In the face of paralysis and adversity, how does Breakaway Sports’ Phil McCarthy keep up the fight? As founder of the Denver-based company, McCarthy now helps professional teams conquer the world with top-notch coaching and assembly services. Breakaway Sports’ business model is similar to being in a locker room and trying to achieve success on the field through a team. Drive and passion is important. You can be sure that the guys at Breakaway Sports love those sports, coached those sports, gave back and involve themselves in the community in a positive way.
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Lacrosse and Hockey, Collegiate Success, Personal Adversity and Building a Business with CEO Phil McCarthy Former Owner of Breakaway Sports
We’re here with Phil McCarthy. He’s the Founder of Breakaway Sports in Denver, Colorado. We interview some of the best and brightest business owners and entrepreneurs in and around the state of Colorado. We talk about the ins and outs of running a business and being an entrepreneur inside shared by the top business leaders and entrepreneurs in the state of Colorado. Phil, welcome to Business Leaders Podcast.
I appreciate it. Thank you very much, Bob.
Phil and I have hit it off before the show and found a lot of common ground. I think that you are going to find that this is a special episode. Phil, tell us a little bit about what you did prior to Breakaway Sports.
Right from graduating from college, I went on and got my MBA right away. In my mind, there wasn’t a ton of opportunity out there in the early ‘90s, so I figured I’d scale up and get an MBA. From there I went to Wall Street and I was an options and futures trader on Wall Street. That’s a different world, but I learned a lot about that. I learned what you give to the business you get back, and they gave me an opportunity to move to Singapore and run their operation over there and contribute that way. I thought that was a huge personal growing experience as well as a professional growth experience. I appreciated that, but at the end of that I realized I couldn’t find the real passion in that for myself. I wanted to make a change from there. The question became, “What do you do next? What is it that excites you and will get you going?” I found that coupling my new business experience and my education, wrapping it around the things I care most about, which was playing hockey and lacrosse in athletics and the relationships I’ve built there, I came up with the idea that I would found Breakaway Sports and go from there.
Let’s circle back. You talked about lacrosse and hockey. Let’s talk about your collegiate effort and accomplishments in that area.
At a young age I realized that being an athlete and playing sports felt great and I could grow skill around that and grow confidence around that. I set my eyes on playing in college and did the type of things that would take to get there. I had great teammates, good coaching. I absorbed what they’re given me as lessons. I was aware of how I was growing as an athlete. When I got to college I was ready to grow again. At Hobart College we had a program that was strong. My senior year was twelve straight national championships. It was quite a dynasty. The expectation was that you came there to compete and grow a team that would continue that type of success on the field. Of course that comes with great coaching, amazing teammates and people with shared goals as well as trying to push themselves individually. We gained a lot from that. As well, I played hockey in college and was able to be the captain and achieved a couple of personal goals of being the all-time leading scorer of that school and sharing that with teammates that are my best friends in this world today. That athletic success created processes for myself and I’ve been taking those on in life ever since.
You went to Breakaway Sports which focused on those two sports and you went to college and you were a floor trader. What they don’t know is the adversity that happened en route. Let’s dig into that a little bit.
Athletics or whatever path you choose that helps you find skill and performance, drive yourself and create habits that lead you towards goals and goal achievement and then picking teams or people that you choose in your life to make your efforts bigger and more important. I used athletics around there. Other people use music and other platforms. For me, it’s important to become the person that can use those skills later in life and engage the world. I came up against a challenge in life where I woke up completely paralyzed on my left side one morning. It turns out that I had an arterial venous malformation in my right parietal lobe. I woke up paralyzed and in a position in life that I’ve never been, and you right away are like, “What the heck is going on? Where’s this going? It’s uncertain.” The fears start kicking in immediately. For the first time in my life I was not in control of where I was going.
For an athlete, that’s a tough place to be sitting.
You set your whole life trying to take care of the things you can control to lead you down a path where the outcomes tilt your way. I couldn’t make this tilt. What I did discover was how well athletics and those processes and being around people that share those same ability to want to compete and push you and make it better and how those skills help you through things like that. Everybody’s going to come up against adversity. My adversity of course was the challenge of figuring out how to mentally and physically come through having to learn to crawl again to get your body back. I felt I was prepared because of the things I achieved as an athlete.
You finished your MBA while you were still in the hospital.
