Ben Slingerland is a young sports business entrepreneur, administrator and marketer who has worked at such organizations like Nike, the NCAA and IMG. Most recently, Ben served as the General Manager and Student-Athlete Advisor for the Lacrosse Program at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. Over the span of two and a half years as the General Manager, Ben quadrupled the size of the program and developed it into one of the nation's leading boarding prep school lacrosse programs.
Prior to taking over the lacrosse program at IMG Academy, Ben headed up the sales efforts of the IMG Academy's $4 million/year soccer camp business. Ben has held past positions at the NCAA Office of Government Relations in Washington, DC where he tracked state and federal legislation on Capitol Hill affecting collegiate athletics. Prior to that, Ben spent a summer in Beaverton, OR working at Nike's World Headquarters. At Nike, Ben worked in the North America Soccer division where he was a sports marketer for the Nike signed professionals, the US Men's and Women's National teams, Nike-affiliated collegiate soccer programs, and Nike-affiliated youth soccer clubs.
Growing up in Beverly, MA, Ben was an accomplished athlete himself. After being a three sport athlete (soccer, basketball, and tennis) at St. John's Prep in Danvers, MA, Ben went on to play Division 1 college soccer at Georgetown University. At Georgetown, Ben served as a team captain and led the program to win it's first ever Big East regular season championship title in 2010. Following Georgetown, Ben had stints playing semi-professionally with DC United's U23 team and the Tampa Bay Rowdies. After his soccer career, Ben got his Master's of Professional Studies in Sports Management at Georgetown University.
The last two weeks have made this one of the most exciting NBA trade deadlines in recent years for Celtics Nation. Winners of their last 6, the Celtics now sit in 7th in the Eastern Conference, only 4.5 games out of 1st. And what makes this trade deadline a bit more enticing is that there are no clear favorites to win the East, as only 1 game separates the top 4 teams (Heat, Bucks, Bulls and Cavs).
Prior to the Celtics current 6 game winning streak, the C’s had not been able to string more than 3 wins together all season. What has been the formula to the team’s recent success? Simply put, the team’s health. Many thought that from a personnel standpoint, this was the most talented Celtics team in recent years … and now with all pieces available to first year Head Coach Ime Udoka, it seems as though that is finally playing out to be true.
Nevertheless, the team suffered lots of criticism in the early part of the season, with many calling to break up the Tatum-Brown duo, which currently ranks as the 2nd highest scoring pair in the League.
What makes this deadline even more interesting is the fact that it is Brad Stevens first as the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations, a role formerly occupied by Danny Ainge.
So given all this recent excitement, what are the main things Celtics fans should keep an eye on during the eve of the NBA trade deadline?
Terrence Ross (SG/SF, Orland Magic): The 31 year old shooter from Orlando is averaging 10.9 pts this year in a reserve role for the Magic. The C’s would likely need to give up Schroder and either Langford or Nesmith to make this work. He was one of the proven shooters available at the deadline.
Dante DiVincenzo (PG, Milwaukee Bucks): This has been one of the more rumored deals, where the Celtics would make a Schroder-DiVincenzo swap. The issue with this has been the Bucks have been rumored to want to include Grant Williams in this, which many believe to be a non-starter for the Celtics. While DiVincenzo is having a down year from the field, he has proven to be an effective two -way player pre ankle injury.
Malcom Brogdon (PG, Indiana Pacers): After Indiana acquired Tyrese Haliburton from the Kings on Tuesday, it became apparent that Brogdon may be a moveable piece for them. Brogdon is averaging 19 ppg, 6 apg, and 5 rbg and would be an undeniable upgrade at the PG position compared to Marcus Smart. To get Brogdon, many believe the C’s could still keep Smart, but instead give up Richardson, Schroder and one of their 2019-20 1st round draft choices.
John Collins (PF, Atlanta Hawks): The 6’9’’, 24 year old PF is on the same “timeline” as Tatum and Brown and could give the C’s a true big 3 (similar to the Garnet, Pierce, Allen grouping that won them a title). This offseason the Hawks signed Collins to a 5 yr, $125 mil contract, however after the Hawks have gone 26-28, reports have surfaced about Collins being disgruntled. To get him, the C’s would likely need to give up Horford, Smart and potentially one other piece.
Best Case Scenario: I think most of Celtics Nation would agree that the untouchable pieces are Tatum, Brown and Robert Williams. If there was some way to land Brogdon and Collins, the C’s would have a starting 5 of Brogdon, Brown, Tatum, Collins and Williams, with an average starting age of 25. While you would deplete your bench a bit in achieving that, you’d probably still be able to maintain a 2nd unit that would include Pritchard (who many believe is a more than competent backup PG), Enes Freedom, and probably either Nesmith or Grant Williams. Leaving the C’s probably needing to sign one more capable bench piece. That starting 5 would easily be the best positioned group in the Eastern Conference over the next several years.
Other notable things to keep an eye on around the league tomorrow include whether James Harden is moved out of Brooklyn, what Philadelphia decides to do with Ben Simmons, and how far will the Trail Blazers fire-sale go.
Of course, more times than not, the Trade Deadline disappoints and rarely lives up to the hype. But as fans, we naturally love to dream … only time will tell what type of stamp Brad Stevens puts on his first NBA trade deadline.
When I was playing college soccer at Georgetown 12 years ago, there wasn’t one team in the country using GPS wearable technology. 7 years ago, while I was working at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, the performance coaches had just started to experiment with wearables. Today, having worked at Catapult Sports for the last 4 years, I have found just about every single professional team use some form of GPS technology across the NFL, MLS, NBA, and NHL. While the majority of teams in college football and soccer use it as well, and a healthy percentage of teams in college basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, volleyball and ice hockey.
