There’s more than one way to do some good

(written on May 5, 2011)

The distinction between for-profit entities and nonprofit organizations was often cut and dry: a for-profit existed primarily to make money while a nonprofit organization focused on helping the community or provided a service. Today, however, more and more for-profit and nonprofit businesses alike are focused on socially conscious missions and/or social responsibility either as the sole purpose or a byproduct of the organization’s day-to-day operations.

As the line between for-profit and nonprofit blurs, social entrepreneurs, business management, and nonprofit leaders are finding a variety of ways to build and tailor their business in order to contribute to social good. A recent piece by Inc. Magazine explored a variety of such models as the article built upon the (1) Traditional Nonprofit by discussing the (2) For-Profit with a Social Mission and the (3) Nonprofit with Earned Income.

A closer look at these three social good business models will reveal that there’s no longer one organizational structure nor model that signals that an organization is contributing to the greater social good:

(1) Traditional Nonprofit

These organizations, 501(c)(3)s, are fueled by tax-deductible donations – cash contributions from individuals, public grant funding, or money from foundations.  The model is ideal when the organization creates value for an individual who cannot pay or when the organization does not want to make the individual pay.

Example: Khan Academy

The Khan Academy is a nonprofit started by Salman Khan. The goal? Changing education for the better. By utilizing technology, Khan’s goal is to offer a free world-class education to anyone, anywhere. The site’s resources are available to all, free of charge, with lessons ranging from Simple Equations to Bay of Pigs Invasion and from Basic Capital Structural Differences to Big Bang Introduction. (you can check out the full list of videos here: http://www.khanacademy.org/#browse).

Khan shared in a recent Bloomberg article that by giving away the educational videos rather than selling the curriculum to the public education system, he’s able to wield creative license in crafting the lessons. If, alternatively, his organization were constrained by profit motive, that would likely result in Khan spending much of his time tailoring the videos to satisfy curriculum requirements. Instead, as a nonprofit that is not looking to sell content, Khan is able to focus all of his attention on improving, and perfecting, the end-user experience in order to capture the attention and inspire many across the world.

While Khan originally funded the endeavor via his personal savings, the cash contributions have been rolling in: Two of the biggest backers of the Academy include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ($1.5 million) and Google ($2 million). Bill Gates, a Khan Academy advocate, sees what Khan is doing as “the start of a revolution” and Google became a supporter after the Academy won a crowd-sourced contest called Project 10100 in September 2010.

Khan’s Academy is an impressive organization that’s not turning a profit, but, as Khan, Gates, and others believe, is poised to change the world.

(2) For-Profit with a Social Mission

New waves of social entrepreneurs who seek to make a social impact are weaving their respective social mission into the very fabric of their for-profit business. It’s simple, really: continually turning a profit means being able to sustainably do good, year after year.

Example: TOMS

Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver at TOMS, intentionally bucked the traditional “do good via a nonprofit” example and created a for-profit business with a “one for one” business model: with every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. Simple. Thus, TOMS is a sustainable answer to the “children without shoes” problem: for every pair of shoes purchased, one of those children has a new pair of shoes to wear.

With the commitment to the “one-for-one” business model, TOMS has leveraged the purchasing power of the individual to benefit the greater good. This model transforms customers into benefactors, which allows TOMS to create a sustainable business and thus, ensure the ability to continue with their cause.

However, while traveling the world, Mycoskie realized that, more than just shoes, people essentially need help with two basic needs: education and being able to work. To these ends, being able to see has a similar affect as wearing shoes (in the developing world, kids that can’t see can’t learn and adults that can’t see can’t work).

Thus, this past Tuesday, Blake announced the “next chapter” for TOMS: it’s no longer a shoe company, but a One For One company. The first step beyond shoes is to address the aforementioned issue of sight via eyewear: buy a pair of TOMS glasses and you give the gift of sight – glasses, cataract surgery, or medical treatment – to one person.

So TOMS, a for-profit business, is working to address the greatest needs around the world. As stated in a Fast Company article this week, “that’s the key to the new “one-for-one company model: solving the great needs through Western consumption.”

(3) Nonprofit with Earned Income

These 501(c)(3) organizations focus on generating income in addition to the aforementioned tax-deductible donations. This differentiated approach towards fundraising frees the organization from total dependence on funders who may or may not back the organization from year to year.

One such way that organizations have been generating income is via product licensing. In doing this, the organization leverages cause marketing, the byproduct of cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a nonprofit for their mutual benefit. Benefits for the for-profit include positive PR, increased goodwill, and additional opportunities for marketing. Benefits for the nonprofit include leveraging the financial resources of the for-profit, the ability to reach new supporters via for-profit’s customer base, and, our focus here, additional income.

Example: LIVESTRONG Sporting Park

Something innovative if happening in Kansas City: LIVESTRONG and Sporting Kansas City (a Major League Soccer franchise) teamed up to unveil – yesterday – the new soccer-specific stadium, LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Sporting KC has bypassed the guaranteed revenue typically secured by offering up naming rights to a franchise’s stadium. Instead, LIVESTRONG has licensed their name to them in exchange for a promise of $7.5 million over 6 years via a percentage of ticket and concession sales. 

Doug Ulman, LIVESTRONG President and CEO, states that, “LIVESTRONG Sporting Park is more than just a stadium – it’s the first athletic venue in the world with a social change mission and offers an ideal avenue to champion the cancer cause.” Financially, this partnership means significant funding has been secured by LIVESTRONG over the next 6 years, even before individual contributions, grants, and public funding have been accounted for.

For LIVESTRONG, is an organization that is now bringing in over $50 million per year, the $7.5 million over 6 years for naming rights doesn’t exactly make their operating budget concerns go away. However, it’s an innovative approach to garnering additional income while easily exposing themselves to potential new supporters in the process.

Traditional nonprofits still have their place in the social good ecosystem, no question: As exhibited by Khan Academy, sometimes focusing on generating a profit gets in the way of the intended end goal. But as Mycoskie’s TOMS simplicity (one-for-one) and the Sporting Kansas City x LIVESTRONG partnership creativity shows us, for-profit businesses are getting in on the “do good” movement with innovativeness and, hopefully, really striking results.

Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship, and TOMS

I’m fascinated by the challenge of being a leader. The root of this fascination is my understanding that the job of a great leader is never done. You’ve had success? Awesome: your team is excited, people congratulate you, and then … they want to know what’s next. What will you, and thus your team, do to top your recent success? How will you master tomorrow?

Back when I was playing soccer competitively, the above mindset drove me. I was a goalkeeper; it’s become quite cliché that if you’re a goalkeeper on your team, you’re automatically a leader. But the challenge of being a goalkeeper is more than the leadership characteristics that you must embody. The challenge of being a goalkeeper has to do with what’s expected of you each day: If you make a brilliant save in the game, everyone on your team is psyched, and then … they want to know if you’ll make the next save. What will you do to top your preceding save? How will you keep the ball out of the net for the full 90 minutes?

Simply put, the expectation of a goalkeeper (namely, to perform at a high level, day in and day out) is not too different than the expectation of leaders in almost any other realm, business or otherwise. 

And so, I guess it’s no surprise that I look at great leaders with the utmost admiration and respect; I know firsthand how challenging – and rewarding – it is to be a leader and to have the weight of your team’s successes and failures squarely on your shoulders.

Thus, predictably, a recent New York Times article enthralled me: Distilling the Wisdom of C.E.O.’s.  The gist of the article (which I’d 100% recommend as a read to anyone) was that successful leaders embody 5 particular traits:  

-       passionate curiosity

-       battle-hardened confidence

-       team smarts

-       simple mindset

-       fearlessness.

Around the same time that I read this particular NYT article, I was looking closely at TOMS. While helping to coordinate Outreach efforts for Soccer Without Borders, I was talking with the director of digital marketing for a new company named Two Degrees Food (TDF). The business model of TDF is much like that of TOMS – one for one; thus, understanding TOMS helped me to understand TDF (here’s a shameless plug for TDF: you should totally check them out! http://twodegreesfood.com/).  

Consequently, with the “5 traits of successful leaders” and TOMS taking up significant mental real estate, it’s no surprise that I started to take a closer look at TOMS’ Chief Shoe Giver, Blake Mycoskie.

Minor disclaimer: I’m not a TOMS or a Blake Mycoskie fan(girl) … rather, given my close ties to Soccer Without Borders, it’s fitting that quality leadership in the emerging business sector of Social Entrepreneurship intrigues me; Blake, unquestionably, is leading the charge of a wildly successful company in said emerging sector.

There are many definitions out there for what makes a social entrepreneur, but perhaps he/she is best defined as someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to achieve social change (wikipedia). And as it turns out, the qualities that make a successful social entrepreneur are not too different than the qualities that make a successful business C.E.O.:

Passionate Curiosity: wondering why things work the way they do, whether they can be improved, and if they can, spotting and seizing the opportunity to do so.

When Blake traveled to Argentina in 2006, he shares that he saw kids without shoes, and it was the “first time in [his] life that [he] had this desire to do something besides just start another company … [he] watched as these kids who had cuts and infections and scabs were getting shoes that were not even new … and not really the right size, and [he] thought, there’s got to be a better way to solve this problem.”*

Well, there was. Namely, TOMS.

Battle-Hardened Confidence: the ability to overcome adversity due to a positive attitude mixed with a sense of purpose and determination.

Before he founded TOMS, Blake started 6 companies from the ground, up; if that’s not the makings for someone to be battle-hardened, I’m not sure what is. Where does the purpose and determination come into play? He shares that back in 2006, he was “instantly struck with the desire – the responsibility – to do more [for these kids].”

The intrinsic motivation that exists within individuals who start their own business plus the extrinsic motivation of helping others is a very, very powerful combination.

Team Smarts: knowing how to get the most out of a group by bringing them together around a common goal.

In his keynote address in Austin, TX at SXSW 2011, Blake shared that because he’s incorporated giving into his business, he’s been able to attract and retain the most amazing employees in the world. How? The culture that has been created at TOMS embodies new evidence as to what motivates us: in a 2009 TED Talk, Dan Pink explains that the best motivation comes from a “desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they’re interesting, and because they’re a part of something important.”

The employees that have helped TOMS to grow exponentially over the course of the past 4+ years are passionately motivated by their common goal, their common purpose to improve the lives of children around the world. That common purpose matters, is interesting, and clearly, is quite important.

Simple Mindset: laser-like focus on a core objective over and above anything else.

What is TOMS? A for-profit business with a “one for one” business model: with every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. It’s as simple as that. Thus, TOMS is a sustainable answer to “children without shoes” problem: for every pair of TOMS purchased, one of those children has a new pair of shoes to wear.

So, with commitment to the “one for one” business model, TOMS has leveraged the purchasing power of the individual to benefit the greater good. This model transforms customers into benefactors, which allows TOMS to create a sustainable business and thus, ensure the ability to continue with their cause.

Fearlessness: people who have an appetite for change and can manage the heck out of it.

Blake and TOMS have proven that the “one for one” model can succeed in both selling shoes and giving shoes away to those in need: in 2006 they gave away 10,000 shoes … and in 2010 they surpassed 1 million! But rather than be satisfied by success, Blake is choosing for TOMS to take the next step: they’re changing the nature of their business.

As Blake has recently announced, “TOMS is no longer a shoe company. We’re the one for one company.” (check out the announcement for yourself: http://bit.ly/e9U6iT).

Wondering what the next chapter for TOMS is? I am, too. And while I’m extremely excited to see how TOMS plans to further their philanthropic mission, I’m equally excited to watch closely the leadership that makes it happen. 


*(you can listen to the rest of Blake’s talk at the Clinton Global Initiative here: http://bit.ly/eQLNQB)

Why we do it (coach, that is)

I spent the last three years of my coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Penn State. In my first fall, 2007, the team earned a 10th straight Big Ten title. Last year, in my 3rd and final season, we guided the program to the 12th straight.

This past season, as a now full-time assistant at the University of Utah, I watched the Penn State team from afar as they chased what seemed to be the elusive 13th in a row. Penn State faced numerous challenges during the non-conference portion of the schedule, and some “downs” amongst the “ups” of their Big Ten season.

Earlier today, via Twitter (check out @PSUWomensSoccer – they do a great job!), I followed as the team worked for a win against Michigan – a tie or a loss would mean no Big Ten Title and an end to the precious streak.

