FOCUS on Being Enterprising Pt. 1

Athlete development is about performance, in sports and in life.  So when we work with professional and elite athletes every day at Game Change, our initial priority is that we tie the value of our services to the value of performance today.  In order to drive the performance impact we must be relevant to and meet the needs of each individual athlete. In order to this effectively we can’t be worried about temporal issues.  Meaning, we can’t have only a 2 or 5 day workshop to work with an athlete or only 3 or 5 or 6 months to interact with an athlete. In our experience touch and go services models, services based entirely online or those defined by rigid timelines, don’t work.  Immediate performance is not impacted at any great level and there is virtually no connection to long term performance in life.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a process. Quite the contrary, every athlete needs a strategy.  A personal road map to maximize the unique experience of being an elite athlete that can be leveraged long after the athletic career is completed.  Customized is critical, and our customized athlete development approach adheres to a process we call FOCUS, which stands for; Foresight, Offering, Connecting Uncovering, Sustaining.  Each step in the process builds on the previous step, the end result provides the athletes with a tool box on achieving Sustainable Performance both in Athletics, and in life.

The next series of articles, I’ll be putting together will address this methodology, how it works and why we think it is relevant to driving positive athlete outcomes over time.

Let’s start with F.  

Not dissimilar to being an enterprising entrepreneur, we all need a strategy.  Effective strategies all start with Foresight. For athletes, many times they can be lured into a false sense of security after reaching the elite levels.  They reach the summit and then, through no fault of their own, forget about the principles that got them there. They stop looking ahead and dreaming, stop evolving their brand, stop connecting with people that can help them reach their dreams, stop looking for opportunities and narrow their views on ways to improve performance.  

 
 
Great strategy can only be created with foresight
— Jeff Bezos

As mentioned in the opening, Elite athletes, in particular professionals, can lose their ability to look ahead.  Like business, they stop thinking about long term strategy and focus on the day to day. Stay ‘focused’. Unfortunately, any ‘enterprise’ that completely focuses on the day to day, or the short term, can fall victim to changing dynamics.  The key is to find the balance of long term and short term planning.

Jeff Ware was a 1st round draft pick in the NHL who was one of the most dedicated athletes I have come across.  Jeff was able to translate his dedication to being the best hockey player he could into keeping one eye on another goal- on-going education.  Jeff never stopped growing and was determined, despite the pressure from the old school hockey establishment, to persevere and pursue his education.  His education, and interest in Financial Services, became not only became a future goal, but unexpectedly, his safety net after a series of injuries cut his hockey career short.  

I remember speaking to him shortly after he was forced to retire and he said to me “well, now on to plan B”.  He made a very smooth transition from hockey to becoming a full time student and finish his Degree. His foresight paid off in two ways.  First, having a “plan B”, certainly mitigated the emotional impact of leaving the game he loved. Second, because he was genuinely interested in Financial Services, he was able to build a sustainable career.   He is currently a Vice President with Fairfax Holdings, Inc, one of Canada’s most successful Financial Services companies.

This is only one story in the FOCUS process.  Next time we’ll look at O; the Offering.


Game Change was founded in 2011 to serve and enhance the athlete development needs of major professional and elite sport organizations and athletes.  Game Change specializes in customized research and assessment services, the development of applied interventions and resources designed to provide long-term positive outcomes for organizations and individual athletes.  Game Change believes strongly in sport as a catalyst for societal change and adheres to the philosophy of ‘changing the world one athlete at a time’.
John Hierlihy