So, why are all these athletes wearing sports bras that hold these blinking devices between their shoulder blades? How does this technology help athletic performance and why do coaches care about this data?
In this piece, I’ll talk about the evolution of GPS wearable technology specifically within the NCAA landscape and how it has become such a central piece to athletic performance.
What does GPS wearable technology do and how can it improve athletic performance?
If you don’t know what the specific physical demands are in your competitions, it’s impossible to optimize your training to prepare for those demands.
Athlete monitoring allows coaches to effectively measure the volume and intensity of their athlete’s training and competitions with an actual measuring stick to reduce soft tissue injuries, optimize performance and develop more robust return to play protocols. The ancillary benefits of using a GPS system allow coaches to use the data as a communication tool, as well as a recruiting tool reflecting the coaching staff’s commitment to student-athlete wellness, and ultimately instilling a level of professionalism within the team.
Where did wearable technology come from and who were the early adopters?
In what now is a very saturated marketplace, there were a few companies that were first to the table with GPS wearable technology, starting with Catapult. The Australian government decided to invest in the newly created Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) after a poor performance in the 1976 Olympic games.
Shaun Holthouse and Igor van de Griendt, eventual Catapult founders, began a project with the AIS in 1999. Taking a unique approach to evidence-based science improving sport, they began to measure all facets of athlete performance. Wearable sensors were then created to make science more accessible to athletes, and more routinely deployable across training and match situations. They were implemented for the 2004 Athens games, and then Catapult was born in late 2006.
Aussie Rules Football began using the sensors before the technology expanded globally to rugby, soccer and American Football in the following years.
How has it been adopted in the NCAA?
Inevitably this technology made its way over to the United States around 2012 as performance coaches started adopting it in their training. Florida State Women’s Soccer was one of the first Catapult NCAA clients, using the GK devices on a couple of their goalies. Jimbo Fisher, the Head Coach of Florida State’s football team at the time saw an antenna on the field at a Women’s Soccer practice. After doing a quick investigation of the tech, he started using it with his own team.
GPS tech quickly spread to football teams in the SEC Conference and then to the other Power 5 conferences. In a press conference after Alabama’s 24-7 win in the 2016-17 Peach Bowl, Nick Saban, the Head Coach of Alabama, went on record saying how much Catapult helped with their conditioning. Today, every single SEC Conference football team, but one, uses Catapult technology. Many athletic departments have taken a wholistic approach, doing multi-sport agreements, enabling cross sport communication between performance coaches.
“We use the Catapult system that gives us a scientific picture of where players are. After the season we did a total analysis of how we went through the season from a physical standpoint. We made some changes on how we practiced and how we monitored this systematically through the season … That has helped us manage our way through and keep our team a little more physically fresh.”
Nick Saban, Head Coach Alabama Football
Today, this technology has trickled down beyond D2 and D3, into high school programs and even youth academies. The largest growth of wearable technology in the college space in recent years has been in the mid-major/FCS level of the NCAA.
What do you need to look for in a GPS wearable system?
Reliability – Even on the cheaper side of the market, wearable tech is still a significant investment and therefore making sure the technology has been validated (white papers, etc) in its measuring accuracy is critical.
Functionality – Depending on training environment and what the coaching staff values, there are a few features that you will want to vet out:
Live capability – If looking at information live is important, you want to make sure the system has that capability (some do, many do not). Live tracking is good for return-to-play and rehabilitation protocols as well as in-game decision making.
Support – GPS wearable companies have a wide range of sizes. Some are equipped to provide meaningful support while others only have a handful of employees. Every team is unique in their personnel structure, but for many, having sport science support is essential in making actionable insights from the data.
What is the next wave of innovation in the GPS wearable space?
While half of Catapult’s business is built around GPS wearable technology, the other half is built around video editing software. This past summer Catapult acquired a company called SBG, a UK-based video company that specializes in Formula 1 motorsport and elite soccer video solutions. The acquisition was a strategic one, as the SBG software has enabled Catapult to accelerate their ability to integrate wearable metrics onto video, allowing coaches to get more visual context to the physical data. With the wearable technology, you may know that your center forward made 40 high velocity sprints during the match, but now with this wearable-video integration, you see exactly when those 40 high velocity sprints happen and what has happening in the match. With the performance data married to the tactical information, the technology’s value has grown exponentially and has become more digestible to your average coach.
The 2020-21 season was a disappointing one for the Boston Celtics. A team that many picked to contend for the Eastern Conference last year ended up getting hampered by ongoing injuries as they were forced to play in the play-in series as the 7th seed, before losing to the Nets in 5 games in the first round.
Fast forward to now. Danny Ainge was replaced by Brad Stevens as the new President of Basketball Operations, and Ime Udoka replaced Stevens as the 18th head coach in the organization’s 75 year history.
The first trade of the Stevens era happened quickly as the Celtics swapped their starting point guard and four time All-Star, Kemba Walker, for a former Celtics legend, five time All-Star Al Horford. While no one will doubt Kemba’s ability as a playmaker and scorer, his nagging knee injury kept him out of the lineup frequently … and most noticeably, the knee only allowed him to play 3 of the 5 games in the Nets playoff series. He’s 31 years old, and several speculate his best years are behind him. With Tatum and Brown as the Celtics primary scorers, many believed the Celtics didn’t need a score first, point guard, which is what Kemba represented. Moreover, Kemba’s inability to defend made him a liability down the stretch in crucial games. A weakness that was exploited heavily when the Miami Heat eliminated the Celtics in the 2020 playoffs.
