Tag Archives: UofL

Family Business Center Interim Director Brittany Boone

Ensuring Survival

University of Louisville Family Business Center supports generations of businesses

By Remy Sisk

Photos by Christian Watson

Family Business Center Board Chair Bob Koetter

Family Business Center
Board Chair Bob Koetter

“There’s a sense of comfort in talking to someone else in a family business who understands some of the dynamics. There’s a feeling of, ‘Oh, I’m not the only one who has these issues.’” – University of Louisville Family Business Center Board Chair Bob Koetter Jr.

 

The classic idiom “mom and pop shop” refers not only to the charming and familiar nature of a businesses but also the idea that its operators are somehow related. The family business can be one of the finest institutions of an economy – members of the same family harnessing synergy and working together toward a common goal. However, the passion and emotion that is inherent in the very definition of a family can sometimes hinder the success of that business or worse by creating a divide between family members. The University of Louisville Family Business Center helps prevent family businesses from stepping into the pitfalls that are all too common by offering an unparalleled myriad of resources so that they thrive with constant vivacity for generations to come.

 

“The role of the Family Business Center and how it can help this community is basically keeping these businesses in the community,” said Family Business Center Board Chair Bob Koetter Jr. “That’s important because statistically, only 13 percent of family businesses survive and make it to the third generation. … What the Family Business Center does is provide those tools to teach and prepare and make sure family businesses can survive throughout many generations.”

 

Some of the resources provided by the Family Business Center include education forums, individual business assessment and frequent, active networking. According to members, the greatest asset, however, is the roundtable option the center offers. “We go by adult learning theories that adults retain and learn information more in a peer-to-peer setting,” explained Interim Director Brittany Boone. “We have quite a few services, but our most valued service is the roundtable. We have four categories of roundtables, and they’re really peer-to-peer support groups.

 

“It’s a lot of similar people sitting around the table discussing things that are either going on in their family or their businesses. And either someone is experiencing what they’re experiencing at the same time, or they’ve already experienced it and they’re able to give advice.”

 

The four categories of these roundtables are CEOs, next generation, women and non-family executives, all of which are highly specialized groups that help foster robust development in many areas of family businesses.

 

The roundtables offer mentorship and education that professionals cannot find elsewhere. “There’s a sense of comfort in talking to someone else in a family business who understands maybe what some of those dynamics are that they’re dealing with,” Koetter said. “There’s a feeling of, ‘Oh, I’m not the only one who has these issues.’”

 

It’s not hard to become a member of the Family Business Center. There’s a simple online application to fill out and submit. Once a member is approved, they simply pay their dues, which are different for businesses of different sizes, and are then able to begin taking full advantage of the center’s resources.

 

Currently, most members are second generation, but Boone said the more than 100 members are made up of everything from first generation business owners to eighth generation, which means those who have been around for multiple generations are able to impart wisdom to some of the younger businesses.

 

“Businesses that are in later generational ownership, they kind of become advisors to the other family business owners,” Boone explained. “It’s almost like a nurturing sort of characteristic they take on in that they really do take pride in being able to help the earlier family businesses.”

 

And the success is evident. Although Boone admits it can be somewhat difficult to specifically measure the triumphs of the center, the very survival of these business may be testament enough, which is extremely important for the vitality of the community.

 

The members collectively employ over 13,000 individuals and generate almost $8 billion annually, said Koetter, who is a prime example of the efficacy of the Family Business Center. His company, Koetter Construction, is one of the region’s most renowned family businesses, and what the center has given Koetter has led to him now wanting to be a resource himself.

 

“They’ve helped me, so this is an opportunity for me to give back and hopefully help someone else,” he said.

 

As one of only about 60 family business centers in the U.S., the University of Louisville Family Business Center provides extraordinary resources for businesses but also, perhaps more importantly, families.

 

“I’m very proud because I have an opportunity to help family businesses to survive and also for the families themselves to be able to peacefully have holiday dinners together and spend time together,” Koetter said. “I see families that get torn apart and can’t even go to Thanksgiving dinner together, and it’s just so disappointing to see that the business has torn them apart.”

Family Business Center Interim Director Brittany Boone

Family Business Center Interim Director Brittany Boone

Boone agrees: “They always say never mix business with emotion, but you can’t do that when you’re working with your family,” she said. “There’s always going to be those emotions there, but at the same time, it’s so rewarding because the families are able to build wealth, build a legacy and we want to make sure that they are able to maintain that.”

 

Looking ahead, the Family Business Center is considering incorporating more education into its pool of resources but will regardless continue ensuring the community is aware of the singular opportunity of being involved. “We’re always told that we’re the best kept secret in Louisville, and we don’t want to be a secret necessarily anymore,” Boone said. “We just want to make sure we’re impacting as many people as we can.”

 

Family Business Center

College of Business

University of Louisville

502.852.8874

UofLFBC.com

Brittany.boone@louisville.edu

 

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No Lamar, No Problem?

By Zach McCrite

screen-shot-2018-08-20-at-3-40-43-amLIFE IS ALL ABOUT expectations.

We all have expectations about certain aspects in our lives. Whether it be who we marry (shout-out to all the ladies and gents checking out this sportsy column in the midst of this wedding issue), how much money we make, how good we expect to be at a certain trade, etc.

For instance – and I don’t know if this is the smartest way to go – when I tell other people what they should expect out of me when I write these columns or when I do a segment on the radio, I tell them to expect very little.

It’s not that I’m not confident in my abilities. Most of the time, I am (and some people think I’m a little too confident sometimes). It’s just that when I keep expectations low, I end up pleasing more people than I would have had I come in with a bunch of bravado about my column or radio appearance.

In other words: underpromise and overdeliver.

This is a practice used in many places. But it’s seemingly never used in our sports.

