Sports Tech…The New Wild West

As an Olympic Medalist, I have always been interested about how I can legally push myself to get the edge against my competitors.

Over the years, I have seen a few advances in technology as it relates to sports, but nothing as monumental as video tapes and gatorade, until now.  It seems we are on the dawn of breathtaking era…

Wearable technology coupled with advances in smartphones will allow athletes to gain instant feedback on their performances in practice and competition.  What’s interesting, is where do we go tomorrow?

My initial thoughts are that sports hardware are still in the early innings of development.  Imagine, indestructible tennis rackets, fencing blades and baseball bats.  Or football helmets that prevent concussions.  How about a golf club that automatically adjusts to the conditions and distance to the hole? Or a sneaker that can be programmed to dial up or down resistance according to different conditions or levels?

In essence the opportunity to improve performance while leveraging technology is huge.  Currently, the focus of most startups is to solve problems involving, music, commerce, dating, networking, etc.  With the exception of fitness, there have been little advances in the world of sports technology.

This is primarily due to athletes are typically not engineers.  And the people who typical create startups are trying to solve problems that bother them.

My vision for the future is the marriage of wearable technology with sports hardware to provide coaches and athletes instant feedback on their performance, ultimately giving them better opportunities to win medals.

Wins versus Losses

Over the past couple of weeks, I have given approximately half a dozen speeches on the Olympics and how I won an Olympic Medal and then successfully transitioned into my current career.

Historically, my story had a predictable pattern of grew up in Brooklyn, introduced to fencing, made my first Olympic team in college and then won an Olympic Medal in my last competition.

However, over the past couple of years, I decided to be more forthcoming about my experiences.  Specifically, focusing on all of the losses that I have experienced in my athletic, personal and professional life, because that is what helped me become the person I am.   To some this can be a shocking departure from the typical feel good story most want to hear.

On the other hand, others feel that this is exactly what they need to hear.  My willingness to share my darkest fears and the challenges I face in trying to solve them resonates with many in the audience.  I can recall most major losses with graphic detail and constantly struggle to describe major wins.

It took some time for me to realize this, but we remember the losses in order to savor the victories.  If you are not losing more than you are winning then you are not setting high enough goals.

Importance of Networking

For years, I interpreted networking as a daunting task and at times I made every excuse to avoid doing it all costs.  Now, don’t get me wrong, by nature I am always eager to have a deep one on one conversation.  However, it was not until I got to business school that I understood the true purpose of networking, which is to expand your knowledge base and reach to uncover hidden opportunities.

I guess it took a while for me to accept this, because as an Olympic athlete I was taught that I controlled my own destiny.  The mantra my coach swore by was practice and work harder then everyone else and you will be the winner.  But, life does not always work that way.

When I entered business school I witnessed how my classmates wasted little time in developing deep bonds and from day 1 on campus had an amazing experience.  On the other hand, I struggled to adjust to the experience of collaborative learning and networking.  Maybe, it was because I began taking classes a day after the Olympics and it is a completely different mentality in the Olympic Village.

Once I understood that business school was not strictly limited to learning, but to build as many friendships as possible.  I loved every minute of it.  I met people from all walks of life and learned about career opportunities that I never knew was possible.

Today, I have made a conscious effort to attend at least 2 Meetups / month (daddy day care limits this amount), because I want to network and build more relationships similar to my b-school experience.  So, if you see me out at an event, please stop me and say hi.