College Sports: Will it Survive?

This conversation is happening in every collegiate athletics department around the country right now. My answer as to will college sports survive is yes, but…

The only way college sports will survive is if every department evaluates what is truly at the heart of what they do, recognizes what is most important and makes that a priority.

Every. Day. Of. The. Year.
Period.

What might you ask is at the heart of college sports? Community.
What is most important? Real connections with real people. Again, community.

Make that the focus and the priority and everything else will fall into place. College sports will survive if each department recognizes what really makes them great and what they really stand for. Every employee. Every day. All year. All conversations. With everyone you meet.

Is the competition aspect important? Yes. But it’s not everything. The community is everything.

College sports are unique and some legendary programs now span centuries of active existence and participation. And yet for some that legacy is in jeopardy. For others, they’re more confident now than they’ve ever been and they continue to reinvest in their communities.

I’ll say it again: College sports will survive if the executives in charge put community at the heart of everything they do and make their work about the community and nothing else.

Is money important. Yes, absolutely.

Are expenses real and growing every year, if not every month or day? Yes, absolutely.

So what do I mean by community?

I mean the collection of people who all believe in something greater than themselves. The community of alumni, employees, friends, fans and citizens that come together to celebrate the culture that exists around the competition.

This topic is somewhat controversial and may stir some people the wrong way, but over the next few months, I’ll be exploring why and how I think college sports can survive. The grand summary of how college sports will survive is community.

Community is service to others.
Community is acceptance.
Community is celebration.
Community is core values.
Community is academia and business coming together.
Community is people connecting at a higher level.

Community is love.

Haircuts are Psychological Tricks

I got my hair cut yesterday. For me, haircuts are usually a trip I make about every three weeks. Sometimes I “feel” like I should get my hair cut more frequently, say every two weeks, just so that it never really looks any different and so I always look “clean cut” and fresh.

Waiting

When I arrived at the barbershop yesterday, there were a few guys there waiting, so I had some time to myself to either watch the TV they had turned to an NFL preseason game, listen to the conversations the barbers were having with the clients, read one of the magazines on the coffee table in front of me, play on my phone or just sit there and think quietly.

I started my wait time by playing backgammon on my phone until the battery died. There was about 7% left, so I was able to get through one game before if finally turned off. Since I didn’t have that as an option any more, I just sat there staring through the TV more than actually watching. Mostly I was just making it look like I was paying close attention to the commentators when I was really just daydreaming and let various thoughts wash over my mind like gentle waves at the beach.

Dirty Thoughts to Consider

Something that came to mind as I was sitting there was how I always consider reading the periodicals on display for people to peruse when in a public waiting area. Sometimes there are some interesting or new or very niche magazines in the stack of too many to count which really piques my interest. Just as I reach out to grab one and think there’s something I might like to read, I stop myself dead in my tracks…and I think about how many bacteria and virus cells might be living in those pages.

Have you ever thought about how many people touch those things in their life in the stacks or on the common table? Even greater than the number of people thumbing through the pages of People, Time and the Wall Street Journal are the number of hair particles, dead skin cells and more types of bacteria than you really want to know about. That’s why I don’t read magazines in public waiting rooms – too much of a risk at getting myself sick.

Take it One Step Further

Think about how few people wash their hands on a regular basis. Or even how many people actually wash their hands after using the restroom. I work in a public facility and am constantly disgusted about how many men DON’T wash their hands after doing their business in the restrooms. They finish up and walk right out. Eww. Now think about that guy and at least 20 more that day alone that got their hair cut before you that didn’t wash their hands and then come along wanting to see how J-Lo’s new bikini body is looking just as much as you do. Gross.

Here’s my advice:
Don’t read public magazines. If you do, wash your hands immediately after doing so.

Back to Daydreaming

So I’m sitting there, daydreaming, waiting to get my haircut thinking about why I’m getting my haircut. So I think to myself, “Self. Why are you here? For whom are you getting your haircut?”

I look at myself in the mirror only about maybe 10-15 minutes a day, tops. A few minutes in the morning to brush my teeth and shave and a few minutes in the evening to brush and floss again. That’s it. Not all of the restrooms I use throughout the day have mirrors in front of the sinks, so if they do, add another few minutes for hand washing after I use the restroom during the day.

That means at most, I look at myself in the mirror about 20 minutes every day. That also means that I am NOT looking at my self about 98.6% of the time. Accounting for a good night’s rest of 8 hours, I’m only awake for 16 hours. 20 minutes out of 16 hours is 2.9%. That means that on an average day, I’m NOT looking at myself 97.1% of the time. To say this differently, other people have the potential to be looking at me 97.1% of the time.

So why am I getting my hair cut?

Good question.

Answer: So everyone else who looks at me thinks I have an awesome haircut.*

But it’s not REALLY for everyone else, there are a few reasons why I like getting my haircut.

