On Tuesday May 23, 2017 two new members were inducted into the National Sporting Goods Association Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Larry Aasheim of Universal Athletic and Kevin Plank of UnderArmour. The induction ceremony is held during the NSGA Management and Team Dealer Conference, which took place in Scottsdale, Arizona. Although Mary and I were not personally able to attend, we were represented by several GroupeSTAHL team members at the event. Based on feedback from our team, the energy level was high as the honorees were introduced to standing ovations. Larry Aasheim, President of Universal Athletic from 1989-2015, was the very first employee of the team sporting goods business that provides athletic equipment to schools and colleges. When his best friend and business partner Dick Harte founded the business in 1971, they had little experience but a lot of passion for athletics. Today Universal Athletic is one of the largest independent Team Dealers in the country, with 13 locations and 50 team sales reps in the MIdwest and Western States. After 46 years, they are still going strong and continue to expand. When asked why the sporting goods industry is such an important one, he replied, “Our industry is the core of such a huge part of our way of life and provides the means for people of all ages to recreate, stay fit and participate.” I couldn’t agree more. Sports teach people things they don’t necessarily learn in school, such as teamwork, while providing multiple opportunities to build self-confidence and develop positive character traits.
Fellow inductee Kevin Plank, Founder and CEO of UnderArmour, also talked about his passion for the sporting goods industry, echoing these sentiments. “Our industry is a gateway and an access point to sport for everyone,” said Plank. “I passionately believe that in our society, sport is one of the greatest ways to learn and grow, both physically and mentally.” Plank got the idea to create a new line of performance wear in 1995, when he was a football player at the University of Maryland and tired of changing sweat-soaked cotton t-shirts. When he graduated in 1996 he went on a mission to find the perfect fabric for athletes. Today, everyone knows that UnderArmour is synonymous with performance/compression wear. It’s presently a 5-billion dollar company with 14,000 employees around the world. And Plank insists, “we’re just getting started.” Plank was very good about remembering the people who helped get UnderArmour to where it is today. Not only his family members and business associates, but more importantly the customers who stocked their stores with UnderArmour when it was relatively unknown and unproven. Many of them were present in the room and he personally thanked every NSGA member for their support. 2007 NSGA Hall of Fame inductee Mickey Newsome, of Hibbett Sports, shared a story about how he placed a $40,000 order with UnderArmour, which lead to a young Kevin Plank driving away from the store wondering how he was going to fill such a big order! The NSGA Conference is a great place to network with hundreds of successful members of the sporting goods industry and learn why their businesses are thriving. There is a fantastic camaraderie between old members and the organization is also very welcoming to new faces. We hope to see more of you at next year’s NSGA Management and Team Dealer Conference, which is scheduled to take place May 20-22 2018 in Bonita Springs, Florida. Even if you can’t make it to the conference, you can still reap the benefits of NSGA membership. On behalf of everyone at GroupeSTAHL, thank you to everyone at NSGA for all the work you do behind the scenes to support members of the sporting goods community. I’m honored to be a NSGA Hall of Fame member (2011).