5 months ago

Alabama’s Senior Bowl Summit inspires attendees

Breaking barriers, building culture and growing business were key themes discussed Thursday during the second annual Senior Bowl Summit at Saenger Theatre in downtown Mobile.

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk was the keynote speaker. He urged the hundreds of people in attendance to overcome fear of judgment, a fear he says discourages 99 percent of people from taking a risk.

“Most of you won’t post on social media because there is insecurity about what you’re going to say,” Vaynerchuk said. “You worry about what people will say about you. The only thing you can do wrong is not be yourself.”

Vaynerchuk encouraged attendees to embrace the internet, posting content seven to 25 times per day on three to seven social media platforms.

“What are you waiting for?” Vaynerchuk said. “If you are not communicating, you do not exist. Communicate about what you love.”

The event, sponsored by Alabama Power and Regions Bank, was moderated by Jeremy Schaap of ESPN‘s “Outside the Lines.” Schapp moderated four panel discussions related to sports leadership, women in sports, sports agents and head coaches.

Sports business

The first panel discussion centered on the business of sports and included comments from Peter McLoughlin, CEO of Vulcan Sports & Entertainment; John Maitrejean, director of marketing operations and partnerships at The Hershey Company; and Sandra Richards, managing director for Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment. McLoughlin, who is the former president of the Seattle Seahawks, said he’s bullish on the future of the sports industry.

“It’s what stands out in the crowd,” McLoughlin said. “Sports is true reality television. It’s the best way for marketers and companies to connect with the fans.”

Maitrejean said his company does a lot of research to make sure sponsorships fit the product.

“Our job is to make sure we are partnered with the right teams,” Maitrejean said. “Sports still gets a lot of eyeballs because it’s a live event, and a lot of our fans are also big sports fans, but with the fragmentation of media, we have many more choices.”

Richards, who advises athletes and entertainers on managing newfound income, says the business has dramatically changed the past 10 years.

“The athletes are now a business themselves,” Richards said. “Everything is different than it was yesterday.”

Richards said she encourages people planning for their future to start with “why.”

“What’s you’re why?” Richards said. “What’s your goal? Is it going to get you to the retirement place you want to be? The decisions today are going to have a big impact on what happens tomorrow.”

McLoughlin said the key to any successful business is communication.

“Communicate, communicate, communicate,” McLoughlin said. “Communicate your goals and the culture. Ask the employees to share that with customers and staff. As long as you have good people and are aligned with the goals, you will be successful.”

Maitrejean added, “If you’re a small business owner, make sure you understand the value and differentiation your product offers and continue to differentiate yourself from your competitors. The successful brands are the ones who do this. Having that right branding brings you longevity.”

Women in sports

The second panel discussion focused on the growing role of women in sports. Panelists were Buffy Filippell, president and founder of Teamwork Online; sports agent Nicole Lynn; National Football League (NFL) official LaShell Nelson; and Catherine Raiche, football operations and player personnel coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. All the panelists talked about the challenges they face because of their gender.

“There are certain things I can’t do that my peer agents (men) can do,” Lynn said. “They can take clients to dinner and the bar at night. I can’t do that. I have to do coffee at 4.”

Nelson said she has to work harder than male officials to remove doubts about her ability.

“I have to watch way more film because I don’t ever want anyone to doubt me,” Nelson said. “You have to take it beyond what the normal male would do.”

Raiche said she spends extra time preparing for meetings because the validity of her statements has occasionally been dismissed because of her gender.

“Every time I walk into a meeting I always do the extra work to verify and confirm to be 2,000% ready,” Raiche said. “I do it because it’s my work ethic but also because I’m a woman. My preparation needs to be stronger.”

Filippell, who recruits executives for jobs in sports, said employers in the sports business are making great strides drawing women into the industry.

“Gender equality is growing the businesses,” Filippell said. “Most of the teams want to have gender equality because their audience is diverse, so you need to have those voices in the organization that is diverse.”

