Today marks the 8th anniversary of Virginia Commonwealth University's (VCU) debut as a dodgeball club, competing at the collegiate level against James Madison University (JMU) as a part of the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association (NCDA). The club was started as a way to preserve dodgeball at VCU and save it from extinction. However, it ended up developing into so much more. In 2012. we were a young, inexperienced team with immense talent. However, there was increasing tension between the team members because of their constant, differing viewpoints. Unfortunately, the club was unable to come together as a team, due to a lack of communication across the board. Today, VCU's dodgeball team resembles an extended community: dedicated alumni sharing their experiences to the team, younger players providing new energy and depth to the game, and older players empowering people to become leaders within their own right.
During this time period, the team has accomplished several things:
During this time period, I have learned some valuable lessons from my time with the VCU Dodgeball Club. I continue to implement these lessons into my business on a daily basis. Here are the five lessons:
When I founded VCU Dodgeball Club (formerly known as Dodgeball Club at VCU) back in December 2012, I always had a vision that the club would be traveling across America, upsetting opponents on a live-stream, becoming a Top 10 team, hosting Nationals someday at The Stu (The Siegel Center), and playing in front of hundreds of people in person and thousands online. I was not thinking about these goals for my own personal gains. I was thinking about the various groups of people that would benefit from this organization: current VCU students, alumni, the city of Richmond, the university, friends/family members, and the league as a whole. My dreams were not small and easy; I dreamed something so big and powerful that it kept me up for many nights at a time without any sleep. Initially, the dream scared me, but afterwards, it challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. I have learned additional skills and built relationships with people to transform these dreams into reality. And guess what? All of those things that I wanted for VCU Dodgeball Club happened within the first eight years.
2. The first person you have to sell the vision to is yourself.
I'm going to be completely honest with you. if you don't believe in your vision, no one else is going to. During our first full season back in 2012, there were 40 members on the team, but only 14 members believed in the vision of the club: to play with rubber dodgeballs. The other 26 members only wanted to play medic dodgeball which requires foam dodgeballs because it was easier and more familiar to them. They didn't want to play rubber dodgeball because it would require them to learn a new skill that they are not comfortable with. However, I knew that the players that wanted to play medic dodgeball would be graduating from college soon.There would be no dodgeball community at VCU anymore; just another school with an intramural league playing dodgeball. I had to do something about this.
Those 26 members didn't understand the value of the club because they couldn't understand my vision and how that would apply to them. They only saw things from their perspectives. The other 14 members understood the values of the club. They could see how my vision applied to them; one day the roles of leadership would change. My time in leadership would be coming to an end and a new generation would have to rise up in their prospective leadership roles. They would have the opportunities to change the culture of the club, the way that they see fit. Because I was able to sell the vision to myself wholeheartedly, I was able to share my vision with those 14 members genuinely and it became a part of their vision for the club.
3. To make a vision come into fruition, you're going to need a team.
Running a student organization at your local university is very similar to running a business; there are different types of people that you are going to need to make the vision come to life. One would have to look at things from two perspectives: there is the skill portion of the business and the operational portion of the business. The skill portion of VCU Dodgeball Club consists of weekly practices and tournaments that the team participates in throughout the year. The operational portion of VCU Dodgeball Club is the day-to-day stuff: administrative work, paperwork, budgeting, logistics with hotels and car arrangements, building relationships with either the Student Government Association (SGA) or with the director of rec sports, risk management, meetings with the executive board, meetings with your captains, conflict resolution strategies with team members, mentorship, and mental health awareness with team members.
I was involved with doing all of these things, while being a full-time student at VCU and dealing with personal matters off the court. It was impossible to do these things on my own without any help. You need a team of people that can amplify your strengths and cover your weaknesses. You need to build a relationship with your team not just on a business level, but on a personal level. Your teammates need to know that you have their best interests in heart. Also, you need to encourage them to become a better version of themselves. Once an individual knows these things, they begin to see themselves as an asset to the organization and not a liability. As a result, they will find ways of bringing value to you and to the organization as a whole, thus creating a win-win situation for you and your team.
4. To make a vision obtainable to people, you are going to need a road map.
As much as people like to talk about different things they would like to do, most people don't enjoy listening to folks who only talk about what they are going to do. I'm a big believer that actions have power and actions speak louder than words. For this very reason, I'm not a fan of talking about my vision to other people until I understand what the process is going to look like from start to finish. In order for me to do that, I do some soul searching and understand the vision for myself. I do this by asking the five W's:
Once I ask these questions, I write these answers in my head and then I write them down with a paper and pen. I study what I write down and I memorize it. I read what I write down and I meditate on it. I re-read what I wrote down and I ponder it until it is second nature to me. I literally have the road map inside of my head, as clear as a full moon in the sky. It is so bright and focused that it clears out all of the darkness around the area and forces you to direct all of your attention in a single direction: up and forward. Once you fully understand what your vision is and what you are trying to accomplish, it is much easier for other people to follow your vision.
5. In order to keep the vision going, change is inevitable
As one lives on this planet, they will learn that change is the only constant that is in this world. Things in life aren't meant to stay the same. Take technology for instance: when I was growing up, there was no such thing as WiFi internet, watching shows in high definition (HD) or in 4K, social media apps, or streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Those things did not exist when I was growing up. The internet was dial up connection through AOL, television shows were in standard definition, you contacted your friends via a landline telephone because cellphones weren't user-friendly, and Blockbuster and Movie Gallery existed for all of your extensive movie viewing. However, a lot of these things have been replaced by other things:
People have to make daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly adjustments within their organization, in order to stay relevant in the world that we live in today. They need to be willing to learn new skills through a variety of mediums.They should be willing to be diversify their skill sets and have the ability to train their team in those skill sets, in order to cross train each other. Through this process, the members of the team begins to sharpens each other both as individuals and as a team, making the organization a stronger version of itself. As the organization continues to grow, you will continue to get closer and closer to the vision that you wholeheartedly believe in and to an end goal in mind that is bigger than you. When this happens, your vision becomes the reality that you can help bring value to people.