Thursday, September 20, 2018

Full of Nostalgia

Those that know me well, know I'm not exactly what you would call a "mushy" person. This assertion is not to be confused with being sensitive, because I am that; but rather mushy as in all about hugs, and gentleness, and unicorns and pixie dust. (Okay, I made all that up, but you get the gist.)

Maybe it's because my mental, emotional, and physical capacity is at about a 3 out of 100 with my first dissertation draft due next week. Case in point, I just texted a friend asking him if he's seen my marbles, because I'm sure I've lost them. (Cue motion picture "Hook" scene below.) Or, maybe it's because I blinked and now I'm in my mid-30's. Regardless of reason, I find myself full of nostalgia today.

Nostalgia, "a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past..." as defined by

You see, next week is going to mean lot to me, aside from the obvious elation of turning in a draft of a document that I could probably re-read and never recall whether  I wrote a word in it.

Late next week, just a few short days after hitting "send", I get to hop on a plane to one of my favorite places on earth: The 'Ville, or Louisville, Kentucky.
The irony of timing of this trip is multi-faceted.

Ten years ago next week (wow!) I was a naive kid recently out of grad school (at the University of Louisville), newly married living in a crappy apartment and full-bore into my first "real" happened to be with a little golf tournament called the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.
Look at those young whippersnappers at Churchill Downs!

The 42nd playing of the Ryder Cup will take place in France while I'm in Louisville, fittingly enough.

Some of my fondest memories of my time at the Ryder Cup include jumping more than 50 Cadillacs because they were so new they didn't have enough miles on them to fully charge their batteries, the volunteer committee leaders and international volunteers I met, going on so little sleep I fell asleep on the couch in the lobby of the Brown Hotel (hmmm, sounds like dissertation writing!), the remnants of Hurricane Ivan and not realizing we were the only place on the grid that had power, the amazing team I was privileged to work alongside - one of which left us too soon, and of course, the memorable USA victory celebration!
Proof. Part of the "Caddy Collection"
It was that experience that cemented my career in sport management, and opened my eyes to not only the sport tourism industry, but many of the wonderful folks from Louisville who I am fortunate enough to call friends to this day.
2008 Team USA Celebration on the Valhalla clubhouse balcony.
It was that experience that spurred a little, quiet voice in me to dream up the idea to start a sports commission in Grand Junction.

It was that experience, had I not had, that would have altered the trajectory of my life.

Next week, after my dissertation goes off to review, and with some actual free time on my hands (someone will have to explain to me what that is, but I hear it's nice), I'm going to do a few things while I'm Louisville:

First, I'm going to visit my Kentucky parents, Scott and Barb, who adopted us as their own the minute we first met.

Second, I'm going to enjoy a wonderful week of of learning from colleagues and friends in the sport tourism industry.

Third, I'm going to give back to a school I love and present my wild and real story to sport administration students at UofL.
Photo Cred: Society19
Fourth, I'm going to drive out Shelbyville Road, to the gates at Valhalla, stop, and say a little prayer of thankfulness for the path that portion of my life has bestowed upon me, the sport and life lessons learned, and what is to come.
Valhalla's famous island green on 13, with the NBC chalet behind it. 
Then I will smile (and probably take a much overdue nap).


Sometimes nostalgia gets a bad rap for being imaginary, or filtering out the bad. But I think it's the accumulation of the good, the bad, the hard, the trying, the victories, the mistakes, the lessons, that give nostalgia it's meaning, its fondness.

The second half of the word's definition is "...typically for a period or place with happy personal associations." Yes, yes indeed, Louisville will always be that to me. I have little pieces of Louisville, and the tournament sprinkled throughout my office as a reminder of where this crazy ride started.
Louisville Skyline, Photo Cred: Reddit

I hope you take the time to think back on a place you hold near and dear to your heart. This is Stoll on Sports.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Spider Web of Life

I gotta be honest, dissertation writing is kicking my back side right now, and leaving little room for any thought of writing for fun. So to my reader, Mom, I'm sorry for the delay. 😀

Actually, thanks to my dissertation analysis, I'm dusting off a presentation I gave to Colorado Mesa University's resident advisors on networking last year for this much overdue Stoll on Sports post.

