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The biggest sportmanagement mistake in small organizations

I am sure that you recognize this: A motivated group of people, most of the time headed by an amateur coach (=passionate sports lover), who runs a sports organization like a club, an after-school program or a community sports project. It always starts with just having fun, and then suddenly you want to enter a competition, travel abroad with your athletes, or perhaps affiliate to a national governing body to become eligible for funding.

You then realize that you need to have your documents (constitution, member administration, strategic plan) in order, and operate like a ‘real’ organization. The stress is reaching higher levels, because obviously there is a deadline (to travel, to enter a competition or to send your application for subsidy).

So what do you do?

What I see happening all the time, is that people reach to former athletes in that same sport. Athletes are asked to get on board, and assume the position of president, secretary or worst case the treasurer.

“It’s like asking a car mechanic to get in the board of a racecar team”

I am sure that majority of the car mechanics (with all respect) do not have a clue of management.

The fact that a former athlete had a good career on the field, does not mean that he/she has the ability to work with numbers, think strategically or do the marketing of your sports organization.

It would be of course tremendous if you can get an athlete who also have the most important characteristics of a sports administrator, but what are the chances?

There is one situation though, where it would be excellent to have a former athlete in your team. Situations where you need (public) attention for your sports or event, are ideal to attract former athletes. So you are not using any of his/her theoretical knowledge, but you are benefitting from his already established positive image. I consider this more as a temporary task, than a longterm decision in favor or the growth of your sports organization.

What do you think? Do you see any other big mistakes in sports management? I would appreciate it if you could share them in the comment section below.

Six lies Athletes like to tell

The most important rule in Sport Management is that “it is all about the athletes!”. Every single thing that you do in your sport organization should benefit your athletes, whether it is immediate or in the long run.

Some people, especially coaches, want their athletes to be like robots. Athletes should follow the training exactly as it was planned. They should eat as specified by the nutritionist, without of course consumption of alcohol, snacks or even (the beloved) junk food. Athletes should be nowhere in the neighborhood of parties, they should not have sex close to the competition. And where it concerns fans, athletes should always be motivated to take pictures with everybody, at any place at any time.

REALITY CHECK…….Athletes are no robots!

I am sure that 99% of the athletes do NOT like to train, and prefer to skip here and there some exercises. They LOVE to eat junk food, especially when they are travelling and their plane/train/bus has a delay. And not to speak about parties: During competitions, there are always athletes looking for the party, dragging the others with them.
With regards to popular athletes, many of them have the name of being arrogant, not taking the time for their fans….but I don’t blame them. It is no fun, if you want to do some shopping, and by the entrance of the shop there are 30 people who each want to take 2 pictures with you….day in day out!

So this makes the communication and management of athletes very interesting. Especially when you deal with kids or teenagers. Each phase of their lives has influence on their attitude, their state of mind and their actions. Being a talent on the rise makes it even more complex as there is always a chance that people want to be part of the athlete’s career, and will try to influence the athlete to their benefit. It is not the question IF this will happen, but more WHEN it will happen.

Taking all of this into account, I have noticed during my work in sports that on numerous occasions I caught athletes (in different sports) on a lie. Most of them are not so serious that it blew up, but it is always good to look out for these, so you can recognize them in similar situations.

Here we go, the 5 Lies Athletes like to tell

1. “I have an injury”

It is very easy for an athlete to fake an injury, and stay without training or without competing. Some of the reasons could be

  • Outside pressure from people (parents, scouts, big public, television)
  • Fear of losing
  • Other planned activities (wedding, party, studies)
  • Bad performance and blaming a sudden injury

2. “Nobody helps me”

During interviews athletes (or their parents) may say that nobody supports them in anyway. The main reason for this is to ask for attention, and get some additional sponsors.

It is a fact though that since the athlete is doing an interview, they have already developed to an athlete of a higher level. High enough to be interesting for the media. In most of the cases these athletes definitely already got plenty help from different people (volunteers) and even sponsors.

3. “My coach says…..”

It is easier for athletes to hide behind a coach or a manager, than to take full responsibility for their decisions. I am talking about decisions towards the choice for a sponsor, a specific competition or perhaps even a change in coach or team.

