Making an Impact: On the Family, the Court, the Community

The Huerters aren’t just committed to their brood of top notch athletes–they’re also helping the local sports community thrive.

By Josh Cupp

We all have our stories about the time we’ve spent, the miles we driven, the BP (batting practice for non-baseball fans) we’ve thrown with our athletic kids. Myself, through a quick calculation, I’ve thrown roughly 75K pitches in the last 4 years alone to my 11-year-old son. I’ve caught another 20K+ 45-56 mph fastballs without a proper catcher’s mitt, which means my left hand is habitually sore. I’ve driven to Oswego, Owego, and Otsego Lake this past Spring and Summer alone for baseball tournaments. Those trips were pure magic. Hitting the road and skipping town in the summertime for a ball tourney, there is nothing I’d rather do.

We all love our kids’ sports and athletic endeavors. Some of us love it more than others. I’m happy to throw till my arm falls off. I’ll talk lob wedge versus bump and run, driver or hybrid, until I bore my kid to death. While other parents may secretly root for rain outs, most of us are from the Ernie Banks school of thought…”Let’s Play Two!” I’ll pause if you need to research that reference.

My interview series has been enlightening. It’s been quite a pleasure to be able to pick the brains of some very successful athletic parents and learn how their philosophies differ on how to walk their children through the wins and losses of living a sporting life. It’s not just laying off an 0-2 off speed pitch in the dirt or learning the importance of making an extra pass. Those are just XX’s and OO’s. Our job as parents is tougher, inherently more three dimensional.

At MVP Parent, we’re trying to chat with some intriguing sports families and see how THEY’VE done it. Have they been helicopters or have they been more of the “rub some dirt on it” variety?

This edition we caught up with the Huerter family from Clifton Park, NY. Primarily a basketball tribe, all four kids have or will be playing NCAA DI hoops (Tom Jr./Siena College, Kevin University of Maryland, Meghan/Providence College, Jillian/Senior at Shen [Shenendehowa Central School District, Clifton Park, NY] but likely days from a D1 commitment). Parents Tom and Erin Huerter were an easy interview because they adore their children and talking about them and their athletic endeavors wasn’t pulling teeth – it was a pleasure for everyone involved.

Tom Sr. isn’t just a former college athlete, he’s made a career out of roundball. A late 80s/early 90s sharp-shooter out of Siena College, he’d be happy to have mentioned here that his career 3-point percentage eclipses both his sons’ college career percentages. Kevin, Tom Jr., and Meghan would all likely state that the 3-point arc had been moved back twice since dear ol dad hit at a 39.5% clip a mere 30 years ago. But I digress. After college Tom Sr. transitioned into radio and TV broadcast for his alma mater for two decades. He also heads Huersch Marketing Group out of Green Island, NY. The latest endeavor is Impact Athletic Center, a fortress of athletic activity located in Halfmoon, NY, that focuses primarily on basketball and volleyball tournament play and training, but also includes performance training and physical therapy. Impact, which opened just recently, even houses a restaurant with a health-conscious menu.

Erin Huerter’s background is in finance. Her career as a VP at Pioneer Bank spanned more than two and a half decades. In 2018, Erin decided to retire from banking to become even more involved in helping manage her children’s mega demanding athletic commitments and to help transition the dream of Impact Athletic Center into a reality.

I sat down to a Zoom chat with Tom and Erin on October 20th, a mere day-and-a-half after their son, Kevin, had inked a 4-year $65 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks beat the free agency buzzer by a few hours in locking up a key piece of their 2021 NBA Eastern Conference Final run. Impact was also just opening, so obviously it was an exciting and busy time for the Huerter family. Neither of them made me feel rushed and it was clear they both enjoyed talking about their kids and Tom can’t get enough chatting hoops.

“We realize that athletics and wellness means so many different things to so many people. It’s not only about winning state championships, or being drafted, we want Impact Athletic Center to be a place where people of all ages go to work on their mind, body and soul in a welcoming and friendly atmosphere.”

