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Posts from the ‘Sport Business’ Category

Leading With Vision and Values: An Interview With Richard Peddie, Former President & CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

By Frederik Ehlen, Dr. Jess Dixon, and Dr. Todd Loughead (University of Windsor)

Richard Peddie is the former president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and Toronto Football Club. We had the privilege of chatting with Peddie, where he shared some valuable leadership and career lessons that he learned along his journey.

“I managed to get my ticket punched in every area of professional sports, except for running a team itself.”

Peddie’s journey started with an honors bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Windsor and a dream of leading a professional basketball team. In our interview, he listed branding, market research, sales, general management, and financial management as attributes that he had developed during his time as a student and throughout the early part of his career in the consumer packaged goods industry. Joining SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) in 1989 was his first step into the sport and entertainment realm. Peddie credits his experience in selling hospitality suites and sponsorships, as well as running food and beverage operations to his time with SkyDome. Next, Peddie joined Labatt Communications, which later became NetStar Communications, as President and COO. While there, he oversaw the operations of TSN, among other specialty Canadian cable television channels, and the launch of TSN.ca—one of the first online sports media websites in Canada. Adding television and digital media expertise helped make his case to be hired as President of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors in 1996.

Throughout the interview, Peddie drew clear examples of how his experience in these various roles helped him as president and CEO of MLSE – his learnings from SkyDome when overseeing the construction of Air Canada Centre (now Scotiabank Arena) and Maple Leaf Square, as well as his digital media knowledge from NetStar Communications when launching Leafs TV and NBA Raptors TV and acquiring GolTV. Although his pathway cannot be seen as a blueprint to success, indeed there are many different avenues to achieving a senior leadership position within professional sports, it reinforces the importance of developing a broad set of skills and experience.

 “So, do I believe vision and values work? Absolutely, but only if you are committed to them, only if you make your decisions based on them, only if you constantly reinforce them.”

Peddie, who retired from MLSE in 2012, has always been invested in leadership and leadership education. When we met with Peddie, he shared insights and personal experiences with his approach of choice – leading by vision and values. Having spent the early part of his career in the consumer packaged goods industry, he offered a prime example of his company’s commitment to vision and values. Specifically, he followed the advice of a young brand manager, who was living the company’s values, to discard a low-grade batch of creamed corn rather than distribute it to the retailers – leaving shelf space unused for nine months. This commitment to the company’s value that ‘quality is essential’ paid off for the company in the long term. Peddie also told us how he defined and implemented his vision and values approach to leadership with MLSE, and how he ensured staff buy-in.

Asked about his leadership style and approach to running an organization, Peddie acknowledged meritocracy as a principle that he practiced throughout his career. He explained how Jack and Suzy Welch’s (2005) Winning inspired him to focus on the growth of the top-performing 20% of employees, while parting with the bottom 10%. He drew the natural comparison to sports where players get cut and unsuccessful coaches are fired.

Closing the interview, Peddie emphasized that leadership is a lifelong journey that never ends. He believes that “the moment you stay still as a leader, you are going to fall by the wayside.” For him, the only way to become a great leader is to keep learning and developing.

To read the entire interview, check out to the April 2018 edition of Sport Management Education Journal

Feeling That In-Group Feeling at a Sponsored Sporting Event: Links to Memory and Future Attendance

By Dr. T. Bettina Cornwell (University of Oregon), Dr. Steffen Jahn (University of Goettingen), Dr. Hu Xie (Western Michigan University), and Wang Suk Suh (University of Oregon).

Have you ever felt alone at a crowded event? If you have felt outside the group, you can imagine that you might focus on different things. When you feel swept up with others in the swirl of activity, well, it is just more fun. It is also easy to imagine that event organizers and sponsors would like for you to enjoy an event, for your sake and theirs.

We investigated the emotions that people feel while at a track and field event. Excitement, joy and pride are emotions we might experience in viewing sport. We can also get bored waiting for the next event or feel discontent, especially if things are not going to plan. We were interested in these sorts of emotions in the research but also wanted to know if experiencing these emotions with others made a difference.

