Our team at the Huddle Up Group recently hit a few historic milestones. Looking back on our journey, we’ve been blessed to have been involved with some pretty cool things……
50 destination partners. Over 100 projects. Facilities we have consulted on coming out of the ground. One book (and another in the works). Over 250 Monday Morning Huddle Ups. Pretty awesome stuff.
This little column started on January 7, 2013. Many of you have been on this ride from day one, but a good portion of our readers have joined the team in the past couple of years and missed the early editions. So with a small taste of nostalgia, we flashback to offer you the very first Monday Morning Huddle Up. Enjoy…..
"Lemons into Lemonade, Sports Event Awesome"
One of my favorite public speakers is a Canadian author-blogger-tweeter named Scott Stratten. Scott has an unwavering dedication to tell stories of business “Awesome.” He spreads the gospel where people across the world take work situations that look like lemons and turn them into lemonade. Below is a personal story from my experiences in running sporting events. We can call this the case study for “Sports Events Awesome” (Trademark pending, unless Scott already has it).
In 2001 I was fortunate to be the event director of the Western Athletic Conference Basketball tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The WAC as it is known, was a great league back then. Some of the legends of college basketball coached in the league and the level of play was elite on the worst nights. However one small conversation that week in Tulsa forever shaped how I look at opportunities to enrich an event. And it had nothing to do with the basketball court.
During the event we had our travel agency housed within the arena. They had their own in house television feed of the games going on in the building, and as teams appeared poised to get knocked out of the tournament, the travel agents started booking outbound flights for them. At the time Tulsa's airport didn't offer many opportunities to get 20-30 people out of town on a moment’s notice, so the travel agents were busy trying to find options quickly as teams were eliminated (the Tulsa airport is MUCH better and bigger now, FYI). As you can guess, when teams get knocked out of a tournament, coaches often don't want to hang around town when they have lost, they can be cranky like that. So our goal was to get them home as quickly as we could when they were eliminated.
The travel agency was also responsible for getting bands and cheerleaders out of town when their basketball teams lost as well. This is where the AWESOME occurred.......The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) lost a close game in the semi-finals late Friday night. The travel agency got the basketball team on a plane early Saturday morning to head home, but there were no seats available to get the band back to Texas. The band had flights booked for Sunday, and they were going to have to stay in Tulsa for two more days. A call came over the radio for me to report to the travel office. I assumed that a coach was waiting for me to express their displeasure about not getting an immediate flight out of town, but when I arrived in the office, it was a completely different conversation that awaited me.
The band director for UTEP was there, and I was brought up to speed on their plight (having to stay in Tulsa two more nights). The band director however had asked for me to come talk to him not because he was upset, but because he wanted to be awesome....... One of the member schools in the WAC back then was the University of Hawaii. Hawaii had defeated UTEP that night. Due to the high costs of housing and travel, Hawaii rarely had their band travel with them to the mainland for road games. UTEP's band director noticed this and posed a question to me…..
“Hawaii didn't bring their band did they?” he said. I confirmed Hawaii had not brought their band. He then said, “Well, we are here until Sunday, so can we play for Hawaii in the championship game tomorrow night?”
I wasn't sure I understood what he was saying, as I had NEVER heard of a rival school's band supporting another team. So after he clarified that they would like to literally play FOR Hawaii, I looked around the room and said, “Why not?”
On my way to the arena that Saturday night, I did have concerns about what the UTEP band would be wearing and how they would actually represent Hawaii. As soon as I walked in, those concerns calmed immediately.
With a national television audience tuning in on ESPN, the arena was ready for a big game. The UTEP band took their place in the north end of the arena in Hawaii's designated section. In seats that would likely have been empty, they filled in the section for Hawaii's band and really added to the atmosphere of the event. The band director (being awesome on his own volition), had gone to Wal-Mart that day, and bought 20 reasonably priced Hawaiian button down shirts in pastel colors. He also scored some flower necklaces that played the part of the Hawaiian lei. So come game time (and ESPN time) they looked the part. The topper of it all was when the Hawaii team came running out of the tunnel to take the court. The band keyed up and played the TV theme song to Hawaii Five-O (Dah-dahnna-nah-na, dah-dahnna- na....).
As I went over to thank the UTEP band's director (in near tears I might add), I said, “I have to ask, how did you think of the Five-O song?” He said they were happy to participate in the championship game and commented about their musical selection, “We don't know their fight song, so it’s the closest thing we had.”
I said “AWESOME.”
This is a great example of how to take a negative event and turn it into a win-win outcome for all involved. The band had a good time, the arena had an improved atmosphere, and I'm sure the Hawaii team appreciated the added support. The practice of bands playing for competing schools has since become a tradition in the WAC. It all started with one band leader looking at a situation in a very different way.
We all have opportunities for sports event awesome. Let's make sure when the moment arrives, we are ready to take advantage of them!