Take Bobby Petrino, for example. The head coach of the Louisville Cardinals seems as confident in his 2018 football squad as a TV weatherman is excited when tornado warnings hit his viewing area.

“I expect us to be better,” Petrino told WDRB.com.

Wait. What?

Bobby, on offense, you just lost your Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. You remember Lamar Jackson – the QB you could only help muster one (one!) top-25 finish in his three years on the field?

“I expect us to be more balanced, the ability to get more guys involved, particularly in the running game,” Petrino continued. “I really like our receiving corps coming back. I really think it’s one of the strongest corps coming back.”

Alrighty then. Fair enough.

Truly, I admire his confidence. That’s certainly what you’d like from your head coach every season, and I truly do believe Petrino when he says these things. He likes his team.

But, I’m not sure it’s the right public relations move for this season.

If Petrino expects his team, especially his offense, to be better than last year while Lamar Jackson roams in and out of the lineup as a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens, you would then have to believe that the expectation he is setting is, at the very least, one additional win to last year’s 8-win regular season total – so, 9 wins in 2018.

What is there to gain from such public confidence? What is there to gain from keeping the expectation level high. Let’s investigate.

MEETING OR EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS

If Louisville ends up meeting or exceeding last season’s results (that were akin to kissing your sister), that will easily include wins over teams that the Cardinals weren’t able to beat last season.

If that were to happen, it would be a tip of the cap to Petrino, his coaching staff and his players. It would also be an annoying reminder of the season that could have been in 2017 – some would call it “wasted” – when the best quarterback in program history was finishing up his final season in a college uniform before heading to the National Football League.

FAILING TO MEET EXPECTATIONS

If the Cards fail to meet these relatively-lofty expectations set by Petrino, the seat gets hotter. And, I can promise you, the seat warmer was already tested to see if it was working last year. Add the wildcard of a new athletic director who hasn’t been afraid to tear up old contracts and write new ones in the infancy stages of his tenure. Vince Tyra has done many things to make sure his fingerprints are all over this revamped image of University of Louisville Athletics.

And who is to say Tyra wouldn’t want “his guy,” whomever that may be, at the helm of Louisville football? A 2018 season that fails to meet the expectations set by Petrino might jumpstart that, especially for a coach whose base pay (almost $4 million for 2018) was less than only Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney when he signed his latest contract in 2016 and runs through 2023.

But here we are. Petrino expects “better” in 2018.

FANS ARE CATCHING THE EXPECTATION BUG

And if Petrino expects good things, so do his program’s fans, some of which are throwing out eight-, nine-, and ten-win seasons as a 2018 benchmark.

And, by gawd, those may be right.

It might be one hell of a year for the Cardinals. It won’t be the first time that Petrino has worked some magic with the right group. Count me in the group of people that have seen the “Bobby Magic” and wouldn’t be surprised if it returns.

But I’m going to need more evidence than what I got right now.

Fans with high expectations are going through the Cardinal schedule like the menu at Jeff Ruby’s – mouths watering at the victories they are sure to enjoy soon.

Even the staunchest of supporters have UofL dropping their opener to defending national champion Alabama. But, somehow, they believe that the Cards bounce back from last year’s debacles and turn 2017 losses to teams like Boston College and Wake Forest – neither of which have had a winning ACC season in seven years – into 2018 wins.

Why? Because Petrino says you’re better? Is that all it takes?

How much have you seen of new quarterback Jawon “Puma” Pass? Twenty-three career completions and a spring game?

How do you know the opponents you lost to last season will be the same or worse, from a talent and coaching standpoint, this season?

The answer to most of these questions is this: None of us fans know. All we really got are Petrino’s expectations for this bunch. And he erred in how he delivered those expectations to his fans after Lamar Jackson went to the NFL.

The correct course of action should have been to underpromise on expectations. And then overdeliver.

Because life is all about expectations.


IF LOUISVILLE ENDS UP MEETING OR EXCEEDING LAST SEASON’S RESULTS (THAT WERE AKIN TO KISSING YOUR SISTER), THAT WILL EASILY INCLUDE WINS OVER TEAMS THAT THE CARDINALS WEREN’T ABLE TO BEAT LAST SEASON.

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Landing Mack Proves Louisville is Still Elite

screen-shot-2018-04-04-at-2-59-21-amBy Howie Lindsey

After a year filled with terrible news,

national embarrassment and scandal, you can’t

blame Louisville fans if they’ve been a little giddy

these last few weeks.

Not only did the Board of Trustees hire fan favorite

Vince Tyra as Louisville’s athletic director,

but Tyra then turned around and hired the next

Hall of Fame coach to run Louisville basketball,

Chris Mack.

We’ll get back to Tyra in a second, but the big

news is Mack.

Amidst scandal and turmoil, Louisville landed

one of the top young coaches in basketball.

Mack was the 2017-18 Big East Coach of the

Year. He led Xavier to three conference titles, and

his team landed a Top 5 national ranking and a

No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this season.

He already has 11 NCAA Tournament wins,

and he’s only 48 years old. He has four Sweet 16s

and one Elite Eight to his credit. And yes, the Final

Four has eluded him thus far, but he has built a

consistent winner at Xavier, and Louisville fans

can’t wait to see what he can do with Louisville’s

resources.

Mack is so well-respected in the coaching ranks

that he has been a candidate for several other Top

10 programs before. In fact, Mack was reportedly

pursued by Indiana, Georgetown and Ohio State

just within the last two years.

Which brings us to why Louisville fans are giddy.

Hiring Chris Mack answers a massive question

for Louisville fans: Are we still elite?