When I started unwinding the story of what made me confident and gave me self-esteem in the world, which was, “Where am I going now? I’m in a wheelchair,” and I was quickly unwinding, “I know how to find success. I’m a great teammate. I can give,” and started saying, “Where am I going to go? No one’s going to care about me. I’m not going to have opportunity and I may never run, walk, compete again.” You do have to turn that around at some point. The belief that allowed me to do that was other people, listening to others in a room, much like teammates. We had a goal of getting out of that room successfully and having a life of consequence. In the discussions that we had, we realized that telling yourself you can’t do something doesn’t create action. It doesn’t create direction. We were starting to tell ourselves and teach each other how to say, “This is where we’re going and here’s how get there.” You put a process in place for yourself athletically, and mentally you drive that process as hard as you can.
Telling yourself you can't do something doesn't create action. It doesn't create direction.
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The start was working your body, get crawling. If they said crawl ten feet, I was going to spend the time it took to crawl those ten feet and then make the goal twenty feet. It was important for me to give back to my MBA. I was a month out from walking across the stage and graduating when this happened to me. About two to three weeks in to this recovery, I knew that getting back on track with my education was a big step. If I could prove to myself and the world that I could do that, then I could get back on track. I called my school. They sent me my exams. They let me take those finals in that recovery hospital with my head bandaged up, and send those back and I graduated on time. I got to walk across the stage with a major limp and a cane, but I got to do that. I knew I had my academics back on path and really what I had to do was replace what used to be athletics and performance with something new and my recovery process did that for me.
I think about the college pinnacle, where you’re doing well academically, you’re doing well athletically, and you’ve transitioned after college. Weren’t you coaching at that time as well?
Yes. Right after I got my MBA and this happened to me, I wanted to take a year and recover. I wanted to get my body back, I want to be able to give, and I found Berkshire School came to me. My brother was going to this boarding school in New England and they offered me a position based on being able to coach and teach them. They knew that I had that background and they hired me for that reason. They created a position for me, which was a blessing of course. I’ve always been thankful to that school for that. That year helped me discover giving to kids that are growing and the importance of what athletics gives you as a person and what you can accomplish when you have processes in place that make you successful in athletics are the key to life. I’ve always wanted to make a part of my life giving back in that way and helping kids and other people become aware of that.
You’re back and you’re in recovery and you had a year or so. What was the next step after coaching and about a year of recovery?
Some people would stay. It was a beautiful life you could give for the rest of your life, 20, 30, 40 years in a school environment. For me, at that time in my life, I had just accomplished getting my MBA. I hadn’t challenged myself on the business side of the world and I started out on that path and I want it to go down that path. I wanted to explore that for myself. I took everything I gained and gave in that school. I recounted what I was able to accomplish physically and mentally, what I was able to create for value for kids in school. I said, “I’m going to go on business.” I walked into the head master’s office and he got me in touch with an alumni that had a huge business in New York’s Spear, Leeds and Kellogg and Peter Kellogg gave me the interview and the opportunity to prove myself as a floor trader. I took that path.
You’re admittedly succeeding as a floor trader; you’re both domestic and international. At some point you decide, “I need to do something else.” What was that thought process like?
I was loving growing in the world of business and in finance. I was learning a lot and I was giving a lot and I was appreciating the opportunities that were given to me, having been able to go to Singapore and be trusted with running that office there and creating value for the business, being that far away. That was great. That made me believe in myself differently, that my character got me there, not so much them needing my trading skill. They need people that have character and that’s value. Most people are in transition often. Where I thought I needed to change was I didn’t have the why. I had the competition, I had the awareness that I looked for, for myself and who am I, and it wasn’t hitting the passion strings for me. I wasn’t applying myself to something that matter deeply to me. I was growing skill and competing, but I was missing that why. Thinking about how I can accomplish all three, performing well, growing my knowledge base, being a lifetime learner, and doing something that matters to me, I found that if I tied my business degree to those two sports and the relationships built around those, I could start a business. That’s where I decided I was going to start Breakaway Sports.
You started Breakaway Sports, but there was some homework that you did.
