JD Uhler – XP League

JD Uhler has been helping kids work computers for quite a few years now.  He owns CodeNinjas in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.  Teach your kids to code.  That’s some great advice that will guarantee a lucrative career.  Actually, it may make more sense for coders to teach your kid to code.  That is where CodeNinjas comes in.
Add into that the XP League, which JD manages.  This is the world of competitive gaming for kids where you have some serious competition you can watch, or play, from anywhere.
These kids practice, learn, teach, grow and even condition themselves to be the best gamers possible.  Listen as JD explains the ins and outs of kids coding, as well as competitive gaming.
Visit JD at: https://www.xpleague.com/

Authentic Business Adventures Podcast


You have found
Authentic Business Adventures,

the business program that brings you
the struggles stories and triumphant

successes of business
owners across the land.

My name is James Kademan, entrepreneur,

author, speaker and helpful coach to
small business owners across the country.

And today we’re welcoming/preparing

to learn from JD Uhler,
the league commissioner of XP League,

as well as the co-owner
of Code Ninjas Sun Prairie. So JD,

how are you doing today?

Great, I’m doing well,
thanks for having me on.

Yeah, thanks for being here.

So let’s start with XP League.

I have to apologize because outside

of your email address,
I’ve never heard of it.

So you can just tell me
or tell us what it is.

So XP League.

So I am the league commissioner
of the Madison Division of the XP League.

It is in the US and Canada.

It’s a youth e-sports league
for ages 7 to 15.

So elementary middle school

in Sun Prairie we have upper
middle school up to ninth grade.

So we have the cut off before they get in
the 10th grade or they can drive a car.

That’s kind of what we talk about.

And so, yeah, it’s competitive video
games. Competitive video games?

So playing them or creating? Competitive

video games or they’re
playing against others.

Oh, interesting.

All right.

It is.

Is it limited to a certain type of video
game or is it just whatever you got?

We limit it to games that are appropriate
for the 7 to 15 age group.

OK. So we do not do Call of Duty.

People want to know if we do Call of Duty.

We don’t do that,
but we do do Overwatch,

which is a team of six game, Fortnite
squads, which is a team of four,

and then Rocket League,
which is also a team of four.

And then we’re adding more
games this year yet too so.

All right, interesting.

So my buddies and I back
in the day we used to play Halo.


Online and I was terrible because I
didn’t really play it that often.

My buddies were good, but we always
joked that they weren’t Internet good

because you go into a room and I
would get smoked in five seconds.


And my buddies would
maybe last two minutes.

Oh yeah.

Which is that in five seconds.

But I’m like how are these kids this


The equivalent
to Halo or Quaker or something like today.

Because I am old school too, first
generation gamer as they call us.

But now
like Fortnite.

Yeah exactly.

Fortnite is the is like super popular
of course and that’s a battle royale

format when you play it on the Internet
and battle royale, meaning you,

you get up from an airplane and
you parachute down to a place and then you

have to be the last one
standing and then you win.

So it’s like, oh, all right,
winner take all type of thing.

What we’ve done at XP
League is change that.

So we’ve changed into a team game.

So you actually have a team of four

that drops down into the world
and plays against another team of four.

And the last man standing of those eight,
the team with the last man standing wins.

So it’s a team game.

We actually have to team
up to beat another team.

All right.
So that’s what that’s all about.

It’s all about team sports.

And we play seasons rather than events.

A lot of people are used
to these like every quarter.

There’s like a pop up event
that has like five hundred people.

Well, this is like a team of four, like in
your local community that you play with.

You get a rapport with your team,

you build teamwork and you have
a coach and you get better and better.

And then you compete against teams all
across the country, California

to North Carolina, to Ottawa,
Canada, and back to Madison.

I’m just picturing a lot of Mountain Dew

instead of Gatorade is the kind of thing
That is interesting.

So the kids are coached.

So who is the coach?

So we have

we have all of our coaches are certified
by the Positive Coaching Alliance.


The PCA also certifies Major League
Baseball, NBA, college coaches.

And we’re the first E-Sports

brand or on in the PCA.

So we have like E Sports
have certified coaches.

All right.

So they they are
we have like a head coach.

That’s like a hired position.

He’s like our head coach.

So he coordinates all coaches.

And then our coaches are. Full time job?

He’s like, yep, he’s like
a full time job with us.


So he does like coaching guides and
you works with those coaches on being

a better E-sports coach or just
coaching techniques dealing with.

And these are kids.

So sometimes it’s their first
opportunity to be coached,

especially in E-sports,
is probably definitely the first time.

And so like at the beginning level,
they have to be good with kids about like,

OK, you’ve never played soccer before,
you never played basketball before.

Well, you’ve never
played Over Watch before.

So we have to get to the
basics of how you play.

What are the controls, what’s the goal?

How do you work as a team?

And like the advanced players are like

thirteen, fourteen, fifteen
year old they already know.

And so they just need to get drills done,

become better technical players
and come become better communicators.

So that’s what the coaches
focus on at the different levels.

And our coaches are we have dads,

the coach that we train
and get the certification.

We’ve got college students,
we’ve got high school senior captains of

the Edgewood High School overwatch team
that are coaching.

And those are like assistant coaches,

we call it, because they’re really there,
because they know the game so well

and they’re on they love it because
they’re on a path to an E sports career

in playing, coaching, streaming,
which we know is the gateway to getting

into STEM jobs and computers
and automation jobs in the future.