Given all the scandal and the likely future

punishment from the Brian Bowen recruitment,

there are some nationally who tried to paint the

Louisville job as a scrap heap. And there were some

loud voices locally who tried to portray the job as a

complete rebuild that would necessitate a former

player or first-time head coach to take the job.

Meanwhile others, like me, continued to point

out the incredible advantages Louisville has as a

program. Not only is it one of the Top 10 programs

of all time, the Cardinals are one of the mostprofitable

programs in the nation. UofL plays

in the most incredible college-only arena in the

world, and the facilities and fan support here

at Louisville are among the Top 5 in the nation.

Hiring Mack proves that Louisville is still elite.

Louisville is on another level than the jobs at Ohio

State or Indiana (jobs Mack turned down). And

THAT should make Louisville fans happy.

Hiring Mack is also an indication of the power

of Louisville’s status as elite.

Mack wasn’t just Xavier’s coach. Mack was a

Xavier lifer. He played there until 2000. He came

back to be an assistant coach at Xavier in 2004.

And he’s been Xavier’s head coach since 2009.

But the Louisville job just had too much allure.

Hear him tell it.

In a thank you note to Xavier just before he was

announced as Louisville’s coach, Mack wrote:

“For over 18 years I called Victory Parkway home.

From the day I walked on campus as a studentathlete

in 1990 – to returning as an assistant coach

in 2004 – to that life-changing moment when

I was named your head coach in 2009. … THIS

PLACE has always had my heart. That feeling

has made it so easy for me and my family to let

opportunities outside of Xavier come and go. No

other opportunity has ever felt ‘right,’ until now.

Ultimately, I felt like this situation offered a new

and unique challenge that I could not turn down.”

Louisville was too good to turn down.

After nearly three years of scandal, most

Louisville fans I know have this battered and

weary expression when talking about their men’s

basketball program. “Scandal fatigue” was one

of the many reasons listed why attendance was

down the last two seasons.

It was a messy divorce with Rick Pitino. And

the last six months have been spent hearing jokes

and snide remarks from friends in Kentucky or

Indiana gear. Louisville fans desperately needed

to hear someone outside the program tell them

they’re still attractive.

Mack did that in spades. One of the hottest

coaches in America just broke away from his

lifetime program to come coach at Louisville, likely

at one of the lowest points in program history.

And beyond that, when we heard for months

that no recruit would want to come to Louisville,

Mack turned that on its head. Even before he

officially landed the job he offered some of the

top talent in the country and made contacts with

several elite recruits still left in the 2018 class.

Speaking of good recruiting, let’s get back to

Tyra. Not only was Tyra extremely impressive

during his six-month stint as interim athletic

director, but he landed Chris Mack on the second

day of his term as the official AD.

Does Tyra still have more to learn about

collegiate athletics and running a department?

Sure. He’d tell you that as well. But his business

background and seemingly no-nonsense

communication style has made for good, positive

conversations around the athletic department.

The day he got the job as Louisville’s AD, Tyra

thanked previous Athletic Director Tom Jurich for

collecting such an incredible group of coaches

in all of Louisville’s sports. Tyra noted that day

he was ready to add another thoroughbred to

Louisville’s stable of coaches, and he did just that

when he hired Mack.

So even though Mack hasn’t won a game yet for

Louisville, it’s easy to see why Louisville fans are

giddy about the future of their program.


1Hiring Chris Mack answers a massive

question for Louisville fans:

Are we still elite?


1

UofL Hosts TYR Derby Pro Swim Meet

1The University of Louisville Swim and Dive Team hosts the

third annual TYR Derby Pro Swim Meet April 26 to 28. The

weekend will consist of a Drowning Prevention Clinic at Ralph

Wright Natatorium, a silent auction and dinner and the meet

itself. The emcee for the event this year is 6-time Olympic gold

medalist and 39-time World Champion Ryan Lochte.

On April 26, the UofL swimmers will host a Drowning

Prevention Clinic at Ralph Wright Natatorium from 4 to 5:30

p.m. On April 27, there will be a dinner and a silent and live

auction at the PNC Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with

the pro athletes for sponsors and fans to attend. On April 28,

from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Lochte will host a swim clinic and

teach champion performance techniques, including water

instruction on strokes, starts, turns and streamline. After

the clinic, Lochte will host an autograph session and photo

session. The meet itself will start at 4:30 p.m. April 28 at Ralph

Wright Natatorium.

Tickets can be purchased at www.derbyproswim.com.

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Louisville Hosts Red-White Baseball Scrimmage

Photos by Christian Watson

Feb. 9

The University of Louisville baseball team opened its final

weekend of preseason work with a Red-White scrimmage

Feb. at Jim Patterson Stadium. Gates opened at 1 p.m. for

batting practice and admission was free for the scrimmage.

Louisville opened the 2018 season on Feb. 16 at against

Richmond in the first of three games at the Charleston Crab

House Challenge in Charleston, South Carolina. The Cardinals

also played The Citadel on Feb. 17 and George Mason on

Feb. 18. The 2018 home-opener at Jim Patterson Stadium

occurred Feb. 21 against Eastern Kentucky.

Fans can follow Louisville baseball on Twitter (@

UofLBaseball) and on Facebook (@ulbaseball).

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“So Sharp” Premiere Party Pics

If you weren’t at last week’s party premiere of So Sharp on Lifetime at The Sports & Social Club featuring Southern Indiana’s own Todd Sharp, here’s what you missed. Watch Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime. #SoSharp

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Valentine’s Day

Former University of Louisville Basketball player Robbie Valentine talks about the hard facts and personal fouls he’s experienced off the court.

By Steve Kaufman | Photos by David Harrison

What could have been Robbie Valentine’s story gets played out hundreds – thousands? – of times every year.

The product of a single-parent family – whether from a small rural town or large inner-city – finds out early on that he is gifted at basketball (or another sport), which leads him (or her) to the path of a big college program.

