Tag Archives: sports

When Pro Athletes Evolve from Sports to Business

Every professional athlete knows his playing days will eventually come to an end. Most try to put that conclusion off as long as possible, but former Jacksonville Jaguars’ Pro-Bowl linebacker Paul Posluszny freely chose to retire in April of 2018. Despite the Jaguars nearly making it to the Super Bowl three months previously — they lost to the New England Patriots by four points in the AFC Championship — Posluszny knew his own playing days were over.

The 34-year-old father of two holds high standards—he has won many awards and was even named to the Pro Bowl in 2013—so he was not content with merely remaining on a roster. “After the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, I knew my career as a professional athlete was complete. I didn’t want that to be true, but my body had reached a point that I could no longer function at a level I would find acceptable to play in the NFL.”

Posluszny’s high standards, along with his longtime interest in aviation, led him to start flight training in 2013, long before his athletic career wound down. The Pittsburgh-area native knew he would have to move on from the game at some point, so started learning how to fly a plane even at the height of his personal success in football. It was at his flight training that he met the Malone family, who owns Malone Air Charter. The company, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is where Posluszny is currently being trained as an airplane mechanic.

STARTING AGAIN

“Aviation is my passion,” Posluszny said, “so I want to learn all aspects of the industry, starting with the planes themselves, and then moving into corporate management and decision-making skills.” He plans to pursue an MBA, starting in the fall of 2019, at one of three schools—the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, or Carnegie Mellon University—to add to his aviation experience and his undergraduate finance degree from Penn State University.

While Posluszny wants to make a positive impact in the aviation industry, he is not sure of the specifics once graduate school is completed. In the meantime, he is enjoying the learning process and using the same general philosophy that worked for him in football: faith in God, hard work, and servant leadership.

“Father Andy Blaszkowski, who offered Mass for the Jaguars’ players and other team personnel, would talk about servant leadership.” Posluszny said. Jesus, the greatest servant leader ever, did not come to be served, but to serve, and Posluszny recommends that contribution centered mentality in order to be successful in any endeavor.

Posluszny has found his current workplace to share the same values he heard Father Blaszkowski emphasize. “The corporate culture of the Malone family is deeply rooted in the principles of servant leadership, humility, and integrity. They are a truly outstanding family, and the Christian principles of hard work, honesty, and helping others is prevalent throughout the organization.” 

TENDING A NEW FIELD

Former professional baseball player Bobby Keppel has also been able to carry his Catholic faith and sports industry experience into a new field of work. What most players would consider a heartbreaking setback, Keppel took as a simple transition out of baseball and into landscaping. The ground work for his ability to peacefully accept the unforeseen event was laid many years previously, as he had been taught to put family before personal ambition.

In the year 2000 as a senior at De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis, Missouri, Keppel was selected by the New York Mets in the first round of the MLB draft. He worked his way through the minor leagues and made his MLB debut with the Kansas City Royals in 2006. He then played for the Colorado Rockies and Minnesota Twins before lending his skills to a Japanese team for four years. By the spring of 2014, he was more than ready to become a starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.

Then the unexpected happened.

Bobby’s father, Curt, who was battling cancer, called and asked his son if he could come back to St. Louis to help run the family’s landscaping business, Mid-America Lawn Maintenance. Because the company’s contracts are year-to-year and most of its workers are seasonal, selling the business as a whole was not an option. The only other option was dismantling the business and selling off its equipment.

 RETURNING TO HELP DAD

Most players would have found it extremely difficult to choose between living their Major League dream and coming home to help the family business. However, Keppel was sure what he wanted to do. “I knew that family comes first, even before big career advancement that had taken years to secure. I wouldn’t have been in the position I was in for 2014 spring training had it not been for my father. He helped me out in countless ways through the years, so when he needed my help, I was happy to give it,” Keppel explained.

The right ordering of human interaction, or subsidiarity, is a big theme for Keppel, one that he recently addressed at a men’s conference at St. Joseph Church in Cottleville, Missouri. The father of seven emphasized to the men present that there is a distinct hierarchy that should determine who receives the most attention from them. He explained: “Of course, God is most deserving of our attention, but after Him, a man’s wife should be his first priority, followed by his children, other family members, neighbors, fellow parishioners, and then business associates.”

RUN BUSINESS BY PUTTING IT LAST 

Keppel does not think this order is detrimental to running a business well. On the contrary, he believes it is the proper philosophy for productivity and happiness. “These days you sometimes hear people say their jobs do not ‘fulfill’ them. I think they have it backward. We shouldn’t look to our jobs for obtaining happiness; we should bring the happiness we have found in the Church into our jobs. It’s a mindset of contribution rather than extraction.”

