There are a lot of funny sports books out there, but Mark Titus's "Don't Put Me in Coach" is up there with my all-time sports comedy favorites including "Slow Getting Up" by Nate Jackson and also Matt McCarthy's "Odd Man Out". In each of these books I've had to physically stop reading to collect myself for a few seconds before marching on. Titus's unbelievable inability to learn from his digestive tract mistakes were oddly the butt of many jokes. No pun intended...wait yes, pun intended. I want to count it.
Full disclosure, I got this book for half-price at a book sale for $1.50. Let me explain to you why this is amazing. First off, many young college sports fans are very aware of this book and appreciate it. Secondly, the book was on the campus of Penn State University when I bought it. Lastly, Titus had a good following of fans and I figured this would get scooped up before day three of the annual book sale at Penn State. I'm pretty sure the only reason I got this was because it was hidden under a like 1997 Baseball Prospectus book.
What made me laugh further is that Titus would had to have ridden past the building where I bought it between the airport and the Bryce Jordan Center. He has a couple of Penn State stories, but I won't spoil those for you.
What Did I Learn?
1. I'm not really sure this is the type of book built to teach lessons, but I'll give it the old college try. It is super beneficial to be in the right place at the right time. This dates back to Mark Titus essentially being a man child in middle school and coming across Greg Oden, Mike Conley and crew at a AAU tournament. AAU ball being AAU ball Titus was recruited from his previous team to the elite team.
2. If there is one thing I know from being a Penn State Basketball fan from about 2004-2010 it was being bitter. This book made me dislike those Ohio State teams less...I'm talking from like an 8 down to a 5. Evan "The Villain" Turner was definitely a candidate for least liked player nationally by the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of students that were season ticket holders.
3. I think it is possible to have fun, work hard, not take life too seriously and find success all in one. This book is a pretty good testament to that belief. How Titus lived through his four years without being murdered by his teammates might be as big a mystery as the legends of Sasquatch, Atlantis or Area 51.
4. Lastly, I would be sorely lacking if I didn't post his Mr. Rainmaker video in this article.
Admittedly, I just wanted to play around with R Studio, which is a program where you can work with big data to create visuals and answer calculations. To be honest, I do most of my work in baseball, basketball and tourism, so diving into ESPN's Top 300 Football Recruits from 2013-2020 was new territory for me.
What I wanted to accomplish was finding trends within the data where size influences grades. Anyone that is a 90+ (0-100 scale) is considered a 5-star prospect. In a given class you might have 10-20 of these kinds of players. I wasn't really satisfied with looking at just 5-star players, because there really wasn't enough data for me to think it was significant. Plus, it is a lot easer to get 5-star status at certain positions (i.e. offensive skill and OT and DL and CB) than at others (interior OL, LB, S).
What I have below are a box-and-whisker plot looking at all positions and then supporting scatterplots for each position. In some cases I combined QB's, LB's and TE's for simplicity. What you will find are some sweet spots that are your Goldilocks "Not too big" and "Not too small" sizes for each position. At the bottom you can download my Keynote presentation in full.
For the full presentation:
So over these eight years, who has signed the most ESPN Top 300 recruits? It really is no big surprise that the rich always seem to find a way to get richer. If you've watched the College Football Playoff over the last five years there really shouldn't be any surprises.
About half of my career has been spent working in athletics, so the story of a start-up league is interesting to me. In this case the story is about the USFL, which appeared and disappeared in the mid-1980's. Its' goal was to create a spring football season, much like you've seen organizations like the Alliance Football League and the XFL do. Personally, I thought the USFL did the best job, but it was greed and stupidity that did in the USFL essentially after a short run.
You see many well known football names pop up throughout the book including NFL legends Reggie White, Steve Young, Hershal Walker, Doug Flutie and a host of others. The league didn't lack in star power and definitely made the NFL omit a few beads of sweat throughout its existence. In fact, the league was probably more watchable than the NFL's three yard and a cloud of dust era.
The goal of the league was to slowly grow each and every year, but a couple of new owners in year two pushed the league beyond its breaking point. The most notable of the owners being Donald Trump and his New York franchise. Much like his current presidential tenure he hasn't made many friends and largely has been all talk. The same held true in the USFL example.