There, he single-mindedly focuses on a professional career, puts his name in the draft and, maybe, he’s a lottery pick. Or at least a first-round pick. But maybe he’s a second-round pick, with less signing bonus and practically no contract guarantees. Or, he’s not drafted at all. So, he rides the D-League buses from Erie to Ft. Wayne to Des Moines, hoping to get noticed by the big-league teams, and hopes, too, to stay healthy. Because if he’s injured and his career is jeopardized, what’s he going to do with that one year of college and a once-famous name that’s now gathering some rust?

SCREEETT!!

That’s the sound of the phonograph needle grinding to a halt. Because, while it’s a way-too-familiar story, it’s not Robbie Valentine’s.

It could have been. But Valentine saw something else along the way. He saw a Radcliff, Ky., mother who raised seven children by herself, working in the local schools and cleaning other people’s houses to make sure there was food on the table and clothes on her kids’ backs.

Frances Valentine also instilled far more in her children: faith, self-respect and the v1value of education – that there was a world out there, beyond sports, even for her oldest son who was breaking all North Hardin High School basketball scoring records.

Of course, Valentine came along at a different time. Back then, there was no one-and-done. College coaches had time to nurture and mentor their players. Valentine needed that mentoring. He had been a high school All-American. The sky was the limit. But jumping for the sky was his downfall.

“When you jump high and come down, you put a lot of pressure on your tendons,” Valentine recalled. “Back then, we wore Chuck Taylors, Pro-Keds, Converse. Those shoes weren’t made for jumping.”

Valentine started seeing Dr. Rudy Ellis, the noted Louisville sports medicine physician, as early as seventh grade. “My file became very thick,” he said. “I popped both Achilles tendons, ended up with surgery on both knees. Plus, I had four screws in my back.”

But, along with his medical problems, Valentine developed a remarkable perspective for someone so young.

“When he came here (to the University of Louisville), he had a lot of natural talent,” recalled his Cardinals coach, Denny Crum. “But he also had a great attitude. Even as a freshman, he was a leader. Everyone respected him.”

Early on at Louisville, Valentine was playing only a few minutes a game. “I now realized I wasn’t going to make it to the NBA,” he said. “So why continue to dream for something you know isn’t going to happen?”

He began to see basketball as an opportunity toward something else. “It was going to help me get my college education,” he said. “I wanted to make it in the job world, someone who could speak, who could write, who could read, who could talk to anyone at any level.”

Crum instilled in him the idea of service to others. “He’s done more for his community in Louisville than anyone I know,” Valentine said, “and (Coach Crum) shaped our lives to do the same.”

Then there was the group of freshman basketball players who arrived on campus in the fall of 1982, shortly after Louisville won the 1980 national championship.

“I came in with Milt Wagner, Billy Thompson and Jeff Hall,” Valentine recalled. “When we were freshmen, seniors Rodney and Scooter McCray sat us down and said, ‘This is our senior year, but you guys are the people who’ll help us get there.’ And we did go to the Final Four that year.

“So four years later, Milt, Billy, Jeff and Robbie, we were the four seniors. And it was up to us to change the lives of those new freshmen kids, led by Pervis Ellison.”

“We could tell we had a great team, but it was young,” said Crum. “Robbie and the other seniors helped keep those freshmen in line.”

It was then that the four seniors came up with the word that would bind them for the next 30 years, changing the way Valentine began to live life.

“We seniors told the freshmen that the one word driving us all was ‘live,’ ” said Valentine. “Before every game, before practice, after practice, in the locker room, during time-outs, our chant was ‘one-two-three-live!’

“What did that mean to them? “When you grow up in a three-bedroom home with eight people, it’s pretty tough,” said Valentine. “Though all the odds were against us, to be able to live the life we lived and to make it as 22-, 23-year-old seniors, that’s pretty incredible.

“We weren’t supposed to be there. We all had some tough times at home. We wanted to make a difference, in school, on the team, in the community. Our goals were to make the next person better than we were, starting with those freshmen.”

They Did, Of Course 

On March 31, 1986, Louisville beat Duke 72-69 for the national title. But the injury-hampered Valentine, who’d played only 41 minutes that entire season, did not get into that game, but he was on to his next phase of what it meant to live. “My focus had become: What is Robbie Valentine going to do to become more successful in the community?”

He studied education in college, and then earned a master’s in sports management. He became Crum’s graduate assistant coach. He joined the broadcasting team for Louisville games on WDRB.

“He had the desire to succeed, and everyone knew and liked him,” said Crum. “I couldn’t wait to see what Robbie would do with his life.”

“The way I took it was, the more education I got, the more doors were going to v2open up for me,” Valentine said, “and the more doors that opened up for me, the more important people I’d meet, and that would help open even more doors.” He also got married in 1989, to college schoolmate Beth Kantor, and almost immediately had identical twin boys, Eric and Aaron. Daughter Brooke came along in 1993.

He launched Robbie Valentine Enterprises, running education programs – such as basketball camps – throughout Jefferson County and Southern Indiana. “We got some large grants for the work we were doing, and it was pretty successful,” he recalled. “I was determined to pass on the values that I’d learned as a youngster, so we required kids to go to class and study if they wanted to participate in the program, just as I had.”

Dejuan Wheat passed through Valentine’s program. So did Sara Nord. But the program was not only for the superstars, it was for any kid from the streets.

“When I started playing basketball through the Stithton Baptist Church in Radcliff, our pastor, Gene Waggoner, said that if we wanted to participate, we had to be a ‘Royal Ambassador.’ That meant attending Sunday School, being in choir, joining the youth group.”

In other words, you had to get involved and fully.

Valentine further walked the talk he’d learned by joining the board of the Greater Clark County Schools.

