By Zach Murphy
Those of us who work at Black Lab Sports visualize success and work tirelessly to get there. To us, success entails giving first and unleashing greatness in others. Our vision expands beyond Boulder, Colorado, and the United States, and we’re constantly seeking new spaces to lead.
One recent exploration took place at The Sport Performance Summit hosted by Leaders, at which I represented Black Lab Sports. Held over two days at Chicago's Soldier Field, the event featured a variety of speakers that highlighted practices and experiences with the potential to enhance human performance. The motto of the summit was "Worth Knowing," which supports the idea that the responsibility of a leader goes beyond his or her job description. The best leaders are also great people, setting a positive example and living out their visions.
At Black Lab Sports, we recognize the importance of investing our energy into others. In line with that commitment, I went to the conference with a goal of gaining concrete takeaways and encouraging fellow attendees to take an active role in talent development and mentorship of future leaders. We believe it’s not the size of an organization that matters. It’s the impact.
Three Notable Speakers
The Sport Performance Summit included an impressive and diverse speaker lineup, featuring Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel, US women’s soccer coach Jill Scott, former Chicago Cubs catcher John Baker, and one of the highest ranking officers in our armed forces General Lori Robinson. And that was just day one. Among over a dozen sessions I attended, three stood out from the rest:
1. Ryan Towey (eSports coach) and Jill Ellis (US women’s soccer coach)
It’s a testament to the emerging eSports market that a professional video game coach and the coach of the US women’s national soccer team would share a stage at a major conference. A key difference between coaching these two sports is the players' access to feedback. While soccer players usually have to wait until halftime to make major changes, eSports players receive real-time input. On the other hand, the two sports are similar in their use of video, which offers post-play feedback from game situations. Comparing these very different types of sports is valuable because it gives us a view into the future of sports markets, and shows how more traditional sports can learn and benefit from newer, tech-based ones. With this knowledge, our assumptions about video games and gamers are challenged. If eSports continues down the path it's on, we will have to continue evaluating its impact on health and society.
2. Sydney Finkelstein (author of Superbosses)
“Your job is to do things that I haven't even thought of.” According to Sydney Finkelstein, Superbosses are leaders who generate and re-generate talent over the course of their careers. He referenced leaders such as Ralph Lauren, Alice Waters, George Lucas, and Bill Walsh, all of whom sought out talent in untapped pools and then developed it in mass. Black Lab Sports’ small step in this direction is Flywheel Project, our leadership development program for high school and college students.
3. Mike Brey (Notre Dame basketball coach) and Matt Painter (Purdue basketball coach)
As collegiate coaches, Mike Brey and Matt Painter consider building positive, high-performing cultures integral to their quests for organizational and team success. Part of that entails establishing trust between coaches, players, and parents. They encourage their players to take ownership and they allow individuals opportunities to step up and lead. Each coach has a mantra that captures a piece of his mindset. Brey’s message to his Notre Dame team is: “Who is selling my shit when I am not around?” In other words, how will his players model the culture away from the court? And Painter’s mantra for Purdue is: “We are all about you if you are all about us,” emphasizing the value of engagement and personal ownership on and off the court.
The week before I left for Chicago, I prepared by executing an hour of visualization and goal-setting. I believe doing so helped pave the way for the lessons and connections I gained during my time at the Sport Performance Summit in Chicago. I’ve already followed up with a handful of the people I met there, who are modeling leadership in their own ways and inspiring me to do the same.
It’s valuable to gain knowledge, but above all, relationships come first. I look forward to seeing how these connections manifest in the months to come.