All right.

When you say a career in gaming,
are you talking the kind of the YouTube

kids that go on there and play the game,
comment on it and then, yeah,

there’s so there’s professional E Sports
players that are making multiple.

Multiple million dollars a year.

Now New York Times has an article about

how much money they’re making,
which is professional level sport money.

That’s just one thing, though, because

there’s also the business of E sports,
which is every job you can think of,

just like an NFL team or
an MLS team or whatnot.

They’ve got a whole group of people
behind them doing a promotion, doing


even like there’s a chef for the team,
things like that, to be eating healthy.


I’m just picturing like, here’s
a bag of Doritos and a frozen pizza.

Yeah, that’s exactly.

And that’s what we’re trying to change
the the way that’s looked at because.

Yeah, like I literally have an energy
drink by me here too, with rock star.


but for EA Sports playing, I mean,

it is grueling because you can be
in a tournament all day long and all

night, especially at the pro level
where it’s like, you know,

bathroom breaks and bad
eating habits come into play.

So at a young youth level, we teach them
healthy eating habits.

Fitness, even carpal tunnel is real,

especially in and oh,
I’ve been playing video games.

And so we do stretches.

We do

get up, move around.

It’s breaks that are needed in this too.

So it’s yeah, it’s E Sports is becoming

you know, it was the Wild West
when when we were younger,

it wasn’t even that.
It was just like getting together

with buddies and things
and playing LAN parties.


We would do LAN parties and I was
not the IT guy, all my buddies

IT guys.

So they would spend the first
three hours connected.


And then the next couple hours
people dropping off the network.

Yes exactly.

And then you get it going and then because

it took so long to get going you didn’t
sleep because you just wanted to go.


And it was yeah.

It was just surreal to watch
them like these

some of these guys would bring these
computers where they got like this is

pre typical led
like lights are everywhere.

Now back then it was like,
whoa, your box is glowing red.

Right, exactly.

That was also the age of fifty
six K modems and stuff.

Yeah exactly.

I grew up in that at that time as well.

I was that IT guy though.


I was that IT guy. I imagine you must be
to be where you’re at now because I

like something interesting.

Yeah I know enough to be
dangerous but what they.

Yeah I’m sure you can figure it out now.

Do they still have LAN parties.

You don’t have to have that now.

I mean you can but it’s not.

So typically the Internet’s fast enough so
you just all jump on the Internet and say,

hey, what’s the room code or
what’s the game code map code?

I want to ask you about that.

So you you come in a room and it’s
basically only people that are invited.

It’s not necessarily
the entire world, correct?

So it’s very organized.

And so we have teams all over the country

that are coached by the
same type of coaches.

We have a league
office that coordinates all the games

across and we have follow
the same standards, you know.

And so,

yeah, it’s supposed to be a safe
environment where you’re free of no

bullying, no negativity, positive
and teaching, good sportsmanship.

Raging is a thing, right?

When you lose,
you like throw your controller across

the room and things like that,
like that’s a real thing.

I had a buddy lose TV
because he got a little.

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

And so we you know, we teach about
how to how to rein in those emotions.

And especially when you’re in a team
and sometimes you won’t know these kids

you’re playing with right away,
like the first day of practice.

It’s kind of like quiet like.

But now you’re like in a public setting

where you need to behave yourself a little
bit and that that helps kids grow

at that development age level to be better
team players and better human beings

overall. Interesting.
That’s pretty cool,

you mentioned drills and it triggered
something in me like

how do you do a drill? Because I’m
thinking of soccer,

you kick the ball or whatever. Do they
set up drills for specific games?

Yeah, we have like there’s of course,

there’s software to drill kids
on improving their their e sports skills.

OK, so like aiming rapid fire type stuff
like these are first person shooters.

A lot of the time we have stuff
like rocket league which is different.

But first person shooters,

you need to be able to pivot and aim
and snipe and and do it quickly.

So you know the best players in the world are

going to be able to to do that
better than others.

But then it’s also the drills
about communicating too.

So we’ll be like, OK,

everybody is going to drop end of the map
and I’m going to time you you’ve got

to get to this location as fast as you
can and then we’re going to do it again.

All right.
Improve your time.

Do it again.
Do it again.

And part of it is like
communicating like where are you?

Like, where are you guys?
Like, I’m headed here.

And like we also have, like,
you know, pick up these items.

You have to have these items before I get

there and like, all right,
I’ll get this one.

You get that one.

And so it’s a lot of that teamwork to
teamwork drills to get to get better.

And then they’re pushing each other,

you know, to like, hey,
we need that better time

giving each other,
giving each other each other tips on like,

all right, maybe go here,
jump here to make it quicker.

And and so it’s you know, they help
out each other then to become better.


So these guys, they have headsets
on and they’re communicating that way.

OK, yeah.

They have gaming PCs.

We have our all of our own a high
powered gaming PCs that the pros use.

All right.
So these are high refresh graphics cards

and then they have good,
great processors, great memory.

So they’re they’re really powerful.

So we want to be able to compete against
these other cities that have yeah.

We want to beat them.

And so we make sure we have the best
and and that’s what we give them.

So I want to talk about the systems

themselves right the gaming PCs,
because for the business that I have,

I usually buy used gaming PCs
for my my answering service.

