good kid. I wasn't always a good kid. I did some things that I'm not particularly very proud of, not going to necessarily say that I'm going to take them all back because they helped me to define who and what I am today, and it was a part of that growth process. If I was always good, and I was ... then I can say that I would have come to the realization that I needed to A, work hard, two, that I needed to make some changes within my own life skills and growing process. As well as to be able to respect that process and understand what that looked like. So, no, I don't regret those things. I regret some of those that may have been, I'm not going to say taken advantage of, but was on the negative side of what I might have done. But outside of that, the learning experiences was very valuable [crosstalk 00:21:06].

Gary Goldberg:

The coaching staffs at these PAL organizations, are they a hundred percent police officers, or do you augment them with volunteers and non-police officers, or is the majority driven by police officers at the local level?

Jeff Hood:

They're majority driven by law enforcement officers, because that's what makes us different. Because if it's not the infusion of law enforcement, then we can be the boys and girls club or big brothers, big sisters or any of those other youth serving organizations.

Gary Goldberg:

It's interesting, there's been a bunch of line videos of police officers stopping in communities and pickup basketball with a kid, or something. You can see it's a little silly, but it's a little cool same time, but at the core of those videos, and the reason that I'm engaged with them and they kind of go viral is because there's something really awesome and powerful about seeing the harmony between what can be a threat, but what can also be loving and caring and supportive, and that relationship between police and youth.

Jeff Hood:

I will tell you this, Gary, is there are more of those positive things happening than what took place in Minneapolis?

Gary Goldberg:

Look, there's no doubt in my mind, Jeff, every organization that I've been a part of, when I look back on it, retrospectively, 90% of the work or noise is about two and a half percent of the population when you start dealing with problems. Even in our company, when we have employee issues, it's one or two people buzzing 90% of the problems.

Jeff Hood:

That's right.

Gary Goldberg:

It's never the 95%. That's called a revolution.

Jeff Hood:

That's right.

Gary Goldberg:

I get what you're coming at. I think it's such a complicated issue because you can tell, or at least I believe that police officers get involved with their work because they want to make a difference in the community that they come from or care about.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah, but Gary, I'll say this as well. A guy that I knew that he's still with the news media, and I was telling him about this great event that we were having, that was involving young people, law enforcement. It wasn't in any way benefiting law enforcement. It was definitely benefiting the community and the community youth. I said, "Hey, I really think this is something you guys need to come and cover." He's like, "Well, Jeff, we got this other thing going on and all that." I kept pressing him. I was like, "Are you kidding me? This is a great thing." He says, "Jeff, let me break it down to you and tell you like this. If it don't bleed, it don't lead." That has always stuck with me, and that's been several years ago that he and I had that conversation, but that's where we are.

Jeff Hood:

I'll never forget as well, I was sitting and watching some of this riding and all going on, and CNN and all of these people, and was covering all these things. You can find the time to cover the riots, but you can find time to cover a great number of the positive things that are taking place. For example, and I'm not saying this just because it's something that National Pal is doing and involved in by no means, but holistically, across the country, during this pandemic and during these issues of dealing with racism and equality and law enforcement relations and community reform, educational reform, the voice that we're hearing from is the voice of adults. Everybody's hearing from the voice of the adult, but what about the voice of our youth?

Jeff Hood:

They have challenges that are going on right now. They're dealing with having to go to school now in virtual learning.

Gary Goldberg:

Isolation.

Jeff Hood:

Isolation. This is the thing, and people are not paying to me enough attention to this, kids learn differently. There's kids that learn well by being in front of the teacher and then there's kids that will ... they'll be okay learning virtually, but those kids that learn from having to be in front of their teacher, behaving, ask questions, have after class communication and all those things, those kids are going to be in a bad shape.

Gary Goldberg:

Jeff, I'm worried about that because when this passes and those kids go back to the classroom, the classrooms aren't going to say, you know what? Let's pick up where we left off 11 months ago. They're just going to go forward and there's going to be a big gap.

Jeff Hood:

That's right.

Gary Goldberg:

There's going to be a problem with continuity of education and learning, particularly in the sciences and the math areas, perhaps in the foreign languages, because they're building blocks. So, there's going to be this big bubble, this big vacuum around certain chunks of education in kids in high school, middle school, wherever it is. So, I'm worried about that.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah, but then also what about those kids that are in these technology deserts to, whereas they don't have internet.

Gary Goldberg:

They don't have anything online.