The term "networking" gets thrown around in business all the time, we network to meet people, to advance our careers, we go to networking events, we have our own network, etc. etc. 
I visualize a network as a huge spider web that represents our life, the concentric circles of people with whom we interact. Almost like the classic road trip game 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Sidenote: I just read a great book by Malcolm Gladwell called The Tipping Point, and interestingly enough, there are many more actors that can more readily be linked to others than Kevin Bacon. Regardless, the book is worth the read.

Networking, in my opinion, is also a dwindling art. In the age of technology, you have to be diligent to achieve the same personal interactions that lead to a strong network. It's so easy to guise behind an email when you could walk across the building, or meet for coffee. I know, I know, time is valuable, but if you're as efficient as heck and don't know anyone that can help you leverage it, then weaving in some networking wouldn't seem to be a bad idea, would it?

Here are my Top 5 Networking Best Practices:

1. Be intentional. Refer to the previous paragraph.

2. Strive to meet new people at old places. Don't settle eating dinner with the exact same people at every conference you attend. 

3. Be genuine and selfless. Did you read that carefully? It's not about what YOU get out of it. It's one of those funny truths in life, the more you GIVE to others in networking relationships, the more you GET in return. Don't just network, be a connector. Here are more tips on this approach. 

4. Timely follow-up is MANDATORY. No exceptions. We are all busy. Yes, I know you're the busiest ever. One question, have you ever asked anyone what they are up to and had them reply, "Oh, not much." The answer is not once! It doesn't happen. Get off the busy high-horse, because we're all on the same saddle (I'm guilty, too). It's called life. So follow-up with people you meet.
This looks familiar to me personally.
5. Provide added value. Take note of what others are interested in and respond accordingly. Send a note, an interesting article, a token of appreciation for your relationship. Just today I received a congratulations card from a couple colleagues at another sports commission for an award. How thoughtful was that?!

In academia the spider web of life is called social network theory. It is the theory behind our interactions with groups or individuals in our respective networks. Here's a great article on how it works.

To wrap this sucker up and get on with my less fun writing assignments, here is a personal example of the result of networking in an image from my RA presentation and the somewhat lengthy - but worth the read - grammatically incorrect story below. Trust me, it was much more effective when I told the whole story in one breath at the presentation, nearly passed out and the projector and lights magically turned off when I finished the last sentence.

I went to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, CO for my undergraduate degree, where I met Jamie Hamilton, the then CMU athletic director and chair for GJ's annual Junior College World Series. After graduation I headed off to the University of Louisville for my master's degree and on my way out the door I heard about a job opportunity with the PGA of America for the 2008 Ryder Cup. I applied, learned that the Ryder Cup was not horse racing (duh, Breeder's Cup) and was fortunate enough to get hired to coordinate the event's volunteer program. One of the volunteer committee chairs was a guy named Karl Schmitt, I got to hang with him and learned about the sports commission world from the former leader of the Team Kentucky. In my naivety I thought Grand Junction needed a sports commission and that sounded kinda fun, so I came back to GJ and pitched the idea to Jamie. He agreed, but timing was bad (anyone remember 2008?!), so I headed to Denver for another golf tournament then on (through a golf connection) to - what I thought - would be some relatively useless non-profit experience out of the sport industry. It was then that my phone rang and who was it? Jamie - whom I had stayed in contact with for nearly 5 years - notifying me about the sports commission opportunity...hello benefit of said non-profit experience. I couldn't pass it up, hit the road for GJ, and started attending industry events. Who did I bump into at the first event? My old buddy Karl, who was now the President of the Louisville Sports Commission. While catching up he told me he had a friend who was moving from NY to Grand Junction. First I laughed at him, then I politely told him people don't move from NY to GJ. Doesn't happen. Well, you know what? I was wrong, and Karl introduced me to Rich Rosenblatt, sports writer and new GJ resident. After one coffee meeting I told Rich he had to meet Jamie. Flash forward and Rich makes this happen for our community, a huge boon for the JUCO World Series, and great exposure for our community. And because when you give you get, the JUCO World Series also just received the Amateur Sporting Event of the Year award by ConnectSports. The paybacks to the whole community due to this crazy social network spider web started with one contact! And just last week I met my good buddy, Rich for lunch where we laughed and reminisced about the path to sharing Thai food in Grand Junction, Colorado.

What's your story? I bet if you're like me, you have your own remarkable spider web of social network theory in action. If not, start spinning the web today. I don't particularly like spiders, but that little guy hustling in the middle...well, that should be you.

As an old African Proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others." This is Stoll on Sports.