1- I like my hair short. It’s easy to clean, easy to maintain and allows sweat to easily escape my head, allowing my body to cool itself more efficiently.
2- I like how it feels getting my haircut. For at least 20 minutes every three weeks or so, I have to sit in a comfortable barber’s seat and remain still. Except for the guy trying to talk to me over loud clippers, it’s a somewhat peaceful, meditative experience. I also like how it feels to have my haircut. It’s sort of like a weird head massage in a way. And if I sit really still. close my eyes and focus, I can actually feel my hairs being cut. It’s a really cool feeling.
3- I want to look presentable and professional to other people, based on what I consider to appropriate social norms for hygiene.

Psychological Aspects

Aw ha! Now we’re getting somewhere. Number three above is me trying to please other people because I want to be accepted in the social circles in which I’ve placed myself. People are judgmental. They judge books based on their covers. It’s true. It’s nearly impossible to not do that. We’re always trying to assess new things and people by our senses and for most, the first sense is vision. We judge what we’re looking at just as soon as we see it. If I never got my hair cut and had dreadlocks that smelled really bad, in some situations, it wouldn’t matter how wicked smart I was or how intelligently I speak (see what I did there), I’d be written off completely. Not by all, but most would scoff at my appearance and turn the other way. In other social circles, I’d blend right in with dreadlocks and be welcome as an insider. It’s all relative.

Social Influences

We’re conditioned as children as to what’s acceptable in society and what’s not, and sometimes that just depends on where you come from…For the most part, there is a standard of appropriate appearance and hygiene and everything outside of that is “different”.

So why do I get my haircut? I just want to fit in like everyone else, while at the same time expressing my own uniqueness within that construct. Groomed might be one HR standard for hair guidelines. Vague enough to allow some creative expression, but firm enough to enforce.

I like getting my haircut. But sometimes the pleasure of the experience is diminished by the necessity of having to do something for other people that I just really don’t want to do.

You didn’t know a haircut could be such a psychological conundrum did you?

Go Forth.
And get a haircut!

Personas and Masks

I’m an inquisitive and observant person by nature, although the observant part ebbs and flows… Regardless, I like to observe and ponder the things happening around me and why things are they way they are.

Business Marketing

In business, particularly as it applies to marketing, we talk about personas. A marketing persona in this regard is the collection of traits, qualities, buying habits, demographics and psychographics that make up a company’s ideal customer. Every company should know who their ideal customer is based on whatever it is they sell or offer and many have entire departments committed to figuring that out, constantly researching and crunching data in order to pass that on to everyone else so they can adapt what they’re doing for better business outcomes.

The thing about personas though is that people change and can manifest more than one at a time…in the same space.

Masks

We often hear the expression of wearing masks or hiding our true selves…well, I think we have many selves or parts to our identity and each part expresses itself differently at different times…or even different parts being expressed at the same time. Often, these parts are related to various points in our maturation where we adapt our experiences to who we are and who we think we should be.

This whole idea of personas hit me like a brick when I saw people who I know in a certain capacity act completely different than what I was familiar with from my personal interactions with them. Perhaps I don’t fully know these particular individuals, which is certainly true in some fashion (can you every REALLY know someone?), but it was quite obvious they were acting different from normal.

The Situation

Imagine yourself in a room that includes a person with their spouse, children, siblings and their parents. Now imagine yourself as that person. You live with your spouse or partner and surely you’ve got some sort of routine and a regular way of going about your days with an understanding of how to act in that relationship.

Next, consider how you act with your siblings…likely that hasn’t changed much, regardless of your age now. The attitudes, the sensitivities, the jealousy, the bad memories, the great memories, all of it. The eldest siblings probably mentor or give advice and the youngest siblings are probably jokesters just trying to figure stuff out. The middle siblings are either aloof or jealous, looking for something they feel like they’re not getting. These are only a suggestion of what family sibling dynamics are like or can be, so just work with me on this example.

Now, consider how you acted toward your parents…what was that like? What were your parents like toward you? Always hovering, watching, waiting? Or did they leave you alone to do whatever you wanted to do?

How were you with your parents? Were you a submissive child, always obeying your parents, looking constantly for their approval? Or perhaps you were rebellious and always looking for a fight and going against what they said?

It was really interesting for me to see what it was like for different family members to interact with each other as adults. It seemed quite clear to me that people just fall instantly back into their personas when interacting with various people….acting in the only way they know how when with people they know from different parts of their lives.

If they were talking to siblings, those dynamics instantly became apparent and each person almost instantly fell back into sibling role….then in the very same room they switched back to “parent mode” when talking to their own kids and yet a completely different tone of voice was heard when talking to their spouse. This actually happened and yes, it was that distinctive to me.

People are complicated and certainly none of these things can be seen or understood in only one interaction, but after a considerable amount of time observing and thinking about what I was witnessing, it became quite clear to me that many, if not most, people revert to whatever really lies inside themselves…or their masks.

You hear this all the time in thoughtful analysis of online commentary and self-identification. People only put online what they want people to see or know about themselves, without sharing the whole picture. There are certainly many reasons for that…a blog post for another time perhaps.

At any rate, I just think it’s really interesting to see people I know from one aspect of their lives, interact with other people they know from other aspects of their lives. Think about that for a minute…are you different with different people in your family? How do those relationships different from co-workers and regular friends or other social circles?

A thinking exercise for you. Go forth!