First AND 10
Jason Avant’s three kids think he’s the “ultimate cool dad.” As if being a professional football player didn’t score him enough points with them, he entered the family entertainment center (FEC) world several years ago.
“All of their friends want to hang out here,” Avant says with a laugh.
Using the skills learned from his playing days in the National Football League (NFL), he now owns three Launch trampoline park franchises and continues to enjoy the same success that followed him on the football field.
Learning the FEC Playbook
The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Avant in the fourth round in 2006, thanks in big part to a standout senior season at the University of Michigan, where he won the team’s MVP award. The wide receiver remained with the Eagles for much of his NFL career, amassing 4,000-plus yards and 13 touchdowns over 11 seasons. However, about halfway through his pro run, he began contemplating his second act.
“When you’re young in the NFL, you think it’s never going to end,” Avant says. “But I knew I had to plan on something outside of football. Your money won’t just stay in your account. It will go away eventually, so you have to make sure it’s invested properly.”
Seeking to avoid the financial woes that some former professional athletes face, he began researching business ventures. One industry in particular stuck out right from the jump.
“I wanted to do something that I would thoroughly enjoy and something my kids would like,” he shares. “I loved amusements growing up, and I knew I’d have a few coins to become a franchisee.”
Avant would take his children to trampoline parks all over the country, peppering owners and operators with questions about their business. However, to better appreciate the FEC industry, he knew he needed the full playbook.
To take that crucial next step, he “interned” at the Launch facility in Newark, Delaware, during several NFL offseasons, working the counter and point-of-sale system, running the birthday parties, and handling staff scheduling.
“I tried to do everything a general manager would,” he says. “I learned as much as I could there.”
This hands-on experience solidified his plan for when he retired from the NFL after the 2015 season. Avant opened Launch in Deptford, New Jersey, in 2017 and then in nearby Delran in 2019. Last year, he also took over the Delaware location where he formerly interned.
Developing a Game Plan for Success
Like a rookie in the NFL, Avant admits to a few missteps in his early Launch days. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life,” recalls Avant, who remains involved with football as a cohost for an Eagles pregame radio show and returned to the team in July as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Fellowship to work with players.
To improve his FEC acumen, Avant went to business boot camps and returned to Michigan to earn a business certificate. Plus, he enrolled in an MBA program this fall, fulfilling a longtime dream.
“It may take me a little bit longer to figure things out,” he says, “but I will because of the hard work and determination.”
Much of these attributes come from his perfection-driven days in the NFL, Avant acknowledges. “I was told, ‘If you drop a pass like that again, you will get cut.’”
Avant obviously won’t fire a staff member for a minor offense, but he does take lessons learned from the NFL and translate them to his FECs.
For example, his former coach Andy Reid—who won Super Bowl LIV in 2020 with the Kansas City Chiefs—stressed the importance of following a game plan from start to finish, with no gray areas.
“He said you can’t expect players to do stuff on their own,” Avant notes. “You have to write it all out for them to allow them to play at their best.
“It’s the same way as a business owner,” he continues. “You can’t expect a customer to get in the door and then to jumping on a trampoline without a system. You can’t expect the pizza to get to the birthday party group without a system. I had to learn all of that.”
After countless hours and many late nights, the 37-year-old now thrives in his position and basks at the opportunity to shape the next generation of workers.
“I don’t want to do things just to make money,” he says. “I’ve made enough money to be OK. I like to have a purpose in what I do.”
Through his leadership and guidance, he loves seeing staff gain the confidence to think on the spot, speak intelligently to an adult, and, importantly, enforce the facility rules.
“You can see them grow,” he says. “You can see them own their space in the trampoline park.”
Along with developing future leaders, Avant enjoys offering guests a safe, active place to play. His facilities feature laser tag, rock walls, a ninja course, an indoor playground, and a variety of trampoline courts.
“It’s entertaining fitness,” he says. “They don’t know they’re getting in shape. They’re just having fun.”
Contact Funworld Contributing Editor Mike Bederka at [email protected].