Celtics Nation knows what they’re getting in Al Horford, who was a fan favorite in his first stint in Boston. Horford’s best attribute is his passing ability from the frontcourt. Last year the Celtics played lots of isolation basketball given their 3 playmakers in Tatum, Brown and Walker, which resulted in them finishing near the bottom of the league in Offensive efficiency and assists (26th and 25th respectively in the NBA last season). Horford, will certainly help with that, as his best ability is to connect the other four players he’s sharing the court with at any given moment.
Towards the end of July, the Celtics decided to use the remainder of the trade exception created by the sign-and-trade deal that sent Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets, on 27 year old, versatile swingman Josh Richardson from the Dallas Mavericks. While the Celtics will represent the 4th team Richardson has played on in the last 4 years, Richardson is defensive-minded, like Horford, which was much needed. The Celtics had their worst defensive rating in the 8 year coaching era under Stevens last season. It’s also worth mentioning, that both Richardson and Horford have spent time with new Celtics Head Coach Ime Udoka in their previous stints in Philadelphia.
On top of the Josh Richardson signing, the Celtics also acquired point guard Kris Dunn, center Bruno Fernando and a 2nd round pick from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Tristan Thompson. The goal here was for Boston to shed the money they owed Thompson, while bringing back some minor but cheaper contributors, namely being Dunn.
Many remember that on the infamous 2016 draft night, Celtics fans rioted when they chose to take Jaylen Brown over Kris Dunn. With that said, Jaylen has turned out to have the far superior NBA career up until this point. Dunn will likely be a third string ball handler who was also primarily brought in for his production on the defensive side of the ball. He has some of the most active hands in the league, as he averaged 2 steals a game in 25 minutes per game off the bench in Atlanta in the 19-20 season. Expectations aren’t overly high, especially because he was injured all of last year, but I would anticipate him being assigned to the opposing team’s best ball handler when they need to give Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown a rest.
Just last week, the Celtics made one of the final big splashes of the NBA offseason, scooping Dennis Schroder to a one-year $5.9 million contract. The big news around this signing was that Celtics are paying him $78 million less than an extension figure he infamously declined with the Lakers last season. After Lowry wen to Miami, Conley stayed in Utah, Lonzo signed with the Bulls, and Pelicans replaced him with Devonte Graham, Schroder and Boston ended up being the final pair; one a point guard and the other being a team in need of one for cheap.
For the Celtics, the value of this deal is insane, as they’re getting a guy who was valued at over $20 mil/yr just a couple of months ago for now just a hair below $6 mil. While this deal won’t make the Celtics title contenders in and of itself, it’s a low risk deal as it’s only a one year deal for low money. You now have 3 guards in Schroder, Smart and Richardson all playing on expiring years of their contract this upcoming season, which should make for a very competitive backcourt.
The changes in personnel, present several potential interesting starting lineup possibilities:
#1: (Big Frontcourt + Schroder @ PG): Schroder, Brown, Tatum, Horford & Williams III
#2: (Big Frontcourt + Smart @ PG) Smart, Brown, Tatum, Horford & Williams III
#3 (Defensive-Minded): Smart, Richardson, Brown, Tatum.& Williams III
#4 (Athletic): Schroder, Smart, Brown, Tatum & Williams III
My guess would be the first lineup will be the one they eventually land on with Smart, Richardson, Kanter, Nesmith, Pritchard, Dunn and Langford all coming off the bench.
Most people have the Celtics around #5-7 in the Eastern Conference preseason power rankings with the Nets, Bucks, 76ers, and Heat comfortably ahead of them, and then the Hawks, Celtics and Knicks in that 5-7 group. With that said, this Celtics team is probably one of the most exciting rosters to monitor heading into this upcoming season, given the coaching change, the several personnel changes, and the anticipated growth of Brown, Tatum and Robert Williams III.
It seems with the late addition of Schroder, that Stevens was able to improve this team through this offseason. I do believe they will be competitive this season, and may have an outside chance, if the new pieces gel the right way, to get to the Eastern Conference Final this season.
In less than 24 hours, the New England Patriots guaranteed over $127.5 million, placing them second in NFL history for most guaranteed money in a free-agent signing period … and free agency hasn’t even officially began yet (starts later today at 4pm ET). The Patriots are only about $10 million shy of last year’s Dolphins who spent $147.2 million. Needless to say, it’s been a historic past couple of days in Foxboro.
Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft had a plan all along. They alluded to it often over the last year. The New England Patriots made moves last year to maximize their availability for this year. They’ve been planning for this off-season for quite some time … and now it’s here. So let’s break down the moves.
THE BOSTON TE PARTY
Within 24 hours, the Patriots went from having arguably the worst tight end core in the AFC, to probably having the best with the signings of Jonnu Smith (4 Yr, $50 Million) from the Tennessee Titans and Hunter Henry (3 Yr, $37.5 Million) from the Los Angeles Chargers. Quite simply, the Patriots have had the NFL’s lowest pass catching production from the tight end position over the last two seasons … and so they went out and got the two best tight ends in free agency. While Henry is the more prolific pass-catcher (196 catches vs Smith’s 114), Smith’s ceiling is much higher as he is only 25 years old. Cam Newton relied heavily on Greg Olson in Carolina, and it seems as though the Patriots are trying to recreate that same TE connection here in New England.
Of all the signings within the last 48 hours, the Smith one has been perceived as the most controversial, mainly because, he has just become one of the league’s highest paid tight ends despite his numbers (41 catches, 448 yards, 8 TDs). In fact, it’s the most expensive per-year deal the Patriots have ever given to a pass-catcher, topping past contracts for legends such as Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski … which is hard to believe. And the recent drafting of N’Keal Harry (and ensuing disappointing production) has led some Patriot nay-sayers to question the organization’s ability to evaluate pass-catching talent.
Here, is where we need to pause … because if you look a bit more underneath the hood, I think most of Patriot nation might be a bit surprised.