As I watched the Twitter feed, I was taken back to the many games that I paced on the sideline at Jeffrey Field and could imagine the heartache starting to creep into the stands as the 0-0 game went from regulation, to the 1st overtime, and into the 2nd. And then, the impossible happened: when it seemed like the game was most certainly over, this tweet popped up on the feed “@PSUWomensSoccer: GOAL!!!!! Schaefer scores!”

A couple of hours after the win, as I exchanged congratulatory texts with the goal-scorer and the seniors on the Penn State team, I could literally feel the excitement and passion seeping through the phone; they had been through the rough patches of the season and had made it through to the other side, not only better off but also victorious.

A friend once noted to me that sport, like nothing else, gives us real lows but also real joys and real highs. Though the lows seem often impossible to navigate and sometimes insurmountable, today, for me, was a great reminder of why we do it: it’s not for the money or the fame, but rather for the possibility that we may lead a group of individuals on the journey of a lifetime.

Congrats, PSWS!

Utah Women’s Soccer’s “SHOW YOUR SCARF” Campaign

The concept

The Utah Women’s Soccer (UWS) program launched the “SHOW YOUR SCARF” campaign in the summer preceding the Fall 2010 college soccer season. The concept behind the campaign was inspired by the classic European football tradition: just as baseball fans don their team’s hat and football fans sport their team’s jersey, in Europe, soccer fans wear their team’s scarf.  

The purpose of the campaign for UWS was three-fold: 1) increase the program’s social media presence, 2) build community support of the soccer program, and 3) drive attendance at matches. In order to do so, the UWS staff chose to “brand” their team with a UTAH UTES scarf while simultaneously extending ownership of the scarf to members of the UWS community.


The campaign

Imperative to moving the campaign forward was buy-in across all functions in the department supporting the UWS program; the coaching staff could not carry out the campaign alone. Rather, the Administration, the ticket office, the Marketing Department, and Sports Information’s support would be critical to the campaign’s success. With all necessary parties on board (and excited), the UWS program readied to launch “SHOW YOUR SCARF” campaign.  

While growing the program’s social media presence would be critical to the campaign’s success, it was not the end game. Once the UWS community knew about the UTAH UTES scarf, the true test would be the ability to convert said online awareness to the offline, “real world.”

Thus, with the support of the ticketing office, the UWS staff decided to incorporate ticket sales into the heart of the campaign: the UTAH UTES scarf served not only as a mark of the UWS community, but also as a Fall 2010 season ticket. For $20, fans would not only be a community member but could also enter all of the UWS home games for free when donning the scarf.

Additionally, UWS sought to make the campaign interactive with a specific call to action: asking fans to “SHOW YOUR SCARF” both at games and in photographs that would be organized and circulated via social media. In doing this, the UWS staff felt they could harness excitement around owning and showing off the scarf in order to establish UWS home matches as an exciting, physical manifestation of the growing online UWS community.

 

Generating awareness

With the support of the Administration, the Marketing Department, and Sports Information, the plan was to incorporate the scarf into as many promotional materials as possible in order to continuously generate awareness. Media guides, the Fall 2010 UWS schedule poster, physical signs and stickers at community events, and pole banners outside the UWS home field (Ute Field): all would tie in the scarf and the campaign’s call to “SHOW YOUR SCARF.”

Additionally, in anticipation of the campaign launch, the UWS staff focused on enhancing its social media presence via collaboration with 2creativ, a team that helps enterprises deploy social media tools effectively to strengthen their brands, build loyal communities, and expand their business.

After the UWS staff and 2creativ analyzed available social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the program’s blog), the decision was made to designate the new UWS Facebook Fan Page as the hub for the campaign. The reason was simple: the Fan Page provided UWS with a simple way to engage their community, and allow the community to engage with one another, in a central location. Additionally, the majority of the UWS community was already Facebook-savvy. 

When the “SHOW YOUR SCARF” campaign concept was formulated on June 4th, UWS had 220 fans that “liked” their page. Thus, before any scarves would be sold, the first step was to direct the UWS community to the central Facebook location. Via the Marketing Department working hard at community events to spread word on the campaign and encourage fans to “like” the new fan page, as well as Coach Manning and Coach Wilner’s twitter accounts (@coachmanning & @mmwilner), that number grew 139% to 534 “likes” by July 7th, the day of the “SHOW YOUR SCARF” launch.

The campaign launched via a press release on the University of Utah Athletics website that directed individuals to a video that was uploaded to the UWS Facebook Fan Page; word spread via Facebook but also on Twitter and other Utah Athletics-, sports-, and soccer-related blogs.

This is where the tracx platform, utilized for the campaign with the help of 2creativ, came significantly into play. 2creativ’s team defined within tracx specific keywords and phrases that were relevant to the campaign. Thus, “SHOW YOUR SCARF”-related conversations, comments, and questions could be pinpointed.

Then, by utilizing the tracx monitoring dashboard, UWS was able to directly engage with community members who were voicing their excitement about the campaign, thank them for their support, and encourage them to continue sharing the campaign with others. This direct engagement served to strengthen the relationship with said community members; these individuals, in turn, became outspoken advocates for the campaign and for UWS as a whole. 

Additionally, tracx proved helpful as UWS sought out community members who had questions about the campaign. By utilizing the platform, questions about where to buy the scarf or how to use it were immediately noted and could be directly addressed.

 

Growing the online community

Because the numbers of home games in a given season are limited, the UWS staff also sought to foster community engagement in the absence of a physical gathering. Thus, with the guidance of 2creativ, a weekly “SHOW YOUR SCARF” contest was established in which community members would be asked to show off their scarves in different ways and boast their membership as a part of the UWS community.

Through the first eight weeks of the contest, 62 different photos with community members creatively donning their UTAH UTES scarves were submitted. Significantly, the contest aided in growing the number of “likes” on the Facebook Fan Page as they jumped to 1,055 as of October 11th, up 50% from August 12th, the day the weekly contests launched.

The support of the program the scarves were generating was noticeable: Junior goalkeeper Hannah Turpen stated, “it was unbelievable to see how much support we had from the community before we even kicked a soccer ball at the start of the season.”

