Excell Hardy

Website – http://weteamup.org/people/excell-hardy-jr/

Email – excellhardy@gmail.com

Twitter – @driven2EXCELL

Excell Hardy is the Co-Founder of  Team Up. Team Up is a non-profit organization that exists for the purpose of empowering youth to become self-sufficient leaders and contributors to their communities. As Founder/CEO, Hardy is responsible for overall implementation and execution of the organization’s mission: to provide youth and community with programs and resources that promote life skill development, healthy living and education.

Hardy has also served as Director of Membership Programming for the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA). The NBRPA is a charitable 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a two pronged mission to assist former NBA, Harlem Globetrotter and WNBA players in their transition from the court into life after the game, while also positively impacting communities and youth through basketball.

Prior to joining the NBRPA, Hardy Founded and served as President/CEO of The Evolution of Advanced Minds LLC (T.E.A.M.). T.E.A.M. was established to connect fledgling small businesses, aspiring artists/entertainers and athletes with the resources necessary to actualize their career goals. T.E.A.M. and its affiliates collectively provided expertise in management, marketing strategy and business development.

We recently launched the Hoop Heads Mentorship Program.  We believe that having a mentor is the best way to maximize your potential and become a transformational coach. By matching you up with one of our experienced mentors you’ll develop a one on one relationship that will help your coaching, your team, your program, and your mindset.  The Hoop Heads Mentorship Program delivers mentoring services to basketball coaches at all levels through our team of experienced Head Coaches. Find out more at hoopheadspod.com or shoot me an email directly mike@hoopheadspod.com

Our roster of shows is growing so don’t forget to check out all our other podcasts on the Hoop Heads Pod Network including Thrive with Trevor Huffman, Beyond the Ball, The CoachMays.com Podcast, Player’s Court, Bleachers & Boards, The Green Light and our team focused NBA Podcasts: Cavalier Central, Knuck if you Buck, The 305 Culture, Blazing the Path, #Lakers, Motor City Hoops, X’s and O’s: NBA Breakdown, Spanning the Spurs, LA Hoops, The Wizards Hoops Analyst & At The Buzzer. We’re looking for more NBA podcasters interested in hosting their own show centered on a particular team. Email us info@hoopheadspod.com if you’re interested in learning more and bringing your talent to our network.

Grab some paper and a pen so you can take notes as you listen to this episode with Sports Executive & Entrepreneur Excell Hardy.

What We Discuss with Excell Hardy

  • Growing up on the south side of Chicago looking up to legends like Isiah Thomas, Mark Aguirre, & Tim Hardaway
  • One of his early mentors, Sonny Parker, Father of NBA Player Jabari Parker
  • How the game has shifted from outdoor playground basketball to indoor travel/AAU
  • Playing his high school ball for legendary coach Roy Condotti at Homewood-Flossmoor High School and the bond he built with his teammates
  • His ability to develop genuine, authentic relationships and how watching his Dad connect with people from all walks of life influenced him
  • His decision to attend Augustana College in South Dakota for two years before returning to Illinois and playing for Quincy University
  • Breaking his nose and getting a concussion against Illinois and what he remembers Bruce Weber saying to him after the game
  • The realization that he wanted to help players transition from being student-athletes to being professionals and how that led him to the NBA Retired Players Association
  • Working with players who are looking for support in the areas of financial health, career transition or degree completion.
  • What happens when there’s no game to prepare for anymore?
  • Oftentimes athletes are lost because there’s no language, this schedule that they have to abide by.  So the first thing that I tell athletes to do in their transition, the first thing that you want to do is to create a schedule.
  • Why athletes need a coach/mentor as they transition out of their sport
  • “Let’s identify those traits that you had as an athlete, that at one are transferable that you can really highlight in other areas of your life, outside of the game.”
  • Understanding that relationships are assets, leverage the fact that you were an athlete
  • Identifying the needs and skills of former athletes to help them start a second career
  • Forming Team Up in Chicago to teach life skills through sports and how his relationships with former pro players helped the program
  • Building the feeder program for his High School, Homewood-Flossmoor through Team Up
  • Why understanding the needs of your audience is so important as you build any business
  • “Success for me is helping our kids identify what their dreams and aspirations are first and foremost.”
  • Helping kids understand if I follow this pathway, I can achieve exactly what I’ve been dreaming about
  • “If you are an upstanding individual and high character, you’re going to push yourself because you know, I will do the same for you.”
  • Building out the Athlete Impact Network helping to create opportunities for minority candidates and organizations to fill executive roles
  • Creating a place for those individuals to go for mentorship or to understand the pathway of a minority executive in terms of their contributions or how they generated success
  • His personal story with Magic Johnson and how he learned what made Magic so successful both as a player and a businessman
  • Magic understands the value of relationships, how to cultivate them, how to make those moments memorable and magical for the person that’s on the other side of the table

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[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle tonight. We are pleased to welcome to the podcast Excell Hardy, entrepreneur, sports executive, and dream facilitator. Excell, Welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.

Excell Hardy: [00:00:15] It’s a pleasure. It’s a pleasure to be live with you guys.

How you all doing today?

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:21] We are doing great. We are so thankful that you decided to take some time out of your schedule to join us. We want to dig into all the interesting things that you’ve been able to do throughout your career that have had an impact on the basketball world. So let’s start by going back in time to when you were a kid and describe for us some of your first experiences with the game of basketball.

How’d you fall in love with the game when you were younger.

Excell Hardy: [00:00:47] Absolutely. Absolutely. So that’s a great question. So I grew up in the South side of Chicago in the inner city and basketball really served as the backdrop for everything that we did early [00:01:00] on in our youth. It was a safe haven. It was a gathering spot.

And, and it really set the foundation for learning and meeting new friends early on. And that really established my love for the game of basketball. And so as I grew up on the South side of Chicago, I really fell in love with the game of basketball. Really in junior high and junior high school before moving to the South suburbs to attend high school and just being in the inner city, there are so many legends and greats that have come out of the city, specifically on the South side.

And some of those grades were one of my mentors early on, who took me under the wing was a Sonny Parker whose son is Jabari Parker. Plays in the league, then you had greats such as Mark Agguire, Tim Hardaway. And obviously one of my favorite players of all time, Isiah Thomas, and just hearing about the stories of these legends growing up in the [00:02:00] city, where it was something to be proud about in terms of saying, Hey, I’m from where these legends are from.

And that really helped me fall in love with the game of basketball in a whole new way.

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:12] So, did you spend your time as a kid? I’m assuming you grew up on the blacktop playing basketball unlike today, where a lot of kids, because of the AAU system and the things that we have, it seems like kids have more access to gyms today than probably you or I ever would have had as a kid.

So did you spend most of your time on the playground growing up with the game?

Excell Hardy: [00:02:31] Absolutely. It was all black top all day, every day for me like going indoors the prestige, I guess what that is now for the kids today. We had that same level of excitement for getting out on the black top. And I think there’s something about the fresh air and being able to really feel that energy or the city you know, it was really a rhythm of the city growing up in Chicago and I think a resonates differently outside.

And you mentioned a, [00:03:00] you. The reality of it was a, you didn’t really even become a priority even for those elite players. And I’m probably dating myself a little bit now, but not until I was really a sophomore junior in high school. I remember there were times where I would turn down going to play in the AAU tournament because there was a street ball tournament I had an opportunity to play in and I wanted to be a part of that.