His 6’3’’, 247 lb frame coupled with nearly a 40 inch vertical and 4.6 40 time, make him as athletic a tight end as there is in the league. He often lines up as tailback, a la Aaron Hernandez back in the Patriot glory years. Smith’s red zone stats since the ’19 season are remarkable, with 10 TD catches (4th among TE’s) coupled with an astonishing 0 drops. His production was lower than it should’ve been in a run-heavy Tennessee offense that featured the best running back perhaps of the last decade in Derrick Henry.
Before the 2020 AFC Wild Card game against the Titans, Belichick sang the highest praises of Smith, “He can do a lot of things: blocks well, runs well, is a good receiver. I mean, hell, they played him at tailback. He looked pretty good back there. So, he’s a very athletic player, hard to tackle, catches the ball well. He’s great after the catch — probably the best in the league. I mean, I can’t imagine anybody better than him after the catch.”
The duo of Henry and Smith has drawn early comparisons to the old dual TE Belichick offense that featured Gronk and Hernandez. Both come from run-heavy offenses, which figures to be the case again this year for the Patriots.
A #2 AND A #3 WR
In the recently acquired Raiders Nelson Agholar (2 yr, $26 million) and the 49ers, Kendrick Borne (3 yr, $22.5 million) the Patriots have just acquired their likely #2 and #3 wide receivers respectively. Agholar, the former 1st round pick from USC, ranked 29th in the league after having his best season last year with 896 yards on 48 catches and 8 TDs. Unlike Agholar, Borne went undrafted, but similar to Agholar is also coming off his best season last year with 667 yards on 49 catches and 2 TDs. While Agholar is one of the league’s best deep threats (think a poor man’s Tyreek Hill), Borne is one of the better third down receivers, which was a glaring weakness for the 2020 Patriots.
In regards to these WR signings, the Patriot pessimists are saying we don’t need a #2 and a #3, and that instead we really needed a #1. Additionally, similar to Smith, those same pessimists are saying we’re overpaying based on not enough documented success. In reality, Smith will likely be our #1 receiver now, unless somehow one of the ‘Bama studs in Waddle or Smith falls to us at #15 (or we trade up), which I believe to be highly unlikely. But when you take a step back and look at the additions of Agholar and Borne to a receiving core that gets Julian Edelman back, you all of a sudden have a very deep group that is rounded out with former 1st round pick N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Myers and Damiere Byrd.
From a personnel perspective, if you combine the return of the COVID holdouts (Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung) along with the signings of the Ravens LB/DE Matthew Judon (4 yr, $56 million), the Eagles S Jalen Mills (4 yr, $24 million) and the Dolphins DT Davon Godchaux (2 yr, $16 million), and then throw in the resigning of Deatrich Wise (4 yr, $30 million) you have the most improved defense, THUS FAR, this offseason.
The biggest name here is of course Judon, who should provide a huge lift in the pass rushing game. Over 80 games with the Ravens, he’s notched 35.5 sacks while proving to be incredibly durable (only missing 4 games). Judon will be the Pats #1 edge rusher, followed by Chase Winovich, Josh Uche, and Afernee Jennings. While Bentley and Hightower should hold down the Inside Linebacker starting spots.
Godchaux, from the Dolphins, shores up the nose for what was the 26th ranked run defense last year. Wise was a key keep for his position versatility in Belichick’s front. Anderson, Mills and Bethel are all Patriots’ types of rotational role players. Between all their defensive youngsters and veterans Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung returning from opt outs, there are lot of pieces on the board for Belichick to manipulate in his hybrid scheme.
With the return of Patrick Chung to compliment Kyle Dugger, Stephon Gillmore, J.C. Jackson, Devon and Jason Mccourty, Jalen Mills, Adrian Phillips and Jonathan Jones in an all-of-a-sudden over-crowded secondary, some are speculating that Gillmore (given he’s on the last year of his contract anyway) could become trade collateral to move up in the draft.
MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION – WHO IS QB?
Last year was an absolute disaster for Cam Newton who averaged an embarrassing 177 ypg and threw for a mere 8 TDs. But again, if you look a bit closer as to what played into that, you begin to understand why. Newton was signed extremely late in the off-season and didn’t really have the preferred ramp up time to learn a relatively complicated McDaniels’ offense. Combine that with COVID shutting him down for 2 weeks of the season and one of the historically worst receiving cores in recent NFL history, it does add up. For a former #1 overall pick and a former NFL MVP, the relatively small resigning cost should be seen as a win for the Patriots, who really had no other immediate option at the QB position as they headed into free agency.
Nonetheless, I think everyone is in agreement that there is going to have to be another QB brought in who isn’t named Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer who can properly challenge Cam Newton for the QB1 job. The most obvious place to look for that person is in what is a particularly strong top-end QB draft class this year with Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones being the most talked about targets for the Pats. Each one of those guys is slightly different and does different things well. Lance and Fields are most like Cam as dual-threat guys who could likely learn really well under him; whereas Mac resembles more of the pocket-passer that TB12 was.
Another option is free agency. While Dak Prescott, Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s names have already been taken off the board, Mitchell Trubisky is still unsigned and could certainly provide a potential QB battle if signed to compete with Cam.
The last option would be to trade for Jimmy G, which has been an ongoing rumors for the last year. While Jimmy knows McDaniels offensive schemes well, his durability has been a major concern over the last 2 years.
Needless to say it’s been an eventful off-season already for the Patriots. The Patriots need players, and they’ve gotten players. And if the aggression is any indication of what the Patriots might do on draft day, well buckle up your seatbelts.
There is a saying in New England, “In Bill We Trust” … and for good reason, the man is undeniably the best coach in the history of the sport. With that said, the last piece of puzzle is still unsolved at the moment. Depending on how that final piece is managed, that very well could largely decide the final chapter in Bill Belichick’s coaching legacy.