If you love business, football and drama this is the book for you. There are all kinds of crazy ideas and promotions that were thrown out throughout the league's history. I believe the author, Jeff Pearlman, did a wonderful job of putting together a book that is packed full of great stories in a cohesive and historical text.
What Did I Learn?
1. I've always been told that your goal in year one for any event or business is to break even. The USFL owners did a pretty good job of hitting that benchmark. They kept goals realistic out of the gate.
2. The goal of the owners was not to compete with the NFL, because they knew there just wasn't room between college football and the NFL. They wanted to compete more so with early season baseball, but knew there was still plenty of audience to go around. This was a good plan, but Donald Trump bullied several of the owners into moving the league to the fall too early in the league's history.
3. The USFL threw a lot of darts against the wall to see what worked. What I mean by that is in the form of promotions and also locations of franchises. What was good out of this was that they found some fan bases that turned out to be very positive, particularly down in Florida. The downside is that they expanded too fast.
4. What I found comical was that to meet with Donald Trump you had to sit in his lobby and watch a promotional video for how great he was before he would let you in his office. Talk about a narcissist!
Google Trends is an absolutely wonderful big data platform. It is definitely a wormhole that can quickly turn into a time suck of an evening. For those of you unfamiliar with the platform, it basically measures the popularity of various search terms with 100 being crazy popular and 0 being virtually no one searching. The terms are also relative to the timeframe you choose and whether you compare it to any other terms.
With this said, I dug a bit into what the travel world is showing using some of the more popular companies here in the States. The first company I looked at was Expedia, which is a multi-facet platform that allows you to book hotels, rental cars, flights, packages and more. Like most of the industry it was trending well until the beginning of March. Like other travel platforms they saw a huge spike the second week in March, when people started cancelling their trips and they could do so penalty free, for the most part.
Expedia, like most other travel brands, bottomed out in the beginning of April and have slowly been making their way back to a somewhat normal search volume until early June. When the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 popped up in the news with cases breaking out mostly in the south and west the volume plateaued and has started creeping down.
So how has this carried over to the flight market? Well, let's take a look at the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to reveal a glimmer of hope. Unlike the global brand Expedia, you've seen interest in flights to these two major cities continue to creep up. Is this mainly because Pennsylvania has done a relatively good job of slowing down COVID-19 or is it just being the least ugly girl at the dance? Pennsylvania still has its problems, but at least it isn't Florida, Texas or Arizona. The second visual is an example of Miami, FL's traffic starting to drop back down in the last couple of weeks.
How does this compare to the airline industry as a whole? Let's take a look at Southwest Airlines (below), where we see much of its momentum has been halted in the previous couple of weeks. Even with an advertising campaign going on, the threat of disease has won out. Hopefully, they can bounce back soon. Everyone seems to be itching to travel.
Now let's finally look at a major hotel brand in Hilton. How has that done to bounce back in a brutally down market? Hilton has a done a good job of creating momentum in a market with limited appetite for travel. However, it appears to be at a sort of fork in the road where it could stay steady and continue to creep up or tank, much like what we're seeing in Expedia and Southwest Airlines.
To leave you with a good taste in your mouth there has been a resurgence in the outdoors and short day trips as seen below. This is encouraging to see that people are starting to dip their toes back into the water.
There is nothing more frustrating than putting together a beautiful 1,000+ word piece of content only to see it never go anywhere. I don't want this to ever happen to you or the hard work that you put in. There is a saying that for every minute you spend producing the content you should spend four pushing it out. The same generally goes for investing funds to advertise your blog. I'm going to take you through the recipe that helped me grow blogs over the years.
Step 1: Research Topics and Build a Content List
I have a few tips that I use to figure out a content list to work on or farm out to freelance writers. The first tool I invest in is Buzzsumo. What Buzzsumo does is I can plug in 30-40 competitive blog websites to find out what is resonating with audiences through social media. The cost for a basic membership is $99/month for a for-profit or $49/month for a non-profit. I typically run this exercise about once a month to see what is working by season. If it is working for one audience, it will probably carry over to mine.
