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Athletes in Transition: Get Online and Make a Difference

I was recently very impressed by a group of veterans who have revolutionized the treatment of traumatic brain injury and depression. They had fantastic information, results, ideas and goals

So I said, “This is great. How often are you guys posting on social media?”

They said, “Well, we’re not.”

[Brain explodes.]


I talk to a lot of athletes who are retiring, as I did. They are coming out of one world and trying to fit into another, and many of them start businesses. But too often, coming from sports (where other people take care of the online stuff), it’s easy to overlook the importance of building a digital presence for your business to succeed.

Your digital presence, and social media in particular, is where everyone is going to see you first.

The folks I talked to had a fantastic product that could truly help people — veterans, people dealing with depression or seasonal depression, and more — yet you and I can’t hear about it because they are not speaking our language.

The language in 2018 is digital. I hear that word in every broadcast meeting, in every studio, in my meetings at Notre Dame, the NFL Network and Fox Sports and Altitudes Sports.

90% of content is viewed on a mobile device

If you want to start your transition, you must create digital content. If you have a company, tell your story and create awareness by documenting the journey of a few of your clients whose lives have been changed by your care.

If you want people to learn about what you are doing, or what you care about, give them the opportunity to do so on social media or the web.

Now you are speaking the language. Here are a few tips from what I have learned.


When I crapped my pants in an NFL game and I had to quickly…

In my second year of the NFL, I was bankrupt because I was spending money on…

The first lesson I learned in the NFL came after I..

One time in a miserable season I decided to try….

First, practice telling a story. Casually, when you are at a party or talking to some friends. How hard is that? People LOVE stories and they pull you towards them. I dare you to find an article of mine that does not start with a story. (Here’s a good one in this “RELATED” article, below.)

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My favorite broadcasters all tell great stories. They tell stories about people in ways that keep you glued to them until the end. When you tell a story, tell it well. How could it have the most impact? What is interesting? What will keep us hanging on every word?

Here is a story about one young man who went undrafted, yet has outrushed players selected for the pro-bowl last year. This young man lives in his parents’ house and he loves it because it keeps him humble and focused. Want to know who it is and more about him? I do.

Or I could say: Philip Lindsay is one of the best running backs in the NFL.

Which story was better? Which pulled you in and made you want to hear more?

We all have stories within us. Figure out how to draw people in to your story. Try bouncing a few ideas off honest friends who can tell you what they find interesting or different about you.

What story will you talk about? In writing my book and speaking all over the country, I will tell you that people’s favorite stories of mine are about my failures and about the coaches I had. So tell me a story about a time when you were traveling and everything went wrong — and what you learned.

Tell me about a time when you were cooking a meal for people and it all went to shit — make me laugh with you. We have all been there. Tell me about a time when you had to hire somebody at a company, or when you had to fire somebody.

Tell me a story about how you grew up to be a professional athlete (not too many people can manage that and they do find that pretty interesting, go figure).


Do not worry if you can’t write. Video is number one online now. Videos hit 100 times more than a photo. I know you have a video camera on your phone. Use it. (You can always get an editor for your writing anyway. I do.)

Here is a story for you. I worked with a former athlete who started her own Pilates studio. She came to see me for coaching on how to build her business. I told her: “You have to make videos.”

She said, “Well, I’m not good on video.”

I said, “Great! That’s exactly what people want. They want to know that when they’re going to a Pilates studio, they do not have to be perfect. They don’t have to look perfect. They don’t have to know what they are doing because you are not perfect and you are not going to force them to be perfect.”

She set her pride aside and did it! She made a series of videos and her business took off — she just had to hire another Pilates instructor to handle the growth.


And that is my favorite tip of all: Don’t be perfect.

Recently I was at the Sports Business Journal retreat in Vail, Colorado, with some of the biggest names and organizations in sports today. A rep from Condé Nast (a big magazine company) was talking about the digital content they create. Check this out: One of their famous magazines — you’ve definitely heard of it — will not pay more than $300 for a video to be made.

Why? They want people to make imperfect videos. They want imperfect photos, too. They want photos with your collar uneven or a ketchup stain on your T-shirt. They want to see you with bedhead in the morning. They want to see you struggling to put on makeup the right way, or fumbling a demo and laughing.

Think about it. What are your favorite videos and photos? Fail videos, when people do not win. When people are not perfect. Just like us. Real.

RELATED: 4 Things I Wish I Knew Before My 9 Surgeries

As viewers, we want to see our (imperfect) selves in the story. We can tell when something is rehearsed and when it’s not.

When it comes to digital, just be you. Worrying about perfection is what stops so many people from putting out videos. Don’t let the fear get you.


I was just visiting the NFL Network. One of their daytime show stars came off of the air and said to their PR guy: “I made three points about [this] and I need it in social. I need it on Facebook, I need it on Twitter and I need you to put it in my Instagram story.”

That was the first thing he did coming off the set: social media.


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That is how important digital is to broadcasting right now. Every broadcast, every network, every personality, every business worth their salt knows the power of digital. Once you get out there and collect a tribe, you too can create big social change and get things done.

Aaron Maven, a former first-round pick, ended up not panning out in the NFL, so he became a teacher. When he put out a video of kids feeling cold in a school he teaches at because the school could not afford to turn the heat on, people flooded them with help and funds.

Now the kids have heat.

That’s just one example of the power you, too, have digitally.

When you get on the web, you can affect people around the world. Your audience grows. People forward your stuff. Why? When people get on their devices, you are reaching them on their time, at their most open time. At the best time in their day. You are not interrupting them at work. They are seeking you out.

With digital, you have the power to tell your story to the people who are ready to hear it and do something about it.

That’s the power of a digital presence. Whatever your business is, or if you are still an athlete thinking of retirement, tell your story online, right now.