“When you’re an athlete, you think you’re going to play sports your whole life,” says Tony Korson, father of three and founder and CEO of Koa Sports.
Instead, he turned to coaching and mentoring the next generation after college. This work led to Koa Sports, a Bethesda nonprofit whose mission is shaping kids’ lives through sports.
The organization strives to provide accessible instruction for students—whether they are trying a new sport or seeking coaching to help earn a spot on a middle or high school team, Korson says.
“We want to make it fun. I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s not all about trophies; it’s not all about winning,” he says. “It’s about teaching these young boys and girls good life lessons, values and giving it their all.”
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Korson now lives in Fallsmead with his wife, Nikki, and their three children, Manolis (5), Fotios (2) and Kostas (1).
What do you love about being a parent?
The best part of being a parent is seeing their excitement—whether it’s you getting home from work, whether it’s they’ve figured out a piece of a puzzle. It’s just the innocence of how excited they could be over something as small as a cardboard box or something as big as a birthday or Christmas present. I think that’s really cool just to see how excited and how much infectious energy they can have.
What lessons have you drawn from Koa that you have applied to your family’s experience?
I think you have to give them enough. You know you have to teach them—give them enough chances to fail. I think failure is super important in life. If you micromanage and hover, they’re never going to learn. I think that’s one of the things we do well at Koa. We don’t really have parent coaches. We pay all of our staff. We encourage parents to work with their kids outside of Koa activities, but during the Koa activities, we try to get them to relax, step back, let them make mistakes and have the freedom to do that. That’s something that I like to do with our kids—try to teach them and give them the freedom to make good decisions. Sometimes they do; sometimes they make bad decisions. That’s OK. You got to tell them, “Next time, (let’s) not do that again.”
What’s been the greatest challenge?
I think the most difficult part about being a parent is you don’t really want to let them down. It’s like how can you always be there for your kids? I think that’s not possible, especially when we have three kids and they have to go to school, we have to go to work and we have to watch out for the other kids. I think that’s really hard, and you don’t want to let them down. It’s not possible to be with them 24/7.
How do you balance your career with family life?
It’s hard. When the kids go down, I’m working most nights. I’m making sure that the kids are properly fed for breakfast, have a lunch before they go to school, being laser-focused on them and being laser-focused on work when you’re at work. It’s not scrolling through social media, not time to catch up with your buddies. There’s just not enough time in the day to do that. Focus on your priorities when you have them. When you have the kids, give them (your attention) for the day, and when you’re at work, be laser-focused. When they go down, if it’s time to get a couple more hours of work in, you got to do it then.
What’s one thing you hope your kids learn from your career?
Be active forever. It’s OK to run around and chase a ball—it doesn’t matter if you’re 4, 44 or 84. Be active. Be outside.
Family Meal: We like Pizza Fridays. That’s a favorite family tradition for us, whether we cook them or order them.
Way to Spend a Weekend with Your Family: Outside
Sport to Play Together: Soccer
Team to Root for: I can shamelessly plug the new college baseball team we’re starting in Olney called the Crop Dusters.
Vacation Spot: Any beach—beach, beach, beach. We got beach kids and beach parents.
Family Outing in the DMV: Lone Oak Brewery in Olney