There are only a few free agent signings in the last 20 years of sport (Lebron James to the Heat, Barry Bonds to the Giants, Shaq to the Lakers, A-Rod to the Rangers, Rice to the Raiders) that rival what I believe will become the most impactful signing in the history of the NFL … Cam Newton coming to the New England Patriots.
The storylines are endless.
You have probably the most dominant franchise in the history of modern sport in the Pats, seemingly abruptly halted with a wild card weekend defeat followed by the departure of their fearless leader and greatest of all time, Tom Brady.
Never once in the history of the NFL has a team lost a league MVP and acquired a league MVP in the same offseason.
There is now a QB race in New England between two former Auburn Tigers who couldn’t be any more different.
There may not be a more boisterous, off-the-field headache of a QB in the league in Cam Newton, coming into a more business-like team first environment in New England.
And on top of all this, you will have Bill Belichick who will be coaching a team for the first time in 20 years without Tom Brady, who will inevitably answer everyone’s question by season’s end … was it the Belichick system or the Goat TB12 responsible for the 6 rings?
Why this is a great signing for the Patriots:
Jarett Stidham isn’t ready to start. Stidham has thrown a total of 4 passes in the NFL, one of which was a “Pick-six” interception. By all accounts, the New England coaching staff is very high on Stidham, but coming in at 23 years old trying to replace the GOAT is a formidable task.
Cam Newton is an upgrade over Brian Hoyer. While Tom was the GOAT, he was not mobile whatsoever. Josh McDaniels and the offense are likely going to change things up quite a bit schematically with a more mobile QB leading the way. The positive about Hoyer was that he knew the Patriots system … but unfortunately for Hoyer, that system is likely changing now given the personnel.
Cam gives them the best chance to win this season. If healthy, Newton is undeniably the more talented QB (and it’s not close). Cam was a former #1 Overall Pick, 3x Pro Bowler and a former MVP. Belichick is a win first type of coach, and Newton (again, if healthy) gives them the best chance to win this season.
True QB competition this offseason. Many people thought the Pats were going to draft a QB in the draft and yet they held tight. Many thought they were going to make a move earlier in free agency for a guy like Jameis Winston. Competition breeds success and having two legitimate QBs in the mix will make them both better.
The Value was absolutely insane. Newton agreed to a one-year deal with a base of $1.05 mill, the minimum salary for a player with his amount of experience (9 years) in the league … and only half of that money is guaranteed. Now with all the incentives, Newton can earn an additional $5.75 million, creating a max value of the contract of $7.5 million. Low risk, high reward … it doesn’t get any better than that.
The Patriots have a history of bringing in controversial, yet talented players over the years . Some have worked (Corey Dillon, Aquib Talib, Randy Moss) and some haven’t (Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Adalius Thomas and most notably and most recently Antonio Brown).
It’s the most important position in all of sport. It has been the most dominant franchise in the history of sport. And now you have one of the most polarizing talents in the National Football League who has been handed the keys to replace the GOAT.
Rewind the clock 365 days … the Celtics were a team that was one game away from the NBA Finals (despite playing without their best player and another All-Star). With the loan pick of their 2018 draft used to secure big man depth with Robert Williams, the Celtics (on paper) were poised to runaway with the East. My my, do things change quickly.
An All-NBA Point Guard in Kyrie Irving, two proven NBA All-Stars in Al Horford and Gordon Hayward, two of the biggest emerging young talents with Jayson Tatum and Jaelyn Brown, a deep bench, a Head Coach/GM combo that many would say is the best in the league, and future draft picks that would even make a trust fund baby excited … a birth in the finals or bust was the expectation of Titletown USA for the 2018-19 Celtics season. Spoiler alert: it was a bust.
Finishing 4th in the East, and a near sweep in round 2, the Celtics vastly underachieved. That much is not up for debate. With the World Series and Super Bowl trophies in hand, and one game shy of the Stanley Cup … the spoiled Boston fandom, while disappointed in the C’s season, still seemed to have an unwavering trust in the Ainge & Stevens team. Names like Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kristis Porzingis had danced in Celtics fans’ heads as the future draft picks accumulated. Danny Ainge had the keys to the Ferrari … while Celtics Nation feverishly awaited the master plan.
But as visions of cherry-plums transformed into these nightmare headlines, the tune in Titletown took a shift:
“The Celtics belief they can re-sign their All-Star point guard [Kyrie Irving] has “eroded” amid increasing speculation he wants to join the Brooklyn Nets” (Bleacher Report).
“Contract talks have now apparently shifted toward Horford exiting Boston as news of Horford’s imminent departure from the Celtics was also reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski as well.” (ESPN)
“I put up with a lot this year. I said what I said after the season, and I think we all know that I’m not trying to step into that again” (Terry Rozier).
With what originally looked like a potential dynasty to run the East for many years to come, the Celtics all of a sudden headed into draft night like a lost puppy … as an organization looking for an identity. 3 first round picks, a 2nd rounder, a 2020 Memphis 1st rounder, and a roster riddled with talent … it seemed like a blockbuster deal was inevitable … but it never came. And so this is how the anticlimactic draft night unfolded for the Celtics:
#14: Romeo Langford (SG, Indiana) – An oversized 2 that has drawn comparisons to Evan Turner … likely a role player in year 1, that has a high ceiling.
*Two-for-One: Celtics trade pick #20 to the 76ers for picks #24 and #33
#22: Grant Williams (PF, Tennessee) – The two-time SEC Player of the Year, Williams is an undersized PF, yet freakishly strong. Highly intelligent, Williams has been compared to P.J. Tucker and seemingly would fit well as a role player within the Celtics current roster.
