Noodle Expert Chris Peters discusses what he learned from taking the math section of a standardized test eight times, what wisdom he'd like to gain from legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese, and why he's made it his mission to help student-athletes find schools that are genuinely interested in them.
Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?
I would love to become a student of Martin Scorsese. I'm a huge movie fan. There are tons of movies that I could watch over and over again, and Mr. Scorsese's films channels a variety of emotions for film lovers — but for me, I focus on the details in his movies. What I've noticed is that, compared to other filmmakers, every scene of a Scorsese movie captures specific details about a character, from the way she carries herself to the way the cast treats one another on set. If you notice, his movies are longer than others. I believe that is because he puts so much effort into establishing the details of each character so the audience members can develop their opinions of each character.
With Martin Scorsese movies, I'm of course interested in the main characters, but I'm also fascinated by the supporting casts. What I would want to learn from the great Martin Scorsese is how to prepare to incorporate that level of detail and the ways this could be beneficial in every facet of my life.
What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?
The advice that has made the biggest impact on me is, "Gain wisdom and understanding."
I took those words from my father, Douglas McHenry, and I've applied them to almost everything. The more you know, the more prepared you'll be to make the best decisions. Having the intelligence to know right from wrong isn't always enough in this place we call society. Many conflicts happen because both sides can't agree on one truth. Politics is a perfect example this conflict. If our elected officials were to decide what would most effectively improve states and local areas, the argument wouldn't come from a Democratic or Republican perspective — instead it would come from collective knowledge. If we worked together in this way (based on facts, of course), we could see how quickly we could improve the state and country as a whole.
If we all gained wisdom about things that would improve our lives, together we would have the perfect understanding of what we need to do to reach success.
Where would you send a student who hasn't traveled before?
The perfect place to send a student would be to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland is a city filled with character, and it has so much to see rather than so much to do. When you're out-of-state, let's say Texas, and you meet someone from Cincinnati, you're happy to say hey and talk about things you might have in common — like sports or schools. But when you meet someone from Cleveland, its like you've met your best friend in the world! You'll never truly understand it, but you'll never have a better conversation with a stranger (or detail so much personal information) than you will with someone when you know she's from Cleveland.
As Clevelanders know, we've seen more bad times than good — being from the "Mistake by the Lake," as some call it. Sports is a hot topic, but the weather will always bring the city together, because 9 times out of 10, the good or bad in your life will happen because the weather has played a huge part in that particular moment.
I could go on and on about Cleveland, but if you can make it in Cleveland, Ohio, you can appreciate the little things in life a whole lot better.
When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?
The last time I failed academically was the math section of the Ohio Proficiency Test in high school. Let me take it back to 8th grade.
Statewide, eighth graders prepared for the test in each major subject: math, English, science, and social studies. I was a decent student, and our teachers prepared us well. Passing each subject with a minimum score of 200 meant you would be eligible to graduate high school (when the time came, of course).
On my first crack at the test, I scored well above 200 on each subject except for math. As devastated as I was, I ended up with a score of 199. I took the test again as a freshman in high school: same result, 199. The next year, I took the math test twice. And would you believe it? A 199 on both exams. In my junior year, the same thing happened: two math exams, two scores of 199 out of 200.
Now before I continue, you must understand that math is my favorite. I went to school in a district full of nationally-ranked math teachers. These teachers helped about nine students at Cleveland Heights High School get a perfect score in both the ACT and SAT exam while I was there.
Twelfth grade, senior year — despite having great success in the classroom, I felt depressed. I felt inadequate in my favorite subject. I'd stayed after school with two of my favorite math teachers, Mrs. Pat Benedict and Mrs. Katie Liekoski. Other than my parents, no one made me feel so loved and cherish before in my entire life. I'm sitting in the front of the class, and I'm giving the perfect answer to almost every question they threw at me. Plus I'm showing my work. These two teachers were more pumped for me going into this test than I was. I took the test that fall, and I scored another 199. The look of defeat was all over me. I was quiet in class, I stopped joking with teammates. I even broke up with my girlfriend at the time.
I went to math class the next week and Mrs. Liekoski looked me in my eyes and said, "You're gonna kick this test's butt in the spring." We continued our after-school classes and I'm just as pumped up as they were for taking the test. Test day comes, and I'm sitting for the exam in the school gym. Before I walked in, both Mrs. Benedict and Mrs. Liekoski were there to greet me with two of the best hugs any student could want from a teacher. They told me, "You got this, Chris." I got the results a few months later and I cried to both Mrs. Benedict and Mrs. Katie Liekoski when I showed them my score: 210.
That moment in my life taught me the perfect lesson. Just when you think you have all the information you need, that's when you have to mentally prepare and practice working with that information. Those beautiful teachers didn't teach me anything different about the material on the math exam; they helped me perfect my attitude. They're both retired but I will forever love them. And still to this day, I have kept communication with both the great Pat "Peggy" Benedict and Katie "Winkky" Liekoski.
Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?
I went into my field because I have a passion for student-athletes. We are a unique group of students. I was recruited out of high school in the sport of football. I received so many letters in the mail from coaches at schools I would have never imagined of attending. The world of athletic recruiting hit me and my family hard. One weekend after a Friday night football game, my mother and I drove from Cleveland, Ohio to Columbia, Missouri visit a coach from the University of Missouri. That was a ten-and-a-half hour drive. Never have I been so excited to visit a campus or meet a coach. He sent me so many letters telling me how much the Tiger football program would be perfect for me and that they wanted me to play there.
My mother and I checked in with other recruits and toured the facility. And there he was — the big-time coach who wanted me to come to this big-time school. We went over to shake his hand and his confusion and disinterest were all over his face. He had now clue who I was. Spending almost 11 hours preparing for that moment woke me up. My mother and I traveled to several other schools, such as Purdue University, Indiana University, and Eastern Michigan University. At each school we visited, we saw the same look of disinterest on coaches who had sent me letters telling me how much they wanted me be a student-athlete at their university.
Not much has changed from recruiting back then, and there are many aspiring student-athletes who have been or are currently wasting money, time and effort chasing that dream of playing college sports. My goal is to assist them with honest recruiting, how to tell the difference between true interest and junk mail.