– Erin Huerter 

MVPP: Tom, do you feel like it is easier having played D1 basketball yourself to be able to offer advice and maybe break down a game with the kids?

TOM: I think so, definitely. Now does that mean they’ll listen all the time? [Shared giggle here…] Certainly having played the game and coached it at a high level, I do enjoy assessing and early on addressing where weaknesses are/were. We always want to readdress what product we are building. From the start, with all the kids, we tried to be complete players. Scoring the ball was just part of the game.

MVPP: To you both, how has the college recruiting process played out? Between the academic piece and finding the right fit with the schools the kids have picked, did you find the process stressful? Have the older brothers helped having gone through the process a few years before?

ERIN: Finding the right academic fit was always the first conversation. All the kids have always been strong academically. Siena, University of Maryland, Providence are all schools with solid academic reputations. Also, all the schools that made it to the final cuts were terrific institutions as well.

TOM: Exactly, no one felt particularly stressed because there were such great options out there. The boys are happy to help, but I think the girls have been very aware of what the right fit is for them.  As far as the athletic part of the recruiting process, we always had a conversation about finding the right team and coach that understood the unique skills each individual brought to the table. Finding the right fit from that standpoint was always going to be important.

MVPP: It’s been exciting to see 2 athletes from Shenendehowa go so high in their respective sport’s drafts, and then parlay those selections into success on the field/court. I know the Atlanta Braves’ Ian Anderson and your son, Kevin, played baseball together. What has that been like?

Watching our kids feel the feels of disappointment or temporary failure is as necessary as helping them learn to ride a bike or nurse their first broken heart.

TOM & ERIN: It speaks volumes about the community’s ability to foster our kids’ love for athletics. Kevin and Ian played lots of baseball together and were always fairly close, but now essentially being 2 successful young professional athletes cruising through young adulthood in the same city. Add to that, Atlanta sports fans really support their teams and it’s exciting for them and for us.

MVPP: Impact Athletic Center (IAC) is impressive. I was fortunate enough to have toured the facility and well, that took a while. What was so impressive to me was how complete an athletic experience it is. Sports-specific training, physical training, physical therapy, basketball courts, volleyball courts, sand volleyball courts, golf simulators, a restaurant, and I know I am forgetting a few things. Speak about that project a little bit?

TOM & ERIN: For us, it was important to build this facility in the community in which our kids were raised. Also, in the past, there were so many different locations we’d cart [the kids] around to to accomplish team practices, training, lifting, recovery, etc. So to have one facility that can accomplish all that under one roof, that was a special opportunity.  We realize that athletics and wellness means so many different things to so many people. It’s not only about winning state championships, or being drafted. We want IAC to be a place where people of all ages go to work on their mind, body and soul in a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. The Litchfields and McLeods [key investors] have been wonderful to work with and we expect IAC to be a huge part of the community for years to come.

So much great material wound up on the cutting room floor. I asked Tom off the record who hit for more power between his son, Kevin, and Ian Anderson in the middle and high school days.  We talked about who the kids came to after a particularly tough game for kind words and what those convos sounded like. We agreed that in retrospect that those tough chats after bad games were some of our best memories. Watching our kids feel the feels of disappointment or temporary failure is as necessary as helping them learn to ride a bike or nurse their first broken heart. I know I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have had some fairly measurable success in my athletic endeavors, so I love that my son, Francisco, has also decided that sports will be a part of his life. It has taken me awhile to realize the buzz I get from going to his sporting events, coaching his teams, or pitching him BP isn’t the pride I feel in all his successes. The win in being a sporting parent is having this huge platform to show your kids how much you love them in this odd quantitative fashion. Games attended, miles driven, free throws rebounded, pitches thrown, tears wiped away…those are our stat lines, and filling up that stat sheet will always fill my heart.

Josh Cupp is a former NCAA D1 student athlete and head coach and has competed at golf’s highest professional level. In addition to writing, he pitches never-ending batting practice to his best friend and son, Francisco, and peddles wine at the Thirsty Owl in Saratoga Springs, NY. He can be reached at joshuacupp@gmail.com.

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