 

Did it work, offline?

The “SHOW YOUR SCARF” campaign didn’t just create online “buzz;” significantly, the campaign resulted in a large jump in season ticket sales. In 2009, 70 UWS season tickets were sold; in 2010, via the campaign, that number rose 637% to 515 season tickets (as of October 2010). Noteworthy also is the fact that this 515 number doesn’t include the approximately 400 scarves that were distributed to kids who attended summer soccer programs as part of their camp tuition. Thus, by 2010 season’s end, it’s anticipated that nearly 1,000 UWS season tickets will be in circulation.

 

 

 

Check out our partners: 2creativ.com <http://2creativ.com>  & tracx <http://tra.cx>

Thoughts on Relationship- and Cause-Based Coaching

Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to Joe Ehrmann of Coach for America come to our Athletic Department and speak about “Inside-out Coaching.”

Rather than talking Xs and Os, the central theme of Ehrmann’s talk was what really matters in life. Given powerful, personal experiences, he believes that “what it’s all about” comes down to two things: (1) relationships – loving and being loved, and (2) cause – making the world a better place.

Why does this matter for coaches? Ehrmann stressed his belief that, as coaches, we have unparalleled platform, power, and position to positively affect others’ lives via relationship- and cause-based coaching.

Personally, Ehrmann’s sentiments hit home given some thoughts that I’ve been grappling with lately. In coaching, as in life, people want to know your win-loss record. I struggle with that quantification as a direct measurement of success. Why? Because wins and losses are totally outcome-centric and fail to encapsulate the building blocks of that outcome: the process.

Fact: I didn’t win a ton of games as a college athlete. Specifically, as the starting goalkeeper my senior year of college, we won five. However, I would argue that I learned more and grew more via the process of that tumultuous season than I would have via the outcome of a better-looking record. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a competitor and I want to win (read as: I don’t taking losing particularly well). But, given my personal experiences, I’ve come to recognize that significant value may be extracted from the process of attempting to achieve said outcomes, rather than solely the outcomes (wins) themselves.

Thus, I found the way that Ehrmann concluded his talk particularly striking. He asked the coaches in the room not to think about their greatest victories and most humbling defeats (as coaches usually do or are usually asked to do), but rather to ask themselves the following questions:

1.     Why do I coach?

2.     Why do I coach the way that I do?

3.     What does it feel like to be coached by me?

4.     Is my coaching worth imitating?

5.     How do I define success as a coach? How do I measure that success?

The answers speak to process-centric coaching whereby positive outcomes – wins – will result as a byproduct of doing things the “right” way.

I for sure don’t have anywhere close to the “right” answers. But then again, maybe it’s not the “right” answers that I should be looking for: maybe it’s the process of finding those answers that really matters.

Some members of my CPU Club team (State College, PA) this past spring

Lessons in Golf, Lessons in Goalkeeping

It’s preseason (read as: things are insanely busy). But, we only had one training session yesterday, at a later start-time, so I decided to venture out to the driving range to hit some golf balls before heading over to Ute Field. I went with a friend who’s a significantly better golfer than me. Actually, “significantly” might be understating it a bit, but you get the picture.

While I was attempting to hit the ball some variation of “straight ahead” and “far,” he was nice enough to give me some pointers. Now, my friend isn’t a coach by trade, but he did a totally awesome job of helping me fix some things in my swing via a ton of information. We had a good laugh a time or two: after he’d give me a number of pointers, he’d follow-up by saying, “don’t think too much.”

See, many people define golf as a maddening sport where one’s head tends to get in the way.  With so many things to do “correctly” in order to hit the ball where one wants, countless technical elements must add up in the appropriate fashion. So, yesterday, as I’m trying to balance thinking about doing everything correctly with not thinking, I realized that golf isn’t too different than goalkeeping.

When preseason began this week, I started training 3 goalkeepers who have never worked with me before. As goalkeeper coaches, we have our own styles, our own terminology, and our own coaching points that we hone in on. Any time you’re working with a new group, there’s going to be a learning curve relative to how you’re coaching them.

At our first training session of the week, we talked about this while I explained that I was going to give them a TON of information early on so that we could all get on the same page relative to my coaching; we would then take off from there.

Goalkeeper training was great this past week. I’ll admit, though, that there were times their heads looked like they were about to explode (rightfully so: I’m pretty sure mine would have been exploding, too). And that was fine; my intention, as I mentioned above, was to overload them with information.

But, goalkeeping isn’t too different than golf, as it turns out. Goalkeeping is also a “maddening sport where one’s head tends to get in the way.” Trust me: mine did.

So now, moving forward, my challenge in coaching them is much like what I experienced yesterday with my golf swing (or lack thereof). That is, given the fact that they now have a lot of information to draw from, how can I orchestrate the training environment (and, likewise, how can I ease off the pedal of information-giving) so that the thought-processes become less forced and everything starts to happen somewhat mindlessly?

I went hiking with a friend this morning. Given that we’re in Salt Lake City, we were literally hiking up a mountain. That being said, the first 40 minutes weren’t too bad; despite being a bit out of breath here and there, conversation flowed as we moved up the mountain at a fairly good clip. Over 2/3 of the way to our end point, we came upon a sign which told us that we had 0.6 miles to Dog Lake, our end destination; the path was 2.6 miles up the mountain and 2.6 miles back, so with only 0.6 miles upward left to go, we felt like we were in a pretty good place.

Haha, yeah: we were wrong. The sign failed to mention that the last 0.6 miles were straight up. Literally. I, being a “rip off the band-aid and let it hurt as little-as-possible”-type person forged ahead, almost at a jog at times, and had the lovely experience of burning lungs and much shortness of breath. A relatively painful 20 minutes later, we reached the top: it was well worth it as the lake and the vibe at the top were at once peaceful and rewarding.

Funny, I thought, how the first 40 minutes, being both beautiful and only moderately difficult, lulled me into a false sense of conquest. The climb wasn’t yet finished, but with 0.6 miles to go, I was already patting myself on the back for getting up early on a Sunday and getting out into the great outdoors. And then, while I was busy patting myself on my back, the mountain whooped up on me pretty hard.