Jeff Hood:

They don't even have computer at home.? And then, where does their support come from? Some of these kids are being raised by grandma and grandpa. Grandma and grandpa have no willingness at all to engage with a computer, nor could they provide them support. What happens to that kid? Who helps those families and those young people. It's a lot bigger issue than what we are taking on, what we're really announcing right now.

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah, and what we're focused on.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah. It's a lot deeper than that. With that, PAL is doing some things.

Gary Goldberg:

Tell us what PAL's doing to support that gap?

Jeff Hood:

One of the things, that we were doing a lot more educational assistance virtually. We are and have engaged even with Microsoft, where we are allowing some of our chapters through some of the grants that we engage with. We are now, for the first time, probably ever, allowing them to utilize some of that funding to purchase laptop computers. Awesome, right? And that's not a favorable thing, even from myself, for other grant related reasons, but we have to respond that way, so we are allowing them to use some of those resources again, through this partnership with Microsoft, who they've given us, discounted computer rate to purchase computers for some of these community-based programming that they will look to utilize for educational assistance, tutorial assistance, communication with our young people, all of those types of things.

Jeff Hood:

Another thing that we're doing, as I was expressing about hearing from our young people, we started this National PAL from the Voices of Youth community [crosstalk 00:28:57].

Gary Goldberg:

I'm looking at it on a website, it's right in the center. It says Voices of Youth and Voices of Youth Link. And I was listening to some of those in advance of our discussion, and they're very, very powerful, but tell our listeners, what is the Voices of Youth tab all about, and why should I click on it?

Jeff Hood:

Sure. What started initially as a 12 city town hall series, where we were going to go to 12 different cities, and we were going to engage our youth in town halls with the community change agents of their city, i.e., chief of police, mayor, Senator, congressmen, what-have-you, within those communities, school superintendents, and our young people would have communication, ask them questions, why are you doing this? Why are you not doing that? This is what we feel, we need you to hear from us, and we are going around the country having great conversation. We had a town hall yesterday in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Jeff Hood:

We had the chief of police on, we had the house of representative. We had his council woman, and then we had our young people on, and we had a celebrity as well. We had former NBA player, Kenny Gattison, former Charlotte Hornet, and all. Our young people are just peppering them with questions about what's going on in the community, but it's from their mouths. We coached them a little bit as far as diction and presentation, but the one area I do not touch with them is their questions. I don't even ask them what their questions are because I want it to be authentic from them. I don't want it to be from me, I don't want it to be from anyone else in PAL. I want it to be genuine from them, from these young people that are high school and college aged kids.

Jeff Hood:

It's been going great. We've been in Richmond, California, Houston, Texas, New Orleans, Memphis, Philadelphia, Dunn, North Carolina, North Miami beach, Henrico, Virginia, and then yesterday, Oklahoma City, and we still have East Cleveland, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, DC [crosstalk 00:31:28].

Gary Goldberg:

Big coverage, big coverage.

Jeff Hood:

We're all over the place.

Gary Goldberg:

How many kids, on an annual basis, does PAL interact with or touch in some way? Do you have any sense of that?

Jeff Hood:

1.5 million.

Gary Goldberg:

Incredible. How many Jeff Hoods are there in the 1.5 million? And do you know any stories of them?

Jeff Hood:

Oh God, yes.

Gary Goldberg:

Can you tell us the boy or the girl and this kid had that, and here's where they ended up because of PAL?

Jeff Hood:

Well, I'll give you one. Actually, I can take the rest of this show, and probably the rest of this show's this month that you may have with that one, but one kid that, and I'm going to try not to get sentimental here because I love this kid so much. He's in South LA. He's an our program in South Los Angeles, and his name is Francisco. He's just really challenged. He has a lot going on with family and community, as well as perception of, Mr. Jeff, people think that just because I'm from South LA, that I'm not going to amount to anything, I'm not going to be anything. So, we talked. We first met at our youth summit in DC two years ago. He and I, we communicate every other week or so and touch base. He is now a cadet that is looking at being a police officer, and that even surprised me. I didn't see that one coming.

Gary Goldberg:

Because he was in conflict with law?

Jeff Hood:

Yeah. Well, he was in conflict with the law, but he was also ... because his experience prior to PAL was always negative. If police came to the house, it wasn't a good thing. They wouldn't come by to say hello. It was either to arrest somebody or do something in the community or what-have-you. Yeah, so now he's like, "Mr. Jeff, I am really wanting to change the stereotype of South LA, and I want people to know that we care about our community." And he says, "Mr. Jeff, people always come to our community to try and help us, and that's great." He said, "But I'm looking forward to the day of when we are able to leave our community to go help somebody else's community because that means our community is okay."

