Paris Kyles is a Student Management Specialist at Park Center Senior High School.
Kyles grew up near the school in Brooklyn Center, a diverse suburb of the Twin Cities that Kyles says allowed him to expand his perception of the world, long before he was old enough to leave his hometown.
“I learned how to interact and communicate with people from different ethnic backgrounds,” Kyles recalls of Brooklyn Center.
“Growing up there opened my eyes to what the world had to offer outside of just my city, which of course was all that I knew at the time.”
As a kid, Kyles loved playing sports.
He especially thrived on the hardwood, quickly developing into a basketball phenom due to his natural talent, but also the hypercompetitive athletic environment of Brooklyn Center.
“Being in a competitive atmosphere definitely allowed me to sharpen my basketball skills,” Kyles mentions, but it wasn’t just his smooth jumper and deft floater that benefited from the stiff competition.
Characteristics like these were also forged on the court, and they became just as valuable after Kyles graduated high school and continued his basketball career at a junior college called MCTC in Minneapolis.
To many, Kyles was already capable of playing high-level college basketball, and if it wasn’t for Kyles possessing the requisite resiliency needed to get noticed by scouts at the next level, he very well may never have ended up finding a home two years later with Minnesota State Mankato, a Division-II university ninety minutes outside the Twin Cities.
As a Maverick, Kyles established himself as one of the team’s best players, starting over 90% of the team’s games and averaging 13.1 points per game in his two seasons in Mankato.
“I played with a great group of guys,” Kyles says of a two-year run that ultimately ended when the Mavericks lost to Winona State in the NCAA regional championship.
“The coaches there challenged us every day at practice to become better, which in turn pushed me to get better as an athlete.”
A key figure in the Mavericks’ success, after getting his college diploma Kyles began exploring various opportunities to play professional basketball.
“I was excited, but I also didn’t know what I didn’t know,” he says of that process.
“I was flying blind and didn’t have any guidance.”
Consequently, Kyles’ career as a professional basketball player was an arduous affair.
At first, Kyles linked up with a semipro team in Rochester, Minnesota, but that endeavor soon ended when the owner took all the money and disbanded the team.
In search of his next opportunity, Kyles performed at a number of camps in hopes of getting noticed by overseas scouts.
This tactic worked as eventually he was extended an offer by a team in Poland.
“I was there for a month and a half, and I was doing very well. I thought I was going to stick around on a long-term basis,” Kyles explains, but as is wont to happen in European professional basketball, there was a dispute over Kyles’ contract and the team severed ties in order to save money.
“That left a sick feeling in my gut, but I learned firsthand how cutthroat the business of basketball can be.”
By then into his third year of professional basketball, Kyles could have attempted to ingratiate himself to another team, but around that time his son was born, and he had to make a major decision:
Keep pursuing professional basketball, or move into the next phase of his life.
“It was a tough choice. I could have kept chasing basketball even though I wasn’t making any real money, or I could be around for my son, get a job, and begin focusing on establishing a sustainable career,” Kyles says.
After much contemplation, Kyles opted to walk away from the game that had brought him to many different parts of the world, and in doing so was subjected to a tremendous amount of emotional anguish.
“Moving on from the game of basketball was an extremely hard decision to make. It took me a while to fully process it,” Kyles shares.
“At first, I didn’t have the same level of happiness as I had when I was playing because the game had abruptly stopped, and when I stopped playing, it wasn’t on my terms.”
Fortunately, the grief Kyles experienced eventually subsided, and once that happened, it allowed him to happily embrace everything that was already in front of him.
“I was starting a family and we were building something. That was an opportunity to grow as a person,” says Kyles, who simultaneously tapped into the grit, endurance, and competitiveness that once allowed him to excel on the court.
“I could use those same skills to have success in other ventures because I found out there were other things that I was interested in and enjoyed doing.”
This included starting a cleaning business.
For context, Kyles’ father ran a successful cleaning business for almost two decades, so in addition to helping his dad clean apartment complexes and houses when he was a kid, Kyles also learned some of the basics about how the industry operated.
“I had some experience, and then also a couple connections that allowed me to get right into the business,” he says.
Kyles ran the cleaning business for four years, a stretch that showed him how difficult life as an entrepreneur can be.
“Maintaining relationships, producing jobs, hiring employees, taking care of my son, and making time for myself; it was all challenging,” Kyles admits.
“But it was also a great opportunity for me to learn how to build something from the ground up, the pitfalls that come with doing that, how to think through problems, and how to find solutions to those problems.”
Kyles eventually determined that continuing to run the business wasn’t practical, and just like when his basketball career ended, he discovered that it is okay to stop and move on if something isn’t producing the desired results.
“I’ll say this: for anybody going through something similar to what I went through, you have more to offer than just one thing that you may be interested in,” Kyles advises.
“Find out what your interests are by exposing yourself to different things because at some point in time things will change, especially if you’re an athlete.”
For Kyles, he pivoted into his current role as a Student Management Specialist at Park Center Senior High School, where each day he focuses on building and maintaining a positive culture within the school by supporting students and teachers in whatever ways he can.
The best part?
Kyles likes what he does because it aligns with his skillset.
“Every day is different, and so I have to be alert and on top of things, which plays into my competitive nature,” Kyles says.
“I’m also able to connect with and give back to the youth. Through my experiences I have wisdom and knowledge that I can share with the people coming up behind me, and let them know that they can do whatever they want, as long as they put their mind to it and are willing to put the work in.”
At the same time, Kyles would like to keep rising through the education system.
He is currently working toward becoming an assistant principal, a goal that could become a reality as soon as next year.
Kyles also would like to leverage his past experience with owning a cleaning company and get back into entrepreneurship, even though the Brooklyn Center native hasn’t yet decided which specific venture he will pursue next.
“Ultimately, I want to leave something for my family, and so no matter what route I take, that will occupy the next 20 to 25 years of my life, and then it will be time to start thinking about retirement.” QS
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