So we get a lot of stuff going on,

but nowhere near the level
that the gamers use.


I’m the guy that buys the second
hand stuff from you guys.

That’s some of those video cards.

Oh my gosh man.

From a pricing point of view.

You’re talking thousands of dollars.


The market right now.

So like we we have partnerships with

HP, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo,
Alienware, Dell, where we can get

good gaming laptops at a good price, we’re buying them in bulk because we have

dozens of them.

And so and this is like
maybe a tip for people that are watch this

or I tell this people too, if you try
to build your own computer right now.


You try to buy an individual
graphics card.

It is like a thousand bucks
just for the graphics card.

It’s not like I built my own computers in
the past and and it was reasonable to do.

But you’re dropping a lot of money
just on the graphics card alone.

So really right now it’s the package
or those those big manufacturers that get

these better prices
with the graphics card vendors.

All right.
Where they can get competitive prices.

So it really, at least in the short term

here, it’s hurting
people that want to build their own

computers are still going to do it,
but it’s going to cost a lot of money.

So is the reason for that because China

was shut down for a little bit, or is
it a Bitcoin mining thing? Yeah, yeah.

So I know from firsthand experience

that there is a shortage because
of the China thing in in multiple computer

components, including processors,
graphics cards, primarily those.

And so, yeah, it’s
it’s like who’s got some.

It’s like we need we need more.

And we’re also working with our players.

The parents be like, hey,
here’s where we found

this is a recommendation on something you
can get because yeah, it’s, it’s,

it’s tough right now to to get
the pieces that are that you want.


So does each individual kid have their own

computer, their laptop that they
bring to and from know.

So we set up for them.

They’re all ours because we need

a standard configuration
for all of these PCs.

OK, so they can they do and can play from
home practice when we’re not practicing.

We have an hour and a half practice once

a week or we come in with
the coaches and we have like

an agenda of learning a valuable skill,

becoming a better teammate or, you know,
working with your emotions like that.

But then we give them things to do
at home as like homework practice, too.

And they use their own.

Systems for that, and that’s where their

cross platform games like Overwatch,
you can play on any thing,

you can play on anything,
so they’re going to have lower power.

So a lot of times that they’re home

on whatever that is,
but they’re still playing.

They could still jump on Discord server,
which is the Communication for Gamers app.

They can get on there and talk

to the teammates so that they’re staying
connected even outside of game devices.

Can you tell me about the monitor
setup that you guys have?

Yes, so we only have laptops and so reason

we have gaming laptops.

OK, a lot of kids bring in their own
keyboards and mice or controllers.

So we definitely allow that.

And they hold them different ways and have

different styles and bring that and just
look it into the USB of the laptop.

Yeah, we use we use laptops because we
want to be mobile and we’re like a nomadic

sports league.

So we want to go where the people are.

So we don’t want to be hunkered down

and just like a land center or
that that exists or an arena like you

like, they have like awesome computers
at those locations.

And we’re partnering with those like we’re
part of a bunch of arenas around Madison.

All right.
But we we want to be able to go

into school and do a school, a church,
wherever it is that they want to play.

And we bring the we bring
the league to them.

And so we have
all laptops for that reason.

So I want to back up a step here. When you

say a bunch of a bunch of these places
around Madison, how many are we talking?


So right now we have two
locations for the XP league.

It is

at the Code Ninjas of the Sun Prairie is
like our northeast Dane County location.

And then we also play at Edgewood College.

It’s actually the Edgewood College,
High School and Campus School.

It’s the K through college
experience there.

We play at their science center and in
their arena at the Edgewood College.

We have the Edgewood.

I’m an alumni of Edgewood College and Edgewood

high school they are both partnering
with and sponsoring us to play there.

So that we rent we rent out space

in the Science Center at Edgewood
and we would play like on the first level

and have lots of lots of room for
our setup and the college.

Luis is the Edgewood College
director and coach.

They’re sponsoring us and we have
a very tight partnership with them.

And we’re going to do more and more
events with them going forward.

So that’s kind of our
central Madison location.

Then we’re looking we’re adding a new one
on the northwest side of Madison,

kind of by Middleton,
close to Middleton Madison,

close to where I grew up
on the west side of Madison.

And we’re also looking at like a SE
like Monona McFarland location as well.

So we’re wow, we’re looking to have

hopefully four or five locations
by the end of the year.

Well, that’s cool.

So what kind of band width do you guys
need from an Internet perspective?

A lot

has got a three fiber lines
coming in or something like that.


So, yeah, it’s ridiculous how much
throughput we have for our our games.

I mean, we’ve talked about streaming

to which we stream all of our games
on our Twitter feed.

XPL Madison, OK, is our twitch.

so the parents and cousins and grandmas

and brothers and sisters can come
on and watch their, you know, their

game or play and becomes a family
event like like a family watch party.

And it’s all online, of course.

So especially during Covid times,
it’s just, you know,

you don’t have to be there watching
like a soccer game or basketball game.

You could just you know,

we have parents that sit in the parking
lot and watch the twitch or run home or

they’ll go like I’ve even done this where
I’m like running through Costco and I’ve

got my twitch up on my phone
as I’m shopping, you know?

So it’s just like, you know,
it’s just so cool.

You can watch this
competition from anywhere,

anywhere you want.