Mike Klinzing: [00:03:28] So when you think about growing up in that environment, and I didn’t grow up on the inner city of Chicago, but I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, but I can remember going and playing at my local park. And then when I got to be in high school, I would get in the car with a friend of mine, or I had a guy that played in the NBA for a couple of years.

It was six or seven years older than me. Sometimes he’d let me tag along to some of the places that he would go around the city and play. And when I looked back on my basketball experience, I always tell people that those were some of the greatest moments [00:04:00] of my basketball career. I mean, I played college basketball, so it’s not like I had a short career.

I got a chance to play high school. I got a chance to play in college. And yet when I look back on my time, Just playing pickup basketball. Those are some of the best moments of my life. And it’s obviously totally different the way that a lot of kids grow up today. What’s the playground basketball scene like in Chicago compared to what it was like when you were a kid, is, is our games as easy to find now as they were then, or has a lot of the game.

Shifted the way it has in other places where kids are playing on more organized teams and that kind of thing, as opposed to playing as much pickup.

Excell Hardy: [00:04:39] Yeah, for sure. It’s definitely shifted. In terms of just the basketball culture in general a lot of it’s gone towards more of an organized indoor game.

And obviously the AAU circuit has taken a large part of that audience there and I get it it’s, it’s a lot of excitement and opportunity to exist there, [00:05:00] but I think just with this generation you know, going outdoors, as I mentioned, the cores being a gathering spot, there’s no more, not like it was growing up.

You don’t really have that. And obviously in the city of Chicago you hear the stories about the violence that often plagues a lot of inner cities, not just Chicago, but what I, what I really remember at that time, when it came to the black time, those who are identified as athletes someone who could make it out.

They will protect it. There was still a level of organization when it came around you know, just anything, any type of negativity that we were going to shield those who had a great head on their shoulder. We were going to shield those who really had a future that we can identify within them.

To really whether that success within sports or academically that I think now [00:06:00] I think a lot of that organization has gone away. And I think because of that parents, kids feel a lot safer, really never get navigating or gravitating towards playing that organized ball indoors.

Mike Klinzing: [00:06:15] Yeah, definitely. I think when you look at the way the world has shifted in the way parenting has shifted, there’s no question.

I just think about being again, 14, 15, 16 years old, and traveling around, going to these different parks and in a lot of cases, yeah. You were playing with some kids that you were where your own age, but oftentimes you’re playing against adults and playing in neighborhoods. That probably were places that I normally wouldn’t have shown up in.

If I wasn’t a basketball player. And so you think about those kinds of opportunities. And it’s one of the things that I love meant for kids today is that they just don’t have that experience that you and I have hanging out all day and playing for six hours on the playground. Even if you go and you hang around an AAU tournament all day for six or seven hours, you’re still only [00:07:00] playing two or three games.

It’s not like it’s not like going home after a day at the park and just being exhausted and collapsing after you played six hours of basketball. And yet at the same time, I completely understand the benefit to today’s system and kids have a lot more access to gyms. In a lot of cases, they have access probably to better coaching than what you were I received.

And there’s a lot of positives to the system that we have set up today. So as you think about. Your own experiences and your growing up and you’re on the playground. And then you get into high school. What do you remember as a player, your favorite memory as a high school basketball player? Because when we think about that, anybody that we’ve had on and we asked them this question, never believe they have.

One or two things that stand out for them. So what’s something, when you think back to your high school career, that you’re never going to forget.

Excell Hardy: [00:07:47] Absolutely. So going into high school was a great time for me for a couple of reasons. I was blessed with the opportunity coming out of eighth grade, South side of Chicago, I was recruited [00:08:00] to play at some of the private high schools in the area.

One in particular was a high school by the name of hell’s Franciscan. And some other high schools there in the inner city. And I had an opportunity to play there. And then I really started looking at who were the legendary coaches in the city. And one of the coaches after doing my research.

So just being around around the culture for awhile that I identified was coach Roy Condotti and Roy Condotti prior to my high school days coached a historic team many teams from Chicago’s West side or no, what was called Westinghouse high school. And at that particular high school, he coached some great such as Mark Aguirre, Hersey Hawkins, and a lot of guys who went on to go play pro ball.

And so at this time, My parents were also moving to the South suburbs. And I found out that coach Roy [00:09:00] Condotti was coaching at a high school in the area, which was Homewood Flossmore high school at the time. And coach Roy Condotti was known throughout the city really is one of the godfathers of basketball because of his ties to such greats.

Both in the inner city. And now he was expanding that to the South suburbs and because of his success and the high school ranks he was touted as one of the top 50 coaches in Chicagoland high school basketball history. And so I just remember being extremely excited about an opportunity to potentially play for coach.

Roy Condotti and Homewood-Flossmore High school. And I remember stepping in. In the gym the first time, I mean, the facilities at my high school at that time were like none other, obviously that I’ve seen growing up on the South side of Chicago, so that alone excited me to, to have the ability to potentially step on their floor and contribute to the [00:10:00] legacy that was, we were trying to build or contribute to coach  and his legacy.

And. I met with my first time in the gym. It was a summer camp as a freshmen. And I remember looking to the side. The sideline. And I saw coach Roy Condotti kind of just glancing in the gym, seeing if there was some real talent in the gym and he just had this real godfather or about himself. And I kept quiet, but it really motivated me like, you know what, I’m gonna make sure after today he knows my name and I must have dominated this camp, but it was really because.

He was that motivation sitting at the door and I’m like, I’m not letting anyone ruin my opportunity to potentially play for a coach, can dieting. And so he kept showing up that week and I was like, man, he’s really coming to see somebody. I hope it’s me. And if it’s not me, I hope he notices me in the process [00:11:00] and fast forward.

He ended up bringing me up to play varsity basketball with him as a sophomore. And we had such a great, a great run plan with him. And my senior year, we went on to become state runner up and we lost to  who obviously went on that year to be the number one draft pick out of high school.

And so it, it was a great time, but. My team itself. We have some great guys on that team. One of my back court mates was consisted of Freddie Barr, who was a two sport athlete who went on to break the NCAA record for the most receptions. I had you know, had an opportunity to play pro ball NFL and also the Canadian football league as well.

Cyrus Tate, who went on to play at the university of Iowa 10 plus years overseas. And one of them that was probably the most noted noted at that time was Julian Wright who [00:12:00] became Illinois, Mr. Basketball, and the McDonald’s all American his senior year. And obviously an NBA lottery pick in 2007. And when I tell you that was a fun ride plan with those guys.

I mean, to this day, we’re like brothers, we may go a period of time without talking, but anytime I need them or we want to get in contact, they’re all one phone call away. And we reminisce on those times just like it was yesterday. And we had, we had a great crew. We had an extremely great who at that time.

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:31] That’s amazing. I think that when you look back and you start talking about your teammates and the bonds that you put together, when you go through those experiences, there’s nothing like it. And when you get an opportunity, as you said, I think that. That’s one of the things that’s very, very interesting to me, both with whether it could be teammates or just friends that you’ve had for a long time, you can go for a year, two years, five years and not talk to that person.

And suddenly you talk [00:13:00] to them and it’s like, you’re right back in that moment. And every everything that you shared previously just comes flooding back and it’s like those years melt away. And I think that’s one of the things that sports. It has the power to do. And being teammates just allows you to have those bonds that there’s, it’s just such a strong, emotional thing that goes on on a team that it’s really, really difficult to duplicate that in any other walk of life.

I always have this conversation with my wife, actually talking about making friends as adults and. Yeah, you can make friends as adults, but you just don’t go through the same level of emotion and just such intensity that you do with sports and teammates, or even with friends, when you’re a kid and those lifelong friends, I tell my own kids this all the time.

