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‘Be Better’: Inside Good Men in Sport’s Hard-Hitting Message for Men

In the face of change, one program is working to mobilize men to be a generative force for good while helping them find meaning and purpose in their lives.

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Photo credit: The Men’s Initiative

(*BFWD is a Proud Partner of FOS)

At this moment, expectations for men and the way they influence the world around them are shifting. In the face of this change, one program is working to mobilize men to be a generative force for good while helping them find meaning and purpose in their lives.

That program is Good Men in Sport.

A 30-year veteran of the sport industry, Neill Duffy made the decision to refocus his efforts and energy on the intersection of sport and purpose. In 2013, Duffy founded Purpose + Sport, which provides purpose-led advisory, commercial and engagement solutions to help sports sponsors, sports properties and sports non-profits grow and remain relevant in a rapidly changing world. Through his travels, Duffy connected with the Men’s Initiative at the University of British Columbia.

The Men’s Initiative (TMI) seeks to help men connect with their masculinity in a positive and aspirational way. TMI identified a group within society known as permission givers: Men that provide other men with permission to behave in a certain way through the way that they behave. Identifying that athletes are very notable examples of permission givers, TMI approached Duffy in 2017 to help them develop an initiative to work with athletes and others in the sport industry to help present new and healthy ways for men to connect with themselves and those around them in positive ways. This initiative became Good Men in Sport.

“With Good Men in Sport, it’s about more than just telling men to be better,” Duffy states. “This is about creating a bigger culture amongst men using sport as a platform and mobilizing men in sport to be a positive force for good.”

Good Men in Sport, led by Drs. John Izzo, David Kuhl and Duncan Shields, are currently working to achieve their goal through a few different components. The first is through working directly with athletes to teach them the awareness and the skills that they need to connect with their masculinity in a positive way. Since the organization’s inception, several prominent athletes and coaches have become champions of Good Men in Sport message, including U.S. Men’s Rugby captain Blaine Scully, NFL alums Tim Hightower and Dennis Brown, professional soccer player Amobi Okugo, and Stanford men’s soccer head coach Jeremy Gunn.

Gunn and Stanford soccer were actually at the center of Good Men in Sport’s two pilot programs – one working with the student-athletes and another with the university’s coaches – to explore the concept of what it means to be a good man, how young men’s choices affect themselves and those around them, and what can be done to further the conversation around positive masculinity.

The program consists of encouraging young male athletes and those who led them to commit to three things. The first: Reflecting on how they can be a better man. The second: Connecting with each other and establishing genuine relationships. The third: Challenging themselves and each other to be the best they can be in every aspect of life.

Reception to these pilot programs has been largely positive. The Good Men in Sport teams can soon implement programs of this nature with sports teams across the U.S. and Canada.

“There’s been huge interest both amongst the players and the coaches on the topic,” says Duffy. “I think a lot of people are very happy just to have the opportunity to explore this area in more detail. If you can have a team comprising players who are good men, the chances are that team is going to perform better. The best teams are the ones where the guys look out for each other and have each other’s backs, and that’s a big component of what the program teaches. In the college environment, especially, we’ve seen an excitement in discussing what it means for men to be most productive members of society they can be.”

As 2019 begins, Good Men in Sport continues to spread its message through partnerships with BrandForward Promundo, Enso, and the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, and has recently unveiled its new website with the first content series. In the works for Good Men in Sport are a summit, additional content series on the website, and the exploration of additional partnerships.

“To take things to the next level, we are actively looking for the right brand partners,” states Duffy. “We would love to bring Good Men in Sport and the individual different programs that we’re getting off the ground to more people by working in on conjunction with partners who are aligned with our mission.”

The content series will largely focus on athletes and coaches who want to share their stories in relation to the role and identity of men in society and culture.

“There are men who are models of positive masculinity. We want them to give more voice to that,” says Izzo.

One concept at the center of the conversation of men in sport as well as society at large is “toxic masculinity.”  A pride point for GMIS is helping those involved to understand what this idea really means.