4. “My strength and Condition training is pretty good”

This one is especially heard in sports or situations where the athlete(s) self need to take care of this training. I am talking about sports like shooting, teamsports, bowling, tennis etcetera.
It is a fact that athletes in these kind of sports like the technical part more than the fundamentals. So logically their focus will not be on improving their strength and condition. They want to hide their lack of training as long as possible, and therefore will lie easy about their fitness program.

5. Doping

The use of illegal substances in order to enhance the performance is called doping. We all have seen this in sports, and it is a fact that athletes will lie about them having used any of these.

6. Age

Most of the times a younger age benefits athletes in sports like gymnastics, soccer or even baseball. This goes for athletes who are on the sub elite level, and who just need that lie about their age to perform on the highest level, or perhaps compete in a league/category of a younger age.

This is an interested article about 11 athletes who lied about their age

The most common reason for athletes is to avoid confrontation. Getting in trouble is never fun but lying to avoid it is never a good solution. When the truth comes out the athlete will feel even more uncomfortable with the situation he/she is in now.


Another common reason athletes lie is to make themselves seem “better” or more interesting. This sort of lying can be a sign of low self esteem, problems at home, or depression. It is difficult as an athlete to accept the fact that you have reached your maximum level, and consequently will never break that world record, win that medal or become so famous.

Do you know another common lie, used by athletes? Please mention them in the comment box below.

7 steps to get sponsors while you promote your athletes

The main reason why sport organizations exist SHOULD be to facilitate the athletes. I am sure that many sport administrators do not live by it, but each and everything you do, should in the long run benefit your athletes.

You may recognize this situation: One of your athletes is always coming to the training sessions, trains dedicated and just shows so much talent and focus that you know he/she is going to make it………as long as there is enough money invested in him/her. The parents may or may not be so supporting, and perhaps they don’t even have the funds to send their kid to a regional competition, or perhaps an international one. So you know that if you don’t step up, and get some good sponsoring, another talent goes wasted.

I know many examples of board members doing their utmost to get sponsors. They write letters, make numerous phone calls, and have meetings….but for some reasons the result is minimal.

Athletes do not need many words to make their passion clear

I always advise sport organizations to make use of their athletes. Athletes do not need many words to make their passion and message clear. If you talk to an athlete who really is passionate about their sports, you just feel it from their expression, the way their face lightens up when they talk about their competitions, wins or losses.
If you have never been an athlete it is just impossible to give this additional touch to the conversation with any potential sponsor. And it is just this emotion that can push the manager/director of the company in the right direction to make the decision.


So what should you do?


First, you should realize that you don’t need to have world athletes in your organization, to approach sponsors. It is all about showing potential sponsors that you deserve to have their trust, that your sportorganization is a serious one, and focused on your athletes. Neither should you focus on your best athletes in the field, as these may not be so strong communication wise. Look at your group athletes, and choose 1 or 2 athletes who are (1) dedicated to their training and (2) have some sort of a leadership position in the group. These athletes have the natural tendency already to speak up in a group, and these are exactly the ones that can help you.



Can you imagine yourself entering a bar/church/birthday party, and then handing out to everybody letters asking them for financial contributions or sponsoring. If nobody knows you, how do you think they would react……?

Exactly, 50% of them would not even open your envelop, 25% would throw away the letter after reading the first paragraph, and the other 25% wants to stay polite and says something like “don’t call us, we will call you”.

Do you think they would react differently if they already know your face, have read something about your sports or your athletes?

So before you approach sponsors, your efforts should be directed in introducing yourself, your sports organization and your athletes. You can do this either trough free publicity or paid publicity.


3. Build your database for FREE PUBLICITY

*I will only focus on free publicity, as the strategy for paid publicity is not always feasible for small sport organizations.

Instead of focusing on the internet and social media, my advice is to stick to the traditional media for free publicity. Everybody is on the internet, and it is very difficult to get noticed online if you don’t have a budget. So just open go to the nearest bookstore, and if you don’t know already, write down the names of newspapers that are published both in the Morning AND the Evening. On the websites of these newspapers you can look for email addresses, and collect them in a spreadsheet. You can do the same for Radio and Television stations. Many people leave it by this.
But there are more publications and media channels that can be of added value.

Do you know of any free newspapers that perhaps only focus on real estate or classifieds? There should also be free magazines about music, or perhaps in other languages.