In transition you have to learn. People often ask you, “How do you learn when you need to learn new things?” I had a former coach of mine who was great. He was an NHL player and an amazing coach. He had a hockey store in upstate New York and I asked if I could volunteer and work for him for three to six months and bring him value of everything I learned in my MBA, and see if I could help him with some of the backend stuff. For that he would teach me how to run a business, what their relationships look like to manufacturers, how to buy effectively, what software systems he is using that he’s liked, how to lay out a store and what customer service looks like. The value trade off was I would go work for him and make any improvements to his operations that I could. He’d teach me how to do this and then he’d free me to be on my way to start my own business in a different market.
East coast guy and then you upped and move to Denver.
Part of the AB testing and wondering what problem you’re solving when you start a business and putting a business on a path is where are you going to start it? Everyone says location, location. The east coast had most of the hockey stores and lacrosse stores. I wanted to go where people weren’t and the Quebec Nordiques at the time were making the decision to move to Denver to become the Avalanche. The Minnesota North Stars were making the decision to go to Dallas to become the Dallas Stars. I picked Denver as my market and to be fair, the reason I thought it was best is there were a lot of people from the east coast moving there, which meant you wouldn’t been limited by your coaching growth and fields were plentiful. You wouldn’t be limited by field growth like in LA. It seemed a great place to live and has a very athletic young culture.
You’re in Denver and you have store number one. You ended up with how many stores all in?
When you had the seven stores that you were working through, what was the progression or thought process as you expanded those stores?
What you have to get right is your first economic unit. Right in front of me, my day to day working was my store in Denver. I was able to figure out what value I could give to customers. What they were giving me as feedback is what was important to them so I could figure out the service part. You figure out what product selection you should have and how you lay that out. You figure out the business of profit and profit margins and the pricing and how to get it to be a profitable business. Once you’ve done that, as any entrepreneur wants to do, they want growth. I wanted to be able to run a store out of my market and people hadn’t been doing that back then in this niche of hockey and lacrosse. They stayed in their market, they knew everybody, they ran a community. I wanted to see if I could expand that.
To do that, I asked my younger brother to join me. He was in. That means you have a trusted partner. He gained from giving him partnership to do that. In a trusting environment where people weren’t robbing from you while you’re figuring out how to do this, I had a partner that cared about the business, cared about me, and we were together learning how to scale. Putting the second business unit in and running it with what we learned out of Denver, we’re able to do that successfully. I moved out from there to Seattle to Atlanta, added a second location in Seattle, and went to a couple of different locations here in Colorado. It’s based on what I learned through working with my brother in a new market and being around a trusted person with tons of characters who didn’t fear that. We put our minds together and grew a business that mattered to the employees and the customers.
You were chatting about how you interacted with your customers and how your previous experience influenced your behavior with your customers. Do you care to comment on that?
The reason it was passionate and the ‘why’ for me was athletics. Because the people coming in cared about some things we cared about. They cared about exploring development, joy, fun, pushing themselves, and being creative and curious through sport, and that’s where we came from. As people came in the door, that’s how we viewed them. I used the vehicle of equipping them on a field, but our stores were meant to be an extension of the culture and of the things that they wanted to get from the sport even more than the on-field play. We built a business around making sure the athletes were getting what they wanted and feeling what they should feel.
I think about where you are when you’re coaching now. I think about what you were doing in the retail space. Not all that different than what you’re doing now.
I agree. Coaching is running a team, being on a team, being an athlete, or leading as a coach. Every major business is set up as a similar unit, whether you’re putting a team together to try to win games or have common goals. You have individual contributions and individual care for personal growth as well as team growth and environment growth. You learn that in athletic environments and you might as well use that that care and knowledge to grow business around it. Our business plan was similar to being in a locker room and trying to achieve success on the field through a team. It was important that the guys that I hired loved those sports, coached those sports, gave back and involve themselves in the community that way. We were coaching and we were running a business but as people came in, we were teaching them what was important about the game and how they should be aware of what they’re getting through sport and going on the field and doing that. I tied both of those experiences together and it is what built my business model.
You’ve got your team, got your players, I think it was seven players. The team’s assembled and then at some point there’s a decision or an offer to buy the business. You look at that and there’s a conscious decision to go ahead with the offer. What was that like in your mind to take in have built the team and then look at taking ineffectively passing that team off to a new coach?
