Josh Pratt hadn't met Tim Stedman until this year, but the two men who share similar athletic and educational backgrounds quickly found they have common ground in other areas as well.
They are about the same age and both have young children, and they discovered they lived just a few minutes from each other in Crofton. These days, Pratt takes his young son to watch youth football games in which Stedman's son plays.
"It's a small world," says Pratt, 42. "We hit it off."
But those particular mutual interests aren't what brought Stedman, 41, the athletic director at Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School in Hanover, and Pratt together.
Instead, Stedman had a mission for his new friend — to launch a boys basketball program at the young school.
"Josh came with a lot of knowledge and experience," said Stedman, a 1990 graduate of Severna Park High School and a former coach at Arundel, Glen Burnie and Northeast high schools. "That is what I was looking for. This is starting something from scratch. I needed someone with confidence. He had a true understanding of where we are and a great plan of getting us to another level."
Chesapeake Science Point Charter, a public school at the Class 1A level, began its athletic program with track and field in the spring and had its first year of soccer this fall. The school has seniors for the first time this academic year.
"Our kids, no surprise, are smart kids," said Megan Birmingham, the girls soccer and basketball coach. "They are smart enough to realize you want a well-rounded high school experience.
"Having that school spirit and cheering is also part of that high school experience," Birmingham said, noting that students have "rallied around the push" to expand school athletics.
Pratt was hired by Stedman after learning about the job in late May. He'll start with a junior varsity boys basketball team this winter with plans to play for a varsity team during the 2014-2015 school year.
Pratt is a former boys varsity coach at now-closed Towson Catholic, and among his future Division I players there were Larry Bastfield (Morgan State), Andrew Fitzgerald (Oklahoma) and Donte' Greene (Syracuse). Greene was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008..
Pratt also was an assistant boys basketball coach at Archbishop Spalding, and his first head job was with the boys at St. Mary's of Annapolis. He has spent the most recent four seasons as varsity girls basketball coach at St. Vincent Pallotti in Laurel.
"One reason why the job interested me was when I talked to Tim over the summer, it was the chance to start a program from scratch," said Pratt, whose day job is as a teacher at an elementary school in Prince George's County. "We hit it off. I can run [summer] camps and really build the program from the ground up."
Yet even as the program is just starting, Pratt said his goal is to one day win a state title.
"They want to have quality student-athletes," said Pratt, also a former assistant boys coach at Pallotti in the 1990s. "I just think it is just great. [Stedman] is probably the most energetic AD I have ever been around."
Stedman began teaching in Anne Arundel County in 1997 and was at several county schools before he left the field in 2004. After seven years away from schools, including time in pharmaceutical sales, he returned to education in 2012 when he was hired as the athletic director at Chesapeake Science Point.
He hired Birmingham to coach girls soccer, and she will launch a girls basketball program this coming season as well. The soccer teams played a combination of JV and varsity games this fall. There were no seniors on the boys team.
The girls soccer team played a mixture of JV and varsity matches, and was 0-11 in regular-season play. The girls had three seniors, defenders Alexus Neidert and Tori Reeder and forward Raniya Sheikh. Birmingham, a club rugby player at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, said many of the players had not been on a soccer team since they were in elementary school, if at all.
Birmingham, who played field hockey, basketball and softball at her New Jersey high school, said it was "awesome" to see her team's growth. The team had 12 players to begin the year in August and ended up with 18.
Birmingham will now turn her attention to the start of basketball practice Nov. 15.
Pratt is equally eager to get started with hoops under Stedman.
"He is totally supportive of me. He trusts me, and he is one of those guys you want to work for," Pratt said of his new AD. "He is going to give you the opportunity to build things."