Another approach is to target people who write or produce in media. I am talking about journalist, Tv hosts etcetera. These people are often freelancers, working for different media. So try to also get their email address for your database.

Your aim should be to get a big database, with correct email addresses. Do not underestimate the amount of time that goes into this, it is quite a lot. But if your database stays accurate, you will really feel the benefit of this. You can make a group of all the email addresses in your favorite email system like outlook, hotmail, gmail or yahoo.



There are whole studies dedicated to communication with the press. But I want to keep it simple, and therefore will just talk about a way how to start building your brand, by getting your sports in the press. You can choose to write long press releases about the different activities, but you will realize that this is very time consuming. And if you don’t have the time or the motivation to write, this will very quickly become your bottle neck.

So start with sending press releases about:

  1. Competitions schedules, and results
  2. About your athletes

I am sure that most of the sport organizations already cover the first one. But how many organizations inform the press about athletes who are excelling in other areas than the competition?
You can make resumes about your athletes and make them athlete of the month. Did you ever went to a fast-food restaurant where you see the picture of the employee of the month ? Let’s just copy that 😉

By starting your project “Athlete of the Month”, I can already mention 3 wins:

  1. Other sport organizations most likely do not do this, so you are being innovative and your chances of getting published in the press are getting higher
  2. Athletes feel very proud for being selected, and automatically there is an internal competition created on perhaps a more social level. You need of course to communicate the rules for this project very good, preferably on paper. Parents will also fee immensely proud of having their daughter or son in the press.
  3. Companies know the project “Employee of the Month” already, and now they read about this same project being implemented by your sport organizations…..they will remember that!


Follow the publications of your press releases closely! Make scans of the written publications, and notice which editors are giving attention to you.



When athletes reach a certain level, they automatically get introduced to some sort of a media training. They learn how to answer questions, that they don’t immediately know the answer to. How to communicate losses of a game and how to behave when a camera and light bulb is pointed to you.

Your goal should be to pick one athlete to accompany you to meetings with potential sponsors. Or they can even make phone calls for you, to follow up on letters sent previously.
Now don’t think that athletes exactly know what to do. They may even not like doing it. So you will need to train and coach them, and point out that they have that extra value that will benefit the team!

Train your athlete, as though they are going to a job interview. There is no doubt if they will get questions, so they better be good prepared to rehearse some answers.

Some questions to train:

  • Why do you like your sport?
  • What is the most difficult aspect in your sport?
  • What do you want to achieve with your sport?

The trick is not to just give a plain answer, but to answer the question in such a way that your athlete ends with the fact that your organization would really appreciate any support given.

6. CV/ Resume

Like I mentioned in the point before, you should treat the sponsorship meeting, as an interview for a job. And an important part of that is a resume….not yours (as a sport administrator), not the history of your organization but a resume of your Athlete.
It will be your Athlete’s business card, and this will once again make an impression on the company.

Instead of writing about how I think such a CV should look like, I am hereby giving you a template, free for you to use.

Athletes CV/ Resume

**Hey, you can even outsource the production of such a design for $5 on www.fiverr.com


Let’s face it, everybody in sports go after the “Big FOUR”: the Banks, the Insurance Companies, the sport Drinks and the Telecommunication companies.

Now if you open the Yellow Pages, I am sure that you see many other categories of companies. I urge you to also target those, when you mail out your sponsorship requests. For the following reasons:

  1. You compete directly with all other sport organizations when you approach sponsors. So you need to have a unique strategy and definitely don’t do what 95% already is doing. Additionally you should be aware that organizations of Art, Culture and Music most probably also are sending sponsorship requests to the same Big FOUR.
  2. I personally think it is better to have 3 medium sized sponsors, than one big one. The impact of losing one sponsor is not so big, and the future income stream is more secure.
  3. It is easier to build a relationship with the decision makers of small/medium sized companies. And it is exactly this relationship that will influence the long term sponsorship possibilities.

So I suggest to approach the “Big FOUR” but also other areas like:

  • Bakeries
  • Bars
  • Taxi companies
  • Dentists
  • Shopping Malls
  • Newspapers (!)
  • Veterinarians

So there you go…..seven ways to get sponsors while you promote your athletes. Do you have any steps to add, do you agree ….or not?
Please share your opinion in the comments below!