It’s not an easy thing because you built something and you’re proud of it and it becomes a big part of who you are and the people you involved yourself with. We all built that company because companies are built by people. Concepts are driven, but people build it. We had got to a point where we couldn’t grow it further from where we were. We were enjoying what we built but when we were approached to see if we would grow with another company, i.e. I sell the business to them, and then see what our involvement would be with them to grow it further, I was attracted to the idea that the business should keep going. The thing that we built and the ideas of what we’re trying to accomplish through our customers should keep going and it could be more exciting going down a new path of growth and joining a new team.
For the folks out there, there will be those that have a business and never received an offer. What were the thoughts that went through your mind in trying to evaluate whether you thought it was a reasonable offer and then what did they want from you post sale?
You want to make sure that the vision for where they want to go with their company and then adding your company to theirs makes sense. It’s what leads you to make the decision. Why would you sell it? That’s the huge question, “Why would I sell this? Is running it as profitable as you just keep it and keep going?” I’ll have a suitor and you say, “Why do they want it? What do they believe? What do they believe differently than me?” This group came into the industry a little bit later than I did. They bought out a former owner that had been doing it for seventeen years or so before that. They had a new belief of where they could go. That’s a new energy. I had been doing the same, running it for eighteen years myself, and I wanted to explore where they thought it could go and whether we could do that together.
Systems were changing. Websites were changing. How we compete were changing. They had some strategic advantages that I wanted to take advantage of and I like their belief in the future of where the industry could be. Knowing that they had the money to do it and push their plan forward, they wanted some experience in what we’ve been able to learn as a company and as people in the industry. They wanted to keep it going further and I was attracted to that.
As I understand it, you stayed on post-sale for a while?
I did. I stayed on for a year and a half. I wanted to make sure that all the employees were on boarded and everyone had an opportunity, whether they chose to keep that opportunity or not keep that opportunity was up to them. Those opportunities were given. I stayed to learn what it looked like differently and I ran the course of working with them as far as I took it until I wanted to change where my personal development would go.
There’s the day that you pass your employment contract and you wake up the next morning and there’s this emotional response to the next chapter. Walk us through that self-talk, that mental discussion.
It’s scary and exciting at the same time. You’ve been doing something for a long time and you get comfortable in that. Another reason that I was excited to make a change is you get comfortable. You want to push yourself and be curious, grow, create, and I felt I got too comfortable running it the way we were running it. In the end, when you go to sell it, you have to transition, and a lot of life is transition and you can’t fear those transitions. You have to learn from the past. What transitions had I gone through albeit other people what they’ve gone through, and learn from history to move forward to create a new future? I started to tell myself not to be scared. Again, the skills you develop seem like they’re only skills that can be plugged into the business you created. When you decide that you want to transfer out of that business, you’re wondering if you could bring value to anyone else in any other business. You doubt yourself pretty heavily.
What was your spouse’s response to this transition?
She was excited for that opportunity of the business to be sold in and she was supportive of me liking the idea of that happening. She was also supportive of me finding something that I love to do because when she met me, she knows how my why has to be in place, my passion has to be in place for me to compete and then she could trust whatever decision I make on that. Again, it was nerve-wracking for her because we built a life around what became somewhat certain and safe and I was asking to throw that into flux and move towards some uncertainty.
If you can share, what was your top gross sales a year?
At the top, and that was towards the end, I was selling over $7 million a year in gross revenues and that came down through three sales channels. One, brick and mortar retail. Two, team sales. Three, online sales. In a world where the opportunity was created online for a short period, small brick and mortar businesses could create a website, but it couldn’t compete nationally against what was coming at us with an Amazon and the bigger sites. Once people used to, the opportunity was there for them go on break away across that new shop because that was part of their culture. When you didn’t have it, they’d go home and find it through you. When those windows were closing up and people were just shopping at two main sites, maybe even one main site, you had to pivot. My pivots were to team and those other channels balanced out my business.
When those windows were closing up and people were just shopping at two main sites, maybe even one main site, you had to pivot.
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It’s like any game that you played before, you have to adjust. How long has it been since you’ve been away from Breakaway Sports now?
It’s sold two years ago and it stayed on with our purchaser for a year and a half. Now I’m six months out.
Thinking about next step and for the folks out there that are in the throes of maybe selling a business and they go, “I see the sale day coming,” how did you collect your thoughts, start setting your questions in place to figure out perhaps next challenge?