Robbie Valentine’s life was on-track. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.

 

He was divorced in 2004. In 2008, the economy began to crumble and the grants dried up. In 2010, Robbie Valentine Enterprises Inc. filed for bankruptcy.

And that summer, he was arrested for a DUI in New Albany.

Life Intrudes 

As is often the case, the actual details are murky. According to Valentine, he left a New Albany establishment after dinner around 7 p.m. on a July evening and was soon arrested for driving under the influence. Eventually, the DUI was dropped and he was charged with reckless driving.

While the details were ambiguous, the newspaper accounts were not: “Robbie Valentine pleads guilty to reckless driving. The former University of Louisville basketball player and current Greater Clark County School Board member won’t go to jail for his drunk driving arrest.”

Back on the Ladder 

“That was a low point for me,” he said. “Divorce. Bankruptcy. Headlines. To get out of that, I went back to the past, and started thinking, ‘What do you do when you fall off a ladder? You take one step at a time to go back up.’ ”

All the contacts and networking Valentine had done, the support system he was v3able to build, started kicking in. Following a recommendation by Crum, he got a phone call from the Kentucky State Fair Board, offering him the opportunity to work for the KFC Yum! Center as assistant general manager.

“It’s the best job in America,” he said. “I love customer service, marketing, public relations and, of course, Louisville basketball. I’m involved with an amazing team of employees. And I get to deal every day with some of the best people in Kentuckiana and around the world.”

He also revived his youth basketball camps, although now he conducts them during the summer at the Yum! Center. He also does free camps around the area during the summer and the Christmas break, sponsored by the likes of Papa John’s Pizza and Vision Works. Participation at the Yum! Center camps is based on school attendance, grades and behavior.

“My program is identical to what Mom’s vision was when I was a kid, and my preacher, and my high school coach,” he said. “I put it all together and now I’m doing all the work they did for me to this day.”

Life Intrudes Again

But another low point was about to send Valentine reeling again. He had been divorced from his first wife in 2004 and, in 2010, married his second wife. In June of 2016, they were separated.

The divorce came through in October. Valentine was devastated.

“I think a lot of our issues were due to our similar childhood situations growing up,” he said. “A lot of times, when you don’t grow up in a normal family environment, it can affect you in different ways. I really believe that some of the things I dealt with as a young person made our marriage tough.”

Equally rough for Valentine was dealing with his divorce. “It really hurt me. When you go through those things, you have to find ways to pick yourself up. It’s that ladder thing, again.”

And so he turned to what would give him strength – his friends and his church.

Having Faith 

“I’ve been with Northside Christian Church in New Albany for six years,” he said. “George Ross and Nate Ross, the senior and associate pastors, have been absolutely my rock, the ones I could talk to about anything or everything. And they’d pray with me, or just listen to the hurt.”

“A person has to want to get well,” said George Ross, referring to the story in the Bible of Jesus at the healing waters of the pool of Bethlehem. “The paralyzed man said to Jesus, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool,’ and Jesus asked him, first, ‘Do you want to get well?’

Did Robbie want to be a survivor,” said Ross, “or remain a victim and blame everyone else?”

The two pastors led Valentine to the church’s 18-week Divorce Care course. “Divorce Care helps people process their hurt and brokenness,” said Ross. “It lets them know they’re not alone.”

“You discover hope and experience healing in a group setting every week,” said Valentine. “We talk about everything, all the hurt, the pain, the emotions, the anger, the shame, the ups and downs. The feeling is almost like death, except that the other person’s not dead, you’re still going to see her.”

Partly for that reason, Valentine chose to stay away from places where his ex-wife might well be, as well as where he’d be faced with an alcohol-fueled atmosphere. “I chose not to go to clubs, bars, environments where alcohol could be a 100 percent downfall for me,” he admitted.

“When people go through tough times, sometimes they drink and do other things because of the hurt they’re going through,” he said. “That doesn’t make you heal. It might make you forget for a few hours, but you’ll wake up with the same problems.”

Besides, he said, “I chose to go faith-based; (I’m) not interested in dating. They teach you to wait and heal before you get back in a relationship. If you’re not healed and you go straight into a relationship, what are you doing to yourself and to your partner?”

v4

The Rock and the Ladder 

Another rock for Valentine was Jim Shannon, the successful basketball coach at New Albany High School (last season’s Southern Indiana coach of the year).

“He saw my hurt. We went to the Outback in Clarksville, and he just listened. Sometimes all you need is a listener. And we can use basketball as a way to talk about the positives and the negatives. Sometimes, it’s good to lose, because when you lose, you learn what winning means.”

Overall, though, Valentine chose his support group carefully. “You want to be around as many positive men as you can, but you have to be careful how you choose to speak to women.”

If he wants a woman’s input, he said, he can talk to one of his five sisters. But he doesn’t necessarily expect sympathy.

“My family will sometimes tell me what I don’t want to hear,” he said. “They’ll say, if I’m going to whine and cry, don’t go to them.

“They’re tough!” With his faith firmly in place, Robbie Valentine has been rebuilding his life – or, with the analogy he likes to use, getting back on the ladder, step by step, and returning to the lessons he learned early in life – about commitment, perseverance and values from his boyhood pastor, Gene Waggoner, and his high school coach, Ron Bevers.

But most of all, there was his mother. A hard worker, a disciplinarian, believer in family and faith.

“When I think of my life as being difficult, I think of her. Difficult? My mom worked three jobs to raise seven kids by herself. That’s difficult. By comparison, my life has been blessed,” Valentine said. “I derive my faith from God and my strength and inspiration from her.”

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SO SHARP.

by STACY THOMAS & photos by ANTONIO PANTOJA

Cover Vertical

Spend five minutes with Todd Sharp, and you’ll walk away knowing exactly who he is and where he stands.

