Sports Camps – Not Just For The Kids Anymore!

By Bruce Knittle

Sports Camps are no longer just for kids, and they haven’t been for awhile. With vacations becoming increasingly expensive, adults of all ages have decided to learn more about their particular passion, and enjoy themselves simultaneously.

According to Grownupcamps.com, there are 800 adult camps nationwide. Numerous estimates report these camps have expanded by 10 percent annually over the last decade, with continued growth expected. The American Camp Association stated that 1 million adults attended camp a couple of years ago.

With these statistics in mind, sports event planners might consider including camps as a complement to their other planned activities. There are numerous advantages that adult camps bring to an event, as the following indicates:

  1. More Hotel Accommodations

Adults attending these camps prefer to stay in comfortable surroundings, and having hotel rooms available are essential. Negotiating an agreement with the hotel for rooms at discounted prices should be a priority for an event planner.

One example of this is a unique winter Senior Softball Camp located near Orlando, Fla. The camp, entering its 24th year, has a deal with Hilton for all campers to stay there at reduced rates.

2. They Can Help You Promote Upcoming Events

To help with the marketing, event planners can schedule camps before an existing event, or even at the same time. For example, if there is a tennis tournament being held in September, why not host an adult summer tennis camp preceding the tournament?

A planner can use these camps to promote their upcoming events at every opportunity, and encourage the camp director to do similarly. The camp will bring many new individuals into a venue, which will help with the marketing of the event.

3. You Could See A Bump In Revenues

If a sports event planner is seeking extra events, a camp can be a perfect choice. Camps bring in funds to an event like few other entities. Income is brought in after the signed contract, and with adult camps, there is a likelihood of spending on other venue amenities.

Additionally, at off peak times for sports complexes, adult weekend camps are ideal to fill up a schedule. I have found that camps are flexible with their dates, and usually will be happy to arrange a time convenient for the sports planner.

4. Colleges May Clamor For Your Camp

There is a good reason colleges host camps throughout the United States. These schools have the facilities, and during summer and vacation periods, open time. They also have experienced staff available to lend assistance.

Universities are amenable to hosting camps because frequently their budgets are restrictive and will welcome the added funds camps deliver. Many of these collegiate venues host adult sports camps.

Involving camps in conjunction with events add to the bottom line and can help sustain the long-termed viability of an event.

Bruce Knittle is president of Knittle Sports Solutions. The company provides full-service consulting services for college athletic departments, tennis and golf clubs, sports camps, hotels and resorts, and sports coaches.

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Here We GROW Again…Do These 4 Things Before You Add More Events

By Marcia Bradford

Thinking about increasing the number of events you produce? Considering branching out into new types of competitions, or adding new elements to existing events? If so, there are four primary considerations before expanding your portfolio, according to planners who discussed their experiences with SportsEvents.

  1. Determine How You Want To Expand

Expanding an event portfolio generally means reaching out to a new group of participants. Here’s a look at two approaches.

Tough Mudder Inc., based in Brooklyn, N.Y, had grown steadily since it was founded in 2010, hosting more than 100 endurance challenge events in the United States and several other countries. But in 2013, the company launched a separate event called Mudderella.

The main reason for the expansion, according to Senior Marketing Manager Antonia Clark, was to reach out to more women.

“The event was started by three women to create a challenge by women for women. Mudderella focuses on bringing women together to take on a new challenge, have fun and empower each other,” she explained. “We felt we were responding to a need within the community, and the decision to develop a fully new event that could stand on its own resonated with a large, new community of participants.

In contrast to Tough Mudder’s 10- to 12-mile obstacle course, Mudderella events involve a five- to seven-mile course designed especially for women, Clark said. Also, Tough Mudder raises funds for the Wounded Warrior Project, while Mudderella helps raise money to end the plight of domestic violence.

During the 55 years since it was established, New York Road Runners (NYRR) has evolved from a local running group into a global champion of running events and has added many races for children. The latest addition to the organization’s portfolio came in 2014, when the NYRR Youth Running Series was launched. Former NYRR Director Dale Shumanski said the new initiative was designed to get middle school kids (grades six through eight) active in cross-country, indoor track and road running.

