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This is how athletes can add ideas to sports innovation

September 2, 2020

Football legend Abby Wambach is encouraged to lead a new generation of professional players who compete in the Athletes Unlimited league.

7 min read


This is how athletes can add ideas to sports innovationThis is how athletes can add ideas to sports innovation

As a result of this week of Get a real jobI had the incredible honor of speaking to Abby Wambach, the football legend who inspired me on and off the pitch.

Abby is a two-time Olympic and world champion. FIFA who has scored 184 goals on the net during his career. He retired from the game in 2015, but his resignation was far from calm and relaxed. Not only is she a Hall of Fame member, but she’s also a bestselling author, social activist, and philanthropist, and advocates equal pay for women in sports.

On the podcast, Abby and I spoke about leadership, competitiveness, and her role on the advisory board of Athletes Unlimited, a new league that takes an innovative approach to professional volleyball and softball.

Listen to our conversation above and learn more about Athletes Unlimited in the QA I had with the league’s CEO and co-founder Jon Patricof below:

What led to the creation of Athletes Unlimited?

In the fall of 2019, Jonathan Soros and I spoke about opportunities in professional sport. At the time, we shared two thoughts: the first was about the missed opportunities in professional women’s sports and the second was about the belief that there was room for significant innovation in professional sports leagues. We’ve talked for months about what we’d like to see in a new professional sports organization if we could build it from scratch. During these months we refined our ideas and finally developed the business plan for Athletes Unlimited by May 2020.

How is it different from other professional leagues?

There are two main differences between Athletes Unlimited and other professional leagues. First, this is an athlete-run league. The players, along with me and our management team, are involved in all aspects of decision-making. It’s an idea that my co-founder Jonathan Soros really emphasized in the early days, the belief that leagues would be stronger if we made collective decisions. It is a radical change in professional sports leagues when athletes and leaders sit side by side to make decisions.

Photo: Vince Fleming via Unsplash

The other big difference is that our league is based on players, not fixed teams. Players change teams every week and earn points based on their performance and that of their team. At the end of each week, the top four players on the leaderboard become captains for the following week and select new teams. At the end of the season, the player with the most points is crowned champion. This entire model is based on the idea that fans follow players rather than teams and that especially for a new league, it makes sense to develop a model that brings fans together where they are and where they are. what do you want.

What are your short term goals?

The short term goal is to make sure the athletes have incredible experience and support on the field. We have world class headquarters and training facilities. The players tell us that they have never been treated so well or have seen such a well-run organization. For me it all starts here. When players feel cared for, they are committed and passionate about the league and the company in general.

Our softball league starts August 29th here in Chicago and volleyball starts in Nashville in February. These two leagues are just the beginning for us.

What are your long-term goals?

Our plans include a much larger network of leagues and building a fan base that competes with each of the major sports leagues and has a great positive impact on the youth. That means we need to build a global fan base as well as an incredible network of brand and media partners. We are looking for like-minded partners who are excited to embrace the spirit of innovation at Athletes Unlimited. We are not looking for partners who just want to hang up a poster or advertise, but rather partners who see that the future lies in working with athletes and leagues to achieve their strategic goals.

The constant message from athletes is that they are partnering with Athletes Unlimited to not only advance their careers as players but also to reinforce the power they have to make a positive impact in the world.

It has many renowned athletes on its advisory board. What are they bringing to the table?

The athletes we have been involved in are all incredibly successful and have gone through the struggles it takes to start a new organization or career. We have a board with big names, but most of all they have a lot of experience in the sports business and brand building. They are also very well positioned to advise our athletes on developing their careers. So they are triple threats: they help us build our internal organization, they can give advice to athletes, and they have big names that fans know and respect.

In particular, why did you want Abby Wambach to get involved?

Abby was one of the first people we asked to join the board. She is someone who has thought so much about how the knowledge gained in the field can be extended outside of the field. You have thought more than almost anyone who knows how people can come together to bring about positive change and the power of the collective. That spirit and philosophy is what Athletes Unlimited is about. The story of the Star Executive or Star Player is grossly overrated in the media and the way we tell stories in our world, but the reality is that organizations today need collective strength … that’s what Abby and is all about we try to benefit from all of this. the wisdom that it can bring us.

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