TSG Provides Motivation to Local High School Team
February 10, 2015
At 3:45 p.m. on February 9, 2015, members of the East Orange Campus High School Boys Basketball Team settled into their study hall as usual. However, in lieu of the typically quiet and subdued nature of the setting, there was an air of celebration and excitement at the scene. Amidst several boxes of pepperoni and cheese pizza, players turned their attention to a special guest invited to share his inspiring story with the team.
As Donald Shauger, Executive Vice President of The Shauger Group (TSG), stood before the group of about fifty students, Shauger made reference to the recent NJ.com article featuring the team. The boys were headlined in the paper because their coach, William Lovett, has gone to great lengths to emphasize the importance of academics and a hard “off-the-court” work ethic. Instituting a mandatory study hall Monday through Thursday is just one of the ways in which Coach Lovett has ensured that his players keep their grades up—so that they can keep their spots in the lineup. Coach Lovett and his fellow coaches, Coach Boyd and Coach Cato, also serve as best friends, confidantes, disciplinarians, and father figures to the impressive group of adolescents.
“Most kids crave discipline and structure,” said Coach Lovett. “We’re lucky enough to be able to provide that. They know we have their best interests at heart.”
When Coach Lovett learned of Shauger’s background from a mutual acquaintance, he felt Shauger’s story would motivate the team, and he invited Shauger to join the team at Monday’s study hall. Coach Lovett didn’t regret that decision.
“Donald’s story was one that they could relate to,” said Coach Lovett.
Shauger began his speech by explaining the circumstances he grew up in. One of five children, Shauger was raised by a single mother. His mother worked six to seven days per week to provide for her children, one of whom was terminally ill and died at only 25 years old. From his mother’s example, Shauger learned first-hand the value of a fierce work ethic.
As a child, Shauger often felt ashamed of how little he had, and he was never more self-conscious than when he went shopping for food with his mother. Shauger used to run out of the Dodd Town ShopRite when his mother went to the check-out line, as he was too embarrassed to let anyone see him with his mother as she paid with food stamps.
His desire to give his family more than he grew up with fueled his desire to work diligently in order to achieve the most out of life. Only a steadfast work ethic and constant perseverance could have enabled Shauger and his wife, Lisa, TSG’s President/CEO, to build from scratch all that they were able to build.
“I know where I came from,” said Shauger. “If you believe in yourself, unequivocally things can happen. Take advantage of every single opportunity.”
Hoping to help the members of the team conceptualize the value of hard work, Shauger brought with him two objects—a shoe-shine box and a wagon. Shauger explained to the team that, in his youth, he used to go up and down Main Street in West Orange with his shoe-shine box, walking into local taverns and shining shoes for people as a means of earning money. Meanwhile, the wagon served as “Don’s Landscaping Truck,” which he would take with him to plant flowers, cut lawns, and do other miscellaneous landscaping tasks for neighbors.
Today, TSG, a property services firm that offers landscaping as one of its many service offerings, is the direct product of that hard work and dedication. TSG, with multiple subsidiaries, owns over 200 company vehicles and employs up to 180 employees during its peak season. And, meaningfully, TSG’s headquarters now stand at the site of the Dodd Street ShopRite Shauger frequented as a child.
“I was smart enough to surround myself with the right people,” said Shauger. “And, gentlemen, [Coach Lovett] is the right kind of person you want to be surrounded with because, when I read that paper, I was so proud to be an East Orange business person. I am so proud to call East Orange [the site of] our corporate headquarters because of people like your coach. I believe in every one of you because you have a coach who believes in you.”
In particular, Shauger was particularly impressed by Coach Lovett’s academics-first mindset and by the fact Coach Lovett encourages his team to use him for help getting into college—instead of Coach Lovett using them to win basketball games.
Shauger stressed to the team the importance of a college degree in today’s society. He noted that the ground on which they were presently standing once housed Upsala College, to which Shauger had received a full scholarship. However, he ultimately was not able to take it because he had to work to support his family.
Understanding first-hand that financial constraints can often complicate or, worse, hinder academic opportunities, Shauger made a surprise announcement at the conclusion of his speech. He astonished even Coach Lovett by unexpectedly declaring that he would like to award two $1,000 scholarships to two members of the team at the end of the year. The scholarships are to be used towards the students’ college educations—for tuition, books, or other academic needs.
Shauger finished his speech by again commending the team, as well as Coach Lovett, for the amazing results the team has seen under Coach Lovett’s guidance. Educationally, the team’s accomplishments have included honor roll, National Honor Society, and Presidential Academic Scholarships.
That academic excellence has also gone hand-in-hand with on-the-court excellence, as the team currently boasts an impressive 16-2 record. The team earned the second seed position at the current Essex County Tournament. So far, they have won their first game in the tournament, defeating Newark Central by a score of 67-57. The team has pulled out many impressive victories this season, including a mid-January 57-54 victory over their rival, Orange, in the last 14 seconds of the game!
“Basketball and academics go hand-in-hand,” said Coach Lovett.
The incredible group of students sat attentively and respectfully for the duration of Shauger’s speech. Engaged and interested, they asked Shauger many questions about TSG, as well as sought career advice. Most impressively, several of the young men came over to Shauger afterwards to shake his hand and to personally thank him for his time and advice.
A few students discussed their future goals with Shauger and other TSG staff members present. A senior spoke of his intention to go to college to study engineering. A junior on the team is still deciding his career path, but is strongly considering pursuing a career as a corrections officer.
As a thank-you, the team presented Shauger with a team shirt. Eager to have Shauger serve as another mentor and positive role model for the team, Coach Lovett, on behalf of the team, also invited Shauger to come to an upcoming game to support the team.