Philadelphia Public League’s Investment Pays Dividends for Student-Athletes’ Futures 

While many dis­tricts had to trim bud­gets due to COVID-19, the Public League bold­ly increased their spend­ing to pro­vide Hudl to all affil­i­at­ed schools. And with Hudl’s recruit­ing tools, every ath­lete has the agency to con­trol their ath­let­ic future.

By the num­bers:
All 73 Philadelphia Public League mem­ber schools
30 foot­ball pro­grams
130 bas­ket­ball pro­grams (boys’ and girls’)
Over 250 unique teams across all sports
20,000+ ath­letes with recruit­ing profiles

Unified Through Sports

Titans of bas­ket­ball are born and bred in Philadelphia. Neighborhoods fea­ture stun­ning murals that pay homage to the icon­ic play­ers the city has pro­duced: Wilt Chamberlain, Dawn Staley, and the late bas­ket­ball leg­end Kobe Bryant.

From play­grounds to high schools to top uni­ver­si­ties, bas­ket­ball is ingrained in Philadelphia’s DNA, a notion not lost on the Philadelphia Public League. And with more than 400 pub­lic courts through­out the city it’s no sur­prise that res­i­dents are nev­er too far from a hoop. 

At the geo­graph­ic heart of Philadelphia, nes­tled between all those pub­lic courts, lies Center City, a sev­en-and-a-half square mile area book­end­ed by the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. Highlighting the metro area are tow­er­ing sky­scrap­ers and his­toric land­marks like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. 

The Philadelphia Public League office sits with­in the con­crete jun­gle of Center City, just over a half-mile west of City Hall along John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

Founded in 1901 as the Philadelphia Interscholastic League, the Public League has nev­er strayed from its mis­sion to use sports as a unit­ing force for high schools in the area, and bas­ket­ball was one of the first sports they adopt­ed. From the 1970s up to the turn of the mil­len­ni­um, the Public League pro­duced top ath­let­ic tal­ent. Not just in bas­ket­ball, but across all sports. 

The time is now to focus on how we can con­tin­ue to engage our stu­dent-ath­letes in mean­ing­ful and inten­tion­al ways.”

However, in the years after the Great Recession of 2008, the good for­tune of the Public League dried up, and it’s been fight­ing an uphill bat­tle ever since. Add in the chal­lenges fac­ing high school sports in light of the COVID-19 glob­al pan­dem­ic, and the Public League rec­og­nized it was at a crossroads.

Deciding to take strong action, Philadelphia Public League President Dr. James Patrick Lynch said, The time is now to focus on how we can con­tin­ue to engage our stu­dent-ath­letes in mean­ing­ful and inten­tion­al ways. Putting our stu­dent-ath­letes on a path to post­sec­ondary suc­cess is an inte­gral part of our mis­sion and vision as a league.”

The Public League ini­ti­at­ed plans to reclaim a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage. This is their come­back story.

Reclaiming a Competitive Edge

Our league as a whole, and our dis­trict in par­tic­u­lar, was hit real­ly hard by the eco­nom­ic down­turn,” said Vice President of League Operations Michael Donahue. Basically, every­body had to elim­i­nate two teams in order to make the bud­get work. It took a long time for those teams to come back to their schools.”

In addi­tion to cut­ting pro­grams, new schools popped up through­out the city. In 2003, the league had 34 schools com­pared to 73 schools today. These new schools spread the coach­ing and ath­let­ic tal­ent pool thin across the city.

And for their sub­ur­ban and pri­vate school coun­ter­parts, bet­ter finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty and access to resources meant a leg up over the Public League, whose assets were being deplet­ed. Every sport strug­gled to compete.

Searching for answers, Donahue and the Public league turned to Hudl. This part­ner­ship is the league’s plan to lev­el the play­ing field.

But if now every­one has it, there’s more dri­ve to make prac­tice more com­pet­i­tive and game-like. If my rivals have [Hudl], it’s going to innate­ly make my team better.”

Staying true to its roots, the league has guar­an­teed every bas­ket­ball team will have Hudl. Depending on which pro­grams exist at each school, oth­er sports like vol­ley­ball, wrestling, lacrosse and field hock­ey will also have video and data at their fingertips.

Why is this such a cru­cial part­ner­ship for the Public League? Video review is proven to help ath­lete devel­op­ment. Coaches and ath­letes can hold film review ses­sions in prac­tice and at home, max­i­miz­ing their prac­tice time to improve indi­vid­ual and team performance.

The Public League has adapt­ed to the remote envi­ron­ment that shook up the coun­try back in March, and has imple­ment­ed vir­tu­al sea­sons” for the fall semes­ter while league com­pe­ti­tions remain postponed. 

Hudl is going to play a big part in our vir­tu­al sea­sons tak­ing place, and our coach­es are excit­ed to have this tool to sup­port their efforts,” Lynch said.

Palumbo High School ath­let­ic direc­tor Erik Goldstein dou­bles as the head var­si­ty coach for girls’ and boys’ vol­ley­ball. Previously, his teams had to hold fundrais­ers to pay for Hudl, but he insist­ed on hav­ing the pro­gram because he saw how video and data could help his team get bet­ter. Now, he’s excit­ed to see how Hudl will increase the com­pe­ti­tion inside the Public League and beyond.