I’m like. Make those lifelong friends now and enjoy your teammates and try to be the best teammate you can be. Because as you said, those are [00:14:00] people that are going to stick with you for the rest of your life. And to me, that’s one of the most valuable pieces of high school athletics that I think people overlook.

Excell Hardy: [00:14:08] Absolutely. I think you hit it right on the head. And I think just in my household alone, some of the character traits that I’ve learned, not only in my household, but growing up playing street ball on the South side of Chicago you really identify with those who are high in character, hard work and dedication because those ended up being the guys that you want to partner with a team or with on the court.

Not understanding that these are some traits that are transferable to other aspects of your life. And I remember and it didn’t hit me too late, perhaps my senior year or after I was reflecting beyond high school. That one of the most important things that you just mentioned, that I realized that I felt I had a gift that was unique to me was really my ability to cultivate great relationships. Not [00:15:00] only with my teammates, but just throughout that administration and every stop, whether it was grammar school, high school, college, and beyond. And one of the things that I noticed that contributed to my attributed, to my ability to develop and cultivate these relationships was my dynamic of understanding.

I grew up in the South side of Chicago and then I moved to the South suburbs. So the culture, the people were vastly different. I didn’t see a difference, but what it allowed me to do was to really adjust and get to know people in a very different way. We’re very vastly different backgrounds, but I really remember during that time, How can I connect with them in a very, a very authentic way.

Once I help build these relationships, but I wanted to build relationships that was built on trust, respect, what we could really motivate and push one another, to be the [00:16:00] best versions of ourselves. Not only on the court, but beyond the court. And I took that personal each and every day because I wanted to be that guy that my teammates administration, anybody that I came account contact with could really count on, depend on to show up.

And even if they absence, they knew exactly who I would be in their absence. And that was so important to me and something that I developed. So I, man, this was, this was something that really carried me on to other aspects of my life basketball and my career as well.

Mike Klinzing: [00:16:36] So I get that once you get to be a high school athlete and you start really thinking about that, even that you’re probably way ahead of the game compared to most high school kids in terms of your thought process.

But I understand that once you start thinking about it, that, okay, I can relate to people in these different walks of life and different ages. I can relate to my teammates. I can relate to my teachers, my administration. [00:17:00] Where do you think that ability. Came from. Cause clearly when you’re a fifth, sixth, seventh grader, that’s probably not something that you’re thinking of consciously, but yet it sounds like as you reflected back that it was something that you were always able to do.

So where do you think that ability came from? You think it was just something that you naturally haves, it’s something that you saw. A parent or a mentor do in the course of your life, where do you think it came from?

Excell Hardy: [00:17:25] Sure. It was my father without a doubt. There was no place. We could go on the South side of Chicago where someone didn’t know my dad or a relative of his and Well, my dad, he has a twin brother. And so if they didn’t think it was him, they thought it was his twin brother. And they had a huge family. I think it was 13 or 14 brothers and sisters sprinkled all over the South side.

Mike Klinzing: [00:17:51] I can always see, you always find a Hardy somewhere.

Excell Hardy: [00:17:54] Exactly. But what I remember what my dad, even if he didn’t know someone, by the [00:18:00] time he left the room, they knew him.

He knew them and they now felt like they had a friend for life. And my father, he just had this warm personality everyone wants to get to know, even if they don’t want to talk, didn’t feel like having a conversation. He just had this energy in his aura about himself that really helped people let their guards down open up and begin.

And I mean really detailed personal conversations and he will be so engaged and it wasn’t really, it wasn’t enough the only way it was in a real authentic way. That after leaving that role, not only did they feel they had a friend, but they’re now telling somebody else about this guy that they just met.

It’s a probably get to know as well. And my father just had that ability. And as a kid, it was annoying because every place we went. You know, I would want to hurry up and [00:19:00] get back home or get back to doing kids stuff. And I’m stuck with dad having these long two hour conversations and we’re supposed to just stopping by the grocery store.

And what I realized with him that he really valued relationships and what loud, those connections. To go beyond that is what he found a way to connect with them on a very personal level that made him memorable to them beyond that point in time, beyond that point in time. And so the one lesson I got from that is often in those conversations you want to get to the heart of it, understanding what really makes people tick.

And I’m not sure if he was constantly understanding what he was doing, but this is what I absorbed as I grew up understanding what made people click and then making sure that moment in time with you was memorable. And that was such a value add for [00:20:00] me that I began to take the time whether it was with my teammates or anyone I came in contact with. Valued their time that they’re given to me in the conversation. Not because you want it, or you need something from them, but understanding that in that moment of time, you could be doing something for them through value conversation, great conversation, changing their day, changing their perspective, and really give them them that spark that they needed to get through that day.

And so many people that have known my dad have shared stories of that with me. And I’m like, if I could get just a piece of that, I’ll be all right, for sure.

Mike Klinzing: [00:20:43] It’s such a valuable life skill, and it’s interesting as you were talking a couple of things. Came into my mind. One, when you talked about being the kid who has to stand around and wait while their dad is having conversations and I’ll get, I’ll get that with my own kids, whenever [00:21:00] I’m at some kind of basketball event or whatever, they’re always like, all right, dad, come on, you just talk to seven people.

And you know, we were leaving a half hour ago and you’ve talked to seven people on your way out so I can totally relate to that. And then the other piece of it is it’s interesting. I have a son who’s a freshman in high school. And ever since he’s been a little kid, I have two daughters to us have a daughter who’s a junior in high school and she’s a little bit more reserved than my son.

And so I used to laugh cause we’d go to the, we’d go to the playground. And my daughter who was older than my son by a year and a half or whatever, she would always kind of hang by me and whatever I push her on the swing or we’d go down the slide together, whatever. Meanwhile, my son. Would go and within seriously, like 30 seconds of getting to a playground, he’d have every kid from two years younger than him to five years older than him organized into some kind of game of hide and seek, or we’re doing this.

And he just everywhere he goes, he just makes friend, he can make friends with. [00:22:00] Anybody doesn’t matter what kind of person you are and to see, I mean, it’s just, and it’s such a tremendous life skill to be able to have that ability to interact. And you mentioned about being able to, to be genuine when you do that.

And I think that you, you, you pour so much value into people when you value what they have to say. And when you value them as more than just a connection that. Can do something for you. And to me, that’s just, again, like I said, it’s a hugely valuable life skill, and I think it’s one of the things, and we’ll get into this as we get into your coaching.

Some of the other things that you’ve done, that when you start talking about. Using the game of basketball to be able to improve the lives of the players that you get to touch as a coach. To me, that’s one of the skills that if you can teach people to your players, you can teach them to look people in the eye and be genuine in your relationships.

Then you probably done more good than just about anybody possibly could hope to [00:23:00] do when you are having an influence on kids in that particular way.

Excell Hardy: [00:23:02] No doubt. No, you’re absolutely right. That’s spot on. That’s so spot on.

Mike Klinzing: [00:23:08] As you start thinking about these things and you start realizing that you sort of have this ability to be able to move up and down with different types of people and be able to interact not only with your peers, but with adults and be able to have this kind of positive impact.

What are you thinking about in terms of as your high school careers ending? What does it look like? Your decision to go to college? Talk a little bit about your recruitment. And when you went to college, what you had in the back of your mind that you thought you might want to do with your career moving forward?