So I’m sorry, but is there
any sports betting on the.

There is sports betting
at the professional level.

Of course, there it is.

It’s illegal at our level, of course.


this is a whole new world for me.

I remember watching

my little brother, big brothers,

big sisters, little brother, and he
was watching some kid play video game.

And I just looked at it and I
just could not understand it.

And then he explained to me, it’s like
it’s no different than watching baseball.

And to me, I’m like, well, I get bored.

Watching baseball is boring now.

So, I mean, just great to have in the

background listening to when
you’re doing something else.

And listen to Bob Yukako call home run of


I guess I can watch hockey,
but outside of that.

Yeah, the patience to watch.


Fast moving of course
is actually constantly.

And so there’s an education
to it like everybody.

Well you know, I like when I was a kid
I was like, how do you play football?

You play soccer,
how do you play basketball?

Everyone learns.

And so parents now a lot
of parents are gamers growing up.

So they know some of it, but
a lot of moms who aren’t

gamers are like, what is my son
doing in the basement all the time?

Well, now you can see and you can see how

he is becoming a good teammate
and becoming a better person.

Because he’s part of a team now and not

just sucking up five hours of life
every day alone in his basement, so

so we make our streams educational.

So we’re like, OK,
here’s how overwatch works.

And we explain to the viewer who is
brand new to it how it works.

And then they’re like, oh, my gosh,
now I know what he’s doing.

It’s not that complicated.

It’s just like a team sport is
just like conventional sport.


It’s just something that he
already loves to do.

And he is not athletic or we have a lot

of athletic kids, too, and they just
want to do this because it’s awesome.

But it really opens up a whole new

group of kids that can find
a way to play a sport.

All right.
That’s what’s amazing about it.


And I imagine, like, it’s I don’t know
what it is, 10 below or something here.


There’s not a whole lot of soccer going on.
No way. You can play this anywhere.


We have seasons that run
all year long every season.

We have running running winter season

right now and we have spring season
starting here at February 20th is

the first games of rocket league
and then the twenty seventh.

We have the first

ones for overwatch and fortnite

so we’re running tryouts constantly

at Edgewood and at Kodansha Sun
Prairie. Hold on, tryouts? You got to tell me about this.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

So and tryouts meaning that you come

and you come and try it
and it’s like it’s try it out.

We call it when, when they get there
it’s like this is this is a try it out.

This is not a tryout.

You’re not cutting people
from the team or something?

Everybody makes the team.

This is youth level. OK.

When you get to high school,

there’s junior varsity, varsity, whatever,
you’re going to make a team or you’re not.

All right at this level,
everybody makes a team.

So there’s different levels,
so we have silver and gold,

so like the beginning,
players that have never played before,

like we had a kiddo that came in a couple
of nights ago, that he’s like I play

fortnite and we’re like and we have
kids try out all our games

overwatch, fortnite and rocket league to see
what they really like, because it’s like

you may have not been exposed
to these other games.

And so he tried overwatch and he
fell in love with it immediately.

And and he was good like
within an hour tryout.

He was like doing so well,
could not believe the growth.

That’s what the kids can do, like

give him a give them even give him a
soccer ball or give them a tennis racket.

And you’re like, oh my gosh, I didn’t
know you could be that good so fast.

So yeah.

So he joined our overwatch team then

and the tryout is you’ll realize like,
OK, how what your skill level.

OK, you’re new to overwatch.

You’re going to join our silver team.

That is cool. But then we have like 14,
15 year olds that come in, it’s like, OK,

you’ve been playing for five years,
you’re on the gold team and you might even

be good enough to get to a regional
tournament or a national tournament.

So we have a national tournament in August

where the best of the best play against
each other, too, and they win prizes like

college scholarships and
cool gaming gear and stuff.

So, yeah, there will have scholarships,
college scholarship of this.

And what type of college are they?

Would they get a scholarship
from for something like this?


So Edgewood College right here in Madison
has scholarships for E Sports now.

And so Lakeland University that we partner
with Ahman Green,

we have we iHeart Radio and Fox Sports 10
70 Madison and we partner with

So Ahman Green is the E Sports coach
at Lakeland University in Sheboygan.

And so he he’s a phenomenal
coach, by the way.

I, I enjoy talking with them

and obviously he knows E Sports
and he’s of our generation,

grew up gaming and and and whatnot, so.

Yeah, it’s quite the community.

How recent are we talking for college

scholarships coming
into play with E Sports?

Yeah, just in the last five years.

And it’s growing like this year.

It’s growing big time

because of the pandemic to
the number of people playing E Sports

at the high school level
has increased greatly.

And so they’ve had to create scholarships.

And and

one path that I’m working

on with the college is that some of their
E Sports players are in psychology or

computer science or whatnot,
but they all come in thinking,

I’m going to use technology in my job
and I’m doing E Sports too.

So like I can like you have focus at this
college on technology and future jobs.

And I can play E Sports like
that’s exactly what what young kids

are looking into now,
getting those opportunities.

So, yeah, they want to they want to offer
them scholarships to to get them

there academically and for sports too.

I’m getting some glare from my window here.

That’s interesting.

So I’m wondering from a from an equipment
point of view in in my mind,

I got a I got a seven year old kid
and there’s certain sports that I feel are

pretty expensive to play and there’s other
sports that are dirt cheap like you.