The panelists encouraged attendees to find a mentor or sponsor to give them honest encouragement and feedback.

“Get you an advocate that is going to be very honest with you,” Nelson said. “I want that because if they don’t give it to you, they don’t care. Find someone that is the best at their job and will help you.”

“Find a sponsor that doesn’t look like you,” added Lynn. “If I sponsor someone that looks like me, it looks like I’m sponsoring them because of that. Excellence is your greatest currency.”

Added Raiche, “Block the noise. Focus on what your goal is. Put your head down and work. Don’t wait for someone to look like you to do it. Just do it.”

Sports agents

The third panel featured three sports agents: Drew RosenhausRyan Tollner and Ryan Williams. All three discussed the challenges of their careers.

“When I was 22, I was Mr. Miami Vice,” Rosenhaus said. “I would hang with them, go to clubs with them. Now I’m like their dad. It’s less of a friendship, buddy-buddy, and more of a respect type of relationship.”

“It used to be very transactional,” Tollner added. “Now it’s entirely relational. We are on call all of the time. That’s just a very different demand. You have to be really good at prioritizing your time and be there for the player at the critical times.”

Williams said the hyper-competitive nature of the sports industry, especially in this age of social media, has forced agents to also be therapists.

“Athletes either succeed or fail every Sunday,” Williams said. “These guys are human. We end up being therapists. The contract defines the term, but we get in the mud to help our clients.”

All three panelists said recruiting is the most difficult part of their job.

“Every single year I have to to try to get remarried to someone … all while 900 agents are doing the same thing,” Williams said. “We take our losses harder than we celebrate our wins, much like our clients. The rest is fun.”

Rosenhaus said the fact that the player may not be the decision-maker adds additional frustrations.

“You could beat out a hundred people and be No. 2, and get nothing,” Rosenhaus said. “There’s no consolation prize. It is a brutal process where you can work dozens of hours and give up countless trips away from your family, and never have a chance of getting that player. You have to have a lot of poise. You can’t say anything and tell him he’s a jerk.”

Tollner said the unpredictable income and frequent travel are tough on family.

“It’s a very hard job to stabilize an income,” Tollner said. “I travel a lot. It’s extremely demanding on a family.”

Professional coaching

The final panel was a discussion with Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. Schapp asked them about the challenges of coaching players who are constantly distracted by conversations and content on their phones. Taylor said he doesn’t try to stop them but does encourage them to develop relationships.

“We don’t try to cut that off because they are attached to their phones,” Taylor said. “We just want guys to develop relationships and build culture. Find other moments throughout the day where you can connect.”

Patricia added, “I’ll walk down the hall and tell people to put their phone down and talk. It’s amazing what you can do when you actually interact with each other. It’s amazing to see that relationship grow.”

Patricia said the roller coaster of emotions caused by social media posts has forced him and his coaches to mentally assist players.

“Guys get wrapped up in that social media and they don’t know where to go with it,” Patricia said. “We help them in a positive way and educate them on how to get out of a bad situation on social media.”

Taylor said he and his coaches also encourage players to think before they tweet.

“We’re not telling the guys to not tweet,” Taylor said. “We just tell our guys to protect the team.”

Taylor and Patricia and their coaching staffs will lead Saturday’s 71st annual Reese’s Senior Bowl. The game, played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, is the nation’s only college all-star game coached by entire staffs from two NFL clubs. For more information, visit seniorbowl.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

13 hours ago

Alabama needs to limit uncertainty for healthcare providers in the pandemic

Uncertainty can be crippling. In many, it turns an energetic “can-do” spirit into a cautious “wait and see” mentality.

In 2011, more than half of small businesses surveyed by the US Chamber of Commerce said they were holding off on hiring new employees largely because of uncertainty about the economy.

That was in 2011. What about in 2020, with the coronavirus and the government’s response to it, at least for a time, laying waste to the stock market and much of the economy? How much does certainty matter now?