If you happened to read my post on July 5th, you may know that we (Utah Women’s Soccer) are in the midst of running a social media + online + offline “scarf” campaign (our SHOW YOUR SCARF! campaign). My morning on the mountain struck me in this context.

The first 40 minutes of our hike were, to me, analogous to what we’ve done so far with our scarf campaign:

- We have set up online ticketing functionality: www.utahtickets.com.

- We have launched the campaign on our Athletics Department’s site: www.utahutes.com.

- We have created buzz, awareness, and excitement via Facebook and Twitter.

- People outside our immediate community have picked up on it …

Thank you, Lee: Social Media Marketing and the Sports World: Utah Utes Women’s Soccer

Thank you, Amanda: Six Reasons Why I Love the Utah Women’s Soccer “Show Your Scarf” Campaign

- Friends have congratulated us.

- Colleagues, both internally and externally, have given their thumbs up.

(I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a brief second to say a big “thank you” to everyone who has helped to make this campaign a reality thus far and for all of the help and support they will continue to provide).

Now, I’ll admit that I’m very likely my own toughest critic. But, this morning, my hesitancy re: getting overly excited about any of the above made so much more sense. The fact remains that, for our campaign, we have 0.6 miles to go. And the 0.6 miles left is straight up hill: now we need to execute. Buzz, awareness, and excitement are great, but the question is whether or not we can convert that online activity to the offline, real world.

Essentially, at the top of the mountain is Ute Field, filled with fans, all with UTAH UTES scarves. And as I learned this morning, until we get to the top, the hike isn’t finished.

But I will say this: the next 0.6 miles is going to be really, really fun.

I went hiking with a friend this morning. Given that we’re in Salt Lake City, we were literally hiking up a mountain. That being said, the first 40 minutes weren’t too bad; despite being a bit out of breath here and there, conversation flowed as we moved up the mountain at a fairly good clip. Over 2/3 of the way to our end point, we came upon a sign which told us that we had 0.6 miles to Dog Lake, our end destination; the path was 2.6 miles up the mountain and 2.6 miles back, so with only 0.6 miles upward left to go, we felt like we were in a pretty good place.

Haha, yeah: we were wrong. The sign failed to mention that the last 0.6 miles were straight up. Literally. I, being a “rip off the band-aid and let it hurt as little-as-possible”-type person forged ahead, almost at a jog at times, and had the lovely experience of burning lungs and much shortness of breath. A relatively painful 20 minutes later, we reached the top: it was well worth it as the lake and the vibe at the top were at once peaceful and rewarding.

Funny, I thought, how the first 40 minutes, being both beautiful and only moderately difficult, lulled me into a false sense of conquest. The climb wasn’t yet finished, but with 0.6 miles to go, I was already patting myself on the back for getting up early on a Sunday and getting out into the great outdoors. And then, while I was busy patting myself on my back, the mountain whooped up on me pretty hard.

If you happened to read my post on July 5th, you may know that we (Utah Women’s Soccer) are in the midst of running a social media + online + offline “scarf” campaign (our SHOW YOUR SCARF! campaign). My morning on the mountain struck me in this context.

The first 40 minutes of our hike were, to me, analogous to what we’ve done so far with our scarf campaign:

- We have set up online ticketing functionality: www.utahtickets.com.

- We have launched the campaign on our Athletics Department’s site: www.utahutes.com.

- We have created buzz, awareness, and excitement via Facebook and Twitter.

- People outside our immediate community have picked up on it …

Thank you, Lee: Social Media Marketing and the Sports World: Utah Utes Women’s Soccer

Thank you, Amanda: Six Reasons Why I Love the Utah Women’s Soccer “Show Your Scarf” Campaign

- Friends have congratulated us.

- Colleagues, both internally and externally, have given their thumbs up.

(I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a brief second to say a big “thank you” to everyone who has helped to make this campaign a reality thus far and for all of the help and support they will continue to provide).


Now, I’ll admit that I’m very likely my own toughest critic. But, this morning, my hesitancy re: getting overly excited about any of the above made so much more sense. The fact remains that, for our campaign, we have 0.6 miles to go. And the 0.6 miles left is straight up hill: now we need to execute. Buzz, awareness, and excitement are great, but the question is whether or not we can convert that online activity to the offline, real world.

Essentially, at the top of the mountain is Ute Field, filled with fans, all with UTAH UTES scarves. And as I learned this morning, until we get to the top, the hike isn’t finished.

But I will say this: the next 0.6 miles is going to be really, really fun.

Preseason, Bounce, and Yoga (and how they fit together)

Three recent events happened that inspired this post:

1. I looked at a calendar.

2. I read Bounce by Matthew Syed.

3. I went to yoga.

Random on the front-end, I realize. But, I promise: there’s a point.

This past Friday, I looked at the calendar and realized that there’s approximately 2.5 weeks until our players report for preseason on August 3rd. Simultaneously, I felt a shift in my consciousness from the planning, recruiting, and camp holding pattern I’ve been existing in for the past couple of months to a realm of excitement and anticipation.

“The season” is what all of us, players and coaches alike, [without being too dramatic] exist for. It’s always too short, no matter when your last loss happens, and the second it’s over, everyone immediately starts thinking about the next one.

And it’s almost here.

Given that the season is both short and exciting, it’s incredibly busy. Two games (sometimes three) mark the calendar each week and training sessions, weight room visits, and treatment in the training room fill the gaps in between. While coaches work to keep pace with training sessions, travel plans, scouting reports, and recruiting, players work to stay on top of their academics and take care of their bodies.

Long story short: once you get going, you’re off to the races, without much time to stop a really give true thought to how you’re approaching the madness. Thus, 2.5 weeks before it all begins seemed liked an appropriate time:

I was turned on to Bounce last week and haven’t been able to put it down since. In it, Syed looks at what he calls “the Science of Success.”

To kick things off, Syed cites Anders Ericsson, a Florida State University Psychologist who, along with two colleagues in 1991, investigated the make-up of outstanding performers. The subjects were renowned violinists from the Music Academy of West Berlin in Germany. They divided the subjects into three performance-based groups (based on specific criteria): outstanding, extremely good, and least able. Through a series of interviews, Ericsson & Co. pieced together each violinist’s biographical history. What they found was note-worthy: the only distinguishable factor that separated the outstanding performers from the least able ones was time allocated to practice.