Gary Goldberg:

That's a powerful message.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah.

Gary Goldberg:

By the way, if Francisco can't get us there, nobody can.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah.

Gary Goldberg:

We really need him to do it.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah.

Gary Goldberg:

Because this idea of us coming in and changing his community hasn't worked. For him to take ownership of that is so important for the success of his family, of his neighbors. That's so great, Jeff, to hear that story.

Jeff Hood:

He's just an awesome kid. There's so many. Prior to the pandemic, I traveled a lot, go into our PAL programs and engage with our young people and meet with them without staff. I don't want staff in the room. I only want to meet with the kids because they'll tell you the truth. I sit down with them and I meet and I says, "Look, guys, this is me and you. Don't feel like you're going to be held accountable. I need to know we can only make things better if we know the real, real of what's going on," and we sit and we talk, and they're very forthcoming. Because of a lot of these sessions and conversations, some of which, even the PAL Program may not even know.

Jeff Hood:

Because they're so busy trying to go here, they're not paying attention to what's over here sometimes. I'll say, and then afterwards, okay, now I'll meet with some of the adults and say, "Guys, you think you know your kids, you don't really know your kids. You really don't." And I'll talk to them. Thankfully, and this is the beauty of it, is a lot of the adults in the PAL program, they don't take it personal. Like, well, how dare they talk about us like this or how ... They're like, wow, we got to fix this.

Gary Goldberg:

That's good to hear.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah. We got to fix this because this isn't ... That's the beauty of it, because you see that, if they took it personal, then it was solely about them. It wasn't about the kids. Because they are listening and willing to make change, then I know that it's about the young people, and this is where, as I tell people across the country, when I speak is I said, look, if, and when you make the decisions about your PAL program, you keep the face of the young person first and foremost, you always make the right decision, is when you take the face of the young person out and you Institute your picture in that. That's when the problem starts. Because then it becomes about you and not about them. That's when we continue to see these great miracles and these changes within our young people all across this country, from South LA to ... I have a number of kids, they call me pop.

Jeff Hood:

One young lady, I call her my daughter, she calls me pop. When a lot of this stuff just jumped off in March, April, she was in PAL program in Florida. She calls, she's like, "Pop," and I'll never forget this. I was literally out cutting my grass, which is my respite. I have my headphones on, I'm cutting the grass. I'm I'm good. I see her name pops up on my phone and says, "Hey, daughter, what's going on?" She's like, "Pop, you got a second? I need to talk to you." I say, "Yeah, you know I always got time for you. What's going on?" She says, "Pop, I'm scared." I said, "Well, what's going on? Why are you scared?"

Jeff Hood:

She says, "Because I'm seeing all this writing stuff and I'm seeing what took place in Minneapolis, and I'm hearing what everybody's saying about," excuse the expression, "F the police and all of these things and what-have-you."

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah. Its scary.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah, and she's like, "Pop," and now she's a freshman in college. She's like, "Pop, I just don't know what to do or what to think." I says, "Well, look, sweetie." I said, "Let me first tell you this. The law enforcement officers that was with you in your PAL program, is that what you see or saw from them?" She's like, "No, sir." I says, "Okay, well, trust that." And I said, "Second of all, same thing that we started with earlier, do you know some young people that have done some bad things?" "Yes, sir." "Do you know some police officers that has done some bad things?" "Yes, sir." "Do you know officers that have done some great things?" She said, "Yes." I said, "There you go."

Jeff Hood:

I said, "Don't change your opinion just because you see something that may have happened and allow that to change your mindset and say that everybody is this way, because that's what you saw."

Gary Goldberg:

I talk to a lot of mentors, coaches, administrators of programs, people in leadership positions that are helping young people make the complex transition between the confusion around being a child and an emerging adolescent, and trying to get to this thing called stable and successful adult. I would argue Jeff, that even at our age, I don't know how stable or successful we are at any one time. It feels very transitional still at age 50, but I will say one thing, there's a common denominator in everybody, and it's an incredible allegiance and passion to helping. It's just serving. The good coaches that I've met in my kids' lives, just wanting to help. They just wanted to serve. You could tell they weren't in it for the money because there really isn't any.

Jeff Hood:

I was going to say that's for sure.

Gary Goldberg:

Because there really isn't any. There's an incredible connective tissue throughout communities that coaches and mentors and leadership take on, and they're such unsung heroes. It's amazing. Just listening to this PAL organization, I had no idea that 1.5 million kids are somehow engaged with somebody other than their mom or dad who cares, who just simply cares.

