When Elias Brantley began coaching the Irvington High School (N.J.) boys basketball team, he noticed something:
Other teams had nice apparel and matching non-uniform clothing. His team, in the words of NJ.com, looked “haphazardly random.”
So he made his own clothing for the team, which has many players from low-income families.
Brantley purchased a heat press and vinyl ink to design t-shirts with team designs in the 2015-16 season. The press cost about $600, according to NJ.com, but he said money isn’t the issue.
“I really feel like they appreciate this. They like looking like they’re a part of something that’s bigger than themselves,” he said to the outlet. “That’s important to me.”
What had been an issue — or at least, a perceived one — was that he didn’t want the players to know the clothing came from him.
“I did not want any of them to feel cheated. I wanted them to feel special,” Brantley said. “After a while, they kind of picked up on it.”
It didn’t. The players loved the apparel.
Since then, Brantley has grown remarkably better a photoshop (“I didn’t know how to use it at all”) and has been able to earn back money he spent on the purchases by selling apparel including sweatshirts and sweatpants to co-workers and fans of the school.
In fact, the clothing has made so much money, he was able to use the profits to buy new shoes for the team.
And this month, the National Life Group awarded Brantley with the LifeChanger of the Year Award that comes with a $3,000 prize — half for the coach and half for the school.
Athletic director John Taylor nominated Brantley, who is also a math teacher at Irvington, for the award.
On the application, he noted that many players on the team came from disadvantaged homes and the ways Brantley helps them acquire gear and shoes.
Taylor wrote that Brantley helped make sure every player was academically eligible and even came in during summer to tutor a college-bound player to meet NCAA requirements, which helped the athlete receive a full scholarship.
“I tell people all the time that I know there are a lot of other good coaches out there, but they can’t come much better than Elias,” Taylor told NJ.com. “He’s not only a great teacher and basketball coach, but he is the nicest, would-do-anything-for-you type of person you could ever know.”