Because people seem to miss the meaning of Bruce Springsteen songs, the verses behind the choruses, I always like to emphasize that I understand "Glory Days." I realize that it is not a celebration of the past, but a longing look back at youth, all the gifts that come with it, and all the potential still in front of you. Twenty years later, those dreams lie unrealized as you nurse a lonesome beer at a corner bar and thoughts of happiness escape out of the corner of your eye.
However, when I talked to Lane Soelberg, CEO of Weplay, a social network site for children and their parents that are involved in youth sports, I saw a different glimpse of that idea. I saw taking those moments of our increasingly well-documented past and sharing videos of home runs, touchdowns and goals as a chance to connect with your kids, and your past, as you both share your own magical moments with each other. Here's the conversation that led to a sunnier look back while at Holy Guacamole.
Lane: This is one of the first places I went to when I came out here. A really good friend of mine from 4th grade had moved out from film school and so he was the first person I knew when I got out here. We love Mexican food and I said, "Hey, are there any good Mexican places around," and he said, "Dude, you're in California now, they're everywhere, but there's one that stands out. Let's go to Holy Guacamole." It's basic and it's fun and it became a staple for the first years I was out here when I was married with no kids and we had fun going out. It was always a place to stop afterwards. But, now I still come just for the food. I have an 11-year-old and seven year old and life changes a little bit, but you still want food that's good so you end up here.
Jason: I'll follow you and see what you get.
Lane: Well, it's pretty simple here. There are burritos and tacos.
Jason: That's very simple.
Lane: The al pastor burrito is what I'm going to get. Spicy barbecue pork. It's one of their specialties. You can't go wrong with any of them.
Jason: I think I'm going to follow your lead with the al pastor burrito. So, your 11 and seven year olds -- are they active in sports?
Lane: Yeah, the 11-year-old is on a basketball team, two baseball teams, a football team, and is a junior lifeguard. We're not trying to push him at all, he just came out running and always wants to be involved with activities. Our younger one is much more into the independent sports. Less team sports, more swimming and running and definitely video games. He's more the video game guy. There are competitive streaks in both of them, but they play out in different ways. It's been fun to watch them.
Jason: I ask because I was looking at the Weplay site, and since I don't have any youngsters that are going to be involved in sports, I would have to get the inside scoop from you.
Lane: It's a huge phase that you go through when you're a parent. Families get together on average 25 to 30 times a season. That's just in person. Then there's all the exchange of where do we need to be and when do we need to be there and who's on snack duty and what fundraiser are we doing. It really takes over a family's calendar during that period. So, when Weplay got started, it was how can we help make that more fun and a little less painful. That's what I'm doing.
Jason: Whenever you said snacks, the first thing that came to mind, do they still do orange slices for snacks?
Lane: There are orange slices and apple slices, and at least here in Santa Monica, West L.A., there's a lot of focus on healthy eating. There's probably more of that now than when I grew up. When I grew up there was hot dogs and soda and just go crazy, get whatever you want. But yeah, orange slices are still king of half time.
Jason: I still remember shoving the whole orange slice in your mouth so you could have the orange mouth.
Lane: "I've got my mouthpiece in, look coach!" The funny thing about youth sports is that everybody has their greatest moment in sports ever. So, we're trying to capture more of those. Me, my sports were Pop Warner football and wrestling once I got into high school. Then cheerleading in college, totally by accident it ended up that way. We had a really good basketball team and we went to three bowl games out of the four years that I was there. It's the best excuse to go have fun and travel, go to all the sporting events and hang out with beautiful girls. I met my wife that way, so yeah, it was a lot of fun.
Jason: Nice. Is Weplay for the parents and also for the kids?
Lane: Yeah. Half the people on the site are parents and coaches keeping track of when and where they need to be for practices and games and uploading photos. The other half of the people on the site are kids. They're the ones in the photos, they're the ones playing the sports. There are a lot of games, badges and point systems, things that make it fun for them to get online and interact with each other in a safe environment. They store photos and there are a million and a half photos in the archive right now.
Jason: Oh, wow.
Lane: We get 5,000 photos every day that come in from moms on the sideline. So, we're building a pretty amazing archive of these awesome moments and we're almost to the point where someone is going to play college sports and we're going to have our first pro. So, I'm excited about keeping track of the athletes and seeing if they make it.
Jason: Two years ago, we were watching clips of Bryce Harper doing the stuff he was doing in high school. Now, he's with the Nationals. Go back 20 years ago to Ken Griffey, Jr. as a kid and then to 20 years later, back with the Mariners. It's going to be pretty cool to have that archive. Seeing a player as an 8, 9-year-old.
Lane: Gawky, going through the awkward stage. We got a couple professional athletes that got involved with the site in the very early days four years ago. Derek Jeter was one of them. So, we have his archive of photos. His favorite sport was basketball. So, all the early photos we have of him are playing basketball. All of the sudden, there's this shift and here come all the baseball pictures. It's funny, you look at a kid's photo, and if you know what they're going to look like, there he is, that's Derek Jeter when he's 11. And Peyton Manning. There he is running down the sideline. That guy's going to be one of the best quarterbacks ever, but he looks like all of his other high school buddies. They don't know they're going to become superstars they're just the best on their team.
Photos by A. Rios/R.E.
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