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Take Tuscaloosa, for example. Just last week Mayor Walt Maddox said that a lack of a football season, or even a mitigated season with less fans, would be “catastrophic” for the city. How catastrophic? A $131.5 million-in-lost-revenue kind of catastrophic.

So what do the restaurants, bars, and other businesses that rely on football-related revenue do while they wonder if this economic doom is heading their way? Do they hire and train employees? Do they stock up on inventory? How exactly do they plan for two extremely different potential realities?

Those answers are not clear. What is known, however, is that Tuscaloosa is not used to this uncertainty. And neither is our state.

Much of the unpredictability that the coronavirus has brought with it is not easily controlled or minimized. We can’t exactly make college football come back. And even the government cannot regulate the virus away.

We are not, however, entirely powerless in the COVID-19 era. Some uncertainty can be reigned in with action by the state legislature.

On April 2nd, Governor Ivey suspended the licensure and certificate of need requirements for medical practitioners and first responders, which enabled them to more readily come to Alabama’s assistance during the pandemic.

This action made it significantly easier for healthcare professionals from other states to come to Alabama and treat our sick. It’s also made quick and necessary expansions of healthcare facilities possible, since providers no longer have to jump through regulatory hoops governing whether or not the government thinks a new healthcare facility, or even an expansion of an existing facility, is needed.

The certificate of need process does just this. It forces healthcare providers to seek government approval before they can build a new facility or even increase the amount of beds in an existing facility. For many, this is a lengthy and costly process.

For this reason, the suspension of these regulations is good and necessary. It encourages healthcare providers to increase the availability of medical care in our state by offering a break from weighty government restrictions.

The problem, however, is that the April 2nd suspension is not permanent. In fact, Governor Ivey can only suspend these regulations for sixty days at a time.

Insert uncertainty.

Is it worth it for a nurse to pack up and move to Alabama to work with coronavirus patients if the order allowing her easy transfer ends in September (when the state of emergency is set to expire as of this writing)?

Is it worth it for healthcare facilities, likewise, to plan for new capacity if they don’t know for sure whether they’ll find themselves ensnared in government regulations once again in a couple months?

Again, it is a good thing that Governor Ivey suspended these regulations. In fact, the very absence of these regulations provides more certainty for our medical practitioners as they are less dependent on the decisions of bureaucrats in Montgomery. The uncertainty which comes with the temporary nature of the suspension, however, can inhibit the very healthcare providers we need most from proactively planning for the state’s health in the near future.

In short, healthcare providers need to know that if they come to Alabama or begin plans to expand medical facilities within our borders, the state won’t spring costly and time-prohibitive regulations on them. They need the certainty that only legislative action, in the form of a 12-month suspension of these requirements as suggested by API in the RESTORE Alabama Plan, can provide.

This, of course, depends on the Governor calling a special session of the state legislature to address the coronavirus and its effects. And if she does, this issue will not likely be a controversial one. In fact, over 70% of Alabamians support this idea, according to a recent Cygnal poll.

Even so, it is an important move. The state government has the ability to inject some stability into a healthcare field riddled with questions. Doing so is in the best interest, not only of our healthcare system, but of our state as a whole.

Parker Snider is the Director of Policy Analysis for the Alabama Policy Institute (API).

API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

20 hours ago

National leader in water resources to head Alabama Water Institute

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Scott Rayder, an expert on building opportunities and funding for scientific organizations, was selected as the executive director of the Alabama Water Institute for The University of Alabama.

Water is a signature research and academic focus at UA, and AWI was formed to conduct integrated research and education on complex issues of water quantity, quality and security globally and locally.

“The University of Alabama strategically focused on water as a signature research thrust not only because of the profound importance of water in all facets of life, but also because we believe the University is ideally positioned to become a national and influential leader in the discipline. I believe Scott has both the vision and ability to work with faculty and students to make this happen,” said President Stuart Bell.

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The executive director position and AWI are vital to UA’s plan to increase research productivity and innovation in research, scholarship and creative activities that impact economic and societal development. Rayder will play a key role in continuing collaboration with the National Water Center, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration center located on the UA campus.