The second thing I do is figure out through Google Search Console what people are searching for. More often than not you have the content that people are already looking for, but occasionally you will find 4-6 topics to add to your Buzzsumo list to work on.
The third tactic I take is simply following many of my competitors through social media to see what has exploded for them for myself. I make note of what works and whether I have something similar.
Step 2: Produce the Content, Preferably With Evergreen Topics
What is evergreen? It means the topic has no particular timeline to it. It could be something like "Best Hiking Trails Near Pittsburgh" rather than the timely one-and-done "Best Trails Near Pittsburgh in April 2017"
You can go three routes with producing the content: doing it yourself, guest blogging or hiring freelancers. I have done all three, so let's go through the pros and cons of all three.
Doing It Yourself:
Pros: You will have it just the way you want it.
Cons: Time and Talent. Writing the content yourself takes up a lot of your time and you might not be the most talented writer.
Pros: I really like guest blogging and the concept of cross-promotion. You get an expert take and you get to hit two audiences when promoting the content.
Cons: They will negotiate expectations. This could be money or promises for pushing out their content.
Pros: You save a bunch of time and they are often more talented.
Cons: It can get expensive pretty quickly. $100-$300/article is usually a pretty fair amount.
Step 3: SEO
Make sure to create a title that plays into the way people are searching. Don't try to be cute using nicknames or trendy copy. Take yourself out of your shoes and put your feet where the person sitting at the Google search bar is. Make sure your title is short and to the point, preferably in seven words or less. Also, your secondary supporting evidence on why someone should click on your article over others should be made in the meta-description in 1-2 sentences.
Step 4: Push It Through Social Media
Now that you've created the content and made sure it will be attractive once it is indexed through Google, it is time to plan out the push for your content through social media.
The first step I started with was my Facebook audience. Typically with an article I would see whether it was seasonal or not and then schedule out posts in advance. Many brands make the mistake of only publishing a piece of content once on Facebook. In reality, each post is probably only hitting 6-10% of your audience at best. You should look to space out your content and post it 4-6 times in total with about 2-5 weeks between each post. You'd be surprised how many times you hit new audiences that haven't seen that particular article before. I'd recommend throwing $5+ behind each article, just to fuel the fire a bit.
My next step is usually Twitter. The lifespan of a post on Twitter is about an hour at best. You should look to post each piece of content on Twitter a minimum of 10x. Space is out about once every 1-2 weeks to hit new eyes. Make sure there is a visual to make someone stop scrolling.
Instagram is tricky, because organic posts don't allow for links. There are a few routes you can take with this including posting your content in Instagram Stories, posting a regular post referencing the link in your profile or simply paying up $5-$10 to hit more eyes and embed a link.
LinkedIn is another route you should take, particularly if your business has a lot of partners. I've found that LinkedIn usually does the best job of hitting a number that is close to my follower count, so don't forget about this route. If you have employees willing to share it out, even better.
There are other routes such as Snapchat, TikTok and Pinterest you can use to push out your content.
Step 5: Email Newsletter
Every single piece of content with meat on it you created should go out to your email newsletter list. Throughout my career I've built and managed several lists with open rates typically in the 28%-40% range. I try not to email anymore than once every other week and ideally just once a month. However, in every email I link every piece of content that was created within the last month. These are some of your most engaged fans, so keep feeding them content. Even if these same people follow you through social media, there is still a good chance they missed your content.
Step 6: Contact the Partners You Mention
Something that should have been mentioned in the social media aspect of this article is tagging every single partner that is mentioned in your content in your posts. It will open their eyes to you giving them some love and it is likely they will at minimum throw you a comment or like, but most of the time they will share the content to their audience.
You should link out from your content to their website, so that when they look into their Google Analytics report they see that you are sending referral traffic. Making those businesses aware of what you're doing will spread your message without spending a cent.
Step 7: Refresh Your Content
This is usually the step people most forget. A lot of times businesses create the content, but never recycle it by updating and building on content they already have. Even worse, they end up creating content that rivals or competes for traffic with something that already exists.You should look to update your content at minimum once every six months. You often get more value out of updating content that already exists than you do with creating new content.