You take inventory again. You got to get through this belief system that “I can only do what I did,” so then you say, “What would disprove that? What did I learn? What skills do I have now and how am I going to use those skills in and engage the world differently in the future?” I figured that I’ve learned how to run direction, communicate that direction clearly, care about the people that worked with you because your business is the people, building teams to maximize efficiencies of people’s strengths and weaknesses and plug each other in so that we’re making up for each other’s lack of knowledge in one place or lack of skill in another place, someone else picks that up. Building that business, building a concept, AB testing at all times and understanding what path to take, those were skills that I enjoyed and I had, and you can use that anywhere.
Then you go to your personal skills and say, “Where are you at with your character, your values, how do you make decisions and how do you prioritize a day?” You want to take a pause. You want to get that where you are comfortable knowing yourself. You want to get that self-awareness again, build up your skills and then say, “I need to find a place I can plug this in and I know how to talk about myself. I know how to resell my skills so that I can bring value to someone asking for value.”
Everything that I’ve heard you talk about feels a lot like the coaching and athletic career that you’ve had. Has there been a time where you haven’t been involved in coaching?
There has. It’s always been important to me to make time for your community and the people in it to coach and give back in a way that teaches athletes or people choosing to develop through athletics. Teach them what they get for doing that and teach them how to do that well and give them the teachable moments and teach them how to grow as a team and find the skills they’re going to need in life through sports. I’ve always coached and I don’t look at it like I take a team and I need to drive an outcome. The win comes in the processes you put in place and how you compete on the things you can control and then tilting outcomes more your way. I focus more on how are we doing it, why are we doing it, what are we getting from it, and where does that get us?
There’s some small percentage of the kids that are in athletics that pursue that in a professional career. Even then if they make a professional career, the duration of that career is pretty short lived.
I agree. I don’t think it’s the point. Where we get confused, we get frustrated and we lose ourselves in athletics, youth, high school or college is we think that’s the point. It has to drive itself to a career in that particular sphere. I have to be a pro-athlete. It’s not the point. The point is I want to apply effort. I want to help people drive belief into action and set reward systems in place so they’re building daily habits that create the person that can compete and perform in the real world and engage the world. You want to create social habits and ways of working and collaborating with others that comes through sports so that you can engage the world with that later. You create every attribute you need and the advantages and the skills you need through sport that you can give to the world, give to a business, give to yourself and family, and every relationship you are in.
It’s important to get the teachable moments right for athletes, to get the coaches to understand what they’re doing. Making games make sense, making performance makes sense, and helping them develop skills that will allow them to accomplish goals. Then teaching them to plug their strengths in, be accountable to their actions, and make up for other people’s weaknesses and apply to other people’s strengths. You’re learning how other people add to the overall goal and you’re figuring out how you add to the overall goal. That’s how you find value in caring.
Not having been much of an athlete myself, you’ve got the coach, you’ve got the players, and you’ve got the family, and I don’t know if there’s somebody else, maybe a fan. What is the best advice that you could offer to the player, the family and the coach and starting with the family on how best can they contribute to that athlete’s experience?
As parents we have a goal of doing a great job teaching kids character and teaching them about working hard and the values wrapped around that will matter and get you far in life. Teaching them right from wrong. We have a goal in our parenting that when we hand our children off to the world, they’re well equipped to succeed and find joy and meaning. Athletics, being part of that education, part of that upbringing, we want to make sure that we pay attention to the teachable moments and applaud the efforts, not the outcomes.
We could say that again, the effort not the outcome.
As kids, we ask the wrong question lots of times at the end of the game. “How was the game?” The answer is always the same. “It was great. We won. It was awful. We lost.” Your question creates the value. You tell an athlete what your values are based on your question. Just say, “Who won? Who lost? How’d that make you feel?” You want to teach your kid what you value and we talked about its effort. “How well you think you played? How’d your teammates do? Did you execute that plan you talked about this week? How did losing make you feel? How did winning making you feel? What were some things that you’re proud of? What’s a part of the team that you contributed to make your teammates better?”
If you ask those questions, your kids will see what you’re valuing and that teaches them the direction of how to behave on those teams. In the end, guess what happens? They get right from wrong. They get how to create effort. They get personal goals that they want to achieve. They also get giving to a bigger community for a goal that we can all achieve and that creates meaning. That creates sustainability. It’s giving them the childhood, the youth, and the lessons they’ll need to engage the world later. It’s giving them all of that. They don’t need to be professional athletes to accomplish what sport and their upbringing can bring them. They can get that if we do it right, so parents should contribute to helping that, not getting in the way of that.