Ericsson’s study and consequent findings are a common theme in Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, as well. Gladwell concludes that greatness requires a considerable commitment of time and that that commitment is quantified by the “10,000-Hour Rule” (simply, you must commit 10,000 hours to your trade, field, or sport in order to become great).

As Syed continues, he highlights that a mere (ha!) 10,000 hours of commitment aren’t enough to achieve greatness. Rather, 10,000 hours of “purposeful practice” is the ticket. That seems intuitive, right? What interests me, though, is what comes next. Syed explains sport as being characterized by combinatorial explosion. Often applied to mathematics, combinatorial explosion describes the effect of functions that grow very rapidly as a result of multiple considerations (for more on combinatorial explosion, visit Wikipedia).

We can see how this applies to sport: while playing, we experience a rapidly accelerating increase in stimuli as factor upon factor is layered unto a given scenario. Syed concludes that the only way to circumvent combinatorial explosion in sport is through advanced pattern recognition. And how do we acquire the ability to employ advanced pattern recognition? Through the experience and knowledge gained via 10,000 hours of purposeful practice.

So, in the midst of reading all of this, I went to yoga class. It was Friday afternoon and, admittedly, I was just simply proud of myself for getting there. As I was going through the motions (and I mean that in the truest sense of the phrase), the teacher said, “it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.”

I can’t imagine that she knew that I wasn’t giving my full effort, but her words certainly spoke directly to me. And that’s when I started thinking (yes, I recognize that yoga isn’t exactly the place where you’re supposed to let your thoughts run amuck, but let’s just say I’m still “working” on the mental side of the practice); given the 2.5 weeks until preseason and Bounce context, what I had gotten called out for had just tied it all together.

Syed states that purposeful practice can be transformative. However, the flip side is that practice, if not matched by deep concentration, does not equate to excellence. Take my yoga, for example: on Friday, the hour that I had spent pre-getting-called-out certainly wasn’t transforming anything. In yoga, as in most sports, it’s very possible to clock hours upon hours of practice without improving anything at all. And if we’re on autopilot, we don’t get better.

Conversely, top performers take active steps to stretch themselves and their boundaries in each and every practice session. The punchline: when the season begins in 2.5 weeks, we, as coaches, are in control of creating an environment in which purposeful practice can be undertaken. While it’s certainly the players’ responsibility to embrace [for lack of a better word] the purpose, it’s our job to ensure that each and every second we spend on the field isn’t just clocking time, but rather is a second put toward Syed’s 10,000 hours of purposeful practice.

Social Media x Community
My friends think that I love social media; I don’t.
I love what social media has the potential to do.
My affinity for the subject matter was jump-started last year while taking a hard look at the sports-centered utilization of social media by Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). While examining the new league and the tools that were in their relative infancy, I saw the inherent possibilities for the WPS to establish, sustain, and grow a fan base via effective and creative employment of the tool(s).
In the conversations that I’ve had since, I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are many skeptics and non-believers regarding the power of social media. I think that the skepticism is often born from the lack of correlation seen between activity on Twitter and Facebook (for example) and value-creation. I’ll be the first to admit that without this correlation established, social media has the ability to simply occupy our time.
However, the reason for my passion for it is simple: there is nearly limitless potential, if leveraged mindfully, for social media to be a powerful complement in our quest to build something meaningful. Specifically, because social media is social, we can leverage its participatory nature to build communities. I see this notion of establishing, growing, and leveraging community as perhaps the most significant outcome of effective utilization of social media.
This fall, our Utah Women’s Soccer team will be launching what we’ve dubbed a “scarf campaign.” My excitement is two fold: (1) there’s potential for the campaign to create significant outcomes relative to playing environment for our team and (2) it provides us with a unique opportunity to leverage social media “well” in order to achieve said outcomes.
Let’s take a closer look:
We’ve started with an offline concept: build our Utah Women’s Soccer community. We’ve chosen to “brand” our team with a UTAH UTES scarf (much like the scarves seen at many European soccer games). The hope is that while we’re making strides to associate our team with the scarf, our campaign will grow and the scarf will brand the Utah Women’s Soccer community at large.
Community, by definition, is a group of people who share common interests. Our goal is to establish our soccer team as the common interest of the community members and the scarf as the brand element of this community. Getting to this end is where social media comes into play.
The tools we utilize and how we utilize them are important. Central to the campaign will be Twitter and Facebook:
Twitter, inherently, is outward facing; it’s a tool by which we can stay in touch with those we know and perhaps more importantly, connect with those we don’t. With barriers lowered, it has the potential to bring together like-minded individuals in a way that is not limited by location or proximity. If I’m interested in soccer x social media and someone in, say, Europe is as well, with a bit of investigation, we can find each other via tweets. I’ve had a significant amount of on-going conversations and information exchanges with people that I have not yet met (and may never meet). But, the connections are there and given that value continues to be exchanged, the connections will continue into the foreseeable future.
Why is this relevant for us? We see Twitter as a means by which we can share the word about our scarf campaign to people within our personal Twitter networks and beyond. If the concept is powerful and the initiative is engaging, there’s the potential for this cause [or any cause] to spread. But while the dispersal of the campaign concept is important, so too is the aggregation of the conversations relative to the campaign. In this vein, we’ll use the hashtag #sys (which stands for “Show Your Scarf”); this will, in theory, group together the conversations the [growing] Utah Women’s Soccer community is having relative to the campaign and our team.
Facebook, conversely, is inward facing*. While fan pages and the Open Graph are means by which Facebook has sought to circumvent this distinction, we see Facebook much more as a way to maintain and stay connected with one’s already established network. Additionally, while the digestible (140 characters) and mobile nature of Twitter characterizes as a quick, easy, on-the-move channel for information exchange, Facebook is a destination site where people spend a considerable amount of time.
We’ve established a Utah Women’s Soccer fan page to serve as one such destination. Relative to this page, one element of the scarf campaign will be a call to action: “Show Your Scarf.” Our goal is to create an engaged community on Facebook by asking fans to take and post pictures in order to show themselves, their friends, and their family showing off their scarves and thus, boasting their membership as a part of the Utah Women’s Soccer community.
In all of this, the moment of truth, so to speak, is our ability to convert said online engagement to the offline, “real world.” For us, creating an online community that exists within the confines of Twitter or Facebook is great; but a virtual community isn’t where the true value in this campaign lies. Our goal is to utilize our brand element – the scarf – and the excitement around owning and sporting the scarf as a catalyst in establishing our home matches as the physical manifestation of this online community. To this end, we’ve made the scarf not only the mark of our community, but also a Fall 2010 season ticket.
Will this work? Only time will tell.
But, if you’d like, you can follow our progress on Twitter (@utahwsoccer) and on Facebook.  

