This past month I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico to help the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) with broadcasting one of their grand slam events, the Paola Longoria Experience. The four day event was a testament to the popularity and national visibility that Paola Longoria (in the image above) has crafted in Mexico. Coming from what most would consider a niche sport, Longoria has demonstrated how an athlete can become a household name to those who may not even know much about the sport he or she plays.
What's my thought of the month from all this? For an athlete to truly be successful, they must work hard within and external to their sport. Over the four days I closely watched Longoria. And, quite frankly, I was impressed, not just by her athletic ability (she won the singles title, her 99th by the way) and her ability to interact with fans of all ages. No, what impressed me most was how much time she spent with these fans.
Before and after every match, fans crowded around begging for photos, autographs, and selfies. Did she ever say no? Not from what I saw. After the event was over, she stayed long after every other player, until every fan who wanted to had been given time with her.
Longoria sacrificed her time on this occasion. She could have easily used her influence to keep fans away, to limit her exposure, or to tell them she was too busy. They would have understood. But she didn't, and because of that she left the court a winner on it and a winner off it.
Longoria is one of the most famous athletes in Mexico, and achieving this level of popularity as a woman from a smaller sport says a lot. And it has not been achieved by accident. Hard work, dedication, and significant time commitments have been necessary. It is has been a long-term investment for gains that have taken time to materialize.
Athletes, coaches, and sporting organizations that want the same exposure and financial rewards as Longoria must recognize the work that's required. It's not something that will just happen. Are you going to put that work in?
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