She explained that many of the kids who participate in races for younger children stop running once they get to middle school. “For kids of all fitness levels who love to run, the Youth Series is a way for them to get their mileage in during the school year, stay fit and participate in fun races with kid-friendly distances.”

  1. Understand How Expanding Will Affect Your Resources

Whatever type of portfolio expansion you are considering, it’s essential to take a look at how it will affect your current resources, Shumanski said. “This is the biggest question you need to address. Do you have the venues, the staff and the finances to manage an expansion without any negative impact on your existing events?”

By adding ancillary events to existing races, she explained, NYRR reduced the need for additional staff and advance spending, while also often drawing in parents as new adult race participants.

Clark pointed out that experienced events companies have the benefit of being able to leverage operations teams and deliver high quality events from the very beginning. “Our challenge, as is the case with any new brand, is to generate brand awareness unique to the new event, without confusing the experience within the legion of women who were already running and conquering Tough Mudder events.”

  1. Don’t Expect Immediate ROI

While Mudderella reached a new demographic and quickly expanded Tough Mudder’s global community, the “first incredible turnout” did not occur until the second year of the new event, Clark said, adding that, “we continue to be surprised by the remarkable support and commitment to the event.”

Shumanski said that it often takes a year or two to achieve a positive return on investment and recommended that ROI be closely examined after two or three years to make sure the new event is achieving its goals.

  1. Know Where New Participants Will Come From

Although it’s great to reach out to new groups and hold events in more areas, Shumanski cautioned against expanding too quickly. “Do the research on where participants are coming from before you expand,” she said. “Make sure your new events aren’t competing with your existing events.”

She explained that one organization she previously worked for decided to double the number of events in a region, only to find that they were simply moving money around rather than increasing the amount of donations generated for their cause. “It required three times the amount of work and we found we were pulling from the same pool of participants, which reduced the number of people at each event.”

Portfolio Expansion Pointers

 Know Your Mission: Whether they are new or ancillary, added events should fit in with the organization’s overall philosophy.

Be Flexible: Each event brings its own challenges, complications and successes, so the ability to remain flexible while pursuing excellence is essential. For example, you may need to change the course to make it more fun or make your pitch more suitable to a certain age group.

Respect Sponsors: When adding a new event, try to package it with your other events before approaching any sponsors you work with. Remember that they usually set annual budgets and can get tired of being approached over and over as new events are added.

Know When To Drop It: Once a new event has been promoted, held, and gained sponsorship and participants, it can be difficult to drop even if it’s unsuccessful. The best way to avoid this is to do the research before launching the event, but it’s usually better to improve or redesign it than phase it out.

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Give & Take – 4 Board Contribution Models To Explore

The board of directors

By Jon Schmieder, CSEE

If you are a non-profit sports organization, at some point you have had to address the age-old question, “What level of contribution should be asked of our board members?” National Governing Bodies (NGBs), rights holders, sports commissions and the like all deal with this issue each year.

In the past few months, we have been inundated with requests for guidance on this very issue. Is it appropriate to mandate that everyone make a donation? Should there be a fixed amount for everyone? Should we ask the board to contribute at all? The answer is—it depends.

Every organization is different. Very few companies are exactly like the one down the street, and sports organizations are no different. While there is often a drive toward finding one best practice answer that applies to a question, in our industry this has its challenges.

There is a continuum of board member giving models. The board can give nothing, or there can be a mandatory donation at some level, or there could even be a “give or get” program in place. Below are several board giving models as well as the positives and negatives for each model.

  1. No board member contribution is required.

    This model has no requirement for board member contributions to the non-profit. While this is the path of least resistance, this can also be quite problematic. Many foundations will not grant funds to a non-profit without 100 percent financial participation by the board each year. In addition, corporate sponsors might shy away from organizations whose board members don’t give to the non-profit. Board contributions show those outside of the organization that everyone involved internally has financial skin in the game.

  1. Board contribution is required at various levels.

    This is known as the “ability to pay” donation model. Board members tied to larger companies (or who have deeper pockets) are expected to pay more than individuals who represent smaller companies or are retired. This model can work; however it can also lead to some slippage when the higher level contributors lower their donation amounts over time as they see others giving less.

