Leadership: Featured Writer Blogs
Tuesday Takedown: Feeling The Bang With Diamond Dallas Page
by Dennis Van Milligen April 2014
Age Wave CEO Ken Dychtwald delivered the first keynote presentation at last year's Athletic Business Conference & Expo in San Diego. The theme of his inspiring talk was embracing active aging, as well as the wellness revolution. He began his presentation by telling the audience of 2,500 plus the story of Arthur, a former Army paratrooper who had been injured during the Gulf War. Too many jumps had taken its toll on Arthur's back and knees, and for the past 15 years, he had been told by medical "experts" that he would never walk unassisted again. In his inspirational video watched by more than 10 million people (and embedded below), Arthur describes himself as a 47-year-old disabled veteran who had given up. He couldn't walk. He couldn't run. He had no hope until he reached out to one person: Diamond Dallas Page.
Recently, I spoke with Diamond Dallas Page, the man who transformed himself from high school basketball star to nightclub manager to wrestling world champion to fitness guru. Truly, there are very few out there like DDP, but there are millions out there depending on DDP. As the inventor of DDPYoga — a workout he describes as "cardio that dramatically increases your flexibility and core strength, all with minimal joint impact" — DDP has become one of the poster boys in Ken Dychtwald's aforementioned wellness revolution, inspiring millions around the world to never give up.
DDP's journey to fitness guru started when he was 12 years old. He was hit by a car and was told he could no longer play hockey or football. He was advised to play basketball. "Back then, according to doctors, basketball wasn't a contact sport even though there's more wear and tear on your knees than any other sport," Page says. Despite his impressive size — Page stands 6 feet, 4 inches — he struggled at the sport. But two words drove Page to succeed: work ethic. Page was the first guy to arrive and the last guy to leave, and his commitment translated into honorable mention All-American honors at Ocean County Junior College in New Jersey, where he average 23 points and 13 rebounds per game. "They let me play a sport, which I sucked at. But I worked my butt off, and I think that's where I really understood what work ethic could bring."
By his early 20s, DDP was managing nightclubs while trying to break into the wrestling business. As the years passed, DDP moved on from his dream of being a wrestler to his new dream of being a wrestling manager. He sent to the American Wrestling Association a tape that he shot with guys who wanted to be wrestlers. Ultimately, he received a call from Paul Heyman, formerly known as Paul E. Dangerously, telling Page he was looking for guys that could talk and had a lot of energy. He was looking for DDP. He followed his wrestling dream to WCW and officially put his nightclub career behind him. He flourished in the promotion, but ultimately it was determined by management that, between the hair and girls and diamonds, he might be a little too over the top as a manager. "They said 'We should've given you a pair of tights and boots and seen what you could do.' Then they laughed and walked away," says Page. He, too, walked away. Right to the Power Plant, a training ground for would-be professional wrestlers.
Page was the oldest person training there by at least 10 years, but the man who overcame dyslexia and ADD at the age of 30 wasn't going to give up. "I just worked harder than anybody there," he says. "It was just persistence. Never giving up." At the age of 35, Diamond Dallas Page officially became a professional wrestler and became an immediate hit with fans with his finishing move, the Diamond Cutter, and his inspirational catch-phrases, such as "Feel the bang!" and "Self high-five!"
At the top of his career, DDP blew his back out. And like Arthur, there were many who told him he could never do something he loved again. "Three back specialists — the best — told me my career was over." On top of that, DDP had a lot of scar tissue in his knees and shoulders from previous surgeries. At the suggestion of his now ex-wife Kimberly, he tried yoga. He felt the difference, but the man with the dynamic personality needed something that fit his personality more. Enter dynamic resistance training. "I'm a weightlifter, but I couldn't lift any weights at the time, so I started doing certain moves longer and in sets, and I realized that my heart is getting jacked up doing this," says Page. "That's when I realized the power of dynamic resistance, which is the flexing or engaging of muscles as you move from one position to another."