Excell Hardy: [00:23:42] Absolutely. And so at that particular time I was recruited by Some mid and low major division one schools and then some of the top division two schools at the time. And I just remember going through that process that I just remember one of my teammates or coaches speaking to me [00:24:00] about exposure or it really expanded my horizons, allowing basketball to take me to places that I never imagined going.

And so as I was going through my recruitment process, one of the schools Then I ended up, I ended up committing to actually was Augustana college division two school out in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And I remember making a decision and sitting down one night and just saying to myself, what am I doing?

Going to see what is out there? But I was really excited about the prospect of letting basketball to take me on his journey to explore everything that life has to offer. And so I spent two years at  Augustana college before transferring back to Illinois to play for Quincy university.

And at the time Quincy university there was an, a conference called the great lakes [00:25:00] Valley conference at the time. And was ranked one of the top D two conferences because we had a lot of division one transfers who transferred down to make sure they, they wanted to get additional playing time.

Juco transfers were coming in. And guys who really wanted an opportunity to showcase what they had. And so my junior year transferring to Quincy university that year. We came into the season ranked number 10 in the country. And I remember that ride. That scene was so, so well put together orchestrated in the terms of having players, two players at each position who really.

Who could really, not only compete well on any given night to lead the team in any statistical category. And one of our lead guys was our center’s name was Joel Box. He transferred from New Mexico state. [00:26:00] And he was just a horse man. He was a great player and we had some great guys a couple of transfers from Southern Illinois there in Carbondale.

And so I was really comprised of these guys who were really D one talents. What was home before an opportunity to showcase what they had. And we went on an unbelievable run that year, where we made it to the tournament, the D two tournament we didn’t place, but coming back that following year, going into my senior year, I was so excited about going into my senior year that I started.

I was started now to really think about what’s next in terms of basketball and the opportunity for me. Obviously since high school, grammar school was always, I want to play in the NBA. But because I had colleagues and peers who were now starting to experience playing ball overseas, that was really an obtainable goal for me, that I really wanted to pursue.

And so [00:27:00]  I was preparing for that my senior year. I felt I trained, I prepared like never before. And I just remember our first exhibition game that year was against the University of Illinois. And I remember the coach at the time, Bruce Weber, I believe it was at the time also was recruiting slightly recruited myself and one of my centers out of high school, we did a visit.

Did all of the camps there. They ended up going with another player. But in my mind, I’m like, you know what, tonight I’m going to show him why he should have sent me that off a couple of years, his back. And there was five minutes into the game. I felt great. I felt great. Five minutes into the game. They had a seven foot guy.

I forgot what his name was, ends up breaking my nose, get a concussion. I’m done for the rest of the game. And I remember waking up in the back is Coach Weber. He says, [00:28:00] Hardy, this wouldn’t have happened if you was on the other side of the side. That’s all. I remember just coming to him, standing over me and making those comments.

I don’t know whether it’d be excited that he still knew who I was or upset at the fact that I’m sitting here and so needless to say with that injury, I had to sit out. I had to sit out the rest of the exhibition season and I ended up having a really solid senior season at Quincy university, but it was something that started to really weigh on me in terms of playing pro ball overseas.

I started to think about this life where I started to have friends who were making that leap turning pro. Both in the NBA. Some in MLB again, these are guys that I played high school ball with, or just knew from the city.  We had a mutual respect for one [00:29:00] another, and I began as I had conversations with them and they told me begin to share some of the obstacles that they face making the transition, lack of trust.

Wishing, they had somebody from a business standpoint who they could really lean on to help them navigate that transition from being a student athlete, to being a professional. And they will share this information with me. And I remember waking up one day saying, I want to be that guy that really connects with these athletes.

Who’s a trusted voice and he can help them navigate this space. Of what it really means to manage becoming a student athlete, becoming a professional, managing finances, managing family in that process, and still stay focused on the main thing, which was the game of basketball. And so [00:30:00] that’s when I began to think about the business the business of basketball, the business of sports, and they clicked.

I said, you know what? That same passion. That I have for the game of basketball is really starting to elevate in terms of being attributed to the business of basketball for those people around me. And that led me on my career path while I started to do I was offered the opportunity to come back to my college if I didn’t go play pro ball by my coach. To come back as a grad assistant. And I took the opportunity because I wanted that transitional time to really get an understanding of what my next step will be from a career path. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I also wanted to be in this system, that system being the league, the NBA office and understanding the inner workings there, just so I can offer that information up.

And I [00:31:00] began to do some independent marketing work for some former NBA players really helping them transition to life after the game. And that led to an introduction to the NBA, retired players association, where I got my first, really my first break as a sports executive, we’re providing support for NBA and NBA players and their transition to life after the game.

Mike Klinzing: [00:31:27] So, what did that, what does that job look like? What are you doing day to day when you’re in that job, working with retired players, just give us a feel for what you would do for those players. What were some of the things that you tried to. Help them with, as you were easing their transition into retirement, and then as you help them to maximize their time once they were out of the game.

Excell Hardy: [00:31:48]  Absolutely. So one of the things that was my job with the association was really identifying and starting to engage those players who [00:32:00] we’ve identified I’ve had a long career are starting to prepare or soon will prepare for retirement. In addition to those who are already retired, that are looking for support either in the areas of finance health, career transition or degree completion.

So with the retired players association, one of my main jobs day in and day out was one to identify the needs of our players on a massive scale. That way we could make sure that we were providing the right types of programs, either enhancing the ones that we already had. Or developing new programs to meet their needs and nail those four areas.

Again, Education in terms of their degree completion finance and career transition. And so during that time, I had a great opportunity to really engage and meet some incredible athletes guys that I grew up idolizing [00:33:00] really had an opportunity to really get to know them on a personal level, understanding some of the psychology that goes into I’m a pro athlete.

But now I’m really preparing myself for life after the game. I don’t know, in the psychology that goes into that, that I’ve identified in that role was there’s some level of anxiety, sadness, or really insecurity. That’s hard for these athletes to avoid as they start to look at shedding the athlete label.

Yeah. Something that they’ve worn for since they were kids. Obviously proudly over the years, dedicating their lives to their sport to how do I then begin to identify myself outside of the game of basketball. And what I realized was this is the same process, maybe not to this extent, but this is the same process that [00:34:00] collegiate athletes go through as well.

When your time is up in this, that gap where you’re trying to figure out why I wake up every day, I’ve trained for this moment. But what happens when there’s no game to prepare for anymore? How do I identify with myself while I’ve always been named or known as the player who plays for this team and that player, that being for those who’ve had great success.

It will idolize just for being that guy. And so they were afraid to step away from it because they didn’t know who they were outside of the game of basketball. So I identified where maybe some of those fears and anxieties exist and really what it brought me to was developing some key elements to help athletes transition to life after the game.

And it was an applicable tool also. [00:35:00] Collegiate student athletes as well, who were transitioning out of the game. And really didn’t understand that as a student, former student athlete, or as a professional athlete, you do have some traits, some skillsets that really have equipped you for the world. You just haven’t identified with them yet.

And one of the things that I really leverage or identify to get them on that pathway of identifying who they were. Aside from the sport was there were a couple of things. One, I made sure that athletes are so locked in to having this schedule every day. You know, you got workouts at this time you may have 6:00 AM workouts.

You may have another 3:00 PM workout. You know exactly when your meals are your diet. And because when you retire from the game or transition from the game, Oftentimes athletes are lost because [00:36:00] there’s no language, this schedule that they have to abide by.[mk1]  So the first thing that I tell athletes to do in their transition, the first thing that you want to do is to create a schedule.