Jeff Hood:

That's it. That's it, and that's it. Totally. That's why, thankfully, now, we're getting so many calls from police departments and organizations across the country of wanting to start a pAL program in their community.

Gary Goldberg:

What do we tell people that are listening to us who are excited and empowered to take action based on the wonderful stories that you're sharing and they want to lean in and they want to give or they want to help Jeff, what do they do?

Jeff Hood:

Well, a number of things. One, first, see if there's a power program in your community, and you can even do that by going to our website or-

Gary Goldberg:

Nationalpal.org.

Jeff Hood:

Nationalpal.org, yup, or you can call me and I'll definitely link you up with a program in your community.

Gary Goldberg:

So, if they want to call you, Jeff, what number should they ring you on?

Jeff Hood:

My cell, (704) 400-6035, and that is definitely my cell, and yes, I do answer. I found this thing called block. So, if people call and they act crazy, I'm not going to change my number and do that. I'm just going to block you [crosstalk 00:42:08].

Gary Goldberg:

Awesome.

Jeff Hood:

But no, I literally give everybody my cell number. I know I was doing a show a few years ago, and it was like, the guy muted. He's like, "You're giving your cell number." I said, "I know." I said, "I'm good with that." I want [crosstalk 00:42:27].

Gary Goldberg:

You want people to call you.

Jeff Hood:

Yes.

Gary Goldberg:

I love it.

Jeff Hood:

That's it. But yeah, I would say get involved, get engaged, learn, listen, not just from law enforcement, but of course from our young people. The service that's being provided is so valuable, and like you, started off, Gary as, yes, within these times that we find ourselves right now, it's important. It's important to be [crosstalk 00:42:56].

Gary Goldberg:

Jeff, it's important at an individual, person by person, child by child basis. I believe that we have outsourced caring and conductivity to something larger than ourselves, whether it's cell phones, whether it's the internet, whether it's the government, whatever it is, it's no longer excuses. I had a conversation with a colleague of mine at work, and he said to me, "What can I do? It's not my fault. What can I do?" And I said, "What can you do? You find one kid, find one child who needs a mentor and spend time with them." You have a national organization doing it at 1.5 million times a year. It's an incredible wave of kindness that sweeps across all 50 States, and it's inspirational.

Jeff Hood:

Well, we've been known as the best kept secret, and that's a modicum that we are looking to change. I'm actually the first CEO of National PAL that was not law enforcement. I come with a little different kind of a slant to it, from a nonprofit standpoint, a branding standpoint, marketing standpoint, all of those types of things. We have to tell our story a lot more, because like I told about Francisco or my daughter in Florida, and the hundreds of others that call me pop, I'm going to say this, and there's nothing, please, I hope people hear me in this. I have nothing against Boys and Girls Club. I have nothing against Big Brothers Big Sisters. But they've done a great job in marketing and telling their story, where PAL has always been about nose to the grindstone, making a difference and doing the work.

Jeff Hood:

We never really told our story in the past, but we have some alumni that if I mentioned, you would be like, "Oh, really? I didn't know that they were a PAL kid." Because no one's told the story. Colin Powell was a Powell kid.

Gary Goldberg:

Great American.

Jeff Hood:

Muhammad Ali is a PAL kid. Jimmy Smits, the actor is a PAL kid. Alicia Keys, the singer, is a PAL kid.

Gary Goldberg:

One of my favorites.

Jeff Hood:

Anthony Hamilton, Grammy award-winning singer right now, he's a PAL kid. All throughout athletics, there's a whole bunch of PAL kids that are ... In this year's NFL draft, and I don't know if this is ... somebody's calling me right now. I don't know if it's somebody I just gave the cell number to. I don't know that number, but it may be. But in this year's NFL draft, the number, I think he was number three pick, think number three pick, and the number 11 pick in this year's NFL draft were PAL kids.

Gary Goldberg:

Wow.

Jeff Hood:

In the NFL. Yeah, that's the athletic side and is great. But then, we have people that, again, Colin Powell, he's not known for his athletic prowess. Then we have other people that have come on. They're not all PAL kids, but they believe in the mission like actress, Vivica A. Fox, she was in Independence Day and a whole bunch of other movies and all. She's come on board as our ambassador for youth girls empowerment. Tommy Davidson, comedian actor came on board. He's our ambassador for youth boys empowerment. Joan Higginbotham. She's a female astronaut. She's the third African-American female astronaut.