If I’m the only school in the dis­trict using Hudl, then there’s no video shar­ing. There’s no work­ing togeth­er to get bet­ter,” Goldstein said. But if now every­one has it, there’s more dri­ve to make prac­tice more com­pet­i­tive and game-like. If my rivals have [Hudl], it’s going to innate­ly make my team better.

I think that’s the part that is going to ben­e­fit every­one in the dis­trict, them hav­ing access to this type of technology.”

Helping teams improve is just one side of the tech­nol­o­gy Hudl offers. It’s also the key to recruiting.

The Path to College 

The Philadelphia Public League mis­sion is To deliv­er on the civ­il right of every child in Philadelphia to an excel­lent pub­lic school edu­ca­tion, and to ensure that all chil­dren grad­u­ate from high school ready to suc­ceed as ful­ly engaged cit­i­zens of our world. Therefore, if our League does not pro­duce a bet­ter per­son, it has no rea­son to exist.”

Part of that mis­sion is to help stu­dent-ath­letes be suc­cess­ful both dur­ing and after their time in the Public League. According to The School District of Philadelphia’s pro­file report, just 53% of Philadelphia’s high school stu­dents enroll in col­lege post-high school grad­u­a­tion — down two per­cent­age points from the pre­vi­ous year. For the Public League’s 20,000 ath­letes, hav­ing Hudl means they can take con­trol of their future and extend their ath­let­ic careers.

While many dis­tricts had to trim bud­gets due to COVID-19, the Public League bold­ly increased their spend­ing to pro­vide Hudl to every school. Donahue said the deci­sion was easy because of the recruit­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties it affords play­ers.

The return on invest­ment that we could see in mak­ing this deal, we feel, far exceeds what mon­e­tary val­ue we’re putting into it,” he said.

He believes the return will come in the form of schol­ar­ships. Every ath­lete using Hudl has their own secure pro­file where they can cre­ate and share high­light reels. They can dis­play scholas­tic achieve­ments such as their GPA, test scores and aca­d­e­m­ic awards. These pro­files are added to a search­able data­base for col­lege recruiters. Recruiters can watch high­lights, view full games and find con­tact infor­ma­tion to start the recruit­ment process.

Regina Johnson, the ath­let­ic direc­tor and head track and field coach at Martin Luther King High School, sup­ports Donahue’s part­ner­ship deci­sion and believes Hudl will be an impor­tant resource for ath­letes and their families.

At the end of the day, our focus is on the stu­dent-ath­letes,” Johnson said. And hav­ing this avenue to show­case and to share [their tal­ent] is a way of us say­ing We sup­port you.’”

Many fam­i­lies in the Philadelphia Public League com­mu­ni­ty are at a finan­cial dis­ad­van­tage. Donahue says that if only one stu­dent gets a full ath­let­ic schol­ar­ship, the invest­ment will be worth it. But it’s about more than just the money.

The return on invest­ment that we could see in mak­ing this deal, we feel, far exceeds what mon­e­tary val­ue we’re putting into it.”

When you go to col­lege, you have more of a chance to live a life where you have peace of mind,” Donahue said. Those tools make our stu­dent-ath­letes more empow­ered to take con­trol of the process.”

There are 97 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in the state of Pennsylvania between NCAA Divisions I, II and III. Add in NAIA schools, junior col­leges and com­mu­ni­ty col­leges with inter­scholas­tic ath­let­ic pro­grams, and that num­ber bal­loons to almost 150.

Giving ath­letes and their fam­i­lies the agency to open doors at the next lev­el was a top dri­ver in this partnership.

We want to pro­vide a plat­form where cur­rent stu­dent-ath­letes and the future stu­dent-ath­letes can take it upon them­selves, through their own efforts — even those ath­letes that aren’t going on to big-time col­lege pro­grams — where they can be seen. They can advance to that next lev­el,” Donahue said.

We see Hudl as the path­way to mak­ing that happen.”

The Future of Philadelphia Athletics

This part­ner­ship rein­forces the Public League’s devo­tion to its stu­dent-ath­letes and desire to ele­vate the lev­el of tal­ent and com­pe­ti­tion in inner-city athletics.

If I was a kid right now I’d be super excit­ed,” Goldstein said. There’s going to be more kids get­ting seen. Maybe now we’re going to have more kids going to col­lege for free. Maybe going to a Division III school get­ting to play the sport they want to play.

I think it’s going to put Philadelphia on notice. You’re going to see real­ly good vol­ley­ball play­ers, some real­ly good soc­cer play­ers, and wrestling. It’s going to spread the love a lit­tle bit.”

Make no mis­take: the come­back is on. The coach­es and ath­letes of the Philadelphia Public League are on the rise.

Hudl has solu­tions for every sport and bud­get. If you want to see how Hudl can help your pro­gram or dis­trict, book a demo with a Hudl rep­re­sen­ta­tive today.

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