“I’m an exacting coach,” said Sharp, head coach of the Floyd Central High School Dazzlers and University of Louisville Ladybirds, both national championship dance teams. “Some years are easier than others. There is no secret. There is absolutely nothing special. I decide to win. (And when it comes to being on his teams), it’s my way or the highway, but because we live in America, you are free to leave at any time.”

Yes, Sharp can be imposing and intimidating and demanding and – you get the idea.

But inside those first five minutes with him, you’ll also discover a wickedly funny and fiercely passionate person whose driving motivation is to help the young women he coaches excel in ways they’d never dreamed.

“I tell my girls: This is your time. You are not married, you are not yet mothers … you have this small window of time for yourself – to be an athlete and a performer. Seize this time for yourself and spend the rest of your life a champion.”

For the past 22 years, Sharp has been head coach of the Dazzlers. For the latter 15 of those 22 years, he has simultaneously served as head coach of the Ladybirds dance team as well as spirit coordinator for UofL. Under the guidance of Sharp, the Dazzlers have earned 24 state and national championships. In fact, his team of high school athletes have been both nationally and internationally recognized and televised more than any other high school team. The Ladybirds have earned 15 national championships, 13 of which have been under the reign of Coach Sharp.

“I find the process of coaching stressful, but I also love the process of coaching,” he said. “I have a competitive personality. I think I must be crazy to do it this long. The average career span for a coach is three seasons for high school and five years for college.”

While his career statistics alone prove him to be somewhat of an oddity in his field, his commitment and determination ensure he continues to remain on top.

“Todd didn’t just wake up one day as the most successful coach in his industry. He decided he was going to be the most successful coach in his industry,” said Patrick Mahoney, strength and conditioning coach for the Ladybirds and the Dazzlers, and a personal trainer at ProFormance Fitness in Louisville.

Mahoney met Sharp six years ago when the coach sought help getting in shape. Shortly after, Sharp asked Mahoney if he would start working with both of his teams on their strength and conditioning.

“We quickly became close friends. … He was actually the best man in my wedding,” Mahoney said. “Todd introduced me to my wife Rachel, who was a former Ladybird. He has become a big part of my life.”

Mahoney has witnessed Sharp’s continued success and credits some of it to his “ability to connect with each one of his athletes. … He genuinely cares and wants success for them. If you are able to make it through one of Todd’s programs, then you are that much more prepared for the real world. You should consider yourself lucky to be coached by Todd Sharp. For those of us fortunate enough to have him as a friend, we consider ourselves lucky too.”

 

‘A Gentle Tyrant’

Sharp, who is now 47, began his career at age 25. A native of Floyds Knobs, he graduated from Floyd Central, specializing – unsurprisingly – in musical theatre and was naturally drawn to the arts.

“I knew someone that helped coach the Dazzlers. I was approached to help them with a routine. This originally was supposed to be a one-time thing,” Sharp recalled. “Eventually, a position opened up, and it was suggested that I apply, and the rest is history. I thought maybe I would coach for a year or two. Twenty years later, this is one of the greatest things that has happened to me. I think it keeps me young,” he laughed.

It’s also allowed Sharp to finally find a place where he feels like he belongs.

“I have never quite fit in anywhere. Coaching became a home to me and my soul,” Sharp said. “It is the only thing in my life that I have felt that I’m good at. Coaching has been the greatest burden and one of the greatest joys in my life. … That moment in the Disney Fieldhouse in front of 20,000 people – televised to the nation and they announce our team as the National Champions – is a wonderful moment.”

That’s a moment Sharp has experienced multiple times, but he never forgets what the converse feels like.

In those sparse years when his teams have not won a title, the guilt he experiences is overwhelming. “It’s my biggest fear … that my team feels that all of the hard work they put in wasn’t worth it. For myself, it haunts me that I did not beat my own record.”

For others, Sharp’s successes remain at the forefront when they think of him.

“He’s the master. I can’t imagine a national championship under anyone else. He won 10 straight! That’s unheard of,” said Janie Whaley, Floyd Central High School principal. “If you watch the Dazzlers, you know why they are some of the best athletes in the school. Todd is a gentle tyrant, a perfectionist. He has a standard and sets the bar high. He works 12 months out of the year and never stops. His success is contagious. It has encouraged others to be more successful.” 

 

‘Success in Many Forms’

A9Roor40u_8rupkk_7dgIn those first few years of coaching the Dazzlers, Sharp opened Planet Dance Studio in Louisville, eventually relocating to its current location in Georgetown.

“Planet Dance was born out of necessity as a practice and training space,” said Sharp. “I needed consistent and frequent practice space for my team of athletes. My girls work and train hard. They are not merely dancers, they are athletes. I thought if the football and basketball teams had their own regular practice space, my team deserved one too.” (And practice they do, sometimes as much as five days per week, and in the summer months, too.)

Planet Dance All-Stars is now a competition dance studio for students ages 3 years to collegiate. The studio also trains dancers for Highland Hills Middle School in Georgetown and is the permanent training home for the Dazzlers and the Ladybirds.

Charlotte Ipsan and her husband, Rob, are Sharp’s business partners at the studio. She met Sharp 13 years ago at Polly’s Freeze in Edwardsville.

“I was standing in line to get ice cream with my then 3-year-old, and Todd starts his pitch. He knew of me as a former Floyd Central Dazzler and asked where my daughter, Emrie, went to dance,” Ipsan recalled. Shortly thereafter, I found myself with Emrie registering for the Mini All-Star team at Planet Dance. I was mesmerized by Todd’s unprecedented passion and uncanny ability to create successful dancers with or without physical talent.”

