By Elizabeth Chang
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Chris Whelan and Casey Baum hit it off on a Herndon playground in fourth grade. Now, two decades later, they've made the playground their career. Whelan, Baum and a college friend of Baum's named Chris Horich are the co-owners of Overtime Athletics, which provides after-school sports programs for elementary students in Fairfax County and elsewhere.
After graduating from Herndon High School in 1996, Whelan headed to Lynchburg College and Baum went to Virginia Tech, where he met Horich, who is from Baltimore. Following college, the three spent a couple of years at jobs in the "real world" -- Whelan coaching basketball and going to graduate school for sports management, Baum at a magazine distribution company, Horich at a nonprofit -- before deciding they'd be happiest in business for themselves. Whelan was working at summer camps and clinics in Northern Virginia when, he says, "I was asked to run an after-school program." That gave him an idea. Why just one school, he thought. Why not provide programs for everyone?
Whelan believed he and Baum, both of whom were high school athletes (Whelan played college basketball as well), could provide an alternative to the sub-par youth sports programs he'd encountered and could fulfill a need in an era in which kids are less apt to be physically active. Baum brought in Horich, who also had been a high school athlete.
After researching the best place to try out their idea, the trio moved to Fairfield County, Conn., an area with lots of elementary schools from which to draw clients and several nearby colleges from which to draw employees.
In August 2003, they launched Overtime Athletics. Working through PTAs, Overtime advertises hour-long after-school sessions in a variety of sports, staffed by trained and background-checked college students. Charging $10 per child per weekly class, it provides three sessions each school year -- fall, winter and spring, on school grounds -- and camp in the summer. By the end of the first school year, Overtime was in 25 schools. In 2004, the company expanded to Westchester County, N.Y. Since then, it has started programs in Fairfax County and in the Richmond area. Currently, Horich remains in Connecticut, Whelan is in Fairfax, and Baum is shuttling between Fairfax and Richmond, where he's been training Catie Fratter, who will direct the program there. Bringing another person into the organization has given the three partners confidence "that our formula works without us being hands-on involved," Whelan says.
Now in a total of 120 public and private schools, including 30 in Fairfax, Overtime runs 160 programs, from basketball to flag football to cheerleading. It has more than 150 instructors, who earn $20 an hour. "The staff they bring on are very engaging with the children," says Mayya Saab, a PTA member who administers the program at McNair Elementary School in Herndon. "Overall, the school loves it, and we get more and more children every year that we have it."
In their first school year, the Overtime partners made $100,000 in gross sales. This year, they are shooting for $700,000. What they bring in allows them to pay themselves what Baum calls "a decent salary" and put some profit back into the company. The partners would like to open two new programs each fall in coming years and are looking at more districts in the Washington region, as well as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. And, they hope, that's just the beginning. "We want after-school programs in every school," Baum says.
Have you found a way to make a living from a sport you love? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.