With this in mind, you shouldn't ever have more blog posts than you could possibly ever dedicate time to updating.
Step 8: Create Supporting Visuals for Your Most Successful Pieces
This could mean commissioning a video or creating an infograph, but find ways to keep your reader engaged and sharing your content. I very rarely create visual pieces before I know the success of a traditional text piece. I want to know there is demand so the dollars and time I spend in creating something visual doesn't fall on an empty audience.
This book, first published in 1926, is a classic for those in the personal finance world. The text tells lessons about how to become wealthy, but through a narrative story of a young man approaching a rich older man. The book can be a little hard to follow in its original text, because it is full of a "hast" and "thou" style of writing. Ultimately it gives sound financial advice throughout. It can also be read in less than a few hours for those willing to sacrifice the time.
Tackled in the book include home ownership, savings, controlling your expenditures, having your money work for you, guarding yourself from poor investments and much more.
This is a really good book for anyone that is just starting their personal finance journey with their first job out of school. Personally, I wish I would have gotten into personal finance more as a 20 year old rather than a 30 year old. Lessons like the ones found in "The Richest Man in Babylon" would probably have made me even more money than I have. The story is more about discipline than anything really.
What Did I Learn?
1. The lessons in this book are a little more fundamental (i.e. save 10% of your income) than what you see in books such as Rich Dad Poor Dad or The Millionaire Next Door. Like I said above the story is better serving for those starting out, but there are some lessons for the veterans of the personal finance world.
2. The book doesn't get into the stock market by any means, but it does talk about the difference between a wise and an un-wise investment. One could take this information and apply it to stocks.
3. Unlike a number of other books this book focuses in on home ownership. This story promotes ownership of a home, where more modern books kind of volleyball that point back-and-forth vs. renting.
4. One of my favorites was the Sixth Cure: Insure for a Future Income. This is where retirement and investment accounts fall into the equation. Like most modern beliefs such as The 4% Rule are examples of this.
5. I learned that what I am doing is not a bad plan. My biggest obstacle would probably be increasing my income level. The important thing to take away is not allowing for lifestyle creep when I do get an increase, which is something everyone should be careful of.
First off, I apologize for the size of the picture above. You can download it by clicking on it. Feel free to download it to scan it much closer. For those that don't want to do that I'll give you a brief on what is included. I exported the ESPN Top 300 Football Recruiting lists over the last eight finalized classes (2013-2020) to see if I could find some trends.
Recently I completed my second class in R, which is a programming language for data scientists mostly. If you're interested in taking the class here is the one I took. The software R is completely free to download, but the price you have to pay is for the online course to learn how to use the data.
Now that the shameless plugs are over, let's get down to what I found. To get on ESPN's Top 300 list you have to grade out as a 80+ prospect on a scale from 0-100. At a certain point in the high-60's or low-70's ESPN basically stops even giving a number, but throws the dreaded "NR" for not rated on you. So every QB prospect on the graphic above basically tested out as a 80+ prospects. They range from 5'11" all the way to 6'7" with weights ranging from about 160-250 pounds. Needless to say this is a super wide range of sizes.
The thing I found really interesting is that no QB outside of 175-225 pounds has ever gotten a rating above a 87 during this eight year window. Why is that? Is it because a QB less than 175 is either considered too slight and is moved to a position demanding more speed such as WR or CB? Is it because they're too short and can't see over the line? How about on the other end of spectrum? Is a QB prospect over 225 pounds too big and lumbering to be considered mobile enough to buy more time to find a receiver? Maybe it is just a coincidence.
Long story short, there appears to be a sweet spot when it comes to weight towards getting a 5-star grade. You better be between 175-225 pounds.
1. Buying more house than needed.
In the last 45 years, the average square footage of a home has increased by 1,000 square feet. Yes, you read that correctly. Even as family sizes have shrunk and the storage locker industry has grown, we still have homes getting larger and larger. The average house size is now approaching 3,000 sq. feet. Who on Earth needs a house this size that is not the Brady Bunch? It is smarter to buy for what you need, rather than what impresses the Joneses.