It was then that DDPYoga was unofficially born, and that training got DDP back into the ring in only three months. And shortly after that, at 43 years old, he became the World Heavyweight Champion. No one was laughing now. Today, DDP travels around the country hosting bootcamps and workshops he describes as "Inspiration meets perspiration." Millions of Diamond Dallas Page and DDPYoga fans out there are using DDP's inspiration to create their perspiration. And for that, they have all proudly earned a self high-five.
To learn more about DDPYoga, visit ddpyoga.com.
Tuesday Takedown: College Search Firm Business Booming
by Dennis Van Milligen April 2014
The University of South Florida thought it had its new men's basketball in Steve Masiello, but an inconsistency uncovered during a background check determined the Manhattan College coach had lied on his resume about graduating from the University of Kentucky. He had already signed a five-year deal with USF when the contract was voided after the discrepancy was discovered. (In an interesting twist, Manhattan opted to keep Masiello but only if he completed his undergraduate degree.) The Masiello fiasco at South Florida briefly threw the spotlight on the practice of resume manipulation or embellishment, something most commonly associated with University of Central Florida head football coach George O'Leary. In 2001, he resigned as the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame after five days after admitting to falsifying parts of his athletic and academic background on his resume. But in South Florida's case, the focus quickly shifted from resume impropriety to the common practice of using third-party search firms to help fill administrative and coaching vacancies — and the alarming amounts of money being given to these search firms.
Third-party hiring firms have been growing in popularity in recent years with experts estimating that as many as half of the athletic administration vacancies in Division I are filled with the help of third-party consultants. Of note, back in 2007, then University of Washington president Mark Emmert hired a consultant to replace his athletic director that had quit. The search cost the university $75,000, but the consultant, Dan Parker, ultimately found the right person for the job: Washington's interim AD, and a longtime friend of Parker's. Parker and Emmert would go on to work together in the NCAA as Parker helped fill at least a dozen executive level positions once Hemmert took over as the president of the NCAA. In an interesting twist, Parker also played a role in the Rutgers scandal, handling the hiring of new athletic director Julie Hermann. Already reeling from a player-abuse scandal involving the men's basketball coach, Parker failed to uncover incidents of player verbal abuse while Hermann was at the University of Tennessee.
But the business of third-party search firms is getting even bigger in terms of the expenses involved with this process, especially when it comes to filling high-profile coaching voids. South Florida gave $60,000 to executive search firm Eastman & Beaudine to find its new basketball coach, and on paper, Masiello certainly looked like a great hire. The 36-year-old coach had nearly lead Manhattan to a first-round upset of Louisville in the NCAA tournament less than one month earlier. But that money is mere pennies compared to what the Texas Longhorns paid to find their new football coach. To fill the football coaching void left by the retirement of Mack Brown, the University of Texas paid executive search firm Korn/Berry International $266,990 to handle the research and screening process. Oddly enough, Colorado State of all colleges outspent the Longhorns. In 2011, Colorado State paid search firm Spencer Stuart $320,000 to hire its new football coach, Jim McElwain, in 2011. But most universities, including South Florida and Colorado State, don't have the financial muscle that the Texas athletics department does with athletic operating expenses approaching $147 million.
Discretion during the vetting process is a key reason college athletic directors utilize the services of a search firm, and the extensive background and security checks conducted by these firms dig up information others potentially could not. Ultimately, it was that in-depth background check that doomed Masiello at South Florida. Opponents of this practice, though, wonder why these ADs don't utilize internal resources to do the same job for significantly less? After all, the candidates they are identifying aren't exactly under-the-radar options. In the case of Texas, Charlie Strong was one of the hottest coaching names out there. Masiello was another popular name in men's basketball, as well. Opponents also argue that hiring the coaching staff is one of the AD's core job responsibilities, and it's a big reason why many ADs are compensated so well.
But the reality is that, looking from the outside in, no one understands the full responsibility of the collegiate athletic director better than the athletic director and university president. There are significant challenges and responsibilities that come with this high-profile position. Investing in third-party search firms and empowering these organizations to act as middle man, while costly, saves a significant amount of time and headaches while flying under the media radar, which in turn protects both the AD and the university against any potential backlash should there be any misstep throughout the process.