“We tend to shy away from the idea of ‘toxic masculinity,’” Izzo says. “It’s not toxic to be competitive. It’s not toxic to be a protector. It’s not toxic to be strong or stoic. When it becomes toxic is when you let that competitiveness become the thing that overwhelms your life. We’re trying to get away from this idea that we have to destroy masculinity when, really, we want to channel it in positive ways, and help men embrace a fuller form of what masculinity can mean.”

At the center of everything Good Men in Sport has accomplished and hopes to accomplish is the idea that creating a better culture for everyone can start with this generation of males — and sport can be the impetus.

“Well over 50 percent of young men in America participate in sports at really critical junctures of their life,” Izzo states. “For that reason, we felt that it was important to reach into this world and help young athletes understand how being a good man and a good person can leave a stronger legacy than anything that they accomplish on the field or court.”

Organizations or individuals looking to get involved with Good Men in Sport as partners or to add to its voice in the conversation surrounding positive masculinity can contact the Men’s Initiative through this form.

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Miami Hurricanes Leverage Technology To Prepare For Actual Hurricanes

Teamworks helps college administrators communicate quickly and efficiently in times of crisis — exactly when it’s needed most.

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(*Teamworks is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma swept through Florida and other states along the eastern seaboard. At 350 miles wide with winds that reached 185 miles per hour, Irma was the first Category 4 storm to make landfall in Florida in more than a decade. This storm was particularly dangerous but, no matter the severity, schools and athletic departments in the southeastern United States understand that every natural disaster comes should be treated with urgency. Emergency preparedness plans are vital for these institutions to promote safety and mitigate damage when it arrives.

The Hurricanes were ready for the weather system from which they took their name. In August 2017, UM partnered with Teamworks department-wide, making Teamworks part of daily life for athletes to connect with their team. In times of emergency, UM coaches and administrators can leverage the app to send mass messages and users can find up-to-date contact information for staff and student-athletes from any device. That ease of communication could save lives.

In the weeks prior to the storm, UM’s staff realized that accounting for all student-athletes and staff would be crucial. So when early weather reports indicated the true severity of Irma, they set to work plugging all of their student-athletes and staff members into the system.

READ MORE: Mississippi State Volleyball Camps Run Efficiently While Building for the Program’s Future

“We had agreed that summer to go completely across the board with Teamworks as a department,” recalls UM deputy athletic director and chief operations officer Jenn Strawley. “We were in the process of uploading all the information and being able to use it as a communications mechanism across the board when Irma was coming through. Through Craig Anderson’s leadership and the assistance of the wonderful folks at Teamworks, we were able to get that done.”

It proved vital when Irma arrived. Every student-athlete’s contact information was stored in the database. UM then had a way of communicating effectively and quickly with all of them when the storm made landfall. Administrators made the decision to temporarily cancel classes and home athletic events while giving the order for campus to evacuate. By strategically utilizing all communication tools at their disposal, they were also able to ensure student and staff safety. Each student-athlete could easily respond, letting their coaches and administrators know that they were safe. While the university itself sustained some physical damage, every student-athlete and staff member was safe and accounted for following the storm.

Administrators devised a plan of evacuation and were able to send it to each evacuee instantly. UM organized all of their contacts into groups, including a group of student-athletes and staff members who were evacuated from campus. Several dozen student-athletes and staffers did not have a safe place they could quickly evacuate to of their own accord. For that reason, UM offered them transportation to and housing in Orlando.

Each athletic team also was in its own group within the app, all executive staff were in a group, all coaches were in a group, and all student-athletes were in a group. UM gave all constituents the power to keep tabs and check in on one another during the emergency.

“Having all these people in the system meant we could deliver messaging in whatever groups we needed to with the most effective way (either email or text message), which enabled us to get to folks as quickly as we needed to,” says Strawley. “It gave us a mechanism for student-athletes to respond that they were safe. We were able to go team by team and sport by sport and ensure that all of our people were safe once the storm passed. We could then actually put together a report that said each of our student-athletes and staff were accounted for.”

For the future, coaches and administrators are able to add new athletes to the system so that they can be easily reached and kept in the loop. This way, when the next emergency arises, getting everyone to safety is significantly easier.