You never hear of a rich kid getting

into boxing, but you never, rarely hear
of a poor kid getting into hockey.

So where where do the E Sports fit in there?

Yeah. There’s some kids that the

families can’t afford
to get them in there?


So then we we have all the equipment,

we buy all the equipment,
which makes it a cheap cheaper to enter

right away because you don’t
have to buy hockey equipment.


my daughter does dance, which is like
expensive for lessons and stuff too.

But so yeah.

This we feel like competitively with other
sports, it’s actually pretty low.

It’s kind of like soccer.

It’s kind of like high
level soccer though.

It’s like, it’s not like your your
it is competitive and we want to make

these kids better gamers
and better people.

So the our coaches and our philosophy
is about professional level experience.

All right.

We do things like interviewing of players
and so they can get on camera right away

and get that experience of like talking
about yourself,

talking about other people,
talk about your team, the experience.

And it’s so cool to get
these kids on a camera.

And this age, you know,
cameras and videos are everywhere,

but being in, again,
a responsible environment with that.


so it’s it’s priced competitively

with with people that are like,
you know, not like overly serious about

sports, but especially in this area
that it’s the gateway to stem careers

and getting kids into STEM, that parents
are on board with it like very quickly.

Yeah, this is a whole new world to me

because, like I said,
I only have a seven year old kid.

So before I didn’t really
know any of this stuff.

I didn’t know there are things
like hockey, high schools.

Oh, yeah.
I had a buddy of mine that said he was

moving to a different community for his kid to go
to a hockey high school like what?

Yeah, exactly.

It just blew my mind.

So this isn’t surprising.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.


the best part about this is like you don’t

need a hockey arena or you don’t need
a basketball court or some other

infrastructure that it’s very
costly to get up and running.

Oh, my gosh.

So my kid in the beginning was into hockey
and then I saw how much goalie gear was.

Oh yeah.

That he would fit in for six
months or whatever.

Well yeah exactly.

That is crazy.

And just like renting ice time is

so expensive and they pass that on to the,
to the parents.

To consumers so.

And even renting soccer fields or

basketball courts,
it’s just like a huge competition that’s

got to have all the logistics
involved with it.

And we’re like do you have
Internet that’s reliable and fast.

You’re in, you’re in, you know,
and the kids can play from home

and it’s very real during covid time
especially, it’s getting better now.

It’s like, yes, in Wisconsin.

But, you know, back in November,
it was pretty, pretty hard here.

And we had kids that would play remotely

then and we’d let them we’d like loan them
out a laptop, be like, oh, interesting.

Dude, I’m so sorry.

Like, you have a covid scare.

We’re going to we’ll bring it right over

to your house or you can come pick
it up and it’s all set up and stuff.

You just have to connect your wifi to it and you’re all set to go.

We had a kid

play from an airport one time because he
was between in between flights.

And he’s like, I’m not going to miss this.

Or a kid played from his cabin
up north Wisconsin like that.

So it’s it’s so cool.
It’s like, well,

I’m going to miss a couple of games
because I’m going on vacation or I’m

traveling or I’m seeing
this person or doing that.

It’s like, do you have a PC?
Do you need one?

All right.

So you don’t. The chance of missing
a game and failing your team.

You know, I’m so worried about
being a good teammate.

It’s like, well,
you can play from anywhere, so.

All right.
So you raise an interesting point

the do you guys have subs

that somebody can’t make it
for whatever. We do.


So we do.
We do.

We’ve had that where and we plan for that.

It’s like we have like gold teams and like
the better kids on the silver

teams will be like, hey, you’re going
to be an alternate for the gold team.

And so it’s a great opportunity for you

to play up a couple of weeks
if there’s people gone.

So and we’re going to have you practice

with the gold because we think you can be
a gold player in one season,

two seasons, you’re going to beef up your
skills and then be able to join that.

So, yeah, we we do that silver team level,
same thing where we have multiple teams.

So it’s like, hey, you know,
Jimmy is going to be gone today.

Do you want to play two games today?
Just jump in and.

All right.
Yeah, no problem.

I suppose it’s much easier to improve your

skills if you’re playing with people
that are better than you.

Yeah, definitely. Playing with people
that are worse than you, you’re probably

no doing yourself
any favors.


So yeah, it’s not,
it’s not age dependent too.

Like I grew up being a soccer player so I always

make these equivalents but there’s
like you eight, ten, twelve, you fourteen.

And they do it differently now or I don’t

know, they switch back,
they keep changing it.


then you’re playing
with just people your age.

But like there’s an eight year old
kid who is like awesome at Overwatch.

We’re not going to hold him back.

Like, just play your age level.

I Imagine there’s

You’re an adult man, you’re you’re moving up.

The physical limitation
is exactly equation.


The maturity level and the communication
level that these young kids have.

It’s like you showed us that you
can compete at a higher level.

So, yeah, we’re immediately moving you up.

So it really doesn’t hold people back
from being really good really early.

All right.

And I suppose that doesn’t
the people that they’re playing

may not even know that they’re 8.
They don’t.


I’d probably be mildly depressed
if I was playing somebody and

I was like I got beat
by an eight year old.

Yeah, exactly.
So I guess it’s probably at that level.

Probably completely.

My 10 year old daughter and my 12 year old

daughter that they both beat
me at rocket league every time.