Gary Goldberg:

Incredible.

Jeff Hood:

She's on board now. She's our ambassador for STEM. Again, that's not athletics. That's STEM. We have a host of other people that are coming on board, aiding and supporting us in getting our name and our brand and the great work that we do all across this country.

Gary Goldberg:

Well, Jeff, I'm on board and the community here at SquadLocker is on board, and we're going to do everything we can to do two things. One, to share your mission and to share with our customers and the people we interact with in cities across the United States, that they need to get to their local PAL community and support them, number one. And number two, I want to work really hard [inaudible 00:47:42] and make sure that whatever it is that you guys need, you get it at an affordable way, so you're extending every dollar that you can to make as big of impact as you can, and that's just my personal commitment to you, because you are an inspiration, and this organization is an inspiration. It's an incredible thing. One question that I ask a lot of people that I speak with, and I hope it works here, but I'm going to try it on you.

Jeff Hood:

Sure.

Gary Goldberg:

If you're game.

Jeff Hood:

I'm game.

Gary Goldberg:

All right. The question goes like this.

Jeff Hood:

I like a challenge. I know former is in front of athlete, but I'm still a competitive athlete.

Gary Goldberg:

Let me say how your mind manages this one. So, having played a lot of games in your career and maybe coached a bunch along the way too, what did you gain more from? The wins or the losses?

Jeff Hood:

That's easy. The losses.

Gary Goldberg:

Really? You find that easy.

Jeff Hood:

No, I gained more from it.

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah, but the answer just comes easily to you, because some people waffle. A couple of people have taken a hard position on the wins, but you go right to the losses.

Jeff Hood:

It's not even close. That's not even debatable for me. I'll tell you this very quick thing. So, I get to college. Again, I'm from New York and think I got a little game with me and all of that.

Gary Goldberg:

Where did you go to college?

Jeff Hood:

Small school, North Carolina, Wesleyan College in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina.

Gary Goldberg:

Cool.

Jeff Hood:

I get there and ...

Gary Goldberg:

Long way from New York.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah. Yes, it was, very different than New York too. So, I get there and they have this all league point guard. I played point guard. Right. So, he was all league and all that, and he's a senior. Now, I'm a freshman. I'm getting, and it's all about Jeff. I'm like, "Okay, yeah, I know that you're a senior. I know you're all league and all that stuff, but how's it going to be when you back me up?" Our coach, he pulls me in the office and get through practices and all of this, and our blue gold game and all this stuff. And he's like, "So, Jeff, I'm going to put you on JV." Wait a minute. Are you talking to somebody else? You're putting me on junior varsity. I'm here to get the starting spot or varsity, and you're putting me ... I says, "Okay. Anything else you need to tell me?" I said, "Because I think I'm going to be getting ready to leave here. I'm going to be calling somewhere else."

Jeff Hood:

He says, "Well, Jeff, look, yeah, you can leave here. You can go to several other schools and all that I know would love to have you as well." He said, "But are you giving up on yourself or are you giving up on life?" I was like, ooh, he hit me with that one. He said, "Jeff, if you leave here and you give up on this, you're going to be giving up on life. If that's worth it for you, for the here and right now and your ego, then good luck." I go back to the dorm and I was like, man, talking to my roommate, it's like, "This dude put me on JV." He's like, "Okay, Jeff." And he's like, "Well, yeah, me too." But it was expected that he was going to be. It wasn't expected that I was. Anyway, long story short, I stick it out. I don't leave.

Jeff Hood:

I wound up getting invitations. We played University of Texas one year, my junior year, and the coach of Texas meets with my coach and I after the game, he says, "Hey, would there be any chance that Jeff May transfer to Texas and play with us his senior year?" I was like, "No." I was like, already my family can't come visit and watch me play and I'm in North Carolina, they're in New York, they sure can't make it to Texas. So, no. A few other schools was like that. I said, no, but this is the thing. You talk about loss and learning. For me it was a major loss not playing varsity my freshman year and playing JV the whole year. I ain't even get called up. He wasn't even going to do that. I said, okay, but I graduate play headshot NBA, that whole thing and all. But then I was also, a few years after, inducted into the North Carolina Wesleyan Sports Athletic Hall of Fame.

Gary Goldberg:

The kid they put on JV?

Jeff Hood:

The kid that would play JV. That's exactly right.

Gary Goldberg:

Did he put you on JV because he wanted you to have a little dose of humility and cool off at New York attitude about the kid who was going to have everybody backing him up, and the only way to do is to put you in that JV box and shut you up?

