Q&A with Griffin Weidner by Lucy Drinkwater, Providence Day School’s Institutional Advancement Fellow
Griffin Weidner ‘22 has taken his passion for soccer and created an opportunity to give back to the community around him. His business, Rising Stars Soccer Training, aims to develop “compassionate and disciplined thinkers and workers” while also developing an “immense ability and consistency on the soccer field.” Although extremely happy with Rising Stars, Griffin has big ideas for the future of this program. During this time of giving and thanks, Weidner gives back to the local soccer community, going the extra mile for his players. His passion for coaching goes beyond training sessions, as you can often find him cheering on his players on Saturday mornings as they put their practice into play.
Q. Can you give me an overview of Rising Stars and how it came to fruition?
A. The summer after my freshman year at PD, in 2018, I got the idea to start Rising Stars. After studying the game for so long, I wanted to find a unique way to combine my knowledge and love of this sport with my need for a summer job. Initially, I started to reach out to people within the community through the Nextdoor app to see if anyone would be interested in personal soccer training. As interest increased, I held sessions throughout the summer. This past year, I decided to continue to move forward with Rising Stars and offer training throughout the school year. I have also been working on building the business, specifically branding and marketing. I am looking forward to continuing to grow this business, and I am very proud of how much Rising Stars has grown over the past three years.
Q. Where do you see Rising Stars going in the future?
A. The first thing I think is important right now is that I'm working on registering the business as an LLC and then applying for business insurance. I am also working on fostering a partnership with my club team or club academy and looking for different ways to partner with organizations in Charlotte. If I can do this kind of expansion, I would also be able to expand who I am working with and the client base overall.
Not only would I like to expand my clientele, but I would also like to expand the services Rising Stars offers. I think a lot of parents have a desire to see their children work on their skills in a group setting to see how the techniques we work on are put into play in a game or practice setting, so I would like to expand from individual training to individual training clinics and group sessions.
Hiring more coaches for Rising Stars is another thing I would like to see happen. With more coaches, I would not only be able to accomplish the previous goals of expanding clientele and services, but Rising Stars would be able to continue when I leave for college. If I can find a way that I'm able to manage things from college and oversee the overall business while knowing I have well-trained coaches that are ready to take on the responsibility to hold training sessions, I would be thrilled. Not only would Rising Stars continue to build a business and generate revenue, but it will continue to make an impact and stay connected to the local soccer community.
The final thing I would like to see in the future is the social entrepreneurship aspect of Rising Stars, and a big shout out to Dr. James Edge, PD Upper School teacher, who has helped me a lot with this process of creating Rising Stars. He has been there from the beginning, and I am currently in his social entrepreneurship class. I would like to find a way to add a social aspect to the Rising Stars, such as finding a partner organization such as a fundraiser or a nonprofit that's going to be able to work with Rising Stars, allowing us to provide donations, such as equipment and time, or services, such as clinics or lessons, to underserved communities.
Q. What has been the overall effect of Rising Stars on both you and your local community?
A. I share my passion for soccer and training with the family and players I work with at Rising Stars. Everything that I've grown up doing, working towards, and then achieving is now mirrored in the young children who sign up for Rising Stars—having the ability to see the community that I have built and the growth of players both as an individual and as a player is proof that reflects the impact that I have made.
I think the most significant effect thus far has been the overall development of so many PD students and athletes, as well as people in my community, which reflects the mission I have for Rising Stars: to develop 1) strong leaders, 2) compassionate and disciplined thinkers and workers, and 3) immense ability and consistency on the soccer field. We highly value the individual and collective aspects of the game, and we work to enact our mission of the 3 C's in each of these aspects.
Commitment – putting forth our best and most dedicated effort each and every time
Compassion – understanding, appreciating, and respecting ourselves and others
Confidence – believing in ourselves in everything that we do (WE CAN)
When providing personal soccer training, it is vital to try to build consistency in players. Yet, at the same time, I think the focus at Rising Stars goes deeper than that by encouraging players to be young leaders and emphasizing individuality.
Q. I've heard from many people that you kind of go the extra mile for your players. Why do you do this? What inspires you to do this?
A. This commitment and investment don’t just go one way. The community that we're trying to build at Rising Stars is a lot deeper than that. At Rising Stars, the players don’t only commit to the program, but we commit to each other’s lives. These families are showing up to my games; the children bring their soccer balls for me to autograph. As these families are so dedicated to Rising Stars, I, too, am dedicated to their children, showing up to their games and cheering them on as well.
I love working with these kids and helping them develop all aspects of their life. And then, at the same time, I'm able to support them in their dreams and help them through their athletic experiences. It’s not only the investment in each other's lives, but it’s also the support of each and every player’s future and dreams.
Q. What is something you weren't expecting?
A. Being able to give my time to the community as a local athlete and student is extremely important to me. As high schoolers, I feel that we are conditioned to believe that we have to wait to do something meaningful; when we're done with college, and we're done with internships, we can finally do something meaningful. But, we can do important things in our communities and build great things without waiting.
I never expected that Rising Stars would become something this big, nor did I think that I had the potential to start and grow this business. When I started a couple of years ago, I worked with a handful of kids in my neighborhood, training in my front yard with a couple of cones and a mini goal. I didn't expect to be able to do this; I've got my own business name now, I've got a logo, and I'm wearing my shirt. It's really, really cool to see. Rising Stars is a lot bigger than I ever expected, and this is because of the hard work and countless hours that I have put in.
Q. You are one person running a company while competing on various soccer teams and going to school every day. How do you balance everything?
A. Balancing everything gets complicated, especially during the soccer season when we train five times a week and play games on top of the day-to-day schoolwork. Still, my ability to handle everything reflects my values of accountability and ownership. What it comes down to is taking responsibility for everything that I have to accomplish and trying to manage my time accordingly. Whether school or soccer, time management and being proactive have allowed me to succeed in all facets of my life. Through advanced thinking, preparation, and hard work, I have been ready to give my everything to everything I do.
Q. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself when you started Rising Stars?
A. If I could give myself one piece of advice for when I started the company, I believe it would be to have introduced a social cause into the business model earlier. I genuinely believe that this will expand our business and expand the extent to which we are impacting lives and generating good in the world.
Q. What advice would you give to younger PD students looking to start their own businesses?
A. If I could impart one piece of advice onto PD students looking to start their own business, it would be to believe in yourself, trust the process, and go for it. While there will be bumps in the road, entrepreneurship will provide the experiences to guide and lessons to shape the compassionate, successful, and knowledgeable individual you will become; there is nothing worse than not giving it a shot!
To learn more about Griffin and Rising Stars Soccer Training, click here!