To keep you busy, occupied until we’re able to build that schedule to things specific to that career. Because that idle time is often when the depression, the anxiety is kicking in because you’re no longer locked in to a routine. And so that was the one of the first steps that I’ve identified with athletes.

Hey, we have to develop another schedule and that could be, Hey, I’m going to still wake up at 6:00 AM and  workout. The next thing I’m going to do is develop some hard skillsets that may be transferable to a job. I’m a coach. Anything that the fill that time while we’re looking for that career, identifying that second career.

And then the second thing that I know that athletes [00:37:00] lane, or is their ability to have a coach. Someone who’s going to guide them and hold them accountable for being the best version of themselves that they can be similar to that in that transition is just as a coach is a mentor. Find somebody identify areas of interest that you may or may not have, but identify someone who’s a mentor.

And what athletes don’t understand oftentimes that because you were that athlete. There are many people will be willing to talk to you, offer conversation and opportunities to you. Because just like the rest of the F they’re fans of you as well, but they’re, if you, you just have to really take the time to ask and engage them, allow, share what your interests are and identify with that.

Coach someone who’s going to hold them accountable helping them move forward. And then the next piece was playing to your strengths. All athletes know, as you elevate in the sport from [00:38:00] high school college to the pros, whatever it may be. The longevity is in identifying what your strengths are, because those strengths allow you to one, identify translatable skills, meaning no matter what team you go to this is what you do.

I’m a shooter, I’m a three and D guy. I’m a rebounder. I’m the vocal leader, identify your strengths and then understand how to apply your stress to becoming a star in your role. There’s what creates longevity. So let’s identify those traits that you had as an athlete, that at one are transferable that you can really highlight in other areas of your life, outside of the game.

And then lastly, understanding that relationships are assets, leverage the fact that you were an athlete. Everybody that you’ve come in contact with some that you may or may not know, but there were eyes on you at some point in time, let’s leverage that into [00:39:00] opportunities. So understanding that those relationships or access to them are real assets.

And so that’s kind of my pathway of working with athletes transitioning out of college or no longer playing. The game of basketball, whether they’re forced out of the game, where they made the decision on their own, just as I do with professional athletes, those are kind of the, some of the key triggers that I began to get down to the meat and potatoes with and working with athletes.

Mike Klinzing: [00:39:29] Okay. So I have three follow-up questions. First one is first one. Is, did you have some of these same feelings that you described when you finished your playing career? In other words, we’re talking about professional athletes. I can totally relate. As you were talking and hearing about athletes, who’s.

Identity is wrapped up in I’m a basketball player. And I know, I know speaking for me when I think back to my time from age, whatever, six [00:40:00] years old, seven years old until I was 22. When I graduated from college, I was Mike, the basketball player. That’s how I thought of myself. That’s how I think most people probably looked at me and most people from that era of my life, that’s probably how they remember me.

And when that playing career ended, that was difficult. So did you have some of those same feelings for yourself that then made it more relatable when you were having these conversations with former players?

Excell Hardy: [00:40:28] I remember like it was yesterday asmy senior year came to a close and I was really making some real tough decisions, tough decisions about what was next.

I remember sitting in my dorm room, really, probably for about two and a half, three months. I wouldn’t watch basketball. I didn’t go to the court. I didn’t want to be around it because I was going through this period of really trying to shed the identity. That I felt I was trying to understand if this [00:41:00] identity was only because it was associated with the game of basketball.

Can I stand on my own separate from that? And I felt like it was something that I had to navigate on my own. And so there was some anxiety that went through that process. There was some insecurities probably some depression as well. And I started to think in my professional career, I could only imagine if I played.

10 years in the NBA. What that will be like the level of anxiety at that point. So I definitely was able to identify with a lot of the emotions that I had to remember that remember my own experiences and understanding that it was a political to these professional athletes as well.

Mike Klinzing: [00:41:44] Okay. So you can identify with what they’re going through when you’re trying to figure out what it is that they need. So you’re going through, and you’re having these conversations with them and you’re trying to figure out this is what this guy wants to [00:42:00] do, or here’s what, where he’s lacking right now. Or maybe he doesn’t have an understanding of what he needs to do from a financial standpoint, or maybe he’s struggling to figure out what his, what his next move may be in terms of pursuing a second career.

Or maybe he just wants to get into some investments. Are you mostly. Figuring that out by having one-on-one individual conversations with each of the players that you’re working with, is that a one-on-one relationship sort of information gathering or is it more of a large group where you’re sending out a survey?

I’m assuming it’s more of a personal one-on-one type relationship?

Excell Hardy: [00:42:36] Yeah, for sure. I mean, when I was at the association we went through the process of sending out surveys and things of that nature, but the reality is. Players are not going to open up and be candid with the survey about what they’re really feeling.

So I took the time and really begin to shed some of those walls, those blockers, by having these one-on-one conversations, that then also [00:43:00] led to me understanding. Well, I found that those who are able to transition through that quicker are those who already had some level of a support system in place, whether it was parents or spouse great friends who were grounded, had their head on his shoulders who were really there to help them navigate that space in a real healthy way.

So that’s what it, how I went through that process. One-on-one and then obviously exposure to individuals who are part of their support system. If the opportunity allowed for me to connect with them as well.

Mike Klinzing: [00:43:35] Okay. So once you’ve identified their needs, and let’s say you determined that they need help understand better understanding their finances, or they tell you that they want to get involved in a particular type of business.

Do you then take that information and have a group of trusted advisors, people that you’ve worked with or a network. That you can help [00:44:00] them to tap into. Is that sort of what the process would look like?

Excell Hardy: [00:44:03] Absolutely. Absolutely. So one example would be an athlete may say, I want to go into this particular type of career.

And let’s say it’s. I want to coach college basketball, just for an example. Well, some careers require that you have a degree, maybe not that one, but some require that you have a college degree. So the first thing is the, okay, we know this is what you want to do. However, there’s one thing that we have to take a look at, where are you with this marker?

And if that’s a degree completion, the first step is me contacting a lot of the major institutions now allow for a lot of them, former players to come back and even do it from a virtual standpoint to complete their degree because they want that athletes still associated with them. Their program and graduating class.

And these athletes oftentimes. Haven’t thought about [00:45:00] that or thought about the level of support they could get if they just share with the institution that that’s an interest that they have. So I’m able to do a lot of the groundwork and connecting the dots with them, academic advisor at the institution, as well as one that works outside of an institution.

To support them through that process. From a financial standpoint we’re never beholding to entity a financial institution in that regard. But more, so individuals who are highly vetted to provide financial education, financial literacy, to guide them through help them identify issues that they’ve had, that I’ve been able to uncover through my fact finding to help them identify with it and what the solutions would be.

And then we put a host of opportunities in front of them in terms of taking. Taking the right steps to whether it’s to alleviate some financial issues that they’ve had. We put [00:46:00] some vetted opportunities in front of them to take next steps.

Mike Klinzing: [00:46:03] So how do you vet those opportunities? Is that you, is that a team that you put together is that when you were back working for the league, was that, that something that the league was assisting with, how did you put together that list of trusted advisors that when you knew Guy or a girl had that had a particular need.

How did you know who the right people were to connect them with?

Excell Hardy: [00:46:23] Absolutely. So when I first started, it was definitely through the league office, but those that stuck around were those who were more rooted in. I’m going to approach this from an educational standpoint, educating, helping to educate the athlete, opposed to looking at it from how can I help monetize the situation.