Jeff Hood:

Yup. That was it. 100%.

Gary Goldberg:

Did it work?

Jeff Hood:

No question. No question. I mean, how can it not? How many people go out bragging they're on JV?

Gary Goldberg:

Well, but you could have quit.

Jeff Hood:

You're right. And that's what got me. That's why, even today-

Gary Goldberg:

Boy, I'm glad you didn't.

Jeff Hood:

Well, same here. That's why, Gary, I say, and even at the Hall of Fame induction thing and all ... and I asked him to introduce me. Even to this day, and I stated it then, he's like a father figure to me. Now, again, initially, JV, we could have fought in his office. I was so hot. You talk about loss and learning from it. You go from that, to being one of, the next three years, being one of the main focal points of the team and being captain of the team and NVP of the team and all of those things, to being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Yeah. He identified with who I was and what I needed coming from inner city New York to be successful in life. He taught me those lessons all along the way and challenged me, even to the point of this, and then we can move on to other things. I was going, and I was in the camp with Boston Celtics and all.

Gary Goldberg:

That's my team.

Jeff Hood:

Oh, really?

Gary Goldberg:

Well, I'm a Boston guy. I'm a New England guy. I love the Celtics.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah. I'm there, and the year Greg Kite was number one pick and Carlos Clark and all of these guys. They have a little thing for me at the school. A lot of people signed card to me, and it's like, good luck. You're going to do well. So, he signs on the card, which he used to always tell me. He said, "If they don't catch your passes, it's still your fault." I was like, no, congratulations, good luck. He's still teaching. He's still teaching. He's like, "Jeff, don't get caught up in the moment that you're going with the Celtics and all this stuff. It's about, look, you have to learn your players. You have to learn the team. You're the quarterback of the team. You have to be in the position to put other people in the best position for them to succeed the same way I put you in the best position for you to succeed."

Gary Goldberg:

It's a great life lesson, and he sounds like an incredible mentor. Maybe the best coaching story I've heard so far.

Jeff Hood:

Yeah. He's my guy. Coach McCarthy, and he lives in Virginia and we still touch base. He and his wife, Linda, to the day, they're still one of my surrogate parents, if you will, to this day.

Gary Goldberg:

Jeff, so if people want to get involved with you and your program, it's nationalpal.org, and I'd love to see an influx of people reaching out to their local PAL organizations. I know we have one here in Providence, Rhode Island that my kids have volunteered for, and that their local school's deeply involved in, with their coaches, and we're going to stay in touch. It just reaffirms the fact that, if you're listening to this and listening to Jeff talk about his coach, it reminds you of your high school coach or your college coach, it's a simple thing, call your coach.

Jeff Hood:

That's it.

Gary Goldberg:

Pick up the phone, call your mentor, call your coach, stay connected. Jeff, it's been an awesome conversation that I've loved learning about your program and about you as person, and we're going to track you and the growth of this National Organization even further, really closely it's okay with you.

Jeff Hood:

No, please do. I really appreciate it, and hug a child. Hug your child and genuinely care, because there's a lot of hurt out there right now, and especially, and we didn't even touch on the whole mental aspect of a lot of what these kids are going through right now, and mental illness and all of that as well, which is very rampant. The whole thing around bullying. There's a lot of opportunities for kids to go left out there right now. It takes programs such as PAL to be able to genuinely care about these young people and sometimes giving them tough love. It takes it. You can't always just tell a kid what they need to hear. My coach didn't just put me on varsity because Jeff wanted to be on varsity. That was a tough love thing, but he took the time to learn about Jeff. [crosstalk 00:58:35]

Gary Goldberg:

And he knocked New York right out of you. He knocked that New York right out you.

Jeff Hood:

Yes. Yes he did.

Gary Goldberg:

That's funny. I love it, Jeff. It's been awesome talking to you. Next time we connect, we'll focus on the mental illness issue and the bullying. We'll do a whole separate show on that because I want to get into it and I want to learn how we can help with that as well.

Jeff Hood:

That'd be great. Maybe one day after this whole pandemic thing goes, I'll come down to Rhode Island and we can have the in-person conversation.

Gary Goldberg:

I love it. I look forward to it, Jeff. God bless.

Jeff Hood:

All right. Bless you.

Gary Goldberg:

Keep up the great work [crosstalk 00:59:09].

Jeff Hood:

Thank you.

Gary Goldberg:

Take care.

Jeff Hood:

You too. Y'all take care.


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