*One other element to consider in developing our online approach is the potential reach. Demographically speaking, the age group we are seeking to reach out to most significantly is fans between 13-34 (youth players/girls in the area, college students at the University of Utah, alumni, and soccer coaches – and thus, their teams – in the vicinity). 59% of Twitter users and 64% of Facebook users are defined as being a part of this 13-34 age group.
However, the percentages are deceiving; as of May 2010, quantcast.com reports Twitter traffic of 29.8 million visitors per month and Facebook traffic of 144 million. With a quick calculation, we find that 17.6 million and 92.2 million visitors to Twitter and Facebook, respectively, are within our target age-range. Thus, our campaign should be much more Facebook-centric; even when information is distributed and conversations are started via Twitter, the goal should be to drive the community members back to Facebook where most of our audience is and higher levels of engagement and conversation will theoretically occur. 


Selected sources:
http://www.briansolis.com/2010/07/the-2010-world-cup-inspires-creativity-in-social-media/
http://www.briansolis.com/2010/06/7-steps-to-creating-and-cultivating-a-brand-in-social-media/
http://mashable.com/2010/04/05/facebook-us-infographic/
http://www.quantcast.com/twitter.com
http://www.quantcast.com/facebook.com

Social Media x Community

My friends think that I love social media; I don’t.

I love what social media has the potential to do.

My affinity for the subject matter was jump-started last year while taking a hard look at the sports-centered utilization of social media by Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). While examining the new league and the tools that were in their relative infancy, I saw the inherent possibilities for the WPS to establish, sustain, and grow a fan base via effective and creative employment of the tool(s).

In the conversations that I’ve had since, I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are many skeptics and non-believers regarding the power of social media. I think that the skepticism is often born from the lack of correlation seen between activity on Twitter and Facebook (for example) and value-creation. I’ll be the first to admit that without this correlation established, social media has the ability to simply occupy our time.

However, the reason for my passion for it is simple: there is nearly limitless potential, if leveraged mindfully, for social media to be a powerful complement in our quest to build something meaningful. Specifically, because social media is social, we can leverage its participatory nature to build communities. I see this notion of establishing, growing, and leveraging community as perhaps the most significant outcome of effective utilization of social media.

This fall, our Utah Women’s Soccer team will be launching what we’ve dubbed a “scarf campaign.” My excitement is two fold: (1) there’s potential for the campaign to create significant outcomes relative to playing environment for our team and (2) it provides us with a unique opportunity to leverage social media “well” in order to achieve said outcomes.

Let’s take a closer look:

We’ve started with an offline concept: build our Utah Women’s Soccer community. We’ve chosen to “brand” our team with a UTAH UTES scarf (much like the scarves seen at many European soccer games). The hope is that while we’re making strides to associate our team with the scarf, our campaign will grow and the scarf will brand the Utah Women’s Soccer community at large.

Community, by definition, is a group of people who share common interests. Our goal is to establish our soccer team as the common interest of the community members and the scarf as the brand element of this community. Getting to this end is where social media comes into play.

The tools we utilize and how we utilize them are important. Central to the campaign will be Twitter and Facebook:

Twitter, inherently, is outward facing; it’s a tool by which we can stay in touch with those we know and perhaps more importantly, connect with those we don’t. With barriers lowered, it has the potential to bring together like-minded individuals in a way that is not limited by location or proximity. If I’m interested in soccer x social media and someone in, say, Europe is as well, with a bit of investigation, we can find each other via tweets. I’ve had a significant amount of on-going conversations and information exchanges with people that I have not yet met (and may never meet). But, the connections are there and given that value continues to be exchanged, the connections will continue into the foreseeable future.

Why is this relevant for us? We see Twitter as a means by which we can share the word about our scarf campaign to people within our personal Twitter networks and beyond. If the concept is powerful and the initiative is engaging, there’s the potential for this cause [or any cause] to spread. But while the dispersal of the campaign concept is important, so too is the aggregation of the conversations relative to the campaign. In this vein, we’ll use the hashtag #sys (which stands for “Show Your Scarf”); this will, in theory, group together the conversations the [growing] Utah Women’s Soccer community is having relative to the campaign and our team.

Facebook, conversely, is inward facing*. While fan pages and the Open Graph are means by which Facebook has sought to circumvent this distinction, we see Facebook much more as a way to maintain and stay connected with one’s already established network. Additionally, while the digestible (140 characters) and mobile nature of Twitter characterizes as a quick, easy, on-the-move channel for information exchange, Facebook is a destination site where people spend a considerable amount of time.

We’ve established a Utah Women’s Soccer fan page to serve as one such destination. Relative to this page, one element of the scarf campaign will be a call to action: “Show Your Scarf.” Our goal is to create an engaged community on Facebook by asking fans to take and post pictures in order to show themselves, their friends, and their family showing off their scarves and thus, boasting their membership as a part of the Utah Women’s Soccer community.

In all of this, the moment of truth, so to speak, is our ability to convert said online engagement to the offline, “real world.” For us, creating an online community that exists within the confines of Twitter or Facebook is great; but a virtual community isn’t where the true value in this campaign lies. Our goal is to utilize our brand element – the scarf – and the excitement around owning and sporting the scarf as a catalyst in establishing our home matches as the physical manifestation of this online community. To this end, we’ve made the scarf not only the mark of our community, but also a Fall 2010 season ticket.

Will this work? Only time will tell.

But, if you’d like, you can follow our progress on Twitter (@utahwsoccer) and on Facebook. 