Funny. Like three years ago when we
played it, when they’re younger,

I was like, oh, this is how you
play it, you know, and stuff.

And now it’s like, OK, I got to catch up.

So that is cool.

We don’t have a ton of time left.

So I want to talk about what you
have going on with Code Ninjas.

Can you touch on that a little bit?

Yeah, definitely.

So Code Ninjas is very related.

It is teaching kids how to code
by building video games.

So we

we have like a belt system that goes
white to black belt,

like a martial arts studio,
like your karate,

and you’re going to complete
coding projects

by building video games to earn belts and
then move up until you get a black belt.

And then at the black belt level,

we help you build a game,
come up with an idea,

build the game and then publish it
for others to buy it, play it

something you can put on a resume
and you’re like 12 years old.

Again, we’re creating like
a prodigy’s of the of the future, so.

And then they learn three different

programing languages,
at least along the way,

there’s some optional things they get
to do along the way with robotics and with

Internet based coding,
things that are out there.

But we have our own core
proprietary curriculum that we’ve built.

And so it’s the best path for kids
as young as actually five years old.

We start to learn how
to code. Five years old

they’re starting to learn how to code?

And what what language is what are

the three languages? What are
the three languages that you get?

Yeah, the core core program is

JavaScript and which is like most
up most popular in the world.

And then we do Lua, which is what kids
play roblox it’s built on Lua,

which is the like a C programing
language and then and then Unity 3D,

which is the development environment
as our higher level belts.

And that’s what C Sharp, which is
at a professional level.

I coded in C sharp.

So it’s like, you know, I’m a I’m a 10
year old or 11 year old programing.


this like we know they can do
it at that young of an age.

They by building games,
they’re super engaged and they love it.

I mean, it’s that it’s it’s amazing.

And they’re building like 3D games
that like you like

like you play on your phone, like apps
like on your phone or web, Web-Based apps

and games.
And so it really then opens them up

to a world of, like a lot of our advanced
kids are like on the path to, like,

get into a new program
at a high school college level.

And that’s where my prodigy management
is working at the high school and college

level to have a path for these kids
to continue that that learning journey

to be a game development game
designer with like a studio.

So I’m trying to move from my sun again.

This is like I just closed
that window. We haven’t seen sun in years.

But yeah, so I’m working with

some institutions in the area to get
better programs for these kids

to and also like game design based
curriculum where it’s just fun to do it.

And they’re engaged with it like.

when I was going through

my high school, had a couple of computer
classes and my college was using these

like old old programing
languages is just boring.

But I was like, I got to get this degree.

But now you can make it so much better
and so much and more engaging

and with gamification,
a lot of corporate everything,

corporate trainings and just,
you know, the Gen X or the Gen X, the

millennials that are coming through are

like they want it to be a cool place,
cool work environment thing.

And so they’re not going to want
these dry old videos to watch.

They’re going to want cool stuff.

So there’s got to be programmers
and stuff that build that.

And and so that’s what
we’re looking to do.

So, yeah, it’s interesting.

I learn to code way back when in basic.

And you thought you’re the coolest thing
in the world and you can turn the screen

red or make these little
boxes and stuff like that.

And I remember taking a college
course in C++ that I got smoked in.

I didn’t do so hot in that.

But it’s interesting,
like we couldn’t I know that you could do

a lot of stuff in C++ that I didn’t even
scrape the tip of the iceberg with.

Well, then you see these newer
languages, what they can do.

Yeah, it’s way cooler now, way cooler.

You see the apps that they’re coming up
with, they’re pumping out apps

and long every day there’s
new stuff coming out there.

Yeah, it’s it’s impressive.

It’s pretty cool.


And just there’s such a there’s still such
a shortage of like you talk

to corporations and businesses,
they still can’t get enough high quality

talent and they don’t want to spend
the money to train them right there.


that’s that’s a whole nother conversation.
Oh my gosh.

You argue about loyalty there.

Yeah, but yeah.

So that’s why we want to get as many kids
and parents have this upward demand that,

like, look,
we’re where we are here to learn it.

So you got to up your game.
All right.

The upper levels,
high schools and colleges to meet the

meet the high quality education
demands that are there.

So the prodigy management,

you are reaching out to universities and
colleges and high schools and essentially

saying, hey, let’s get
some curriculum in place.

And and partners.

And that’s where we have gaming studios.

We have Raven.

in Madison here, they’re tough nut
to crack, though, to get them involved.

We’re working on that.

But we have other ones that are all that.

We’re working with global companies to get
the programs in place at our local

colleges, universities that are
that are engaging

high quality things that more kids are
going to want to do and equates to jobs

coming right out of college, internships,
all these opportunities.

And a lot of them in MySpace are going
to be in the gaming E Sports world.

But we find that knowing those coding

skills and if you learn one language or
learn to work as a team to build something

that’s transferable to any industry really

and any industry is looking
for to become better at technology.

So totally they’re going to want
they’re going to want these.

These these high, highly educated people
coming out into the entry level workforce,

yeah, it’s interesting that I don’t
feel like software is going away.

All right.

There’s some job security there,
I think, if you get into that world.

Yeah, I think you and Mark Cuban said just

teach your kids to code
and they’ll be fine kind of thing.

And that’s what the so Code Ninjas to.

And this is the thing.

And I went through this path of my own
father and my own life is that my father

was working full time making
a living to support his family.

