This morning the group visited CAA, Creative Artists Agency, where we had a sit down with Mr. Nez Balelo. When asked what the best piece of advice he had ever received was, Mr. Balelo responded with a statement from his General Manager while he was with the Atlanta Braves. “The ‘leading horse’ has clear vision of what’s in front of you, but the minute you turn back to see your competition, it will be your downfall. By keeping the blinders on you will not only stay ahead of the pack and succeed, but you will avoid slipping back to your competitors’ level in the middle.”
This anecdote is relatable for successful people in all levels of the sport industry. In order to succeed, Mr. Balelo reiterated the importance of being goal oriented and focusing on your own path rather than comparing yourself to others. He went on to explain that once you have a job, the best way to keep it and move up the ranks is to stick to your job profile. By trying to overachieve and complete work that you are not qualified to complete, you will run into trouble. Being more organized and prompt than your superiors are great ways to show your dedication. These are just a few of the important things we learned today from our conversation with Mr. Balelo.
The last statement that stuck with me from Mr. Balelo’s presentation was his belief that expanding your wings and branching out is crucial in your pursuit of a career. He concluded by stating, “I am in the position I am today because of exploring and appreciating all that is out there in the world, whether it is on a personal level or an educational one.” I would consider myself lucky to one day have the experiences that Mr. Balelo has had in his duration in the sport industry.
After we finished our discussion with Nez Balelo we walked to meet Philip J. Metz the Director of Entertainment Marketing and Talent Relations for NASCAR. Mr. Metz started us off with a promotional NASCAR video to give us some background on the sport. Through the video presentation we learned that NASCAR is the #2 rated televised sport behind the NFL in the U.S.
Mr. Metz went on to describe how his work with television and music personalities are utilized to increase exposure for the sport. Aligning with such celebrities enables NASCAR to market to urban areas and other demographics with low levels of NASCAR consumption. This method of using movies, music and television to connect with casual fans and non-consumers is known as entertainment integration.
There were a few more important pieces of information Mr. Metz taught us about the sport that set it a part from any other sport or league in the U.S. First, we learned that there is no revenue sharing system in place between NASCAR. The entirety of the ticket revenues goes to the racetracks themselves. This is used for operational costs as well as promotions and advertisements for individual races. In addition, NASCAR is unique in the way it utilizes Patriotism. The National Anthem is very important to each race and is always televised unlike in many other sporting leagues’ regular season games.
To conclude, the most interesting thing to take away from our time at NASCAR is how the sport caters to individual fans. The commonality and connections that drivers have with their fans is what drives the popularity of the sport. Whether it’s the ability for fans to walk pit row and shake their favorite driver’s hand or contact them via social media, NASCAR has excelled on the perception of “ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.”
The last stop of our day was to the UCLA campus, and more specifically the Bruins’ Hall of Fame featuring legendary basketball Coach John Wooden. Coach Wooden is known as one of the most decorated college basketball coaches, and arguably the best of all time. Although his accomplishments and the replicated display of his den setup at his old house may have seized the majority of our attention while walking the Hall of Fame, the school’s total of 108 NCAA team championships are impossible to overlook. Whether it was the wall of alumni that participated on U.S. Olympic teams, the wall featuring the Hall of Fame Inductees, the 15 combined male and female water polo championships, or Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, the UCLA Hall of Fame is something that we will all remember.
After taking a tour of the Hall of Fame we were fortunate enough to have our tour guide Bill Bennett set up a meet and greet with former UCLA Bruin and NBA veteran Keith Erickson. Mr. Erickson played for 12 years in the NBA as well as two seasons under Coach Wooden. In his time at UCLA, Erickson won two national championships in 1964 and 1965. The memories that Mr. Erickson shared with us about his time with Coach Wooden will be an unforgettable experience for us all.
It would be impossible for me to truly justify the entirety of what we learned through our time with Mr. Erickson, however sharing a few sound bytes of our experience would undoubtedly clarify the value of our encounter.
From Coach Wooden’s organized and meticulous practice strategies, to his humorous interaction with player personalities such as Bill Walton, Erickson illustrated what made Wooden such an impactful person both on and off the court. Erickson helped to justify this statement made by Bill Walton, “He wasn’t just teaching us about basketball, he was teaching us about life.” The former Bruin could not help from smiling retelling some of the values that Coach Wooden instilled in him and how he wished as a young college kid that he took more of his coach’s words to heart. Faith. Family. Friends. The 3 values that Coach Wooden lived by and made his players live by.
Following an hour conversation with Mr. Erickson we were shown a documentary that was created about Coach Wooden for his funeral memorial service. This film touched the hearts of each of us in the room. There are many things that can be taken away from the film, but I will leave you with the two words that Coach Wooden saw as the most important in the English language. Love and Balance. If you live by these words and make the best of each and every day, you will be successful.
I will close with this final statement by Coach John Wooden at age 95 that demonstrates that age is only a number, “I want to be a better man tomorrow than I am today.” With the way that Coach Wooden lived his life to the day that he died at nearly 100 years of age, it seems crazy to think that he was still in the mindset of forward-thinking. This leads me to believe, with the amount of knowledge we obtained through our endeavors today on only the second full day of our trip, how could we possibly get better tomorrow? I think I can speak for the entire group when I say; we are all looking forward to the answer to that question.