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Highlight Reels

Highlight Reels

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Over the weekend, I watched Duke’s men’s basketball team beat their rival, the UNC Tarheels. Since my days as a Duke student, I’ve watched a lot of these games over the years. In those rare instances where I cannot watch the game, I watch the highlight reels.

It occurred to me as I watched the highlights of Duke’s team celebration after the game that most of the players celebrating were not in the game highlights. Even when a coach has a 28-point lead and empties his bench with two minutes to go, most of those plays won’t make the highlight reel.

Basketball teams have five starters and two-to-five players who are substituted in the game to relieve starters. There are 15 players on a NCAA men’s basketball team roster, but only 13 are allowed to sit on the bench in uniform at each game. I watched five highlight reels from the Duke/UNC game, and six Duke players were featured in action on the floor.

The players on the rosters at UNC and Duke were all starters in high school. More than a few freshmen are recruited with the knowledge that their tenure on the team is likely no more than a year, since the NBA won’t draft players directly from high school. The players not quite at that level may be consistent enough to be starters or the first substitutes off the bench and will remain with the team unless their NBA draft stature improves or they decide to transfer for more playing time.

As I thought about the basketball players who receive little playing time, I wondered how they would describe the highlight reel of their college career. Once recruited and signed to a scholarship, the college is required to honor that scholarship even if the player never starts or rarely plays. The NCAA athletic scholarship is a contract and requires the player to attend practices unless a trainer excuses him due to injury. A player may never start, but some may log in many more practice sessions than the hotshot freshmen who play for a year before moving on to the NBA.

Basketball is not the only team sport in college, even though it may be one of the smallest in terms of its roster size. Are the ratios of athletes with significant playing time in a game to roster size the same as other sports? I don’t know and opted not to determine what those ratios might be (although I’m glad to invite anyone to do so).

Not everyone can be a starter on a sports team. Many athletes don’t have the skills to make the teams at the top colleges and universities. Team experiences are said to be excellent examples for work experiences. I think my original question about how the non-starters would describe their college hoops highlight reel applies to workers who do not make the C-suite.

As an educator, I think about the teachers and professors who influenced my career post-college. Would their highlight reels include their star students or courses taught, articles and books published, and accolades from their peers?

As a former CEO, I think of board members whose mentorships provided me with answers to my questions about navigating unknown territory. As a current board member, I think about instances where I have advised CEOs to stay the course or change direction and how that advice influenced their leadership.

I have been fortunate in many ways to earn opportunities to serve and lead at many levels. I wonder how often we think of how to improve the highlight reels of others who are not so fortunate and how to create highlight reels for those who believe there are no highlights. There are people who do this every day. Their highlight reels should be the ones we watch and learn from.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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