Blog: Wine at the Gym? I’ll Drink to That
by Emily Attwood April 2014
Cardio equipment? Check. Towel service? Check. Group exercise schedule? Check. Liquor license? Pending.
Security In Spotlight at 2014 Boston Marathon
by Dennis Van Milligen April 2014
"Watched my dad come up Boylston as I stood outside the Lenox Hotel. We high fived as he passed and then once he made it down to the finish area I turned around to walk back to Ring Street to try make my way to the meeting area. First explosion happened within seconds of turning around. People screamed and a few around me yelled to "Stay calm." It was so crowded where I was standing no one really got anywhere before the second blast. At that point, it was crazy, I got pushed into the alley way and everyone around me was knocked to the ground. Since we were between the two blasts it wasn't clear which way to run. I went toward Exeter and jumped the barricade to get off Boylston and to search for my dad as quickly as possible."
Tuesday Takedown: Rioting Is The Real March Madness
by Dennis Van Milligen April 2014
I am proud to call Madison, Wis. my home away from home. Despite being based in the Chicago area, I have had the pleasure of spending many weeks over the past nine months in Madison at AB Media headquarters. The office is located approximately one mile from the beautiful University of Wisconsin campus. Needless to say, many of my co-workers bleed Badger red and now, by extension, so do I. On Monday, I walked into the office to many smiling faces after Wisconsin's thrilling overtime victory over Arizona on Saturday punched the Badgers' ticket to the NCAA Men's Final Four. But while Wisconsin experienced the thrill of victory, Arizona took the agony of defeat to a sadly familiar level.
Tuesday Takedown: Judgmental Gym Sends Wrong Message
by Dennis Van Milligen March 2014
It has been quite a week for the "Judgment Free Zone" national gym chain known as Planet Fitness, which made national headlines for being the exact opposite. Both Tarainia McDaniel and Tiffany Austin managed to wander outside that aforementioned judgment free zone recently, being told by their respective Planet Fitness gyms how they should dress.
Tuesday Takedown: Lawsuits Over Life Lessons
by Dennis Van Milligen March 2014
There is a disturbing trend that is showing no signs of slowing down: The rise of lawsuits in youth sports. Rather than focus on the important life lessons their children are learning, parents are focusing on who's to blame. Their targets are numerous: It's the referee or official not foreseeing potential player injury risks on the field; the coach that is not playing their child or is making poor decisions that are hurting the team; the league for not providing the type of venue and services expected… The list goes on and on.
News and Notes From the IHRSA 2014 Trade Show Floor
by Michael Gaio March 2014
There’s nothing like attending a good trade show, especially in the fitness industry. The equipment, the innovation, the music, the energy, the people… Whether it’s our show or IHRSA, I consider attending these shows to be one of the perks of my job.
Blog: Let Them Eat Cake, If They So Choose
by Emily Attwood February 2014
On Tuesday, the White House announced a series of new initiatives as part of the fourth anniversary of the “Let’s Move!” program. Many of them are a great step forward in the battle against childhood obesity and inactivity, including an expansion of the school breakfast program and a five-year partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association and Boys & Girls Clubs of America will provide 5 million children with healthy snacks and physical activity opportunities after school.
A Look Inside Prominent Collegiate Sustainability Efforts
by Dennis Van Milligen February 2014
In the December 2013 issue of AB, senior editor Paul Steinbach examined the growing interest in stadium and arena sustainability, citing a groundbreaking new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council in collaboration with the Green Sports Alliance and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The report, “Collegiate Game Changers,” represents the first time that sustainability efforts currently under way at collegiate sports departments have been documented. According to the report, more than 200 college sports programs (including both intercollegiate athletics and campus recreation programs) are prioritizing a greener approach, prompting Alice Henly, coordinator of NRDC’s collegiate sports work and author of the report, to declare in an NRDC press release: “College athletics and recreation programs are leading the sustainability charge.”