*One other element to consider in developing our online approach is the potential reach. Demographically speaking, the age group we are seeking to reach out to most significantly is fans between 13-34 (youth players/girls in the area, college students at the University of Utah, alumni, and soccer coaches – and thus, their teams – in the vicinity). 59% of Twitter users and 64% of Facebook users are defined as being a part of this 13-34 age group.

However, the percentages are deceiving; as of May 2010, quantcast.com reports Twitter traffic of 29.8 million visitors per month and Facebook traffic of 144 million. With a quick calculation, we find that 17.6 million and 92.2 million visitors to Twitter and Facebook, respectively, are within our target age-range. Thus, our campaign should be much more Facebook-centric; even when information is distributed and conversations are started via Twitter, the goal should be to drive the community members back to Facebook where most of our audience is and higher levels of engagement and conversation will theoretically occur.

Selected sources:

http://www.briansolis.com/2010/07/the-2010-world-cup-inspires-creativity-in-social-media/

http://www.briansolis.com/2010/06/7-steps-to-creating-and-cultivating-a-brand-in-social-media/

http://mashable.com/2010/04/05/facebook-us-infographic/

http://www.quantcast.com/twitter.com

http://www.quantcast.com/facebook.com

"Jazz" & "Coaching:" They Belong in the Same Sentence

I’ll be totally honest – writing this post has been daunting and I’ve been procrastinating putting it all together for a good bit of time. As a general rule, I enjoy writing. This time around, however, I’m attempting to write about something that a lot of really smart people have studied hard and written about really well. Conversely, my “knowledge” on the topic goes back about a month and a half.

So, that’s my disclaimer; let’s take a look at why “jazz” and “coaching” belong in the same sentence.

“Coaching” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people; personal coaching philosophies are diverse and constantly evolve. In my last post I looked at four principles that I believe to be at the core of successful coaching. But while being a “good” coach is a fairly individual effort, the outcome of said “good” coaching has far less to do with the coach than it has to do with those being coached.

On one hand we, as coaches, must work to develop our coaching philosophy and methodology, which are both grounded in the principles we believe to be important. On the other hand, we cannot personally achieve successful outcomes – that is up to our players. How do we get from point A (who we are as a coach) to point B (our team’s success)?

For starters, we must take the emphasis off ourselves; it’s imperative that we figure out how to create the environments and provide the proper tools so our teams can be successful.

This is where jazz comes in. Though jazz is a musical genre that’s difficult to define, jazz critic Joachim Berendt characterizes it as having “a spontaneity and vitality of musical production in which improvisation plays a role.” If we delve into that encapsulation further, we can tease out “improvisation” which essentially means to play on the spur of the moment.

Soccer is often defined as “the players’ game” in that once the whistle blows, the coach (a) can’t cross the line, (b) can’t call timeouts, and (c) is relatively powerless  - with the exception of substitutions and halftime – as he/she watches from the bench. The game is fast and ever changing; the players must make decisions, really, on the spur of the moment. Or, we can state that another way: the players must improvise.

Thus, as coaches, our task is to find ways to manage this improvisation.

When I mentioned before that a lot of really smart people have studied this topic, the topic that I was referring to is jazz as it relates to organizational improvisation in the business world. Michael Gold, a lecturer on the intersection of jazz and business, is one such individual. He has narrowed this intersection to five behaviors that both the jazz ensemble and a highly effective business team exhibit; he defines these behaviors as the Five Dynamics of Jazz (APRIL). I’ll argue that Gold’s assertion of the shared behaviors of the jazz ensemble and the highly effective business team is a great starting point for us, as coaches, as we seek to manage our players’ on-field improvisation:

Autonomy: dependent upon the equity of the involved parties and leadership that is not static but that has the ability to respond to a changing environment

We must develop players who are capable of acting independently and intelligently. When we do this, we build a group of individuals who can be flexible and who are able to adapt to each other within the context of a given on-field situation.

Passion: an emotional commitment to a given cause as an outgrowth of the belief that we are part of something greater than ourselves; complementary to this is a perceived sense of purpose

If our players are passionate about their teammates, their team, and their shared goals, we’re off on the right foot. Phil Jackson, in his book Sacred Hoops, said it best: “it’s not brilliant individual performances that make teams great – [brilliance is] unleashed when players put their egos aside and work towards a common goal.

Risk: taking chances is inherent in pursuing growth; being willing [and able] to take these chances is critical 

We’ve all heard the cliché: “the greater the risk, the greater the reward” and as we know relative to soccer, in order to win a game, appropriate risks must be taken. Thus, it’s on us, as coaches, to create a supportive culture that encourages [and rewards] risk-taking and experimentation.

Innovation: the ability and willingness to apply lessons from the past to diverse situations in the present and future in order to find creative solutions

“Complexity” defines jazz; it also defines a 90-minute soccer match. This complexity becomes easier to navigate given minimalstructure. It’s important that our team have a shared knowledge of basic principles. However, these principles and the said structure that the principles provide should not be stifling. Rather, our players must have the ability to apply the principles in various ways and the freedom to learn and expand their own capacity to assess and address the various situations that might occur.

Listening: being present [in the moment] and truly listening to each other

Inherent in the team’s capacity to improvise together is their ability to listen to [or feel the play of] one another. The more that we can place them in situations during training that help them to expand their awareness of each other, the better they will be able to perform with one another.

(For more on Gold’s Jazz Impact, visit: http://www.jazz-impact.com/) 

In summary, the end goal is this: to allow our team’s excellence to shine through during the match, on their own, without our prompting. We do this by giving our players the ability and the means to improvise throughout the game without looking to the sideline. When that happens, our team will truly be on the path to success.


 

Sources:

Donald Kennington and Danny L. Read. The Literature of Jazz: A Critical Guide. American Library Association: Chicago 1980.

Joachim E. Berendt. The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to Fusion and Beyond. Translated by H. and B. Bredigkeit with Dan Morgenstern. Lawrence Hill Books. 1981.

John M. Jordan. Early Indications June 2007: Miles Davis, CEO? http://earlyindications.blogspot.com/2007_06_01_archive.html 

Ken Kamoche, Miguel Pina e Cunha and Joao Vieira da Cunha. Towards a Theory of Organizational Improvisation: Looking Beyond the Jazz Metaphor. December 2003.

Phil Jackson. Sacred Hoops. Hyperion, New York. October 1995.