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Keeping Students on the Field and in School (with Tim McLaughlin)

December 21st, 2023

Listen to the Bigger Than Business Podcast’s interview with Tim McLaughlin on your favorite podcast providers!

How can a community keep its children in school and on a pathway to graduation and beyond?  How can public-private partnership build a program for disadvantaged kids that becomes effective even beyond its creators’ dreams?

Listen as our guest, Tim McLaughlin, shares how the Fields and Futures program was created, its exponential impact on the youth of Oklahoma City, and how a “stone soup” mentality enriched the project to benefit the entire community.

Keeping Students on the Field and in School

By Jeff Holler

25 years of growing his family’s food service business allowed Tim McLaughlin to develop a strategy he now uses to guide any project to success:

  1. Identify needs and provide the necessary resources
  2. Remove obstacles
  3. Plan for growth and make the results sustainable

After the family business was sold, the proceeds were earmarked to help each family member fulfill their aspirations. For Tim and his wife Liz, one of those aspirations has been to help put Oklahoma City’s children on the path to a brighter future.

In our conversation, he shared how their strategy is helping do that through the Fields & Futures non-profit. It is designed to provide high-quality, well-maintained athletic fields that encourage participation in sports to keep kids on a path to graduation and life beyond high school. 

Identify Needs

Finding a way to keep children in school was the initial premise where it all began. Tim saw a correlation between participation in school sports and staying in school. “That first school district we worked with had 125 teams,” Tim recalls, “but more than 30% of them never finished the season.” This led to demoralized student athletes with high drop-out rates.

Remove Obstacles

One of the most obvious reasons for poor performance and slowing participation was poor training facilities. A huge challenge in any school district is finding the resources to maintain facilities after they are in place.

“Fields & Futures promises a school that we will not only install a professional grade field, but we’ll maintain it for them.”

The results have been undeniable. “As of last year, we’re up to serving 350 teams from grades 7 to 12, and every one of them finishes the season.”

Another obstacle recently identified is that there are very few feeder programs that prepare young athletes to participate at the high school level.

“While other kids had already played 500 games by 7th grade, these children would show up to play and have to start with the very basics. That means they can’t compete well and don’t have fun.” 

To solve this, Fields & Futures is looking to solve the problem further upstream.

“We paved the way to develop more Little League teams by solving their two biggest expenses – installing the fields and maintaining them.”

Make it Sustainable

Now that the program has been up and running for 10 years it is gaining incredible momentum.

“To go from 8,000 to 16,000 kids on this path we’re going to need more infrastructure. So, I’m in conversation with school districts, the city, and the parks department to build out more capacity.”

To make it sustainable, Fields & Futures is working to partner with other organizations to expand an endowment that will generate enough annual income to fully pay for the maintenance of all the fields that have been built and renovated.

Hear the Full Interview

Learn more about this ambitious project that is changing thousands of lives. You’ll hear Tim discuss:

  • How the teams provide a sense of belonging much like a family unit.
  • Growing the Fields & Futures program by gathering metrics to prove how it works.
  • Building sports complexes attached to schools to encourage adults to participate more readily in education.
  • Linking sports to graduation to a college pathway and scholarships.



Tim McLaughlin says he feels fortunate to have his family’s values that built Advance Food Company, the business his father David co-founded in 1973.  As Vice President of Corporate Accounts, Tim had over 25 years of experience helping the company grow from $25 million in sales to $900 million before the family sold a majority interest in 2010.  Through his family business experience, Tim learned how to “connect the dots” and identify and overcome obstacles to achieve a sustainable, long-term vision.  After the sale, Tim felt blessed to have the luxury of investing in projects where he and his wife Liz can make a big impact, that are sustainable, and where he can use his unique ability to build strategies that achieve the long-term vision. They founded Fields and Futures, a non-profit that helps overhaul and maintain school playing fields so kids can find a pathway to graduation and beyond by keeping them engaged in sports and school.

Tim has a degree in Business Management from the University of Oklahoma. He serves as director on several local organization boards including the Oklahoma Zoological Society, Police Athletic League, Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, and Heritage Hall Board of Trustees. Tim also serves as an OKC member of the Neighborhoods Subcommittee and as an Advisory Board Member for ArtSup?!, a creative after-school extended learning opportunity for inner city youth. In 2017, Oklahoma City University honored Tim with the Able Lemons/Paul Hansen Award for Sports Excellence. Tim and Liz have four children and live in Edmond, Oklahoma.