A couple of years after their initial meeting, Sharp faced some tough business decisions, one of which was to potentially close Planet Dance. Sharp approached the Ipsans to brainstorm options. Less than 30 days later, they were business partners.

“People questioned our combination of amazing dance coach (Sharp) plus neonatal nurse practitioner and health care administrator (Ipsan), but Todd, my husband and I all agreed on one thing: success comes in many forms at Planet Dance. We recognize and stress the importance of teamwork, confidence and personal development.”

Ipsan’s daughter, Emrie, now 16, is in her third year as a Dazzler, and has been on the Planet Dance All-Star team since the age of 3. Sharp has been her coach for the last 13 years.

“Todd’s ability to take any dancer who has passion, drive and work ethic and transform them into a fierce competitor with the utmost regard for team dynamics and compassion is absolutely magical. He knows how hard to push, when to push, and exactly how to push individuals to get the absolute best out of each student,” Charlotte Ipsan said. “There is never a moment that you question his style. Plus, he is the funniest human being I know.”

Friendships with people like the Ipsans aren’t unusual for Sharp.

“Some of the greatest friendships I have are the parents of students I have coached through the years,” he said. “Some have multiple daughters come through my programs. As our relationships have developed, they have become more like a family to me. I’ve helped raise some of these kids. I’m often with them five days a week plus weekends.”

A third of the way through his career with the Dazzlers, Sharp was approached by the University of Louisville and asked to coach the Ladybirds.

“I was extremely blessed and lucky to have been offered a job at a university locally,” said Sharp. “Most of my counterparts moved to other states for collegiate positions. Some of them (are) my former students.”

In addition to his coaching duties, Sharp is also UofL’s spirit coordinator – he organizes games and schedules social appearances and monitors grades for the Ladybirds. (“Unlike other coaches, I do not have paid assistants,” said Sharp. Our schedule is crazy, but when someone calls who is batting leukemia and they want the Ladybirds to visit their hospital room, I can’t say no. I try not to ever say no.”)

“Todd’s love of UofL and our spirit teams transcends his career,” said Christine Simatacolos, senior associate athletic director.

“He is one of the most caring people I know. He is a coach and a friend 24/7. He is always working, thinking and dreaming about his program and how it can be the best,” Simatacolos said. He is also constantly developing relationships with his athletes, parents and administrators. He could not have accomplished what he has without the support system he has created. Todd works hard but makes it fun. Everyone around him senses his energy and spunk and wants to be a part of it. UofL is fortunate to have him as an ambassador of our athletic department and university.”

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‘More Rewards, Challenges’

So what does it take to be coached by Sharp?

Anyone can have an opportunity to make his teams, Sharp said, and rarely is anyone cut from tryouts. “We are hard enough on each other in this world, it is not hard to make my teams.”

But making a team and staying on a team are two different things.

If you want to learn, get coached and have the grades to make it, you will have no trouble in Coach Sharp’s program, but this does not mean it will be easy.

“I believe in accountability. If a girl does not look her best or perform her best, we all lose. There is no justice like team justice. I tell my team and their families in the very beginning, this will be the hardest thing you have ever done. This experience on my team will be physically, mentally, emotionally and financially hard,” he said. “I have zero tolerance for fighting – this goes for parents, too. The tail will not wag the dog. This team is not a democracy; it’s a dictatorship. I want girls on my teams that have the passion, raw talent and desire to be there.”

Although the Dazzlers and the Ladybirds are both iconic programs, “Every year the dynamic changes,” Sharp said. “I set my intentions and standards high and build it from the ground up – every year. But, I do not ask of my team more than I am willing to do myself.”

Over the last decade, Sharp has felt a shift in his coaching. “When I was 25, I felt it was easier for the team to relate to me. We were closer in age. Every year, this job becomes more rewarding and more challenging. I have a coach and a trainer now. Working out has definitely raised both my credibility and my expectations. I think I am a better coach now at 47 than I was at 27. I love coaching, and the kids crave having a coach.”

They also appreciate Sharp’s willingness to go to the mat for each and every one of them, provided they respond by working hard.

“I am a champion of women,” he said. “I make the girls train in strength and conditioning. I am very controlling about their personal appearance. These girls are beautiful inside and out. People are quick to diminish them because of their appearance. My girls are very smart, good girls who graduate with phenomenal GPAs.”

Sharp continued, “Here we are in this small pocket of Indiana, we are perennial champions. No one is more athletic than this team. No one can out jump this team. This team from Southern Indiana won in the hip-hop division. It’s pretty incredible to think about, really. People that say we are just dancers and not athletes have never watched us, either one of my teams. The Ladybirds have been on ESPN. They have the stamina and speed of any sport. We are the perfect combination of art and sport.”

 

‘Personal Toll, Gain’

In the last two years, his spirit program has not been the only thing Sharp has re-built from the ground up. After 24 years of marriage and two sons (Cameron, 22; Colin, 19), he and his wife Lisa divorced.

“I don’t know a head coach whose personal relationships have not been incredibly challenging,” said Sharp. “This is a lifestyle-driven profession that can be detrimental to personal relationships. … This lifestyle is not for everyone.”

Now single, Sharp describes himself as affectionate, emotional and co-dependent and said his biggest fear is not meeting someone, although he’s still not quite ready to do so yet.

“I not dating anyone exclusively. I don’t want to be disrespectful to Lisa, my children or my 24 years and seven months of marriage,” said Sharp. “In fact, I did not even consider dating sooner than two years after the divorce. In this community, I think the same is expected of me. Lisa and I still make decisions about everything together, and I’m not doing that to my kids. I’m a work in progress. I have a lot to offer. I hope to find love in the future. It sounds cliché, but life has a way of going where it is supposed to go.”