I like coding when I’m seven,

like I did the same thing I
coded in Basic when I was seven.


And and but he’s he can’t
nurture that very much.

He’s just like throws a computer at me
like, you know, the ten best intentions.

He, he’s teachable moments here and there.

But like our Code Ninjas
we have sensei’s which is like a ninja

dojo model.

They’re there to support your
kid all the way through.

So they’re that’s like
what’s why do I do this?

It’s because you get somebody who knows

how to teach coding every day
that is an expert at it,

that you can send your kid in for an hour
to a week and drop them off and and get

rid of them for a couple of hours
and turn it into productive screen time,

because lord knows there’s so much
unproductive screen time right now.

And get them with a mentor.

The sensei’s that will
will teach them how to code.

And you don’t have to do it yourself.

Like my dad couldn’t do it for me,

class is harder because
he’s doing other things.

But we’ve got these
they’re paid sensei’s that are teaching

coding like that’s their skill is to teach
kids out of code and they’re engaging.

They’re fun.

Like all of our stuff is like,
you know, you build.

Code, and then you play like you play your

game, you play other people’s games,
you play the all the like,

we play Minecraft and we have like
Nintendo switch and Roblox and stuff.

We allow, like, the fun time, too,
because you got to make it fun, too.

So it’s this environment of mentorship
and like like peers that are with each

other that, you know, can form
this kind of community center

in neighborhoods that feel so.

So how long have you been
involved with Code Ninjas?

So we two and a half years.

OK, so that’s fairly new.

OK, and it’s a franchise I believe.
Is that right?

That’s correct.
All right.

How long is the franchise been
around? Since twenty sixteen.

Five years.
OK, so still relatively new as well.


We were the first one to open
Wisconsin and Sun Prairie.

All right.

Sun Prairie because it’s the best
place to live in the state.

Now there’s three of them.
There’s one on the west side of Madison.

There’s one in Brookfield
by Milwaukee there.

Can you tell me how tough is it to
to bring awareness to parents like, hey,

you can bring your five year old kid
in here to learn how to code or even bring

your 12 year old kid in here
to learn how to code?

Yeah, that’s I think that’s somewhat
of a paradigm shift from,

you know, bringing a kid to learn
whatever karate or soccer or basket is.



The last two and half years

yeah, the first goal of for us is
to educate the area about

the benefits of coding,
like we just described some of them.

And and once that’s the thing,

the kids come and they’re like,
oh, this place is amazing.

And they fall in love with it immediately.

So it’s just like getting them there.

And the parents then are like,

oh, yeah, like I’ve heard that we
need to get them into coding.

And and it’s not just about the coding

because there are articles out there
that’s like, well,

it’s another skill to learn,
but it’s also about getting an environment

with mentors and and
peers that are similar,

that are into tech. Kids

you just need to nurture that that love
of technology in a healthy way

because they can like we’ve got lots

of dads that are like technology
focused and they’re awesome.

But again, like it’s just about the time.

And and then the kids are learning more

than they are then the kids
are teaching the dad.

Well, I learned this today
and we’re doing this.


check it out type of thing.

So it’s just.

It is very cool, that sounds cool.

What got you involved in all this?

Is this ownership entrepreneur?

Yeah, I was a programmer for 15 years,

so like hands down
full stack developer, as they say.

I wouldn’t call a full stack back

in the day, but I did all the programing
you can do from back end, the front end

data bases and front end web development,
back end development, all that.

And my my wife is a teacher.

So we took my programing and her teaching

and we’re like kids and we
have kids and that.

And there were seven and nine at the time.

Right in the wheelhouse of these programs.

So for our own kids,
we knew it’s very important.

My my 10 year old just codes for fun,

like when she has a few minutes,
you know, it just

it just part of her life now.
All right.


and so yeah, we,
we found this opportunity.

We I’m an entrepreneur because of prodigy

management that I have
two mentors like Prodigy.

The whole point was to get more kids like

myself as like this child prodigy
that needed more nurturing.


in in in this, I like it was seeing 20

years in the future when the job I wanted
is the job I currently have right now,

you know, and in in gaming and
video game design and development.

So, yeah.

So now we can just you know,
that’s a real thing.

That’s real jobs now.

And we can get those kids in there
early and we’re like, let’s do that.

That’s, you know, that meets what we do
as far as education and and technology.


And so boom then we we
opened the Code Ninjas.

That’s cool.
Did you were you looking for a franchise

that offered this or did
you stumble upon it?

We were looking for concepts

like to build ourselves in Sun Prairie
like we knew where it was,

like we were even we were looking
at spaces in Sun Prairie to do that,

to start from the ground up
with our own business model.

And then we saw this.

We’re like, oh my gosh,
that’s exactly our talents.

And and we can do it right here.

And we’re like, well,
that saves a lot of legwork for

doing all that up front work of building
our own curriculum and stuff.


So yeah, we just they already
have that ready and we just

able to bring it in and then we just add
our own personality and community

relationships to it and,
and then there you go.


What were some of the surprises or I guess
challenges that you didn’t necessarily

anticipate through the few years
you’ve been in business doing this?


it is like you talk about educating
the public about about what we do,

the the importance of STEM education
and computer science and

just really making people aware of it,
because we do feel, and especially with XP

League now, to like gaming
and STEM kind of go together.