*Bye Baynes: Celtics deal Baynes to the Suns in exchange for the Bucks 2020 1st Round Pick (1-7 protected)
#33: Carsen Edwards (PG, Purdue) – Undersized at 6 feet, Edwards still was one of the nation’s top scorers with 24 ppg. Despite being limited defensively, Edwards does provide depth at what could be a very empty point guard position come free agency.
#51: Tremont Waters (PG, LSU) – See Edwards’ description above. Battle with Edwards to see who gets a roster spot.
In a draft that is drawing immediate comparisons to the underwhelming Fab Mello (RIP), Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, and James Young draft … this draft was largely disappointing for the Celtics, especially given the plethora of picks and the lack of addressing immediate needs. Having said that, you now have a Boston team that has the potential of 25-26 mil in cap space heading into free agency. The most rumored target at the moment is the first time All-Star, Orlando Center Nikola Vucevic.
Best Guess 2019-20 C’s Depth Chart:
PG: Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Carsen Edwards
SG: Jaylen Brown, Romeo Langford
SF: Gordon Hayward, Grant Williams
PF: Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Daniel Theis
C: Nikola Vucevic, Robert Williams
If you’ve read my writing before or you know my general outlook, I’m relentlessly optimistic … and that optimism holds true with this roster. Listen, on paper, this is a team that is less talented than the 2018-19 roster, there is no question about that. However maybe not as much as people think. You replace Al Horford with another All-Star Center who is younger if we can pull off the Vucevic signing.
You have a “changing of the guards” at point with Irving being replaced by Rozier. The C’s played better with Rozier running point, as many believe he deserves an opportunity to show the league he is an elite starting PG (the insurance policy was drafted tonight with Edwards and Waters). Most importantly, you maintain your best youth talent in Tatum and Brown.
Looking at Brad Stevens, he has always over-achieved with less talent … between bringing mid-major Butler to two National Championships and transitioning that ability to the NBA in bringing a Irving/Hayward-less C’s team to game 7 of the Eastern Finals in 2018.
Is this best case scenario, probably … is it unlikely though, I’m not sure it is. If this team gels like they did two years ago in the front half of next year (and with appealable trading assets in hand), this team could be one deal away from being a title contender again as soon as the trade deadline of next season.
Our culture is predicated around them for better or for worse. Sport has served as humanity’s greatest form of unwritten entertainment from it’s very beginning. And since then, sport has transcended humanity, snowballing into a captivating phenomenon over the centuries into what we know it to be today.
I am one of those people who became unequivocally enthralled by the power of sport from the very beginning. At 5, I was religiously reading the Sports Section of the Boston Globe. By 10, I was tapping my toes and fidgeting with my batting gloves in the Little League batter’s box emulating my favorite Boston Red Sox, Nomar Garciaparra. When I was 15, my all-boys catholic prep school gave us the day off school so students could attend the parade and celebrate the New England Patriots winning their 2nd Super Bowl, which has now turned into 6 (and counting). And at 20, I accepted a summer internship to work at Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton, OR … marking the day I officially transformed my passionate fandom into making it a career and launching my path into the sports business industry.
As a young, eager junior at Georgetown University, the sports business industry was something I dove into passionately, yet somewhat by chance. And now, after having just turned 30 this past year, it has caused me to think back on everything I’ve learned in my] career as a sports business professional. I will get approached from time to time by college students or recent college grads asking for advice about the industry … and so I figured I would reflect on a few things (many of which I failed miserably at and others that I did okay with) that I wish I could tell my 20 year old-self who had just accepted that first sports business internship.
Be Opportunistic. It may sound like a cliché, it may even sound blatantly obvious … but I believe it’s the single greatest factor that distinguishes people who succeed in this industry versus people who don’t. That first Nike internship I got was somewhat of an odd happening. I received an email from a Georgetown email domain that looked identical to the hundreds of other spam emails I receive … however for some reason I opened it.
Nike was a company that I resonated with from being an athlete … it was the company I chose when my dad told me I could pick any one stock to invest in as just a little kid (it turned out to be an ok pick). Needless to say, I followed through with the application process and sure enough became the one Georgetown student-athlete that Nike chose that year to be part of their Summer Internship Program. It was only until after I was out in Beaverton, OR that I realized how lucky I had gotten. Nike received about 10,000 applications for their Summer Internship Program that year and only 90 were selected (45 student-athletes from Nike sponsored universities and 45 “at-large” candidates). After doing the math and realizing that was a 0.09% acceptance rate, my sense of opportunity heightened.
While I had been opportunistic to have secured that internship, I look back at that experience and realize I could’ve been more opportunistic in my time at Nike. While I was definitely doing some cool things like playing hoops with LeBron James and showing Manchester City around the Nike campus, I underestimated how valuable an opportunity that was to network and build more meaningful relationships with key people within the company. Several people in that intern class with me (many of whom I’m still friends with today) have advanced through the ranks at Nike over the last 10 years and are in various Senior Director roles, due in large part to the networking and relationship-building they did during the course of their two months on the Nike campus that summer.
Never underestimate the power of your current situations (no matter what it might be) and take advantage of the resources you have at your disposal.
Be Patient. The sports industry is an interesting one given the discrepancy between earnings of athletes and everyone else in the industry. Manny Machado signs a $300 million deal yesterday in becoming the San Diego Padres newest shortstop and simultaneously you have an extremely competitive application process to get selected to be one of the San Diego Padres unpaid summer interns. Because its sports, people are willing to work for next to nothing to be in the industry. Consequentially, entry level salaries fall below many other industries.