Currently senior advisor to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and to the president and vice president of the UCAR Foundation, Rayder will join UA Aug. 1.

He has extensive experience in building relationships and opportunities with both the private and public sector, including longstanding relationships with federal funding agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, NOAA, U.S. Geological Survey and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“The University of Alabama has the unique opportunity, working with federal, state and industry partners, to propel the state of Alabama to become the epicenter for water research, water resource management and the new water economy in the United States. Scott is well-known both nationally and internationally and is the ideal leader to take full advantage of this opportunity,” said Dr. Russell J. Mumper, vice president for research and economic development.

Rayder’s involvement with higher education and research extends to the beginning of his career at NOAA, and includes nearly two decades of experience in senior leadership positions in large government, not-for-profit and private sector companies.

“I am honored to be joining the dedicated AWI team. UA science, policy and engineering expertise is uniquely positioned to help improve our understanding and application of the latest science and technology in support of critical water issues that affect everyone across the globe to citizens right here in Alabama,” Rayder said. “I look forward to engaging with the faculty, public and private stakeholders, philanthropists and future Alabama graduates in growing this capability here at the University.”

His work at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in support of the National Center for Atmospheric Research as well as at the Center for Ocean Leadership included working with research universities and private sector partners in the pursuit of funding to better understand and utilize the world’s resources.

He was also part of the presidential transition team in 2016 for the U. S. Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA.

Rayder holds a bachelor’s degree in government and geology from Hamilton College, New York, and a master’s in public administration with a concentration in science and technology policy from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

The committee for this national search was co-led by Dr. Mark Elliott, associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, and Dr. Behzad Mortazavi, professor and chair of biological sciences. Dr. Patricia Sobecky, UA’s associate provost for academic affairs, professor of biological sciences and founding executive director of AWI, was also integral to the search process.

“We are grateful to Dr. Sobecky for her dedication in standing up the Alabama Water Institute as founding executive director,” Mumper said. “Her leadership created an excellent foundation for transformative research and economic development relating to water.”

(Courtesy of the University of Alabama)

21 hours ago

Anniston’s 44-year-old Book Rack saved from closing by new owners

The Book Rack, an Anniston institution that was set to close after almost 45 years, opened a new chapter July 1 as “Jo’s Book Rack.”

Patricia Hancock bought the store five years ago as part of a lifelong dream she finally fulfilled in retirement. Now that Hancock is retiring again, she is “jumping for joy” that she didn’t have to close the Quintard Avenue store that has more than 70,000 books.

The Book Rack grew popular selling used paperbacks at half-price, while giving 25% of the cover price back in credit to people who brought in good-condition books.

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Brittany Boozer shopped at The Book Rack as a teenager but thought it went out of business years ago. Then her husband, Jonathan, emailed her a notice that the store was for sale.

“I thought it was a joke because I love books so much,” she said. “When I realized it was true, I said, ‘Hey, can we do this?’”

Married 10 years and having never owned a business, the Boozers decided to give it a shot. They are renaming the store “Jo’s Book Rack,” in part after her grandfather who died in 2016, and for their daughters, Jorden, 5, and Journey, 18 months. Jonathan already works full-time but will help his wife at the bookstore when he’s able.

“My grandfather was an avid reader and instilled it in me as a child,” she said. “I wanted to honor him and our girls, who I hope will love books as much as I do.”

Hancock posted on The Book Rack website “It’s time to celebrate!” as she turned the keys over to the Boozers. She said that when she was in her early 30s she wanted to own a bookstore, but it didn’t happen for 40 years. Hancock thanked her loyal customers and said she is excited “business will be conducted as usual” through the new owners.

Boozer admitted being “a little nervous” becoming a store owner in the midst of a pandemic that until recently had forced the closure of all “nonessential” businesses in Alabama and across most of the U.S. She is concerned by some print publications going out of business and that many young people read only online books.

“But I prefer to feel a book in my hands,” she said. “I know other people feel the same way.”

