Athletes know the power of a motivational word given at the right moment from a well-respected coach. Whether it’s at halftime when the opponent has the lead, or on the practice field when the work is hard and the rewards seem small, the impassioned speech of a coach can inspire a group of ordinary people to give an extraordinary performance.

Jeff Conant, former college athlete and current head of the marketing department at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, understands a coach’s motivating power and has harnessed it for his department. Since 2006, he has invited members of the A&M athletic department coaching staff to speak at the annual kickoff event for the marketing faculty and staff. This year, men’s head basketball coach Mark Turgeon is slated to address the 35 members of the department at their event on August 21.

Coach Evans speaks to a player
Coach Guerrieri speaks to a player
Talks from A&M athletics coaches, such as softball coach Jo Evans (top, center) and soccer coach G. Guerrieri (bottom, right), are an important part of the Mays marketing department’s annual kickoff event.

Conant says that the athletic element is a “very relevant and inspiring way to begin the retreat.” The purpose of the program is to get the academic year off to a good start with a discussion of mission, vision, and goals as well as time for team building and social interaction in a non-work setting. It is also a time to acquaint the new people with the rest of the team and get faculty and staff communicating about what they do and what their needs are.

“I wanted to get my people thinking outside their usual boundaries…I thought we would benefit from some sort of unconventional dynamic, an unexpected kickoff to the day,” he said. “The speakers provided inspiration to the group…It set a very nice tone.” In the last two years, Conant says that the coaches’ dynamic presence added excitement and enthusiasm to the group, as well as pertinent advice about teaching as they discussed strategies for helping students to achieve academically.

In 2006, Head Women’s Soccer Coach G. Guerrieri was the kickoff presenter. Conant says that the talk directly applied to his department, as Guerrieri talked about the need to change as the game demands. Just as a team needs to make adjustments to their strategy as the game progresses, a department needs to be flexible to succeed in a changing environment with new players and new ideas.

Last year, women’s softball coach Jo Evans was the featured speaker. Evans talked about how she leads and motivates young people, a topic which she obviously knows something about as her team made it to the College World Series this year.

Associate Professor of Marketing Larry Gresham said he appreciated the coaches’ perspective. “The thing that most impressed me about both Coach G. and Coach Evans was that they seem to have the welfare of their students foremost in their minds,” he said.

The coaches challenged Gresham to see each of his students as individuals and to do his best to motivate them to succeed. “You push them because you love them. That was the message I took away from it. You push them really hard not because you don’t like them but because you know what they really are capable of,” he said.