When I had graduated from Georgetown in 2012 (after having gotten both my BA in English and my MS in Sports Management), I had a good majority of friends go straight into Finance. Meanwhile, I chose to head down to sunny (yet somewhat desolate) Bradenton, FL to work at IMG Academy … making a fraction of what my friends were making at any of the big banks or consulting firms.
I occasionally had fleeting thoughts of whether I had made the right decision with my career, but my day-to-day work of being at one of the world’s best sports academies and largest global sports companies made it worth it. And while that was certainly a humble beginning, I very quickly got promoted within 6 months from running the Academy’s Soccer camp/team business to overseeing their brand-new Lacrosse program. In growing the program from 15 Floridians to 50 boys from all over North America and becoming a nationally ranked lacrosse program, my experience at IMG Academy was incredibly rewarding.
The sports business industry is not a race, especially at the beginning given the nature of the industry. Find the right environment, with a path for growth and your patience will pay dividends sooner rather than later.
Find a Mentor. Most people want to help other people … it’s human nature. This is a concept that extends far beyond just the sports industry; however, it was something I didn’t fully grasp early on. I think I had a do-it-yourself mentality for much of my early career, perhaps due to my competitive nature of being a former athlete or perhaps simply due to lack of experience.
I would encourage all people new to the sports business industry to try to find one (or a few) people whose careers they regard highly and whose footsteps they want to follow. Get to know that person or people and build a relationship with them.
For me, these mentors I developed during my earlier years In the industry introduced me to key people, gave me advise on important career steps I was considering, and ultimately opened doors to more opportunity within the industry. Just like sales, people buy from people … and when a well-regarded person in the industry can endorse your own abilities and character, more doors will quickly open up.
Surround yourself with the right people and find the one or two you really connect with on a personal level, whose career path you identify with, and cultivate those relationships.
Put Yourself Out There. The sports and entertainment industry is perhaps more of a people industry than any other industry in business. And while yes, there are some technical-based jobs within sport, the very nature of the industry is predicated on people. The cliché holds true: “It’s who you know, not necessarily what you know.” People are often the commodity within sports business, whether it be an athlete you’re trying to sign, a sponsor you’re trying to land, or an audience you’re trying to market to.
This has never been truer for me than in my most recent endeavor with Catapult Sports. When I transitioned over to the sports technology field about a year and a half ago, I had lots to learn quickly about the industry while simultaneously trying to hit my number and do my job as a Business Development Manager. Much of my time was spent early on attending conferences and conventions, meeting with the major players in the space (both externally and internally at Catapult). Sometimes it would mean staying up late and having a drink with an expert Catapult client/user after a long day at a convention, another time it might be listening to a panelist speaker at a workshop and being compelled to engage with that person in deep conversation afterwards.
You can’t be afraid to swing and miss … that’s part of being a professional. Roll up your sleeves, talk to people, go to conferences, and put yourself out there to not only listen but also to be heard.
It’s the world’s most popular sport on the sport’s biggest stage … it’s the World Cup. With as much hype as the Super Bowl and yet the international relevance of the Olympics, the World Cup is unique to it’s kind. The event is positioned as a measuring stick of where the game of football (or soccer, as us Americans call it) currently sits – with players, coaches, and fans across the world taking note at which playing styles prevail, which continents are the most dominant, and who the world’s most elite players really are. So with that, here are 5 of my biggest takeaways from 2018 Russia.
Europe is Still King.
With 15 of the 32 qualifying countries coming from Europe, this World Cup saw 6 of those European countries make up the final 8 teams in the tournament.
It made for an all-European semi-finals and upcoming final between France and Croatia on Sunday. 4 out of South America’s 5 teams went through to the Round of 16, however without Brazil, Argentina, Columbia or Uruguay making the semi-finals, CONMEBOL will view this World Cup as largely a disappointment for themselves. While Africa’s expectations are not quite as high as South America’s, they too, will be disappointed without seeing a single one of their 5 teams advancing to the Round of 16. Given the mere 3 teams Asia had representing the continent, Japan became a bit of a Cinderella team after having Belgium on the ropes, up 2-0 in the 2nd half of a Round of 16 match. While only one of the 3 North American teams (Mexico) advanced to the Round of 16 … North America also claimed the tournament’s worst performing country with a record of 0-3 and a -9 goal differential
with Panama, the same country who eliminated the US from qualifying.
Tika-Taka Out, Counter-Attack In
For those unfamiliar with the “Tika-taka” style of play, this is known as a Spanish style of the game that is characterized by short, quick movement passing while working the ball through channels and keeping possession. While it’s a style of play largely associated with Spain and Barcelona FC, it’s the pervasive style of many South American teams like Brazil and Argentina as well. In France’s wins over Argentina and Uruguay, as well as Belgium’s win over Brazil in the Quarters, the world saw a new counter-attack style of soccer prevail predicated on sharpness in transition and catching opposing teams off balanced on the counter attack.
The concept here is centered on the idea of attacking as soon as the ball is taken possession of in an effort to catch up an opposing a team unbalanced defensively. Belgium and France did this better than any other two teams in the tournament in large part due to attacking midfielders who fit this mold with De Bruyne and Hazard for Belgium and Mbappe and Griezmann for the French.
Set Pieces Decide Matches
The numbers are staggering with 70 of the 160 goals scored in this World Cup having come off set-piece finishes, an unprecedented 43.8%. The team that everyone was talking about on set-piece goals was England, who got their lone goal in the semi-final yesterday off a free-kick. The tournament saw a lot of penalty kicks but also very well-executed corner and free kick designed plays. The aerial aspect to the game is still a critical part of deciding matches.