College athletics is not simply about wins and losses. Coaches and administrators have a responsibility to be sure that student-athletes are safe and looked out for in times of crisis. Ultimately, good communication and a little help from Teamworks allowed the Miami Hurricanes to do this during this particularly harrowing chapter in the school and city’s history.

To learn more about how Teamworks helps empower the sports world’s best, visit Teamworks.com today.

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How Niagara University Prepared A Ticket Rep For Her First Full-Time Job

Niagara University’s sport management program helped Tara Hanson land a job in her dream career field and taught her valuable skills along the way.

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(*Niagara University is a Proud Partner of FOS)

The master of science in sport management program at Niagara University gives students the opportunity to take the next step in their sport industry career. Many a Niagara graduate have even received the skills and training they need to land their first full-time role in their chosen subsection of the sports industry.

This was the case for 2018 graduate Tara Hanson, now an account executive for group sales at the Memphis Redbirds, an MiLB affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Hanson has been at her current position for almost two months after graduating from Niagara in December. Her graduation lined up perfectly, timing-wise, to pursue a dream career in baseball.

“Right before graduation I was trying to put my name and my resume out there as much as possible,” Hanson recalls. “So I applied to a few listings online, and Memphis was one of the first ones that got back to me. They seemed very interested in me, and I liked the atmosphere. I got a really good feeling from the team.”

Hanson grew up immersed in sports and was a college softball player in her undergraduate career at Shepherd University in West Virginia.  A career in sports was a natural next step.

“I couldn’t imagine not working in either baseball or golf after growing up and being around those two sports all of the time,” Hanson says.

Hanson was recruited to play golf at Niagara out of high school but decided to play and study elsewhere at the last minute. She kept tabs on the sport management Master’s program, however, and reached out to Niagara’s faculty shortly after her undergraduate career ended.

“I could tell that they really cared about their students,” Hanson says. “So I decided that I had to give it a chance and see what they had to offer.”

Hanson believes Niagara helped her grow as a professional thanks to individual attention from the faculty and on-the-job learning opportunities the program afforded her access to.

READ MORE: Niagara University Prepared Chris Norman for a Role With the UFC

“I got a lot out of the program thanks to the small class sizes. All the professors involved in the program were very hands-on,” Hanson says emphatically. “I got an opportunity to intern with the Iowa Cubs last summer thanks to some encouragement from the faculty, and that was a great experience. I also had a part-time position in the box office with the Buffalo Bills through a partnership that the university had with the team.”

Now a full-time employee in Memphis, Hanson looks forward to continuing to grow in her new role.

“I’m just trying to learn as much as possible, and everybody here at the Redbirds has been so accommodating when it comes to that. I ask a lot of questions, and they have answered every one so far. I’ve already learned so much in the short time that I’ve been here.”

An approachable personality is a key element to success in the sales world. Hanson says she is friendly by nature she, but also credits Niagara for helping develop that quality even further.

“Niagara definitely heightened my personable nature in that they really helped me understand how important it is to have that within the sports industry,” Hanson says. “Niagara helped prepare me for the nuances of the sport industry and how it differs from the rest of the business world.”

Ultimately, Hanson believes her experience at Niagara helped her start her career off on the right foot, and recommends the master’s program highly to anyone considering a graduate education specific to sports.

“When it comes to Niagara, you can’t beat how much they care,” she says. “I was only there for a year-and-a-half, but I feel like I got more attention and guidance than from any other teacher or professor that I have had in my life. I still chat with some of my professors now from time to time. I wouldn’t trade the connections that I made there for the world.”

For more information on Niagara’s Master of Science in Sport Management program, visit the website. Also consider attending Graduate Studies Spring 2019 Open House on Thursday, April 4, 2019.

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INFLCR and USA Today’s IMAGN Team Up to Deliver Content to the Hands of Athletes

The goal of the partnership is to give athletes real-time access to high-quality content on their mobile devices.

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Jim Cavale (Left) and Bruce Odle (Right) shortly after signing their new agreement.

(*INFLCR is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

Mario Balotelli set the Internet on fire last week when he took to Instagram to celebrate his goal.