  2. Board contribution is required at a fixed level.

    This is where everyone pays one set amount, i.e., $1,000. Each board member is, thus, on equal (giving) footing. While this model often leads to 100 percent participation, it also unevenly taxes the board members that have less access to discretionary or corporate funds to allocate to the non-profit.

  1. Give or get.

    This model allows board members to either make a straight cash contribution of some pre-determined amount, i.e., $5,000, or for the member to go out and raise the pre-determined amount. This can be done through fundraising activities or budget relieving value-in-kind donations. Many civic organizations use this model (such as bowl committees and PGA Tour sales clubs). However, in the NGB world, this model can be problematic. In the case where a board member commits to the “get” side of the equation and under performs, there is little recourse in the voting systems of many NGB bylaws to remove that individual from service. In addition, removal of a board member for non-performance under a “get” policy may not be a battle you wish to fight.

There is an age old governance model that says board members need to provide the organization with three Ws—wealth, wisdom and work. In today’s marketplace, where more non-profits operate like for-profit companies, board members need to bring all three Ws to the table for organizations to be successful.

Regardless of the giving model you employ, each board member should be expected to give their time and their resources (both personal and financial). The best, and most stable, boards have a frank discussion on this topic within the recruiting process. Your board orientation needs to address this topic head on to make sure that the board volunteer knows what the expectations are, and how they can fulfill them. Your organization is only as strong as its foundation, and your board members are the cornerstone of that structure. Put the building blocks in place in the beginning to form a strong base that can provide for a successful future.

Jon Schmieder is the founder of the Huddle Up Group LLC, a consortium of three sports-related companies led by award-winning executives. Schmieder has nearly 20 years of experience in leading non-profits and sports tourism organizations through strategic growth and increased community collaboration.  Huddle Up Group clients include USA BMX, Detroit Sports Commission, Eugene Cascades & Coast Sports, Veteran Tickets Foundation, Arizona Football Coaches Association, Evansville Sports Corp., Travel Medford, Des Moines CVB, Las Cruces CVB, and the Association of Chief Executives of Sport (ACES), among others.  The Huddle Up Group can be reached at Jon@HuddleUpGroup.com or 602.369.6955.

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Planner Point Of View: What It Takes To Make An Event Great

By T. Wayne Waters

Christine Hames had a big smile on her face the last weekend of January 2014. Hames, director of the Knoxville, Tennessee-based K2 Volleyball Club, was at the Sevierville Convention Center overseeing the K2 Elite Invitational Tournament her club was hosting and things were going smoothly. An energetic buzz of athletic exertion, cheers, good-natured exhortations, and conversation filled the air of the exhibit hall turned volleyball facility.

Middle school- and high school-aged girls making up 132 teams from around the South had come to East Tennessee for the event, the fourth to be held at the Sevierville facility, which is attached to the 240-room Wilderness at the Smokies Stone Hill Lodge and located across the street from the kid-friendly resort best known for its waterparks.

“If you’re staying on site then you’re just walking through the covered passageway to get here,” said Hames. “You don’t even need to go outside. It’s a great facility and a great location.”

The K2 volleyball action took place on the 108,000 square feet of the two exhibit halls in the nearly 200,000-square-foot Sevierville Convention Center. Spirited competition played out on 21courts set up in the large space, all used simultaneously throughout the two-day event.

K2’s second event of the year, the K2 Wilderness at the Smokies Tournament, drew more than 230 teams, bringing in as many as 10,000 total participants and spectators. K2’s Summer Blast event will take place May 10-11.

Hames played volleyball for about 20 years, most of it at an elite level in her homeland of Australia, and spent nearly that much time coaching the sport. But she had never organized a tournament event until four years ago when Wilderness of the Smokies approached her about doing just that at what was then known as the Sevierville Events Center. Hames has since hosted four annual K2 Elite Invitational Tournaments at the resort-area location, and the sports club now holds two additional annual events there. Along the way, she learned a few things about hosting tournaments and offered some general advice for others planning an event.

GET READY

Be Prepared: We want it to be a great experience for the teams and be really well organized. It takes a lot of planning. We started planning that first event six months out and continue to work with a similar time period. Think of all the little things that can go wrong because chances are that they may. Make sure you’re prepared.