How to win GOLD

As a Manager in sports, I’ve now experienced twice from very close by, what it is to win a medal on a very high international sports platform. My first experience was during the Olympic Games of 2008 (Beijing-China) where Churandy Martina won the silver medal on the 200 meters Track & Field. It was very unfortunate though that after the race it seemed that he stepped on the line and then was disqualified. Nevertheless his preparation was optimal, and we knew on forehand how close he would get to an Olympic medal, as we had taken care of all pieces of the puzzle.

Churandy on the left finishing 2nd on the 200m at the Olympics 2008










Since the 10th of October 2011, I’ve been in the Mexican city Guadalajara, where the Pan American Games are being organized. With more than 6000 athletes, this is the second largest multisport event after the Summer Olympic Games. Last Saturday was a very good day for us, as our cyclist Marc de Maar won the golden medal in the road competition.

Me together with Marc & the Golden Medal

I will not go into details about the race itself, but would like to look at the mental preparation of the athletes. Although the sports Track & Field and Cycling cannot be compared, I can conclude however that both athletes Churandy and Marc showed extreme forms of confidence during the days before their competition. There was something very relaxed, but also decisive in their attitude.
It is difficult to indicate exactly what the most important factor in their mental preparation was, but I think it all comes down in knowing yourself as an athlete.

You just have to know before the competition in what state you are (1) , and in what state you need to be (2) in order to perform at the best level. The third important factor is that as an athlete you need to have certain tools which enable you to get from one state to the other.

I am absolutely sure that majority of athletes don’t have the ability to analyze themselves and to be their own mental coach. You can have the best and most expensive team of experts around you, but when the moment is there, you are the only one who can influence yourself. So you better be prepared!

I noticed before the race that Marc isolated himself and just sat in our tent, listening to his iPod. I decided then to ask him after the race what he was listening to. During the dinner celebration, Marc told me that before a race he normally listens to rock music, but this time he felt a bit overactive and nervous and therefore decided to listen to Chopin…….

On the highest level of sports the mental preparation is the deciding factor.

But athletes shouldn’t wait until they get to that level to start with learning about this. Kids should be taught the different strategies and tools, from an early age, whether they are in sports or not, as it will only benefit them as a person on the long run.

I recently stumbled upon this online program “Mental Toughness Training for Youth Athletes” developed by Craig Sigl, who has more than 30 years experience as a coach.

He knows that nowadays it is not easy to get kids to read a book, and therefore he offers an 8 week online program, with audio and video that the athletes can download on their phones, ipads and ipods.

The training series are specifically designed to boost the athlete’s confidence, improve their performance and eliminate any issues that hold them back in their sport.

Athletes need to build their “mental muscle” so they can…

  • handle big game pressure
  • bounce back from errors and tough breaks
  • focus on what’s important and block out everything else
  • believe in themselves no matter what

If you want more information on the program you can just click on this link.

After registration you will receive all information by email, and you will get access to the program for only $12 per week (Total $97). But only after getting the first 10 days for free.

Click here for more information

I would appreciate it if you could share your experience with mental preparation for athletes. Is it overrated? Do you think they need it at a young age?

You can leave your contribution in the comment box below.

Andre Agassi – Autobiography


Tennis is a sport, I’ve never really learned to play properly. The reason for this is the fact that I played a lot of badminton, and the badminton (pols) technique is the opposite what they teach you in tennis. That’s the reason why I always was more a passive tennis lover, looking at the top games and grand slams on television. Andre Agassi (born April 29, 1970) is one of my all-time favorites, as I liked his rebellious look, with the long hear and the earring. I recently read his book “Open” which is a fantastic title, as it refers to the “Open tennis tournaments” as well as to the Open way of telling about his life, from a young age towards his twenty year career as a professional tennis player.


Father Mike Agassi, an immigrant from Iran, was a great influence in Andre’s life. During the search for a home in the state of Las Vegas, Mike Agassi seemed only interested in the size of the back yard…..to build a tennis court for his children. It was Andre who he ultimately focused on, and from the age of seven father Mike trains Andre every day, with the self built ball machine nicknamed “The Dragon”.