For that young athlete, maybe he’s not quite as fast, maybe he’s not quite as old, maybe he’s not quite as big. What advice might you offer to the parent of that athlete?
The advice is we all have different strengths in life. Even in our professional worlds, people are good at all different things and there’s a place for everyone. When I think of an athlete and I’m like, “For right now, what you can contribute is this and the way we value you doing that, do it in a consistent way, do it in your way and we can use you as a strategy for what you’re giving.” Everyone can have a contribution. We used to call it role player, and now in the new world, everyone’s got a role. You might be the role of the goalie, I could be the role of the leading scorer, someone else is the role of biggest person, the fastest person, but we all have a role. Bringing all of our roles together is what a coach can help do to create a commonality in a team and a place to go from here to there or can win a game. It’s beautiful but every athlete has to know that big, small, different, fast, scoring, can’t score, they have a contribution to make. Through pushing your contributions and then being in a safe environment to try to grow what you could contribute. That’s beautiful. That’s life. That’s sport.
I’m trying to cover the basis. You’ve got the family and the parents of the athlete. We always hear about the ugly parent and you also hear about the one that supports the team. What advice might you offer the parents of a budding athlete in these fields to try to take in and craft that citizen that you’re talking about?
Let’s define what we hope comes out of this. Why is it important that your kid plays a sport? What do you hope he gets from it? We all have that answer. We get that one right. What life skills do people take with them if they’re successful in athletics? “I know how to drive a goal. I know how to push myself. I know how to care about others. I know how to collaborate. I know how to communicate.” You take all the things you hope they get out of sport and let’s work backwards. Let’s ask the right questions. Let’s push them in a way that allows them to learn and grow in a safe way, not be judged and not throw our attention towards outcomes that they can’t even control, they can just contribute to. If we want them to be caring, giving, trying to grow skill, trying to work on teams, then let’s teach them in the front half as they start playing the sport. How did they get good at those things? When they walk away, they get those skills.
We’ve got the coach that is perhaps somebody that has a lot of collegiate experience that’s out there coaching, and then you have the parent that there isn’t anybody else and they’re going to take on the role so the kids have a coach. What advice might you offer that particular coach?
There are a few concepts you want to get. There’s a game to be played. There are skills that need to be taught, and then there is an actual person playing the game. I always think the kids get the worst part of this whole contract. We have big ideas for them. We put a lot of stress on them. The coach has an ego to build and takes the credit when they win and puts it on the athlete when they lose. I’m wondering what they get on their side of the contract? As the parent says, “I want to coach,” make the game make sense so that we can play it comfortably and calmly. Teach them what the object of the game is. Teach them the skills to play it and teach them that the effort they put into developing those skills is the reward. That’s the life changing event.
Teach the kids the skills to play and teach them that the effort they put into developing those skills is the reward.
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The fact that you can cradle a lacrosse ball or shoot hockey puck or basketball, later in life it won’t matter. What you do to achieve those skills, that is what’s going to matter later in life. While we’re developing skills, teach them why we’re developing them. If we’re going to run them and grow their fitness, we’re not punishing them with that. We’re teaching them that this is part of how you play it and achieve your goals. Make the game makes sense. Teach them why they’re doing it because they always want to know why they’re putting the effort in. Teach them that the short term rewards should stay in place of joy, that they should do all this and feel joy in the end. Lots of times we say, “What do you want the goal to be at the end?” “We want to win.”
Yes, we do want to win. That’s the objective, but I challenge them and say, “You really might want the feelings that come from winning, so let’s try to accomplish those feelings in every part of this game.” Another question you ask your athletes are, “Does it feel best when you’ve had your best game? Did anybody ever have your best game? How does that feel?” They say, “It feels great.” “How about your worst game? Maybe you were sick, you weren’t feeling well, you didn’t give, you know you held something back. How’d that feel?” “That didn’t feel as good.” “Can we agree it feels the best when you’re playing your best and giving the most?” “Yes.” Let’s run all of our programming around the idea that this is all driven back to your joy. Today we might be doing some stuff that’s hard. We might be learning a skill that’s uncomfortable using your left hand or we’re going to build your body, we’re going to run. Constantly reattach why they’re doing it and bring it back to joy. When you play this game with these skills, it’ll feel a lot better. You’ll get towards your best game.
