My name is Matthew Cline. I believe growing up in a low-income household can shape the life of an individual. As someone that experienced being in that situation growing up, I can tell you that it's more than just a lack of money. What most people don't know is that it's also a lack of resources, proper nutrition, and guidance to make the right decisions. My mom worked over 60 hours a week just to put food on the table, and clothes on the backs of my sister and me. Looking back at the times my family and I struggled to get by gave me the inspiration to create this organization.
One of my beliefs is sports can be used as a driver for success. Sports not only help children be physically fit but also teach valuable life skills. Participating in sports can help them build social skills, understand the importance of teamwork, and build confidence in their own abilities.
When I was in fifth grade I started playing football. Being new to the game and having low confidence from my upbringing, I was in a backup position that didn't see the field much. Along with my almost non-existent position on the team, I was bullied on the schoolyard for not having the nicest clothes or the best shoes. This lowered my confidence even more, and resulted in making my time spent at school just as difficult as my home life.
In 2008 I received my first pair of Nike shoes, and my life started to change. It may have just been a pair of shoes, but for me, it was a huge confidence booster and a much-needed gift for my self-esteem. I no longer walked with my head down when I went through the hallways. I made more friends and participated more in the classroom. I felt like I could do anything with my Nike shoes on my feet.
During the same year I received my Nikes, I discovered I could take my frustrations from home and leave them on the football field or on the track. With this release I learned a simple concept; the harder you work, the better you get. As I continued to participate in sports, with my newfound perspective, I gained mentors who guided my path with their wisdom and experience. Through hard work and the support of my mentors, both on and off the field, I was able to break three of my high school’s track records and earn a scholarship to play football.
I still carry and apply the life lessons these special individuals taught me to this day.
My goal in forming this organization is to help children who are in the same position I was in when I was younger. For me, it's not about the shoes; it's about the message that I can pass along with them. Just a Pair of Shoes was created to be what I needed when I was younger. Putting on that first pair of Nike shoes lit a fire within me that no one could extinguish. And even though I had a rough childhood growing up, I wouldn't change the opportunity to learn the lessons I’ve taken from my childhood for anything. Now, as a man who has learned much from his past, I'm reaching out to kids who also need someone to believe in them.
Just as I once needed someone to believe in me.