Ask for help: A lot of times people are willing to help, to support you, so make sure to ask for help – family, friends, colleagues. With any big event, people want to become a part of it and I think it’s okay to kind of look to those people for guidance. For us, it creates more of a family atmosphere for the event.

Ask those who’ve done it themselves: Talk to people who have done it before. They’re a great resource.

Think strategically about the timing of the event: Our event is often the first event of the season for a lot of clubs. This will kind of be their opener for the season. I think that’s one reason our event is very popular.

Think strategically about the location of the event: Wilderness at the Smokies is a huge draw for families, particularly those with younger brothers and sisters who can come and have fun instead of just watching their sibling play volleyball.

Leverage your own success: People knew who we were because of the success of our club on the volleyball court. We’ve been ranked nationally. That helped us bring teams into the tournament.

Bail, if necessary: You have to run the numbers right. You have to be careful. If the facility rental is too high or you can’t get the courts, or the participating teams, you may have to just decide the event won’t work. There’s always a risk that you aren’t going to get teams coming. You’ve got to make sure you can get the teams.

GET SET

Reach Out: Something like 99 percent of the teams participating in our events are not from Knoxville so we really have to reach out to them. For us, there’s no point in advertising in our local area.

Use a personal approach: I think calling rather than emailing invitations has more of a personal touch so that’s what we mostly did for the first tournament. The clubs feel like we really want them to be a part of this new event. At six months out, you’re calling teams, inviting them to the tournament.

Use a website: Everything is on our website. People can go online and look at the information, including schedules.

Consider using an outside event management service provider: We evolved into using Advanced Event Systems, which is exclusively for volleyball. Participants sign up for the tournament through that, and Advanced Event Systems provides additional management and communications services. We found that’s the easiest way to do it.

Get covered: We have insurance through our sport’s governing body, USA Volleyball, but the Wilderness at the Smokies and the convention center each have insurance, as well. We have cancellation insurance, too, which is a separate insurance. The risk of having to cancel it due to weather is always there, particularly for a winter event. You still have to pay the convention center and the hotel even if weather creates problems. You’ve got to cover all your bases.

Involve vendors; they add value: A lot of vendors approach us to be involved in an event. It’s just been word-of-mouth. We manage all of that. We like to invite vendors with products that we think will appeal to our participants.

GO!

Be ready to work: When we’re running an event, I work 16-hour days. It’s a lot but that’s what it takes. Often, the work that we do and the amount of effort we put into it, a lot of others don’t see. But it keeps things running smoothly.

Do it well: Running an event well gets repeat participation. If you do a good job then people will come back. We make sure we do a good job and that participants have a good time.

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Just As In Real Estate, Location Matters For Sports Events

By Bruce Knittle

Organizing a sports tournament? Perhaps the most important decision for sports event planners is location. By selecting an appropriate location, the chances for a successful outcome are considerably increased. Below are a few suggestions to help facilitate the site selection process:

Geographic Feasibility — Get Feedback

Researching venues and contacting CVBs are usually the first steps in the site selection process. But why not also get input from the actual team participants? Sports team leaders can relate both positive and negative experiences they have had, and this can prove to be valuable information for you in determining the site to hold the tournament. The participants, in turn, will appreciate your seeking their opinions.

Community Cooperation

Cooperation from the host location is a must. Without it, a tournament event is destined for failure. Therefore, in narrowing your site selections, be sure your checklist includes meetings with representatives of the local community. The purpose of the meetings will be to determine what the community will do to help ensure a successful tournament and to gauge the level of enthusiasm that will come from the community. Then, match your findings with your list of requirements. Work to develop a partnership between you and your tournament event and the representatives and the community as a whole. Your goal is to work with the community as a team to achieve a successful event.

Lodging & Transportation Fit

Meeting hotel and transportation needs are crucial to a successful tournament, especially if there are numerous teams participating. Both needs must be geared toward the needs of your participants. For example, if juniors are involved, check to confirm that the hotel will have the amenities required for a younger clientele and, most importantly, assure that the hotel has experience working with groups of youngsters.

Price is also an important consideration for your participants. Attending to hotel and transportation needs many months in advance of the tournament will help ensure the best possible rates.