Andre feels a deep hate towards the game of tennis, but cannot prevent that his father sends him at the age of 13 to the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. This was only for three months as the family couldn’t pay for a longer period. Andre was hoping to go back home as soon as possible, as he hated the academy, the militaristic environment and even going to school. Once the owner Nick Bollettieri however noticed his talent, Andre was given a free pass to stay at the academy at no costs. This was the moment when Andre started to rebel, smoking weed, drinking whiskey and getting his rebellious Mohawk. He told the stylist “I want it high, and I want it spiky. Then dye it pink”.

When Andre wins a panda bear at an amusement park, this seems to be a turning point for him at the tennis academy. His coach Nick Bollettieri wants this panda so bad for his daughter, that he lets Andre blackmail him for wildcards, big tennis tournaments and even no more school.

The love-hate relation between Agassi and tennis remains, but he manages to get along with his coach and in 1986, at the age of 16, he lost a final but still was entitled to get a check of $1,100……that’s when he turned a professional tennis player. The next day he negotiates together with his brother Philly a two year deal with NIKE of $20,000 and $25,000 the second year.

The autobiography takes you through the whole range of yearly international tennis tournaments and gives intimate details about Andre’s relationship with his closest friends, Philly (brother), Perry (Best friend and later manager) his first wife Brooke Shields and Gil Reyes (fitness trainer), but also with other tennis players like Boris Becker and Pete Sampras (the one who Andre seemed to have the most difficulties winning from).

Gil Reyes didn’t only play a father figure, but was also a true confidant, and they shared together a love for hamburgers. “Gil is the reason why I’ve won more Slams after the age of 29 than I did before”. In 2001 Andre named his child Jaden Gil Agassi.

It is until the end of his career (2006) and after his two year marriage with Brooke Shields that Agassi gets to find himself. He starts the “Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy” which is a 26,000-square-foot education complex with a $40 million campus for 500 students, and a waiting list of more than 500. It is a tuition-free charter school for at-risk children in the Las Vegas area, and ironically there is a uniform policy, something Andre Agassi hated in his younger years.

With help of his coaches he finally gets in contact with Steffi Graf, who at that time is in a relationship. They got married and got two children. In the period that they started dating, Agassi tells Graf how he basically hates tennis; she replied “Of course, doesn’t everybody?”…

If you click on the cover above, you will be redirected to AMAZON Bookstore for more information on the autobiography

Elite athletes

I recently had a meeting with a marketing professional about the setup for a promotional campaign for elite athletes. I was namely in search of a professional agency to promote a rather unknown athlete, and to ultimately have him to become a real public figure. During this meeting, the gentleman however said something quite remarkable. He said that “only talented athletes can reach the top”… Right there I knew that our opinions were too different to work together in this campaign. The reason for this is that I find that one should develop (or make) elite athletes. Somebody with a (raw) talent only, will never make it.

I will take this even further….most of the talented athletes will not even make it to the elite status. Simply because they don’t have the capacity to squeeze the best out of themselves.

Let me just mention three of the so many aspects, that are important for an athlete to make it to the top.


The most important thing is that athletes should have fun during practicing their sport. This goes of course for any level, from the very grass roots to the elite level. Some of the athletes will lose the feeling of fun and motivation, if they are in a period of intense training and competition. It is then the job of the coach, parents and the rest of the team to remind the athletes about the fun of their particular sport.


Commitment is doing what we say we will do, long after the mood passed, when we felt the excitement to do it. As an athlete one should make him or herself the promise to never…ever quit. All of us know the feeling of losing commitment, like in January of each year, when we promise ourselves to stop smoking, go to the gym or go on a diet. Do you recognize this?


During all those weeks, months and years of training, elite athletes should have the ability to be consistent during their training, competitions, and even during the holidays. It takes blood sweat and tears to become an elite athlete, and this will take its time. Getting to that top international level is more like running a marathon, instead of a short distance sprint.

Like I said before, talent is not enough. I have seen athletes without talent improving better than the athletes born with a talent. As long as you can focus on “Fun, Commitment & Consistency”, you can beat the talented athletes. This goes especially for athletes practicing individual sports.

Elite athletes






Now, let’s extrapolate this to sports management. There are administrators with talents for organization, fundraising of even finances, but if they lack the 3 mentioned aspects, they will be the weakest link of their sport organization. I bet you that the volunteers that perhaps don’t have the educational background, but are committed, consistent and like their administrative job, will outperform everybody. Look around you, do you see any examples?