Sharp is a grandfather now to Chase, 22 months, and Charlotte, who’s 1 month old. “Being a grandfather has changed me a lot. The girls probably say I’m still rough, but I think the experience has made me more compassionate. I’m pretty happy now.”

While dating is on the backburner, Sharp has recently started a love affair of sorts with the city of New Albany. “It has been a slow movement, but I am excited about the changes and new businesses. I love River City Winery, The Exchange Pub + Kitchen and Dress & Dwell.”

A Southern Indiana boy at heart, Sharp also frequents the Frankfort Avenue/Crescent Hill neighborhood in Louisville. A self-proclaimed foodie who loves to cook, Sharp enjoys strolling the neighborhood for coffee or new restaurants with friends.

He also spends his down time with his grandkids and dog.  And, Sharp finds solace in working out. “Don’t get me wrong, I still like my Mellow Mushroom pizza and beer, but if I go one day without my workout, I feel off.”

Sharp used to focus on the negative and found himself unable to let go of things easily. He has since learned that letting go is one thing that you can control.

 

‘A Forest of Supporters’

A9R3dtet5_8rupkq_7dgMale dance and spirit coaches are rare in Southern Indiana, but they’re common on the west coast. In fact, the two national dance coaches with the most wins are both male (one of those being Sharp). But his success hasn’t always shut down naysayers.

“I used to let negative comments about my team of myself bother me,” Sharp said. “I simply re-focused my energy. I was looking past a forest of supporters to get to the few negative people in the back. I’ve heard it all. So have my sons when they were in school and Dad was a spirit coach.

“I’m driven hard enough that I’m not looking for respect or acceptance,” Sharp said. “I’ve learned that surrounding yourself with the right people is everything.”

For many, one of those right people continues to be Sharp.

“Todd has reached the peak of Everest in his profession, but still coaches with a chip on his shoulder” like he has something to prove, said Floyd Central High School Athletic Director Jeff Cerqueira. “He is supportive of other coaches, even when they are not always supportive of his program. That’s impressive and humbling.”

Additionally, “Todd’s devotion to his athletes and programs is commendable. He has had several opportunities to take other positions for more money but has chosen to stay home,” Cerqueira said. “Todd is a lot like Geno Auriemma, (head coach of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team). Not all of the coaches like him, but they respect him. The only difference is that Geno gets the best talent in the country, but Todd just outcoaches everyone.”

 

BONUS COVERAGE:

Brittany Wright danced under Coach Sharp for five years. She is still very involved in his programs.

“Todd is unique, not because he is a 40-something-year-old man who coaches a high school pom team in the middle of a cornfield town. He is unique because he is honest. He doesn’t sugar coat anything – EVER. He sets expectations and sticks to them. He is insanely consistent and the parents and dancers know the standard that Todd will hold them to.

He will not hesitate to scream in your face and tell you how it is or what you are doing wrong, but he will also never hesitate to be there for you when you need him – not just in a coaching aspect.

Todd will come and pick you up if you have a flat tire, pay to get it fixed if you can’t afford it and make sure you get home safe. He’s the guy you can talk to when you have just had a bad break up. He knows when to turn the switch on and off. The girls have a HEALTHY fear of Todd. He can make you bawl your eyes out and have you laughing in the next 5 minutes. I have seen him turn a not-so-great dancer into a front row, front and center girl.

Todd has a drive as a coach that goes beyond what I have ever witnessed in our industry. He is able to pull the best out of his girls. I think it’s safe to say that they live to make him proud.”

Lauren Strobel danced under Coach Sharp all through high school as a Floyd Central Dazzler and through college as a University of Louisville Ladybird. She hails from Southern Indiana and is now a dental hygienist.

“Todd is fiercely loyal. I have known him for 8 years and he always puts in 110 percent. Todd has been my coach since I was a skinny, scared, naïve, sophomore in high school. I walked into the Dazzler tryouts with my hair in a tight bun and worn-down ballet shoes. I was intimidated and ill-prepared to say the least, but I had a strong background in ballet. I had heard stories about the world famous Dazzler coach and his pom and hip hop team. I was interested in being involved. After the tryouts, I remember my parents being supportive but worried that I would not make the team. However, Todd saw something in me. I felt extremely fortunate to be asked to be a part of Todd’s JV pom team. Less than a year later, I was a national champion.

Todd made us believe in ourselves. He inspired us to be better, jump higher, turn tighter and stay in sync. It was a full-time job, but very rewarding. In high school we would practice daily for 3 to 4 hours a day. In college as a Ladybird, we practiced late night – 8:30 to 11 p.m. 3 to 4 times per week. On the weekends we would go to competitions; during the summer we would go to dance camp.

Todd taught us that nothing worth having comes easy, and this still comes to mind daily. ‘Faith without work is dead.’ – James 2:17

Todd talked about this Bible verse at practice one afternoon. You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? You can say that you are good, but are you really going to work towards it? This will always be my favorite.

At UofL I was taking 18 to 20 hours in the dental hygiene program. I spent many late nights studying and going to practice. There were many times I felt like giving up and changing my major. Todd was always supportive. On many occasions I called him just to vent and he was always willing to listen. He allowed me to miss an occasional practice so I could study, for which I am forever grateful. At the end of my senior year, I was unable to dance at the national competition because I had to take my dental hygiene board exam. I was heartbroken. It was very tough for me to sit out at practice. At the end of the semester, I received an award at the University Athletic Department Awards program. Todd presented the award to me and I was extremely honored. I have since graduated from dental hygiene school and now work full-time. Todd has taught me so much about life, dance, happiness and working towards a common goal. It was a privilege to be one of his Ladybirds. I was lucky enough to travel all over the country to dance at games and tournaments. Together, (we) won five 5 National Championships along the way.