2. Carrying over credit card debt.
This is just idiotic. You signed up for a credit card whose sole purpose is to wish and pray that you don't pay them back on time. Much like casinos, the house always wins. If there wasn't more money being created in interest from people carrying over their balance than there is with people cashing in rewards then credit card companies would go out of business. However, they are doing so well that their names are attached to bowl games, stadiums and they have national advertising campaigns. Pay off your card in full every month AND cash in the rewards. You can win in this relationship. I make about $30-$40/month by paying my card in full and cashing in the rewards.
3. Buying a new car as soon as the previous one is paid off.
The notion that you should always have a car payment is frankly dumb. The goal should be to get the type of car that best fits your habits and pay as little as possible for it. If you're someone that commutes a long-distance and don't own a camper/boat/trailer/contractor business there is no reason to own a large truck. They have bad gas mileage and are expensive to maintain.
There is also no reason to own a luxury automobile. In what scenario in your life will you need to have the difference between a 250 horsepower engine and a 400 horsepower engine? The up-front cost is greater and the service of the car costs more than a more common make and model.
Get your car paid off as soon as possible with little or no interest on the initial cost of the vehicle. You should be buying a car for the decade, not for the three year window. Enjoy a nice 4-6 years of not having a car payment to build up funds. This is money that you can stash away in a retirement account, investment account, high-interest online savings account or towards chopping down other debt.
4. Buying the same item over and over again.
It is incredible to me that people will buy the same cheap item over and over again. My example is camping chairs. Let's say Chair A is a cheap version that lasts 3 years, but can be bought for $15. What if you could get a better chair (Chair B) for $40 and have it last you 12 years? If you use a chair 100 times a year you would pay about $0.05 per use for Chair A and $0.03 for Chair B.
5. Not having a long-term financial plan and assuming it will all work out.
This is a bunch of wishful thinking often by people that spend just as much or more than what came in. Things will eventually work out in the end they say. This isn't the 1970's when pensions were everywhere and you knew you were going to get social security once you hit the eligibility years. We live in a 401K and questionable for social security in 2050 world.
With that said you need to be thinking long-term and paying yourself first in the form of first contributing to a retirement account. At the very minimum you should take the maximum company match of your employer, because it is free money.
A good goal to have in your retirement account is:
By age 30: At least the equivalent of your gross salary
By age 35: At least 2x your salary
By age 40: 3x
Age 45: 4x
Age 50: 5x
Age 55: 6x
Age 60: 7x
The most challenge part of this will be the age 30 and 35 years levels. What is good is that you will have compounding interest from your investments working right along with you. It is reasonable to expect an account filled with index funds to have a 6-8% annual growth before you even contribute. Stick to the chart above and you should be able to retire comfortably. Also notice how I didn't say your annual expenses, but your gross salary. Financially responsible people tend to live well below their means, so that pot of money will carry you quite a ways.
6. Taking out loans for liabilities.
Boats, vacation homes, diamond rings, vacations, four-wheelers...all have bad return on investments. These items can be fun, but they also tend to be a financial sinkholes. What makes matters worse is taking out a loan to buy them. That just adds lighter fluid to the flame in the form of interest on the principle. As the saying goes, "If you can't afford five of them, you can't buy one of them."
7. Not having an emergency fund.
This rings loud particularly now when so many people are out of work. In my particular industry (tourism) the number is around 50% of workers being out of a job. With that said having an emergency fund should be your #1 priority after making sure your most basic bills are paid for. What is recommended is anywhere from 3-6x your monthly expenses. I personally have a nest egg of about six months of expenses. This fund should only be used to cover expenses from lack of income or real emergencies such as medical bills or a fire burning down your house.
This book first caught my attention one day while walking around a Barnes & Noble in State College. When you walk through the history section and a book pops out to you related to a setting where you spent a year of your life it tends to make you curious.
The story covers almost 100 years of Jim Crow era history between when William Hardy sat in a thick pine forest for lunch all the way through the 1960's. The text jumps back and forth between white Hattiesburg and black Hattiesburg. White Hattiesburg basically was what people think of present day downtown Hattiesburg, while black Hattiesburg was located in a flood plane a few blocks away and is a shell of its former self.
