Starting a new business comes with a few risks, a notion familiar to any seasoned Teams of Tomorrow director. For TOT Director Angie Spradling, the risks were aplenty, yet the payoff made them all worth it.
The new adventure began when Angie’s husband received a job in Colorado. Angie, then a fourth-grade teacher and boys basketball coach, and her husband were going to have to move their family of three young boys from North Carolina.
Meanwhile, Angie’s old friend with whom she had lost touch was a TOT director in Texas; Angie found out about her job from chatting with her friend’s parents. As the moving date got closer, Angie began researching TOT instead of looking for a teaching job.
For Angie, starting TOT near their future home seemed like the perfect plan. However, there were a few catches: Angie had never stepped foot in Colorado, and if she did decide purchase the TOT franchise, she would have to do so before physically moving there.
Angie decided to cold call preschools ahead of time to share a little about TOT and her plans to become a franchisee. While Angie expected the schools to shoo her away, she was met with kind and interested directors, most of whom wanted to meet her in person when she finally arrived. After comforting phone conversations with more than 15 Boulder-area preschool centers, Angie decided to become a TOT director in April 2014.
The Boulder area is currently growing at rate of 11,000 people (many of whom belong to younger families) per month, and the local culture fuels the widespread engagement of active lifestyles, Angie said. With a physical program like TOT in a flourishing region, one could argue success is in the bag. However, Angie said she believes other factors are at work too.
“Our growth has had a lot to do with the help God has placed in my life,” Angie said.
Angie began her first year serving seven schools. From there, Angie said her program grew largely by word of mouth. Teachers who moved from TOT schools to other schools helped Angie to start serving the latter. Parents of TOT kids who switched to new schools without the program referred Angie. Angie’s TOT teachers were also in recreation-type fields, providing lots of connections, Angie said.
Today, Angie’s TOT franchise serves 40 preschools, being a positive presence for 590 kids aged two and a half to five years old. Angie has six teachers leading classes throughout the school year, in addition to summer camps for upper TOT students, one-day field trips at preschools and weeklong camps at preschools. Integrating TOT into the curriculum at a local charter school is also in the works, Angie said.
While Angie’s program has continued to spread its impact throughout the community, it’s also amped up its performances.
In 2016, after Angie had just recently finished five halftime shows, she was exhausted. She received an email out of the blue from a Harlem Globetrotters representative asking if Angie’s TOT students wanted to perform before an upcoming show. While Angie knew the opportunity was too good to pass, the performance was only three weeks away.
Luckily, the TOT community is a close-knit one. Angie called several other TOT directors for advice on how to quickly pull everything together. And quickly, yet gracefully, Angie did. The successful pre-show performance for the Harlem Globetrotters at the Pepsi Center in Denver featured 97 TOT superstars. The team also had 430 TOT fans cheering for them in the audience, Angie said.
Angie declared the experience overwhelming but fun. Angie’s TOT students have also performed during the pre-game show for the Denver Nuggets.
Angie said being a TOT director has been rewarding in many ways.
“I love the flexibility that TOT has given my family,” Angie said. “For me, moving here from North Carolina, TOT has helped me connect with so many people.”
Angie loves being what she calls “TOT spotted.” It happens whenever Angie sees one of her TOT superstars out and about, like playing at the park or shopping with a parent, Angie said. She takes a picture with the student and posts it to her Facebook page. The record for the longest distance from home in which she’s been TOT spotted is four and a half hours away at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, she said.
Angie said being a TOT director has been good for her family as well. Angie calls her brood a “basketball family.” She and her husband both played at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, and all three of her children currently play basketball.
When it comes to TOT events, Angie said the whole family jumps in. Her thirteen-year-old records the performances on video; her twelve and eleven-year-olds are on camera duty, snapping candids of TOT students showing off their moves. If a mishap arises, Angie said her husband is there to help her solve the problem.
“It’s fun for me to see our family come together and work on something together,” Angie said.
Angie said TOT has blessed her family financially. It’s also made life more flexible, as Angie gets to make her own schedule from day to day. Last summer Angie placed all of her teachers in charge of classes and went on a family road trip.
“TOT sells itself,” Angie said. “It’s a very solid program. You’re going to get out of it what you put into it, like everything in life. It’s a lot of work. But if you put the work in, it’s going to reward you well.”