Review Facilities Yourself

I am a great believer in the phrase “see for yourself.” As the sports event planner, you are ultimately responsible for the tournament’s success. Thus, make time to view a potential site location in person. If you wish, you can include members of your committee in the site visit, but it is best that you are not absent during this process.

The site visit will give you a chance to personally meet the individuals involved, and get a good feel for the situation. If possible, view the facility when there is another unrelated tournament at the site in order to observe the operations at the venue and the level of participant satisfaction with the venue.

One common thread throughout these steps is that the sports event planner should use the “personal touch” in each aspect of the site search process. This will certainly help to produce the most positive tournament event experience for participants and spectators alike.

Bruce Knittle is president and founder of Knittle Sports Solutions Inc. Learn more about Bruce at www.knittlesportssolutions.com.

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Take It Viral! A Social Media Road Map For Sports Events

By Taylor Peyton Strunk

Although communication through social media is still, in the grand scheme of things, a relatively new phenomenon, it’s hard to imagine how we ever operated any other way—and sports event planning is no exception.

The sheer number of social media outlets can be a little overwhelming. To help point us all in the right direction, SportsEvents sought the advice of a few professionals who have incorporated social media for event promotion into their regular routine. The results? Liked and shared! Read on…

#wheredoistart?

No matter what type of event you’re holding, “The first step is creating a presence,” said John Souza, founder and chief strategist of Social Media Marketing University (SMMU) and Social Media Magic. “You have to have Twitter and you have to have Facebook and, depending on the type of event, you might add LinkedIn to the mix, too.”

Whichever routes you ultimately choose to utilize, Souza advised a handful of best first steps. At the top of the list? Don’t think an online push is a “once and done” checkmark item. “It’s social media suicide,” he said, adding that this is particularly true of recurring, annual events. “It’s one of the biggest mistakes I see [when working with events], where there will be a large blitz for the 30 days leading up to an event that then totally drops off and disappears as soon as the event is finished. The Facebook algorithm concludes that if no one visits your page for 11 months, you’re essentially an inactive account, so everyone who was following you, you’ve just lost all those people.”

One way to avoid such fallout, Souza advised, is to establish an editorial calendar on the front end. “Include what you’re posting with the event details for participants as well as sponsors and attendees. As the event approaches, you can add to it, but it won’t be so overwhelming.”

Additionally, to help build your initial following, “choose a hashtag you can use year after year,” Souza said, adding that another mistake to avoid is choosing something that is unique to a single year’s event. “A huge mistake is creating a Twitter handle or hashtag each year. If your followers don’t know about the change from a previous event, you’ve lost them. You’re starting from scratch.”

Souza also encouraged getting creative with social media options to draw interest and pick up followers, but to remember there is nothing new under the sun. “Learn to get the best results out of social media by using other successful campaigns as a road map. Do your research and find out what others are doing right and doing wrong and tweak what’s working for others to make it work for you. Develop your own set of best practices to keep people engaged.”

#whatismymessage?

Heavy social media coverage was a contributing factor in raising the profile of a five-day national volleyball event last December that included the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Convention, the NCAA National Semifinals and Championship Match and the Under Armour High School All-America Match & Skills Competition in Seattle, said David Portney, manager of media relations and e-commerce for the AVCA.

“We ran ticket giveaways, sponsored campaigns and included many visuals to promote everything as a ‘can’t miss’ event for anyone in volleyball. We like to accomplish one key task to two different groups of people: attendees and non-attendees.” Using the same e-marketing campaign, Portney said he and his team addressed their followers as if they assumed all volleyball coaches were attending.

“We want attendees to feel proud about taking part of the festivities and showing off to their friends what an amazing experience they’re having. Attending our convention is an investment in their careers. We want those who are not attending to feel like they’re missing out on something special, so they need to join us the following year. I want a coach who couldn’t make it to Seattle this year to think, ‘Wow, that looks awesome. I better start planning now for Oklahoma City so I can be sure to make it in 2014.’”

To establish a following, Portney said he utilized several social media outlets, and took note of where the greatest feedback was generated. “We used many accounts including LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube, but the vast majority of our online promotions came via Facebook and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are where our volleyball coaches are. With that being said, our LinkedIn presence has significantly increased over the last year, so we will spend more time on that in 2014 than we did a year ago.”