Video Assisted Review (VAR) – Verdict Still Out
Every professional sports league in the United States have official replays and reviews and yet this was the first year of it being introduced at the World Cup. Quite frankly it was overdue. Having said that, I think there are still differing opinions about the technology as it applies to soccer after this World Cup. The technology helped Sweden collect a pivotal PK against South Korea, which was justified and changed the face of Group F. Meanwhile the Brazilians felt like their defender was pushed on Switzerland’s tying header in group play. And France was awarded a very soft PK against Australia after reviewing a foul on Griezmann.
There is still a huge element of the sport that relies on human judgment which the traditionalists of the sport will argue should be left in the hands of the person with the whistle in the middle of the field … while the VAR supporters will argue the more eyes on the play the better and that it is simply a matter of mastering the use of the new technology. I think the two biggest knocks on the implementation of the technology have been, one, how long does it delay the game and secondly, the appropriate timing of when the play is actually stopped to review the questionable play.
Too Many Dives
FIFA terms it simulation, that is, the act of when a player takes a dive. In fact the governing body of international soccer instructs it’s officials to issue a yellow card if and when a player does this. Nonetheless, diving is still a huge part of today’s game, which was exemplified by Neymar throughout the tournament. Neymar was in fact the most fouled player in this year’s World Cup by a landslide. However, what several players and coaches were most upset about, was the excessive exaggeration of the injuries and perceived time-wasting that was associated with it.
The rolling around in agony and flailing arms led to countless comedic videos go viral, and even allowed Kentucky Fried Chicken an opportunity to commercialize a combo meal “Making a Meal Out of It” through the course of World Cup television commercials. I personally believe the Video Assisted Review will play as a big a role in discouraging this behavior as it will to confirming or denying penalty kicks.
At the end of the day, there is diving or “flopping” in every sport, American football, hockey, and basketball. US soccer legend, Alexi Lalas, in fact calls simulation a skill, stating that there are good ways and bad way to sell fouls.
The World Cup Final on Sunday will feature heavily favorited France take on a somewhat surprising Croatian team. If Croatia prevails, Croatia will be the second smallest country in population (4 million) to ever win the sport’s most coveted trophy after Uruguay (3.4 million) did it in 1930 and 1950. Meanwhile the French feature the second youngest team in this World Cup, with an average age of 26. Needless to say it should be an entertaining final.
Technology. It’s a word that seems to be a buzz word through virtually all sectors of business in today’s day in age. It’s a word that has plenty of connotations associated with it, some positive and others not quite as much: intimidating, sophisticated, futuristic, automated, efficient … the list goes on and on. Look at the biggest, most popular companies today, Salesforce, Amazon, Facebook, Apple … they all center around technology. Tech start-ups have become synonymous with the Millennial generation.
When I chose to dive into the world of sport technology just less than a year ago I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into. When I interned at Nike in 2010, there was lots of chatter about their new Nike Running Club App as well as their Nike Spark System that measured athleticism. When I got my Sports Management Master’s Degree from Georgetown in 2012, there was excitement around fan engagement & fan experience apps while creating digital marketing platforms. During my time down at IMG Academy from 2012-2015, it was all about innovative equipment that facilitated rehab and training, like the AlterG (anti-gravity) treadmill and their hyperbaric chamber oxygen therapy.
Today, we have more technology available to us than ever before. In the World Cup right now, you see goal-line technologies, and in-game sports-analytics companies like OptaPro that are changing the face of scouting analysis. With the prevalence of technology in sport being greater than it’s ever been before, one sector of sports technology that is growing as fast as any other is wearable tracking technology.
Think FitBit on steroids … designed for professional and elite collegiate athletes. These GPS wearables are no bigger than a watch, are lightweight and positioned in a compression fitting sport vest garment between the athletes’ shoulder-blades, out of the way of any meaningful contact.
The technology gained it’s first meaningful traction down under in Australia where the Australian Institute of Sport poured lots of money and resources into the technology specifically within their Aussie Rules Football leagues.
The first company of its kind was born in 2006 with Catapult Sports. Expanding beyond rugby, to soccer, to American Football, the technology spread quickly thereafter to other sports like hockey, basketball, lacrosse, field hockey, volleyball, and even baseball. Today there are over a dozen companies that produce this technology with companies like STAT Sports, Polar, Zephyr, VX Sport, First Beat, Titan and several others.
In all 5 of the US’s professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS), this technology has become prominently worn by the vast majority of teams. At the power 5 collegiate level, the majority of colleges and universities are doing something with this technology, at least within their football, basketball and soccer programs. Today, a trickle down effect has started to occur where mid-major D1, D2, D3 colleges, high schools and even youth sports academies are beginning to utilize these devices.
As this technology has grown, there has been a distinction of products; some of which track internal metrics (like heart rate, heart rate variability, VO2 max, calories and sleep quality), while others focus on external movement metrics (distance covered, top speed, playerload, collisions, and jumps), and some other products can do a combination of both. As this data has become available to coaching staffs, we’ve seen the birth of a new field of sport science.
With this technology, coaches, strength coaches, and athletic trainers are all becoming more intelligent about their athletes.
They’re able to quantify the workloads of their athletes to a much more scientific degree and consequently are able to better understand whether or not they’re over or under working their athletes. When you’re able to understand the demands of a game, and develop benchmarks for certain positions and even individual athletes, coaches can design and optimize training more efficiently. With the periodization (or systematized structuring of practice workload), coaches and performance coaches can start to limit soft tissue injuries and increase the wellness and longevity of their athletes’. Athletic trainers can additionally structure return-to-play protocols as injured athletes return from inevitable injuries.
No longer is wearable tracking technology a well-kept, secretive trend; but rather, this has become the normative standard within elite sport. The inherent competitive advantages the data provides, has eliminated this as optional technology for those organizations with available budget. It is now all but required.
We’ve only just begun to see wearable technology’s pervasive proliferation.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of solely the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of any company mentioned.