Rewards of Mentorship

This past week the 21st National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) Sports Symposium was held in Louisville, Kentucky.  Our hosts were hospitable and the special events were quite well organized.  There was a tour of Churchill Downs one night, and a reception at Valhalla Golf Club on another evening.  The Louisville contingent put on quite a program and our industry leaders got to see the best Kentucky has to offer.

At the NASC Symposium there are numerous breakout sessions designed for professional development in our industry.  I was invited to lead one of the sessions, which was titled “Platform for Promotion.”  The focus was how to link our efforts in sports tourism and economic development to high profile events in order to better promote the work we all do in our communities.   

The session was very interactive and the audience asked several probing questions.  As we were discussing various issues throughout the industry, I was reminded of something that as a past NASC Board member I made sure got hammered home time and time again.  The premise is this, no matter what issue you have in your community/industry/job, someone out there has experienced it and can help you navigate to a successful outcome.  In our industry there are several experienced mentors out there that are willing to help, we just have to reach out to them and ask for help.  In the 16+ years I’ve worked in sports tourism and events, I have been blessed to gain valuable insights from several people…..

  • Frank Viverito of the St. Louis Sports Commission once told me a story about pizza and how it related to measuring economic impact. 

  • Kansas City Sports Commission Kevin Gray always had time to help with board governance issues, funding models, and anything that was troubling a twenty something sports commission leader who was often a fish out of water early on (that would be me).

  • Gary Stokan of the Atlanta Sports Council and the Peach Bowl could always be counted on to be a sounding board and offer a fresh opinion.

  • Former Turner Sports Executive Jack Kelly has not only been an ear for many of us to talk through our challenges, but he has actively reached out to many leaders in our industry to continue to push us ahead and aspire for more.

I’m sure that for you, there are people just like Frank, Kevin, Gary and Jack.  I have many more that have been great to me and have given me opportunity to be where I am today (especially Ray Hoyt in Tulsa, whose impact on my career is more profound than he will even know).

As a collaborative person, I have made it a point to seek these people out and to often times just sit and listen (which is not one of my great strengths).  I actually put a weekly reminder in my Outlook calendar to call on one of my mentors and just talk.  Often there is no agenda, but by the time we finish a 20-30 minute conversation, we uncover a nugget that we can use right away (a contact, a new idea, or just a reminder of something that worked in the past).  If you are just able to open the dialog, many great things are at your fingertips.

It is my contention that there are not only people out there designed to help you achieve your goals, there are people out there whose destiny will require your knowledge and influence to come to fruition.  In your sphere of mentorship, who are you counting on for counsel and guidance?  Who are you helping mentor in a meaningful way?  Make a point to cultivate both mentors and mentees along the journey.  And ask Frank about economic impact and pizza.