And so those who approached it from an educational standpoint, I want to teach my expertise with typically the partners that stuck around the longest. Cause we were able to develop a fund, some of these resources through the association over [00:47:00] time, having developed great relationships with individuals, whether it be in venture capital, entrepreneurship, how to start my own business.

Coaching I’ve developed relationships with individuals within those institutions. That over time, I personally now know their quality of work because I’ve seen it over and over. I’ve seen the success over and over was meeting of the athletes that has been brought to the table to the association or independent of it.

Mike Klinzing: [00:47:31] All right. So you’re not only passionate about helping older athletes, but you’re also a passionate about helping young athletes. So tell me a little bit about some of the things that you’ve done to give back in the areas of youth basketball and trying to work with using the game of basketball to teach life lessons.

Excell Hardy: [00:47:52] Absolutely. So one of the, one of the main things that I did, I actually, I started it early on during my tenure [00:48:00] working with the retired players association, because as I was working with professional athletes in their transition to life after the game, I still had, this is to connect with the youth in my community, where I grew up on the South side of Chicago and the South suburbs.

And time’s up. What about that? Yup. That young athletes, students athlete, who’s looking to want needing that message and get their first opportunity to participate in the game of basketball and the excitement that surrounds it. And there were a lot of organizations popping up. Some that were great, but I felt there was something unique that I could offer with my relationships.

And so. What I did was I launched an organization, nonprofit organization called Team Up and team up was really a nonprofit organization. I did a lot of the work there in partnership with the Homewood Flossmoor high school school district [00:49:00] and the surrounding schools in that area. But what it was focused on was empowering the youth and community really by utilizing life skill development and sports as tools to guide our efforts.

And our three focuses with that program was life skill development. Obviously talked through the game of basketball, all the sports that we offer through. The non-profit healthy, living, understanding, healthy relationships, healthy eating, and how those obviously contribute to the bigger picture and then education.

How important is that dynamic? And I was able to establish this program and get off the ground at such a rapid pace. Again, it goes back to relationships that I developed while I was. At the high school or in the community, or coming back year after year to, to see how I could provide support in any way possible.

And what I did through team up, [00:50:00] I was able to call on some of the relationships that I had with former professional athletes and or alum from the area who have gone on to have successful professional. Basketball baseball, careers or careers outside of the game of basketball, but we’ve met, we’ve developed relationships on the court and these are individuals who have gone on and careers such as becoming attorneys and doctors to come back and speak to our kids who are part of a program about those transferable skill sets that was applicable to. These other careers. And that was what really, what it was about providing the exposure that led to expansion for all of the student athletes who are a part of our program. And so this year is the seventh year that we’ve had Team Up the non-profit.

And we so excited about our programming that we’ve had, [00:51:00] obviously this past year 2020 with the pandemic has been tough just on our ability to get out and get active. But we’re really looking forward to new developments with the programming and I’m so passionate about it because there’s still a need.

There’s still a need to connect the community, utilize sports life skills to connect the community, the youth and those opportunities and expose them to opportunities that may be out what they’ve been exposed to on their own. And so I’m excited to give back in that way for sure.

Mike Klinzing: [00:51:33] Yeah, that makes complete sense.

So let’s put the pandemic aside because obviously anybody who’s in the youth sports space has had their business, their mission impacted by what’s going on, but let’s assume at some point in 2021, that things get back to normal. What does the structure of your program look like? And since we’re a basketball podcast, let’s just maybe zero in on [00:52:00] basketball.

So if a kid. Is going to be a part of the team up basketball program. What does that look like? That makes the program. Unique. It makes it so special in your mind and allows it to have the type of impact that you’re talking about.

Excell Hardy: [00:52:15] Absolutely. So that’s a great question. So specifically, our basketball program, what we’ve done, we’ve created programming one to develop the student athletes. So. Our year round schedule is a such the summer. We are dedicated to camps and clinics throughout the summer to develop not only developed by identify those student athletes who are really hungry and excited about learning again.

Well, basketball come fall is where our feeder program and why me feeder program. These are all the grammar schools from the surrounding area that may feed in to the Homewood Flossmoor high school area or surrounding area. We kick off trials for our [00:53:00] feeder program in October. And this feeder season, this is for grades six through eight, and it goes from November through March.

It almost mimics the high school basketball season here in Illinois. And four years ago, five years ago, they’ve sanctioned a feeder basketball state championship. And many States across the country. And I’m proud to say that we were three times feeder, state of Illinois SAPs for the eighth grade, seventh grade and six grade level here.

And so this pandemic through a really through a bump in the road this past year. And that’s something that we’re excited to get back to. But I think what allowed us to have that success was those development touch points year round, and having quality coaching and mentorship that these kids really had at their reach.

The parents had at their reach throughout the year where we were [00:54:00] connecting with the grammar schools, the elementary schools in the area, we were connecting with the community at large. What everyone was Willy bought in on. Everyone has really bought in to the success of these individuals, because what we teach is to generate success so that you can give back to the community and whatever field that you decide to go into.

And so because of that, the community really gets behind us and really helps us advocate for what?

Mike Klinzing: [00:54:32] So is that how you go ahead and put together your team of people that help you to build this thing up is through just through the community and through your previous relationships and bringing people on board.

I guess I’m interested from an entrepreneurial standpoint, just how you built your organization and what the process was like. In order for you to be able to put this together so you can have the kind of impact that you want to have.

Excell Hardy: [00:54:57] Absolutely. So my structure [00:55:00] is such my partner actually in his venture is actually one of my high school teammates that was a part of my state runner up team. And by trade, by day, he’s an attorney. And so from a legal standpoint, having him as a partner and also passionate about the community that helped me form the structure. Of the business itself. And then from there and identifying what a, a board of directors look like.

I wanted someone who represented the school district. I wanted somebody from an outside perspective in terms of understanding career development. I wanted someone that could contribute to understanding education and programming, and then obviously the rest field filtered out in terms of understanding the dynamic of sports.

And the contributions there. So we were really strategic and identifying people who contribute to the mission just by way of doing what they do on a day in and day out basis and their regular profession. [00:56:00] And then having the ability to identify it. Businesses, business owners not only just in the state of Illinois, but throughout the community that will want to contribute partners, sponsor what we’re doing and that help eliminate some of the financial burden that would then fall on the kids and their parents to have an opportunity to participate in programming that we provide.

And that really helped me build a nucleus and infrastructure. To provide support for us as an organization, but also the individuals who are within our, our programs and our success on the court, then open the eyes. And when I felt comfortable enough from our ability to really have some Successful players on the court in terms of people may have a real future in the game of basketball, I could really call on some heavy hitters in terms of trainers,  Scouts, college [00:57:00] coaches, and really give them a heads up early on.

On some really up and coming talent from the Chicago land area. So able to expose the kids and really helping my contacts, do their jobs, or get, get the heads up or some short talent that’s coming out of the Chicago land area. So it’s that back and forth. And t’s been great for our infrastructure and continuing to build on that.

And then now where I’m looking forward 2021, and beyond that, we started to do. Was now raising the awareness of our organization and the athletes that we have with brands, such as the Nike and Adidas that they will want to get behind and support because we provided a track record of success and sustainability.

Mike Klinzing: [00:57:48] What advice would you have for somebody who’s running a basketball program that wants to make it about more than just basketball that wants to incorporate. [00:58:00] Teaching life skills and using the game to improve the lives of the athletes who are part of the program. Could you give somebody an advice, some advice about trying to incorporate that particular aspect into your program?