 Continuing on the theme of putting value into the work, Keppel uses baseball analogies with his father in the landscaping business. The elder Keppel is seen as the general manager of the team who makes the big decisions about contracts and personnel, while the younger Keppel is the manager who makes day-to-day decisions about which “players to put in the lineup on the field.” 

Although Bobby Keppel studied business at the University of Notre Dame during three off-seasons early in his playing career, he has not used much of what he learned. “Maybe if I were in another business, the schooling would come in handy, but in landscaping, it’s a matter of common sense. You treat others as you would want to be treated, charge a reasonable price for the work, pay a reasonable wage to the workers, and so forth. No advanced training is needed; you just need to have the resolve to do the job well.”

 KEEPING THE LORD’S DAY

Some of the basic values Keppel has found to be essential for doing the job well are showing up for work on time and giving one’s best effort every day—except Sunday. Keppel keeps the traditional understanding of the Sabbath as a time of rest.

There have been Sundays on which the company has been open because of weather-induced maintenance backups, but it is nearly always a time of rest from work and reverence toward God. “God makes the Commandments of relating to Him and others,” Keppel said, also noting that “There will always be challenges to deal with, but If we follow God’s commands, things go more smoothly at home and at work.”

TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing write

First-string players wanted…with integrity

Decency in athletics

Thierfelder, a member of Legatus’ Charlotte Chapter, is hoping to lift up the examples of true sportsmanship and highlight the potential of sports to be a force for good and positive human development through the new Sports Virtue Institute at Belmont Abbey College.

The goal of the Sports Virtue Institute, which is in its fledgling stages, will be to attract, gather, and encourage athletes, coaches, and administrators who want to compete at the highest levels, but in a manner that upholds their integrity and that uses sport as a vehicle to hone personal virtue.

“Everybody wants world-class performance. Everybody enjoys watching it because ultimately, I believe, it raises us up and has us contemplate God,” said Thierfelder, the author of Less Than a Minute to Go: The Secret to World-Class Performance in Sport, Business and Everyday Life.

Thierfelder, who received his masters and doctoral degrees in sports psychology from Boston University, draws on his lifelong experience in sports. He was a medalist at the 1981 U.S. Track & Field Indoor National Championships who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team but withdrew from competition because of injury.

Sports, mainly because of the billions of dollars they generate in revenue, tend today to be seen through a utilitarian lens of wins and losses. The cynic will argue that developing character sounds noble, but that it’s ultimately pointless if a Division I college athletic program or professional sports franchise fails to win championships.

Thierfelder argues that that view offers a false dichotomy between world-class performance on the field and competing in an ethical way that champions human dignity.

Training ground for life

“In sports, winning and losing matters,” Thierfelder said. “Here’s the issue — How do you win? In other words, is sport properly directed? And the big question someone can ask is — Can you win? Can you perform at a higher level as a world-class athlete, living a life of virtue, or living a life of vice? Which one will actually enable you to perform at the highest level?”

While noting that athletes who cheat and indulge in vices are often successful, Thierfelder believes they would compete at a higher level — and be happier while doing it — if they cultivated a life of virtue.

“On the whole, you would see a dramatic improvement not only in the performance, but in the lives, in the happiness of those competing, and those watching,” Thierfelder said.

Sport has long been seen as a training ground for life. U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur believed athletic competition taught competitors the importance of winning, and that those lessons would translate to the battlefield. MacArthur said, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”

Writing in the first century, St. Paul made several references to running the good race, shadowboxing, athletic training, and the importance of Christians competing for an eternal crown instead of an athlete’s laurel crown.

The ancient philosophers Cicero, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle also had plenty to say about the links between sports and the virtuous life, said Thierfelder, who regularly asks people at Belmont Abbey College to memorize a lengthy quote from Pope Pius XII’s “Sport at the Service of the Spirit” statement in 1945.

“Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor,” said Pius XII, who added that “sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man.”

Distinguishing sportsmanship and virtue

 The Sports Virtue Institute will host lectures, events, and an annual conference. Thierfelder said the institute will also have a website with social media links, a blog, articles, and essays from coaches and athletes from around the country.

The values espoused in the Sports Virtue Institute have already helped to shape Belmont Abbey College’s athletic program and the Conference Carolinas that the college competes in. Thierfelder said that the conference’s tagline promotes “champions in body, mind, and spirit.”

Every year, the Conference Carolinas also gives an award for sportsmanship and virtue. When he arrived at Belmont Abbey College 15 years ago, Thierfelder said very few student-athletes wanted that award. Today, Thierfelders said it’s the most competitive award in the conference.

