Show Up in Sports and in Life
With so much still up in the air for the world of sports, I recently reflected on when I first entered the industry almost five years ago, and the comparable amount of uncertainty that existed for me back then as well. In any normal year, many powerhouse college football programs would already be back on campus for workouts, and NFL teams would be getting ready for preseason and training camps; however, 2020 is anything but normal, and there’s still five more months left in the year, so who knows what will happen. For a small percent of college standouts, the NFL is a very real next step, and that journey begins with the NFL Combine held every February in Indianapolis, Indiana. This event holds a dear place in my heart, not only because it’s where months of hard work is put to the test for prospects, but it also serves as a milestone reminder for how far my company has come in the past five years.
The first time I attended the Combine, I was the definition of a little puppy. Other than knowing I was in the right place, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know anyone; and I had no agenda, nor meetings to fill my time; regardless, one thing that I was certain of was that I had a heck of a lot of drive and desire to pursue my passion.
At the time, I wasn’t fully convinced that my imposter syndrome plan of starting a branding agency for professional athletes was actually going to work, but on the other hand, what did I really have to lose? I had a college degree and I figured that if things took a turn for the worst, I could always go get a job if I needed to. And so, with this safety net reminder in the back of my head, I jumped in head first and I promised myself that if I was going to drown, I would at least do so by putting up a fight.
The Narrative Will Change
It’s one thing to mentally prepare yourself for what you think is going to happen, but it’s a different kind of hard when the outcome takes a very different form than what you expected. During the first couple of years when I was building LW Branding from the ground up, rejection became one of the more constant forces acting upon my efforts. I was rejected from a multitude of agents those first few years. Emails went unanswered, while others were met with a “no thanks” or “we already handle all of that in house”. Calls were unanswered, and sometimes even ended with me being hung up on. And I really struggled every single time an agent started the conversation by asking who I worked with, because although I dressed several first round NBA draft picks, my roster was not very deep. I really wanted to simply look them straight in the face and yell: ”How the heck am I supposed to sufficiently answer that question if people like you aren’t willing to give me a chance?” Instead, I put my head down and I just kept showing up. Not only did I go to the Combine, but to the NFL Draft, the NBA Draft, the Espys, the NBA All Star Weekend, and every conference, meeting, and event that I could get myself into – which sometimes took a little creativity.
I so desperately wish I had somehow documented this, but one day–probably close to three years into my efforts–the narrative started to change. Emails were returned, calls were answered, conversations were had, meetings were set, and clients were signed. Let me reiterate the timestamp — it took three years of not knowing when the tides would turn to reach a point of change. Progress takes time. Finally, in year four, I received a referral from an agent who had turned me down multiple times. This was not because he happened to remember who I was and decided I had done my time and therefore would help me. Throughout those four years, I made it a point to stay front of mind–most likely to his dismay–and make it hard for him to forget my name. Every year, I reached out hoping the response would be different, and finally it was.
“Progress takes time.”
If you can take away anything from my experience thus far I hope that it’s these two points:
- Please do not compare your day 1 to my day 1,500. Everyone has to start somewhere; commit to doing the heavy lifting early on.
- No matter what, just show up. Hustle. Figure out a way to get a seat at the table, and if there aren’t enough chairs, bring your own. Be in the rooms. Go to the events. Work a part time job to pay for flights and hotels. Do whatever you have to do, but just show up.
Thousands of players across the country–both college and professional–are working to prepare for seasons that may or may not actually take place this year. The key for them, and the key for anyone working towards realizing a goal or a dream, is that when the opportunity presents itself–when the call is made to report to camp–there will not be time to prepare; that work has to be done in the uncertainty that comes with waiting. Keep showing up now so that when the time comes to actually perform, you can show up then.