The book tackles a lot of difficult subjects including refusing to allow black people the right to register to vote; limiting employment opportunities; not allowing black residents to enroll in now present day Southern Miss; multiple great exoduses; secondary school opportunities and advancing the black community. It seemed like a very appropriate read considering the times we currently live in.
I feel that William Sturkey did an excellent job collecting a lot of information for this book. The story doesn't have great flow, but I read the book in 10-12 page chunks. This ended up being good, because it allowed me time to reflect on what I just read. I really enjoyed how he kept much the experiences of the black and white community separate, because of how vastly different the experiences were. I found myself rooting for specific people such as the Smith family throughout my read.
What I Learned:
1. The character that most touched me was Clyde Kennard. He was a U.S. Veteran and was an outstanding student throughout his time in school. He was continuously denied the right to enroll at Mississippi Southern College. Eventually, he earned a meeting with the school president who tried to discourage him from continuing to apply. After the meeting Kennard walked out to two police officers that claimed they caught him speeding. Another later crime was tacked on that he did not commit and because of these crimes he was now ineligible to enroll at the college.
2. In the current conditions we live in it added some depth at a single community's level to me on why some of the black community does not trust the police. Everything from police involvement in the KKK, to allowing mobs come in and take away prisoners later to be lynched and the example of Clyde Kennard above. This isn't to mention the virtual impossibility of a black resident being able to bring a crime against a white resident and actually gain a conviction out of it.
3. The amount of patience by the black community to slowly advance is amazing to me. At times it felt like the conditions were getting worse, but also that each generation made their three steps forward and one step back. This isa song and dance I think we continue to see today.
4. Many of the early industry barons in the town dependent heavily on both black and white labor. Of course, white labor was paid more, given less dangerous jobs and had the opportunity for advancement. Despite all of this, many of the black population scraped together enough funds to have somewhere to live, a place to eat and send their kids to schools for at least a while. Their American dream was giving their children better opportunities and experiences than their generation. Something I think we can all sympathize with.
5. This gave me a lot of perspective: the good, bad and ugly of a town where I spent a year of my life and walked many of the streets mentioned in the book. It should be mandatory reading for every resident and student to better grasp the roots of the place where they live.
My minor degree from Penn State was in Movement Sciences, which is a fancy way of just saying Sports Science. Specifically, I studied biomechanics of human movement and even found a graduate level class in it at Southern Miss. When I heard about David Epstein's "The Sports Gene" I had to find it and read it. It didn't disappoint.
The book focuses on several regions around the world including Jamaican sprinters, Kenyan long-distance runners, why people near the equator have longer limbs and much more. I was hoping to find out if athleticism was more about nature or nurture, meaning are great athletes born or were they made through lots and lots of practice? The short story is they are typically born that way, but to become elite practice also plays a big role.
The book kind of gets in the weeds a bit about genetics and DNA composition, so you should be prepared and interested in that topic. However, the bulk of the book spends more time in individual cases from around the world who were world class athletes.
What I Learned?
1. As stated above the fact that people tend to need both nature and nurture in their court to be elite world-class athletes. What you're born with only takes you so far, so adding technique and practice can put you over the edge.
2. The most fascinating example in the book for me was the long distance runners. It helped to be born and raised in the mountains where air is thinner.The residents tend to adapt to this altitude and can exercise regularly in it. An added bonus was being a thin, long-limbed and springy physical build living in this altitude. This combination along with generations of breeding have made particularly one tribe of Kenyans incredible endurance athletes.
3. Many collegiate programs are already doing this, but it is important to think about the traits you want in your sports' athletes. If you're a basketball coach recruiting for length, should you concentrate your efforts on players with family origins near the equator where limbs tend to be slightly longer?
About the Author
Andy Rupert is a Penn State (B.A. John Curley Center for Sports Journalism 08') and a Southern Miss (M.S. Sport Management 09'). He has spent his whole career working in sports and tourism digital marketing and metrics.