As we were talking about the parents, the coaches, the players and perhaps the fan, and I don’t know what advice we offer to the fan. They just support the team hopefully politely. I think about the business environment and the analogies. Are they much different in your opinion?
Running a team to achieve a goal of winning is core of all economics and business. You are growing an individual. They start out with certain skills that the business or the team needs. You’d love for them to stretch their boundaries and put them in a position to be able to do that. Because that’s what drives them to enjoy the experience they’re having, whether it’s in the business or on a team. They’re learning to get something for themselves and feel the meaning behind doing it with others. Team sports and developing through that becomes exactly all of our business concepts.
There’s always that moment where somebody is going to lose the game and all the emotional response that happens after the game loss. As a parent, where maybe you’re not that involved with the coaching side and you’ve got your young athlete coming home and they’ve had a bad day. What advice would you offer to that parent to help that kid work his way through and putting that adversity in the proper light?
If you asked the right question, it’s always, “How was the game?” “We lost.” You’re like, “That’s the outcome. That’s fair.” I’ll start with every kid feels a win and a loss differently. Every player, because their contributions are different. If you scored four goals and I didn’t play, we’re going to feel that win differently. What we want to attach people to is, “What was your contribution to the team today? How much effort did you give? Based on what your contribution is, how well do you think you performed?” “Not so great today. I didn’t have my best game ever.” “What’d you learn from that?” “I probably should’ve gotten some more sleep or I should’ve eaten before the game the right way,” or “I took a couple minutes off in the game.”
Teach them that you learn through those losses. They’re beautiful things. You lost but what’s the big deal? There’s going to be another game. There’s going to be another competition. You get one more battle in a game. The outcome is one feeling. It’s the final feeling of a game, but throughout the game we teach them these feelings all time. You’re in a battle, you won it, you lost it. “How’d that make you feel?” “I wish I had that back. We had a shot. It hit the post. That felt great. I ripped that thing.” The idea is talk to them about, “What’d you learn? What’d you learn in that loss?” They say, “I learned I should do better.”
I think about where you are. You finished the Breakaway Sports gig. Much like high school kids, perhaps they’re not going on to a college career, maybe not, or they’re college kids finishing their career. You think about how do you take in and couch your thought process from your sports career and apply that to the next game that you’re going to be playing, which is what you’re doing.
My season ended and I’m going into another season in the future. Season’s over. We can account how well we did, what we grew, who we met along the way, how we performed along the way, all of the things we got from it. The business, the season of running that business is over. It ended. Now I’m going to start a new season as the way I’d look at it. What do you have to do? You have to get an idea of what you want to play. You have to get an idea of what your strengths are and what brings you the most joy, passion and meaning and how you plug in and that’s working with people, picking a direction to go in that matters, solving other people’s problems and giving them value and contributing to the solution. Using your grade skill to be part of all that. Wrap that up and go in a direction. In my next season, I would like to pick a business that will allow me to do those things. I could be confident that my values, my character and my drive could make a difference in making the business or whatever direction I go a better place than it is today.
A parting advice to a business person that’s trying to succeed in a tough environment with adversity? How would you offer coaching advice to that person?
First, don’t take what you created for granted. Just like as an athlete would, don’t take minutes in the game for granted. Someone granted you that. You grew a business, pay attention to it. It’s right in front of you. The joys, the creativity, the curiosity, it’s all there. It might have gotten stale for you. Reinvest in finding that passion for that business again and finding the things that made you love it. Try to find those again. If you’re selling your business, then you should be proud of yourself that you created something of value that someone else can take and grow with. Making sure that you push the business in the right direction and reengage yourself, that’s an important thing.
One of the things that I think about the analogy for the athlete that perhaps has nine out of ten skills, and the ten skills are missing. What do you do when you’re missing a skill? You find a coach. For a lot of the businesses, in part of the function of what we try to do here is bring folks that have succeeded in the business community and can function as a coach. Phil, I appreciate you taking the time to do this again, this has been awesome and thanks so much for your time.
About Phil McCarthy
I am passionate about Athletics and the development that comes through sport. I champion Athletes, Coaches, and Parents to find their best because helping our young have positive experiences and developing a healthy approach to competing and engaging the world will have a lasting effect on our future.
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