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.

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.

What do you LOVE about sports?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? Have you debated the value of sport in society with your friends? By this I mean more than how your favorite player is doing or how your fantasy team is stacking up. Think about it…seriously. I’ll wait.

As sports executives and professionals, we see a very different side of sport that most people will never know – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and we love every minute of it! Or do we? Do you love your job? Your experiences and opportunities? Are you thankful for what you’ve been given? Take a second to remind yourself how great it is to have a job in the first place, let alone in sport and athletics management.

Recently I was discussing with a co-worker how sport is a reflection of society as a whole; how the values of a culture are expressed in the way sporting events exist in a society. As a sociology and theology major in college with a heavy background in math and science, I’m just as interested in research data as I am in how the values, thoughts and feelings of people spread throughout society, and in this case, are reflected in how we engage in sport. This conversation reminded me of the struggle many groups have experienced over time, not just in America, but throughout the history of humankind, and how those struggles have been manifested in sport. Segregation. Discrimination. Dominance.

On the other hand, look at the positives of how sport brings people together. Teamwork of the players. Unity among fans. Players shaking hands after the competition. Emotional connections of people striving for excellence in physical and mental exertion against a worthy opponent. And numerous other reasons why sport is valuable to a society and to building and shaping a culture.

So what do YOU love about sport? Why do you watch? What does it do for you internally?

Go Forth!

Ethics in Sport and Athletics

New Orleans Saints. Penn State. Lance Armstrong.  What kind of images do these names bring to your mind?  What do you think about upon hearing or reading these names?

The law will take its course, each case will proceed through the legal system, and some conclusion will result, at least in the legal sense.  But what about society as a whole?  I feel that human kind is always looking for some sort of answer, closure if you will, and this is no different with the circumstances of the aforementioned names. Indeed there have been individuals and organizations in the past that have been convicted of various violations and either punished or released and we move on, or do we? With the growth and prevalence of technology, we have become acutely aware of our interconnectedness as human beings. How are we getting any better? How are we learning from our mistakes and helping others to not make the same mistakes we’ve seen in the past?

Every organization ought to take some time to reflect on the state of their own existence, what they stand for, and how each individual is contributing to the greater whole.  In the case of an ethics violation, it’s usually the result of the actions of more than one person. As a team or collection of people oriented toward one goal or set of goals, you owe it to yourself and to your colleagues to keep one another on track. In my own experience, I am constantly reminded of the needs people have to feel love and acceptance by other human beings. Even in a world of technology where connections are endless and real-time, there is nothing that replaces true physical and emotional connection.

So, how do you view ethics as applied to sport and athletics? How do you view the connection of human existence to athletic endeavors? At least in terms of television, live sporting events continue to rate higher than most other programming. To me, this is an indication that this connection to real people has real value – people want to see, feel, and be a part of other people’s existence. J. Patrick Dobel is a professor at the University of Washington and former Faculty Athletics Representative to the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.  If you’re interested in further reading on ethics in sport and athletics, he has quite a bit to offer. Check out his blog HERE.

Core Strengthening

Core strength. Athletes and strength and conditioning coaches certainly know how important this is to overall physical health and performance, but what about the rest of us?  How much are you training your core? What’s your routine? Situps, extensions, side bends?  Yes, we know there are many great exercises for strengthening your mid-section, but what I’m talking about here is not your physical core, but your inner core.  Your spirit,  your mind, your personal brand.  I just read a great article this morning by Darren Hardy, publisher of SUCCESS magazine, who blogs about these types of things all the time.  The article on branding I liked can be found HERE.

What are you doing to strengthen your personal relationships –  you know who I’m talking about.  Your spouse, children, parents, neighbors.  Who are the most important people in your life and how are you doing with them? How often are you talking about more than just the weather and what you ate for dinner last night? How often are you able to connect with them on a deep, personal level where you both are sharing equally about what makes you human and feel alive?

What are you doing for yourself on a regular basis? How often are you taking some time out to reflect on how you’re feeling about life, about work, about who you are as a person? How are you connecting with your spirit? Do you feel like something is holding you back? Do you feel guilty about anything? Why? If you do, explore that guilt and make steps to correct it; like I mentioned in last week’s post, do what’s difficult. The feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment you receive, regardless of the outcome, is something to be valued. When you do what’s difficult and with the right intentions, you win no matter what the result.

For me, I enjoy the time in the morning when I’m up early, having a cup of coffee, making lunch, reading the morning news. I also enjoy those few minutes right before bed when everything is quiet and still. I’ve got these few minutes at the beginning and at the end of the day to myself to actively reflect on who I am as a person, to gather strength and to ask for forgiveness. There is always time for yourself, no matter how busy you might be, no matter how much attention your kids or job might require.

Take some time today for yourself.  Schedule it in your calendar and make it a priority.  It won’t happen unless you do.  Go forth!

The Golden Rule

You know what the Golden Rule is, right?  Treat others as you would want to be treated.  What a fantastic way to live!  Everyone deserves respect, so you why not treat others with respect in order to gain that yourself?  The same goes with every other value a person can come up with and this is often the case of what you get in return.  However, someone once told me (I really wish I could remember who) to forget about the Golden Rule.  Throw it out.  You don’t need it.  That person said to treat others they way THEY want to be treated.

Wow.  I had no idea what hit me at that point.  Treat. Others. The. Way. THEY. Want. To. Be. Treated.  Huh?!  I had never thought of it that way before and I was completely stunned. Of course we were talking in a business context about customer service and about how so many businesses, both small and large, fail in terms of customer service. How does your organization view customer service?  Do  you listen?  Do you ask more questions than you answer?  What does customer service mean to you?

This is really meant as a thinking and reflection exercise where you inwardly reflect on how you act as an individual and how your organization operates.  How are you serving others?  How well do you know yourself and how well do you know the people around you?  I don’t claim to be an expert on these things but I love learning; I’m always trying to absorb as much as I can and in my limited life experience, it seems that everything is based on people and personal relationships.  No matter what you’re doing, you are in some way developing personal relationships.  People working in sales already know this, but perhaps didn’t think of those interactions in this way.  For others, it’s a tad less common to think of customer service in the course of their daily routine.  For instance, in an administrative role, your customers are your employees, your fans, your sponsors and the other people your organization does business with, and in a way, the entire general public.  Coaches – your customers are your players and support staff.  They are doing everything they can to orient their behaviors in the same direction, at the same time, with the same goals.  How are you serving them and giving them all they can to succeed?

Personal relationships matter regardless of what role you perform in your organization.  Get to know the people around you and let them get to know you as well.  We’re all in this world together and we’re becoming more and more connected every day.  In some way or another, no matter how small or big the decision, everything you do affects someone else.  One of my favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption – a movie that is really all about personal relationships (and when you think about it, isn’t every movie?). In that movie is one of my favorite lines: “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin.”  Which are you?