Monday, February 12, 2018

Vision. Thank you, Johnny Nash


It's a pretty simple word, with powerful implications. And it's not just a buzz word.

I'm not talking about the sense of sight. Or Johnny Nash, though I hope you enjoy the background music and it gets stuck in your head all week. defines "vision" as "the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be".


Pump the brakes.

This is written in present tense, as in on-going, not static. Not one-time. Not "anticipatED". Continuous. Actively. With effort.

"That which will or may come to be". Hmmm. My brain hurts. What does that even mean?

In my simple mind, this is how I interpret the definition:

"Hey! Start thinking about what I want to happen and take steps to make it so."

How is vision different than goal-setting? I think they are complementary efforts. Vision comes first, that's how we know at what we're taking aim. Then comes the goals, or steps to get us slowly, but surely closer to that vision.

I also believe vision is fluid. While it's important to acknowledge where you started on a journey, like learning, you don't just wake up one day and say, "Phew! Looky there, I achieved my vision. Mic drop!" Rather, you continually refine and expand your vision(s).

I read a great quote by leadership expert John Maxwell that said "Everything worthwhile is uphill." I love this quote. It's a reminder despite myself, the learning and achievement is in the pain, the time, the effort, the progress.

In sports, a true competitor does not want to win a championship by beating any team or individual less than the best. What's the point in that? This is why the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl vicotry is even more meaningful. They were able to beat the best-of-the-best in Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Our personal efforts should be no different.

Remember the old adage about "if you aim for nothing, you'll hit it every time?" I need not say more.

At the sports commission, we were humming along doing our thing, and we hit a point where we needed some input on vision and steps. Enter 5-year strategic planning process facilitated by the Huddle Up Group of Jon Schmieder and Gary Alexander. Refined vision. Clear objectives. Tactical implementation. All pointed at one vision: To be THE destination for sports and outdoor recreation.

The result? Renewed passion, energy, excitement, and refined efficiencies. (Sidebar, I'm from Ohio, so I take creative liberty to use "THE" in our vision as an homage to "THE" Ohio State Buckeyes! And yes, if I were not from Ohio, I'm sure I'd find that just as annoying as everyone else in the country!)

Scott Scanlon from YourBrandInc. suggests four steps to implementation: 1) have a vision, 2) create clarity, 3) make a plan, and 4) act on it.

So pick an area of your life, professional, personal, whatever. Spend time actually thinking about what you want it to look like. Be intentional. If you fall off the horse, get up, dust yourself off, give yourself a big helping of grace, and get back on. Oh yeah, and don't forget to celebrate your steps of progress. We're all muddling through this thing called life, so let's cut ourselves some slack, have some fun, throw caution to the wind and just see what kind of awesomeness we can achieve!

Helen Keller was once said, "The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." This is Stoll on Sports.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Venues: The Good and the Bad

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that last night's Super Bowl was the first NFL game I have watched all season. A warmer than average fall and winter coupled with school work and two energetic kids have resulted in our TV rarely getting turned on anymore...which I don't think is a bad thing. But what a game to watch! Not exactly a defensive showcase; nonetheless, any Super Bowl that truly comes down to the final play is a good one in my book.
Photo: The Wall Street Journal
I was glad to see the Eagles win for a variety of reasons. Namely, I fall in the "anyone but Brady" camp since his days at Michigan (recall, I'm from Ohio, so this is pretty much set in stone). 

The Rio Olympic Natatorium, photo: Business Insider
This weekend I did a ton of research about outcomes of sport events and it got me thinking about events as big as the Super Bowl, and as small as those held in my community. Commonly, it is assumed that large events, what researchers call "mega" events (like the Super Bowl, Olympic Games, etc.) provide significant benefits to the host community. But research indicates that is not always the case.

In fact, a number of studies have shown a lack of net positive economic impact, local job creation, and other desirable outcomes. Take for example, Rio de Janeiro, who hosted the Summer Games in 2016. Business Insider reports the empty, decaying venues that once featured the world's top athletes. Now this depressing outcome is not necessarily true across the board (look at the Salt Lake City venues), but the number of occurrences is striking. 
Utah's Olympic Park, photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Many, many sport events occur every day in locations that do not require construction on multi-million, or even billion, dollar venues. However, hardly a week goes by that a sport tourism e-newsletter put out by the National Association of Sports Commissions does not include an article about a new facility in development in "Name Your Community" USA. In fact, their were 10 such articles in January alone. The trend of facility development at the non-mega event level is prolific to say the least.

The retired director of NASC used to say venue development was not an "if-you-build-it-they-will-come" proposition. I tend to agree. Like any vehicle, technology or otherwise, chances are the next-best-thing will come out precisely the time you take your shiny purchase out of the wrapper/off the lot. 
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

So how do communities pressured for improved venues and growing economic segments assist their new venues succeed? There are many answers to that question, but some examples include: 1) Understand the local sport community which your venue serves, 2) Do your research on facility trends, specs, and amenities required for bid-on events, 3) Play to the consistent users, not the one-offs, and 4) Be conservative on estimates of usage, financial projections, and any other quantifiable aspect. 

Interestingly, the Aspen Institute, in conjunction with its Project Play initiative, put out an article about development of multi-sport venues. These types of venues have the opportunity to contribute to the health and quality of life of local users and drive sport tourism efforts. Examples of this include Bryan-College Station, TX, Salem, VA and many others. It's forging that path of duality, with balance, that can make local venues sustainable and thus a win-win in a community. And, importantly, these types of efforts take significant collaboration.

Helen Keller once said "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." This has been Stoll on Sports.