“Yes, we still want to be national champions if we can be national champions,” Thierfelder said. “But we also want all the other virtues that go with that.”

 

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Less Than a Minute to Go

Bill Thierfelder writes that we can draw many practical life lessons from sports . . . .

ThierfelderLess Than a Minute to Go
Bill Thierfelder
St. Benedict Press, 2013
280 pages, $26.95 hardcover

Thierfelder knows what it takes to win. As a university student, he won fame as an All-American high jumper. Later, armed with a doctorate in sports psychology, he became a private coach and mentor to the world’s top athletes.

Now president of Belmont Abbey College, he reveals his winning methods in a book subtitled The Secret to World-Class Performance in Sport, Business and Everyday Life. He shows why sports are worthy of our attention, whether as athletes or as spectators and fans. Learn how to give your best when the clock is ticking and everything is on the line.

Order: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Staying in shape

Tom Monaghan writes that physical fitness helps mental fitness and all-around health . . .

Thomas Monaghan

Thomas Monaghan

As many of you know, for the better part of my life I have been a proponent of staying fit. For me it started simply with my love of sports.

When I was in the orphanage and in school, sports were a big part of my life. I enjoyed just about every sport I could play and I didn’t have to put much effort into staying in shape. However, as the responsibilities and demands of running a pizza company mounted, staying active didn’t just happen on its own; instead, it needed to become a conscious decision on my part.

For decades now, I have worked an exercise regimen into my daily routine. Sure, it has changed over the years and now, at age 75, I am very grateful this has been a part of my life. Research shows that if we keep fit, we will likely live about nine years longer than if we do not. Nine years may not be a big deal to some, but the real difference is the quality of life. Ideally, we want to be fully active right up until the end.

Physical fitness goes beyond what it does for our bodies. Kenneth Cooper, MD, MPH, the man who wrote the book Aerobics and got the nation (including me) running, has consistently taught that being physically fit helps one’s psychological health. In studies at his Cooper Institute in Dallas, they have proven that exercise reduces depression, helps people to better handle stress and gives people a general sense of psychological well-being. He also asserts that aerobic exercise helps one’s self-image and confidence — and even prevents some types of cancer.

For many years, I took my top executives at Domino’s Pizza to Dr. Cooper’s clinic. We would get comprehensive physicals, hear lectures on fitness and wellness, and have a personal fitness and diet consultation. Since selling Domino’s, I have continued to get an annual physical exam at the Cooper Clinic, and I regularly invite key administrators associated with the Ave Maria Foundation to join me. Those who have attended noted positive lifestyle changes. This year, I invite Legates (individuals or couples) to join me for this trip to Dallas. Dr. Cooper will give a presentation tailored specifically to our group.

This year’s trip is May 28-30. Due to limited availability, reservations will be taken on a first-come basis. If you’re interested, please contact Priya Niskode at pniskode@dominosfarms.com. Phone: (734) 930-3441.

THOMAS MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder and chairman. He is a member of Legatus’ Naples Chapter.

The value of sports

Tom Monaghan says many fine Christian qualities can be learned or honed through sports . ..

Thomas Monaghan

As someone who has played and followed sports my whole life, I’ve found athletics to be a natural source of recreation — not to mention a way to stay healthy and fit.

However, one need not look too far to see abuses in sports whether it’s professional athletes’ misconduct, college athletes being exploited for the sake of a school’s bottom line, or the win-at-all-costs mentality found at every level. Yet as Christians, I don’t think we should “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Over the last couple of years, I have given more thought to the role of sports as we at Ave Maria University (AMU) have developed our athletics program. We have worked with students, faculty, staff and coaches to develop a program that fully embraces our mission as a university to form men and women in the intellectual and moral traditions of the Church and to help them develop into future leaders for our society and Church.

Sports can play a key role in this formation. Life lessons like discipline, teamwork, persistence, focus, communication and learning to perform under pressure are just a few such qualities that can be learned or honed through sports. Also, coaches can serve as Godly role models who impact these student-athletes for life. This is why we take the hiring of our coaches at AMU very seriously.

Can athletics get out of hand in our sports-crazed society? Of course. However, sports can play an important role in our lives and, more importantly, in the lives of our children and grandchildren if approached in the right way. With that said, let me leave you with a quote that eloquently conveys this idea:

“Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor; it refines the senses, gives intellectual penetration, and steels the will to endurance. It is not merely a physical development then. Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth and helps man to achieve that end to which all others must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator.” — Pope Pius XII, Sport at the Service of the Spirit. July 29, 1945.

Thomas Monaghan is Legatus’ founder and chairman. He is a member of Legatus’ Naples Chapter.