Excell Hardy: [00:58:13] Absolutely. The main thing goes back to something that I mentioned earlier is understanding the needs of your audience. And so if it’s a community or a certain group of kids, Understanding the dynamic, whether it be within the household, their family structure academically, where are the needs that exist in the community?

What are the trends that exist? Because if you could fill a void, fill a gap, a specific to where needs exist, they’re going to identify you as a value add, and it, the word is going to spread and your organization will be able to grow leaps and bounds because you’re bringing a value to the table.

Mike Klinzing: [00:58:56] Yeah. I think that value add is something that when you look at, [00:59:00] especially the last, let’s say five years or so, the number of basketball programs, I’m sure you can attest to this in Chicago and anybody else who’s in any major city, the number of basketball programs.

And you can define that however you want, but they’ve. Exploded in terms of numbers and it becomes almost commoditized in a certain way where it’s like, well, what program do you play? Well, I play in the one that’s right down my street, or I play on the one that offers practices at the time that I’m available or it’s easier for me to carpool.

And it doesn’t become about the quality of the program because they’re all kind of nameless, faceless programs that what’s the difference. If I go here, I go there. And I think that. The next, the next frontier, so to speak is. Doing a program, like what you’re talking about, where it’s yeah.

Basketball is an important part of it, but there’s also these other components that allow us to impact kids in other ways, besides just teaching them how to shoot a lay up or work on their [01:00:00] crossover dribble, or have them be exposed to Scouts. Cause there’s a lot of people out there that can do some of those things.

It’s really, I think. About having a greater impact on, and again, not just for the best of the best, but what about for the kid? Who’s the 10th man on a fifth grade team who may never go get a chance to play college basketball act. They may not have a chance to play high school basketball, but you still want your program to have a positive impact.

And I think that’s one of the things that. You know, we talked about it off the top. When you shared about your high school experience and the connection that you had with your teammates team sports can do so much for you yes. On the court or on the field, but could also do so much for you off the court or off the field.

If. The program director, the coach, whoever it may be, maybe it’s just takes one individual within a greater program to just step up and use the game to be able to teach. And that’s one of the things that we’ve really tried to push out there as part of our podcast. And when we talk to coaches is [01:01:00] at all levels, just we try to pull out for that from them is what do you do to have an impact on your student athletes besides just.

On the floor. And I think that’s what I hear you saying is that by differentiating, by differentiating yourself, not only are you having an impact, but then I’m sure there’s also a business component where it does differentiate you from those nameless faceless organizations of which we know there are a lot of them out there for sure.

Excell Hardy: [01:01:25] Absolutely. Absolutely. And at the end of the day, my goal with the kids that come to our program, And you mentioned it in my introduction about a dream facilitator and what that means, and I’ve done it for a professional players in their transition as well, but even more so for the youth is success for me is helping our kids identify what their dreams and aspirations are first and foremost.

That, yes, that could be the game of basketball, but the other opportunities that exist out there that [01:02:00] may peak their interest. But from that, the next step is okay. Now I have this dream, but what steps do I take coach to take my first step to achieving that dream? And that’s what dream facilitation is all about.

One helping them identify it, but two helping them understand the steps that it takes. So they know this is something that if I follow this pathway, I can achieve exactly what I’ve been dreaming about. And I think oftentimes that’s the missing ingredient. We, we help kids. Or if we get to the point where they’ve identified a dream, we leave it at that.

And there’s no instruction. There’s no roadmap or blueprint as to how I go about obtaining it. And so we want to make sure we fill that gap and provide exactly the pathway that, Hey, if you apply these skill set, these traits that you learn in sports to attacking this blueprint, the [01:03:00] likelihood of you achieving your dream is a lot higher than without.

Mike Klinzing: [01:03:04] Okay. I agree. So let’s go back to something you said when you first got done with college and you went into coaching for a couple of years, what is something that, what is something that you learned while you were a coach, a skillset that you picked up during that time? That. It’s still applicable to what you’re doing today as a basketball entrepreneur.

Excell Hardy: [01:03:28]  I think the biggest thing that I learned as a coach at that particular time was communication skills from a different level. And what I mean by that is it took me getting to learn my college players that I was around and coaching at that particular time, learning them, understanding them. What made them tick away from the court?

And me establishing those relationships away from the court [01:04:00] allowed me to demand so much more of them on the court because they knew it was authentic and organic, and I really cared about their well-being. Beyond if they can generate success for us as a team, as a program on the court. And so I’ve tried to apply that to my approach, to developing relationships where they felt it was really authentic.

And how can I give of myself? So when I have an ask of you, if you are an upstanding individual and high character, you’re going to push yourself because you know, I will do the same for you.

Mike Klinzing: [01:04:37] Yeah, I think that communication piece and learning how to, especially when you think about going and transitioning from being an athlete to being a coach, you’ve got as an athlete, I think, especially if you have any kind of success, chances are, you’re a pretty self-motivated individual.

And so as a result of that, you’ve learned to push yourself, but you don’t always necessarily [01:05:00] learn to push others or figure out how to communicate to others that, Hey, I’ve got to get you to a place where I’m not sure that you could get on your own. And I think that there’s a lot of parallels between that as a coach.

And then when you think about being an entrepreneur entrepreneur building. An organization or leading people and trying to get them to do the things that you needed them to do in order to have a successful organization. I think there’s a tremendous amount of parallels there. So when you look forward with the things that you’re doing now, and I’m sure just in the short hour that we’ve known each other, I can already tell that your wheels are probably turning right now with ideas and things that you have in mind that you want to do moving forward.

So when you look ahead, In the next couple of years, what are some of the things that you see down the road, either that you’re going to add on to what you’re already doing, or maybe you have some new ideas in the works that you’d like to try. So just give me an idea of what your future’s going to [01:06:00] look like over the next couple years.

If it’s something that you want to, or you can share.

Excell Hardy: [01:06:05] Absolutely. So the, the first thing is exactly the work that I’m doing with a Team Up in the nonprofit for the youth. I want to continue to elevate that, fine tune that, and continue to reach as many kids throughout the South side of Chicago in the South suburbs as possible.

Aside from that, one of the things that I’m focused on is what I’ll call the athlete impact network and the focus there is identifying executives  within organizations that support athletes, whether it’s In NBA, NFL those league offices or those executives, those individuals who want to go into those roles, I want to make sure that they are identifying a network or part of a network that can help them develop.

Generate exposure and prepare [01:07:00] them for opportunities to provide support, not only for those organizations, but that athletes within those organizations who are essentially the audience. So specifically what I mean is a lot of these athletes and we talking about it now because it’s a hot button in terms of diversity and inclusion and opportunities for instance, black and minority executives.

To have roles within league offices and team offices to support to provide support or their expertise or their PR perspective and contribute that to the bigger picture. There’s not a place for those individuals to go for mentorship or to understand the pathway of a minority executive in terms of their contributions or how they generated success.

The obstacles, et cetera, within these roles within league offices, within the athlete network, I’m working to identify [01:08:00] minority executives who have had great success within these organizations within these entities, but more importantly, identifying the next wave of them, partnering with them for a level of mentorship.

Support education. So when opportunities do exist, I’m happy to, we have the ability to say we have not only identified, but qualified individuals who could step into those executive roles and provide support for teams and league offices across the concert.

Mike Klinzing: [01:08:35] Gotcha. So it’s kind of a back and forth.

You’re providing a service for the executives themselves by providing mentorship and training for them and helping them to understand the pathways and in turn you’re also then helping the leagues to fill their spots with qualified candidates that are going to help those organizations to grow and continue to prosper.

