What Muhammed Ali & the Golden State Warriors Teach Us About Running LeagueApps

By Jamie Hancock
August 9, 2019
5 min

At LeagueApps, we never stop learning and are committed to being lifelong students of the game. We bring our entire company together twice a year for presentations, workshops, and real talk about the state of our business and the youth sports industry (along with some healthy competition on the field — we’re all athletes after all!). We call these semi-annual meetings and activities the OTAs, or Organized Team Activities. Last week we brought together our entire staff for our Sweet 16 OTAs in New York City. 

You won’t find a single trust fall or bored executive rambling on about the last quarter’s projections at LeagueApps. We’re always excited about what we do, but OTA16 was extra special as we celebrated hitting $1 billion in transactions on the LeagueApps platform. The milestone wouldn’t have been possible without tons of hard work, grit, and of course — the partners we support every day. 

So how did we decide to celebrate? By inviting some of those very same partners to share their insights and experiences with us, and to brainstorm how we can continue to improve and provide the best experience possible. And we also celebrated by dunking our CEO in a water tank. 

“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.”

This quote from Muhammed Ali was our guiding mantra for OTA16. We’re inspired by athletes and teams across the spectrum — whether it’s learning from Ali’s success in and out of the ring, or studying how the Golden State Warriors went from being one of the worst teams in the NBA to coming out on top. We’re constantly studying great teams and figuring out how they do it — then applying those lessons to our own team at LeagueApps. 

In the past six months, we’ve expanded by 20 percent, bringing on new LeagueApps team members in sales, engineering, marketing, product, customer success, and business development. OTA16 was a chance to learn from our new teammates, guest speakers, and our partners. 

Our new VP of engineering Brandon Denny shared why he joined LeagueApps and how he’s planning to modernize and build capacity on our platform while maintaining stability. New VP of sales Mike Hourihan taught us the importance of learning from failures and successes in your career, and gave key insight into how LeagueApps can continue to bring value to our current and prospective partners. 

After some heartfelt (and at times hilarious) introductions to our other new members, former Yodle and current Perch CEO Court Cunningham taught us how teams succeed — by learning from customers’ experiences, narrowing their business focus, promoting accountability, and how it all boils down to the team and how they hold each other to a high bar. 

Court’s words of wisdom dovetailed nicely with our brand values, which we reviewed and reaffirmed as a group. LeagueApps is empowering the youth sports industry to deliver amazing sports experiences for all. Our beliefs on access, data and tech, community, safety, a bottoms-up industry, and our focus on kids guide us in everything we do as a business, from events to sales to customer relations. 

Channeling Dhani Jones to achieve your goals

Our office was graced by a surprise guest during OTA16 — NFL star, LeagueApps investor, and all-around Renaissance man Dhani Jones. Dhani stopped by for an in-depth discussion with our staff, talking everything from insights on building a great team to the importance of a strong work ethic. 

In particular, he stressed setting measured goals to build towards success — including writing out your intentions each and every day. We were left inspired and motivated to tackle our next challenges. 

Serving an industry built by grassroots organizers

We were joined at OTA16 by a few of our partners to learn more about their experiences. Organizers from Centercourt, East Coast Baseball, Island Garden, Long Island Jester Girls, Philadelphia Sports Leagues, Pro Skills Basketball, Solar Soccer, Solid Rock Basketball, and Total Package Hockey spoke passionately about the difficulties of running a business, recruiting and retaining the best coaches, and communicating with parents. 

LeagueApps has already helped these organizations streamline and better organize their operations, but how can we do better? Our growth as a company depends on the growth of our partners. How can we allow them to serve more coaches, players, and parents? 

We’re always challenging ourselves to do more, so our entire company sat down with our partners to hear more about their pain points and brainstorm how to help. We’re using this feedback to influence product decisions and help our partners find creative solutions to everyday problems. We believe that the youth sports industry is built from the bottom up, and that the needs of the industry are best addressed by the people on the ground who understand these challenges most accurately — and can implement change most effectively. 

One Shining Moment

Of course, no LeagueApps OTAs would be complete without the chance for some healthy competition — this time in the form of dodgeball and kickball at our version of adult summer camp on Fire Island in New York. 

We decided to pay a visit to our longtime partner Keith Miller, who runs Saltaire Day Camp in the village of Saltaire. Our staff got the chance to experience camp life and meet some of the kids Keith serves, connecting us back to our mission of delivering amazing sports experiences for all. In the spirit of celebration, we also decided to throw an ice cream party for everyone in Saltaire. 

OTA16 left us inspired, invigorated, and reconnected to our teammates and our values. We’re excited to bring this energy to everything we do here at LeagueApps.