What else did Portney learn along the way? “My advice is to have fun with it. Too many times, organizations try to take too corporate of an approach and it certainly shows in the posts. I get really excited about our convention, so that rubs off when I’m posting about it on our sites. Be genuine, be excited, use visuals, give people an incentive to follow you with giveaways and behind-the-scenes looks.”

Additionally, Portney advised setting up a posting approval process before launching a social media campaign. “Usually the most successful posts happen in the moment, so by the time you get it approved to post the moment could pass. If there are sponsors involved with particular posts, it just takes open and honest communication with the sponsor about what your plan is and how you will go about executing it in advance of the event.”

Even after the last attendee has gone home, there is still work to do, Portney said. “It’s important to gather key social media metrics like interactions and brand impressions. These numbers can be taken to your supervisors and sponsors to show the effectiveness of the social media space. Our convention garnered 10,624,029 social media brand impressions, and I took that number directly to my sales director. Those numbers are tough to ignore if you’re a sponsor. Big numbers translate to big dollars.”

#ohwowthisisafulltimejob

So, who’s responsible for posting, tweeting and sharing once the event is under way? “I would suggest having someone dedicated to social media during the event without any other duties,” said Scott Powers, executive director of Columbia Regional Sports Council in South Carolina. “We have had great events that do a great job with social media prior to and post event, but it’s obvious that person has other duties during the event as their posts diminish to almost zero.”

Renee Williamson, also with Columbia Regional Sports Council, agreed. “Social media requires a lot of attention. If you have anything else on your plate, that time is going to be divided and isn’t the best for engaging your followers. Having at least one person focused solely on social media ensures you have someone to reward and appreciate your social media followers.”

Williamson added that a common misconception she’s witnessed is that social media is free or easy. “To really be effective, you have to work at it and devote time and sometimes other resources. With a 24/7conversation happening online, it requires someone’s full attention. Social media is about giving followers the opportunity to have a conversation with your brand. So, if you are talking to participants online one minute and leave the conversation the next, that’s going to affect their overall experience and perception of your event.”

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Shed Light On Your Event…Why You Should Tell Local Stores Your Group Is Coming To Town

By Paul Peavy

It happened again last Saturday! I was standing in a long line at a very popular grocery store that makes the most addictive chicken tender subs our adolescents have ever known.

It was in between sessions of a swim meet and finally I was about to be next in line when I heard one of the deli workers say, “I wish they would tell us when they have big swim meets because then at least we would know we were going to be swamped!”

I couldn’t agree with her more! If you are putting on an athletic event and making sure every detail on the field is lined up in such finite detail, why wouldn’t you see to it that those that supply your athletes’ and families’ needs are made aware that there are locust-like athletes that are likely to decimate your sports drink aisles or clog your drive through lanes?

My wife and I have seen this happen at big box stores and grocery stores located near triathlons, where one day you would walk down the sports drink aisle and have your pick and the next day there might as well have been tumbleweeds rolling down the shelves.
It is very frustrating to athletes and families to not have these basics available and can definitely affect performance to not have these items available.

If your athlete has to go an extra five miles or three extra stops, he or she might not check in to your meet or tournament in the best of moods and, without you even knowing it, they will share their frustration with other athletes.

So, how do you raise the warning flag? I would designate one person to visit grocery stores, big box stores, fast food chains, and restaurants within a five-mile radius and present the manager with a flyer. (BONUS: Maybe an opportunity to find a sponsorship?)

On this flyer I would have the dates and times of the event as well as the age and number of participants and family members expected.

If you know what the needs and habits of your particular athletes and families, put that at the bottom of the flier as well. Your flyer really needs to get into the hands of the manager and not someone who might not really care or understand what impact your event could have.

A couple of days before the event I would follow up with a phone call to each manager to make sure you have done your part to warn them. At that point, it’s up to them to manage their supplies accordingly.

By taking these simple steps, you could build a very positive relationship with business neighbors in your host city. Trust me, a manager loves to hear from his district manager that he has done a great job of bumping up the numbers and garnering positive feedback from his customers at the same time.

Paul Peavy, www.paulpeavy.com, is a licensed mental health therapist who uses humor to get folks to lighten up. He, and his wife Sherrie, participate in triathlons, are parents of a youth athlete and are also involved in planning sports events.

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