And so it’s kind of a win-win situation there. [01:09:00] Correct?

All right. So I want to ask you one final question, going back to your time, working with retired NBA players, obviously growing up, I’m sure you were a fan of NBA basketball. And so you probably got an opportunity to meet some guys that you had previously watched and seen on TV. So what was the coolest experience that you had in terms of.

A guy that you got an opportunity to meet, or maybe just a story that stands out from one of the players who wouldn’t mind you sharing it with our audience here on the call.

Excell Hardy: [01:09:32] Yeah, for sure. I think one of the biggest stories that sticks out to mind most was I believe it was 2012. I believe it was all star weekend in Houston.

One the individuals that are reported to within the NBA, retired players association, his prior job was he spent 20 plus years with the Lakers. Then he went on to work directly for Magic Johnson [01:10:00] enterprises. And so. He made sure that in Houston, obviously magic is a a big ambassador for the game of basketball NBA.

So we knew he was going to be there and all star weekend. And he said, X, I’m going to introduce you to Magic. I’m going to make sure you’re kind of his guy helping them once he’s checking into the hotel and has everything that he needs to get off, get this weekend off to a great start. So I’m excited.

I’m excited about this. I’m trying not to show it. There are probably only two players that I really. Fanned out or would find out about magic Johnson has won for sure. The first thing he does is he brings magic into the room to enter to meet me. And one of the things that magic did. He made me feel like I was the guy and he was the fan being injured.

And, and it shocked me to the point where I was speechless. And so we’re having this dialogue and this conversation and he’s just the [01:11:00] coolest guy, normal guy. And then the next thing was, I took him out to get checked into the hotel and it’s just. As you know, I’m trying to navigate him through this hotel where people are not going crazy.

Right. So I get them to the desk, safe and sound and we need to get his key in his room situated. And so the lady asks for the name when I’m sharing the name, but I’m trying to keep it low.

And so I tell her name and she sits there. She never looked up. This is it. You know, she’s repeated his name that she looks up, she just starts going, wow, she’s in tears. She’s gone crazy. And magic walks around the desk. He goes behind the desk. He gave her a hug and he thanked her. And the, what I learned from that moment was in terms of, while he so successful [01:12:00] today is because one, he values relationships.

He understands that those moments that he’s making those moments memorable for those individuals. And he’s appreciating that because those are individuals who helped him become who he is. And because of that, I guarantee you he’s done that a million times over. So anytime he picks up the phone and has an ask of someone, because he took that time out in that moment, they’re willing to do that for do something for him over and over.

And at that moment I knew that’s why he was different from a lot of the guys that were in the league. Some who felt they were, prima donnas not even with half the resume that he has. I say he has this unique trait. He understands the value of relationships, how to cultivate them, how to make those moments memorable and magical for the person that’s on the [01:13:00] other side of the table, where you’re willing to do anything for him.

And I said, I’m sure that’s, what’s attributed to his success and life after the game. For sure.

Mike Klinzing: [01:13:10] Absolutely. I mean, I think that takes it back sort of full circle in our conversation where you talk about, I think about a guy like magic, who obviously anywhere he goes, he’s recognized anywhere he goes, he creates that same type of frenzy of people like, Oh my God, there’s magic, John.

I can’t believe that’s magic Johnson. And. At a certain point at a certain point, those of us who are not that famous, it’s hard to relate to what that must look like. I mean, you could maybe spend 10 minutes with magic and see all the reaction that he gets as he walks through a hotel lobby and think, Oh, this is pretty cool.

But then you start to think, well, if I had to do that every single time, I walked through a hotel lobby for my entire life, since I was 19 years old. And [01:14:00] it’s never going to go away. It could be, you could see where it could be easy for that to get tiresome. And yet what you just described is a guy who, even if internally, maybe he feels like it feels tiresome.

He doesn’t let anybody else feel that way. And he doesn’t make them feel that way. And as a result, he’s put himself in a position where he makes other people feel comfortable in situations where. He could easily make them feel uncomfortable and you’ve probably been around people. And I know I have that make other people feel uncomfortable or make them feel like, Hey, you’re putting me out to even just look up and say, hello, and here’s magic going above and beyond with, as you said, a resume that’s second to nobody.

So there’s a huge lesson there for anybody who’s out there. Listening is just remember that. Anytime you interact with somebody, it may be the only time they ever get a chance to interact with you. And it doesn’t matter if you’re magic Johnson or you’re Mike cleansing or Jason Sokol or you’re Xcel Hardy, whoever you are, you [01:15:00] only get that one chance to make that impression.

And I think it’s a great piece of advice to look make. If you have a chance to make a good impression, why not do it? That’s what I take away from your story.

Excell Hardy: [01:15:09]  No, I appreciate that. You’re spot on. You’re spot on for sure.

Mike Klinzing: [01:15:15] So I want to wrap up with one final question. And that is when you think about what you do on a day-to-day basis, what is the thing that brings you?

The greatest joy. And after you answer that question, we’ll give you an opportunity to share where people can find out more about what you’re doing and then we’ll wrap things up,

Excell Hardy: [01:15:34] for sure. So the thing that gives me the most joy my family my wife and I have three kids, two daughters, and a son who bring me the most joy day in and day out.

And so they’re my motivation and everything that I’m uncovering about life. And how to leverage the things that I’ve learned through sports and different activities like that. I get joy and not [01:16:00] only trying to instill that in my kids, but seeing them put that in action and seeing how it, it really manifests some great.

Some great things in their lives. And second to that will again be my ability to serve, whether it be an executive coach or a youth coach. And, and supporting that, what I call again, dream facilitation whether it’s be for professional athlete or a student athlete, anytime I can help somebody identify what that goal, what that dream is and help them in terms of assisting with the steps, identifying the blueprint.

And then seeing where I’m put that in action to take actionable steps to obtaining it. That brings me joy day in and day out. So I love to serve man at any opportunity I get to do so with those audiences, it brings me so much joy.

Mike Klinzing: [01:16:58] I love that [01:17:00] right answer. And I think it came through loud and clear tonight on the podcast and everything that you talked about, how passionate you are about serving others, whether it’s retired NBA players, or whether it’s third grade basketball players trying to have a positive impact to me is what it’s all about.

And clearly you feel the same way before we. Get outta here. I want to give you a chance to share where people can find out more about you, what you’re doing, how they can reach out to you. So if you want to share social media website, email, whatever you want to share, the best ways for people to find out more about you connect with you, and then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.

Excell Hardy: [01:17:36] Absolutely the best place to follow kind of my journey. And my successes was probably Instagram and LinkedIn. So times of Instagram my icon, my hashtag, or what have you is at Driven2Excell with two L’s. And that’s where I kinda highlight my journey and my engagement.

In [01:18:00] terms of the work that I do most. And then on LinkedIn, obviously Excell Hardy and I’m laying low because I’m working on something I kind of alluded to earlier in terms of the athlete impact network that I’m excited about, but I’ll be sure that I give your audience and you a heads up and share it because I’m really excited about what we have coming down the pipeline.

Mike Klinzing: [01:18:22] Terrific. It sounds like an awesome opportunity for you and for the people that get into a chance to be involved in it as well. So we cannot thank you enough for spending some time with us tonight, XL and just jumping on and sharing your story and really digging into all the great things that you’ve been able to do.

So we appreciate that. We don’t take your time lightly, and anytime we have a guest that comes on and is able to impart some of the wisdom that you were able to park to us, we’re always thankful for that. And to everyone out there, we appreciate you listening and we will catch you on our next episode.


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