Boozer said there are “very busy” days ahead as she conducts a full inventory of the sales racks and books in storage. She hopes to soon begin online sales, will open a children’s section and will offer more hardbacks. Boozer may initiate sales of used hardbacks by sacrificing some of her huge collection from home.

“I want to make changes, but I want to keep some things the same to give old customers what they’ve come to expect the past almost 45 years,” she said. “At the same time, I want to offer things that will appeal to the younger generation.”

Boozer wants to sell books to parents who are homeschooling their children. She hopes to promote Jo’s Book Rack through sales of T-shirts, keychains and logo items. A new store sign will be installed atop the building, and there will be a new front window logo. Boozer intends to highlight new books and local authors.

“I am very excited for this opportunity to continue a landmark business in Calhoun County,” Boozer said. “I hope to keep the old customers and attract new ones.”

Contact Boozer at josbookrack@gmail.com or https://www.facebook.com/JosBookRack/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

21 hours ago

Roby: Happy Independence Day

The Fourth of July is one of America’s most celebrated holidays each year, honoring the birth of American independence dating back to 1776. Americans gather from state to state to participate in beloved traditions such as fireworks, parades, barbecues, and many more. With all that is happening across the country right now, I hope that we each stop and reflect on the meaning of this special day.

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Our Founders had the incredible courage to risk their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to defy a king and conceive a new nation based on freedom, equality, and government empowered by the consent of the governed. As they declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Now more than ever, our nation craves unity during these unprecedented times throughout all our communities. As we navigate a global pandemic that continues to sweep across the United States, already tragically claiming more than 130,000 precious lives, my greatest hope is that we stand together as one united people.

May we be ever vigilant in making sure the United States always embodies the ideals in that bold declaration by our Founders. May God bless each of you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. From the Roby family to yours, we wish you a wonderful Fourth of July!

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

22 hours ago

Stay safe during July 4th holiday

Across the country, people enjoy lighting fireworks to celebrate our nation’s birthday each Fourth of July. While gathering in large groups to watch fireworks shows may not occur this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, families and socially distant groups can still safely enjoy the holiday.

Follow these tips to stay safe while using fireworks:

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  • Check to make sure using fireworks is legal in your area.
  • Only buy legal fireworks labeled with the manufacturer’s name.
  • Make sure children use sparklers only outdoors and keep them away from their faces, hair and clothing. Sparklers can burn up to 2,000 degrees.
  • Wear eye protection.
  • Always use fireworks outdoors and have a bucket of water or water hose nearby and stay away from people in case of accidents from backfiring or shooting in an unintended direction.
  • When using fireworks, always point them away from houses, trees, cars, shrubbery and, especially, other people.
  • Do not hold fireworks while lighting them. Place them in an open container before lighting the fuse.
  • Light one firework at a time and never relight a “dud.”
  • Never allow children to pick up fireworks from the ground. Unexploded fireworks may still ignite.
  • Soak used or unignited fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them away.

Many families may spend Independence Day weekend at a lake or beach. Be aware of these additional precautions when you’re near the water.

Boating safety

  • Make sure your boat is in good working order before taking it out for the first time and that all required equipment is on the boat.
  • Make sure all life jackets are in good working order. Life jackets must be worn by children younger than 8 years old and by anyone on a personal watercraft or being towed on skis or a tube.
  • Be aware of what other boaters are doing around you.
  • Storms can come up quickly, especially in the summer, so keep an eye to the sky. If caught in a storm, try to get to the nearest shelter.

 Pool and water safety

  • Anywhere there is water, there is a danger of drowning. Never swim alone.
  • An adult must always watch children closely. This means no reading, talking on the phone or texting.
  • An adult should be within arm’s reach of infants, toddlers and weaker swimmers.
  • Enter shallow water feet first. It is never OK to dive into water less than 9 feet deep.

 Heat safety

  • Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Limit the amount of time spent outside during these hours.
  • At least 20 minutes before going outside, apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)