And so now with that package,
you can do both for both and kids do

that, you’ll you’ll come
in there and be able to do it.


Yeah, sorry, I lost the question,
too, but it’s just a

thing that we

know we knew that our community needed
something more like we get a lot

of parents that say we needed
something like this around here.

There’s not there’s like nothing around
here like this that we we can do

for this new tribe of kids that
don’t have a place.

Like I didn’t have a place, I had a place,

but I had to like those kind of like
forced to do some things that I was

uncomfortable with, which are good
to uncomfortable is fine, sure.

But in my comfort zone and where I could
expand, it’s getting these kids that are

looking for their group
and then can do this.

Do you have any competition?

Not in our area,

there is there is on the west
side of Madison. OK?

Our primary competition
is virtual offerings.

Oh, sure.
So there’s

like WhiteHat and iD Tech, OK?

And these these things are like

a conglomerate, like people in remote
parts of the country that are not local.

They’re just people they could find

at a cheap labor price
and then are willing to do it.

So like iD Tech charges ridiculous

amounts of money,
like triple what we charge.

And it’s just it’s just criminal.

And they because they have a broad

marketing thing, budget that they
can spread across the world.

All right.
They they can compete with us.

But we have we’ve got surveys and stuff
that our programs are better than them.

And we have that local connection to that.

Like these are we have people

from Waunakee and Janesville
and Madison that work for us.

So these are like Midwest

values, local Madison, Dane County
values like that that work for us.

And and so they can connect

with the community a lot better
than these virtual programs.

Yeah, there’s something to be
said for teaching in person.

Even now.

Yeah, exactly.

So we have that and we are in person.

So we’ve been in person.

We did close when it was mandatory

to close back in March
through May of last year.

We did virtual for that time.

We do have virtual programs too
and we still run those virtual.

But we are primarily in person because we

want that sense, mentorship,
relationship with the kids.

Yeah, someone that can look over
the shoulder and I think there’s a.

There’s an authenticity

in a warmness energy that you
get from being with people.

Yeah, and I guess, yeah,
you’re asking about trouble like.

Yes, the education part.

Or troubles in the beginning getting the word out.

I mean, I think we are pretty strong.
I mean, covid hit,

which is a big struggle, of course,
because we are primarily in person.

I think that and I say this
on all podcasts and interviews.

I do.

Is that the point of sale system
for a franchise is is a joke.

It’s terrible.
Oh, no.

And it’s been like that for a long time.

And that’s like a system for a technology
franchise that is just so bad.

And we’ve been fighting,

fighting for years as franchises
together to get a new one.

And I hope this year we
can finally do that.

But well, they make you go
through their system.

And it’s it’s a terrible system.

You cannot easily sign up for something

over the Internet, which is are just like,
are you kidding me?

You can’t do that in your
technology education company.


that’s the only thing that’s been tough is

that system is very manual,
very difficult to use.

And and

we’re you know,
we wanted that to be better.

And that’s that’s kind of that’s
the only complaint so far.

I’m going to compare.

That’s a franchise model issue.

So compared to a lot of stories
that I’ve heard of people starting up.

That is on the verge of negligible.

I mean, getting paid is a big deal,
but that’s yeah, yeah.

When it’s questionable every week,

if you’re going to get paid, it’s like,
you know, that’s not good.

Yeah, not ideal not ideal.

Well, awesome JD this
has been super cool.

This has been interesting.

I’m just there’s a whole new world
that I have never even known existed.

Yes, not in a not an organized
professional level.

Yeah, that’s cool.

So, yeah, if you want to come out,
you’re near by us here,

check out Code Ninjas Sun Prairie.

We also call it
the Code Ninja’s XP League Arena.

It’s our Madison area headquarters for
the XP League as well.

Do you how can people, I guess,

find you either on the Web or even physical?
Yep, so codeninjas.com

for Code Ninja’s and then xpleague.gg/wisconsin.

You can also go to our Facebook page.

And I did mention our Twitter, XPL Madison,

you can check out our games.

They’re free for anyone to come on in
and check those out and follow us.

And you guys have the Twitch channel?

Which was

XPL Madison.


Yeah, yeah,yeah.

We have yeah.

We have summer camps coming up
for ages 5 to 14 for Code Ninja’s.

We are working with Edgewood College on

E-Sports summer camps,
which should be three weeks in July.

We have the date set.

We’re just working on the content,
of those E Sports summer camps down

at the college and maybe, maybe next year,
maybe this year doing overnight.

Stay for a week.


Floodgates open.
E-Sports all week long.

Drop the kid off.

Drive, drive down from Fond du lac
drop them off or for the week and see you

on Friday, you know
overnight camps for E-Sports.

Oh that’s cool.
That’s very cool.

That’s impressive.

Thank you JD.


Thank you for having me.

This is, this is fun.

I love it.
This has been

Authentic Business Adventures, the business
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And of course,
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available wherever fine books are sold.

We’d like to think you our wonderful
listeners as well as our guest,

JD Uhler, league commissioner of XP League

of Madison and co-owner
of Code Ninja’s in Sun Prairie.

JD, thank you so much.
It’s been awesome.

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Past episodes can be found
morning, noon, and night at

the podcast link found at

Thank you for listening.

We’ll see you next week.
I want you to stay awesome.

And if you do nothing else,
enjoy your business.



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