Just over 16 years since Joe Horn brought out a cell phone in celebration, Balotelli’s move showcased how both technology and athlete’s leverage has changed.

INFLCR and IMAGN (part of the USA Today network) hope to take advantage of this trend.

Thanks to a new partnership between the two, INFLCR clients will be able to have access to national media content in an on-demand format.

For INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale, the deal represents the continued evolution of the 18-month-old company and an opportunity to empower its growing athlete user network that includes the likes of future pro athletes like Josh Allen and Zion Williamson. This deal allows INFLCR to engage these athletes from the time they are in school to all the way to when they take the field or court for their professional careers.

“Many of the athletes that are using the platform to access internally-curated content produced by our client schools, are going to go on to play their sport professionally,” said Cavale. “We want to make sure that we continue to have a relationship with them through delivering national media of their pro career, and this partnership with IMAGN allows us to do just that.”

Read More: How 3 Prospects Grew Their Personal Brands off the Field Before the NFL Combine

Not only is the deal about the future, it’s about the present, too.  The combined forces of the two companies give athletic departments more resources at their disposal, something that Blake James, athletic director for INFLCR client University of Miami, sees as a bonus for both his staff and Miami’s student-athletes.

“Possessing the editorial rights to national media content in an on-demand format both during and immediately after our athletics events is a big value-add for our team staff and student-athletes to access through INFLCR and share to their social media channels in real-time,” James said.

Although the two parties just recently announced the partnership, some athletes and clients have already had the chance to see what it can do in action.

For example, at this year’s NFL Combine, 136 of the competing athletes leveraged the partnership to download and post more than 300 total pieces of content shot by IMAGN and delivered in personalized galleries through the INFLCR app. This will continue for the more than 2500 INFLCR college athlete users as they ascend to the professional ranks.

One of those athletes was Jarrett Stidham, the former Auburn quarterback and NFL Draft hopeful who has used INFLCR since his sophomore season at Auburn

Stidham, who used the platform in college, sees it as an opportunity not only for him but also for other players to truly own the moment when it comes content around their games and competitions.

“These are moments that we work really hard for and we want these moments captured,” Stidham said. “Whether it’s the last touchdown in the Iron Bowl or whatever it may be, being able to capture certain moments and being able to share certain moments is what it’s all about. Going into the pros and being able to have this at the swipe of my finger is so convenient.”

Like Cavale, Stidham and James, IMAGN President Bruce Odle sees the partnership as a way to solve one of the bigger problems in what he calls a “broken system.”

“Because of the explosion of social media, the interest of athletes to post images of themselves in a performance context is high, but there are no easy or legitimate means for them to do it,” Odle said. “Many athletes end up scraping an image published on a website somewhere, opening them up for a copyright infringement liability and ultimately not giving the photographer credit for their work.”

Odle has been a longtime advocate for a solution like INFLCR, and for years, believed that IMAGN was just one piece of the puzzle away from having something that not only athletes could take advantage of but celebrities too. He believes INFLCR is that missing piece.

“To make this work, there are two elements. There is the platform and there is the content,” he said. “If you can connect the dots in a way that is intentional and a way that will help both parties, everyone will benefit from the process.”

While Cavale sees the opportunity as an evolution of the business, Odle views the partnership as something created by the shift in media attention from linear channels to social accounts on platforms controlled by the athletes and influencers themselves.

READ MORE: SEC Powerhouses Use Tech to Help Student-Athletes Build Their Brand

And while it might be a shift, being able to play by the rules will prove pivotal for future success.

“Social media platforms have enabled all consumers to be their own personal publisher by creating an ecosystem that is akin to a publishing environment,” said Odle. “That doesn’t mean they can’t follow the rules. Thanks to this deal, we are giving people, specifically athletes the opportunity to play by the rules while leveraging the amount of content we have.”

Just like we’ve evolved from a phone call on a flip phone to a video celebration posted on IG, INFLCR and IMAGN hope that they can deliver a solution that brings an industry from stolen images with watermarks to high-quality, on-demand content.

(*INFLCR is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

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