We began with the thinking that you might come to an event alone, or even with others, but your common interest in the event helps you to feel like you are part of the in-group. Importantly, if you do have that in-group feeling, what happens?

We found that emotions influence things like what sponsors you remember. Excitement, boredom, and the overall group atmosphere at an event influence sponsor recall in different ways. Excitement, contrary to popular thinking, can support recall for sponsors.

Feeling In-Group Matters for Sponsor Recall.

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What was really interesting is that emotions are related to the extent of in-group feelings. For example, when people feel they are part of an in-group, excitement further supports recall for sponsors. When people don’t feel like they are part of the in-group, not only does excitement not support recall of sponsors, boredom negatively influences it too.

Similarly, in terms of attending the event in the future, emotions play a role and so do your in-group feelings. Group atmosphere, boredom and joy all influence future attendance. Feeling a group atmosphere, where “compared to other events, other attendees at this event create a great atmosphere” really makes a difference if you feel like you are part of that group.

Sport has always delivered emotional engagement and sponsors have always been attracted to sports for it. This research confirms that thinking and guides it. The findings suggest that events should find ways to help attendees feel a part of the event.

Idea for the Industry: For a multi-day event, it might be worthwhile to imagine events where people meet and greet others before attending the sporting events. Make queues into opportunities. Instead of letting people stand in line with little interaction or amusement, turn this captive audience into a chance to meet people by incentivizing meeting someone new.

For Sponsors: the good news is that excitement at an event is not necessarily detrimental for learning about sponsors. It was the case, however, that a great atmosphere that moves out into surrounding areas may encompass sponsors intentional ambushers or simply other brands that are later remembered as sponsors.

The clear finding is that building in-group feelings is positive for event organizers and event sponsors, and we feel, event attendees.

Interested in learning more about this research? Read the article in the September Issue of the Journal of Sport Management.

Explaining Sponsorships Using Analogy

By Jesse King, Ph.D. (Weber State University) and Robert Madrigal, Ph.D. (California State University, Chico)

Most sponsorship alignments do not make sense. For example, what does FedEx have to do with the NFL? This sponsorship is incongruent because the brand and property (e.g., events, teams, leagues, etc.) have little in common. In such cases, the brand must explain to consumers how it is related to the property. In a recent article in Journal of Sport Management, we find that using analogies is one tactic for explaining an incongruent sponsorship to consumers.

Understanding an analogy is like solving a puzzle. By highlighting shared associations, analogies provide a creative way for sport managers to explain how the brand is similar to the property. For example, FedEx makes use of an analogy by awarding the “Air and Ground Players of the Year” to the NFL’s top quarterback and running back.  The analogy allows fans to connect the actions of running backs and quarterbacks to ground and air delivery of a package, respectively. The package and football each plays the same relational role in this analogy. Just as a football may be passed through the air by a quarterback or carried by a running back on the ground, a FedEx package can be sent by air via a plane or ground delivered using a truck. Good analogies are useful because they promote a deeper understanding of the sponsor-event alignment. In this way, a sponsorship that once did not make sense to a consumer can explained in a way that links core equities of the property with those of the brand.

Creativity is required for fans to understand analogies and for sport managers to build them.  The goal for sport managers in creating analogies is to help the customer understand common functions in the sponsoring brand and sport property. To build analogies, managers should:

1) Identify Brand Action Words: Identify actions performed by the brand. This can be accomplished by identifying actions in terms of verbs used to describe a core function (e.g., Gillette razor blades shave hair off the body). Keep in mind that there are often many ways to describe the same action. For example, a close shave is achieved through close contact between the razor and few missed hairs.

2) Identify Property Action Words: Consider actions performed by the property that might align with those of the brand. Avoid shared surface traits such as common appearance (e.g., both property and brand’s logos are red) or immaterial detail (e.g., both players and employees wear uniforms). Instead, focus on common patterns of relationships that exist for the brand and for the property.

3) Avoid the Abstract: When creating analogical explanations, avoid abstract descriptors such as “excellence” or “integrity.” If no relevant actions within the property can be identified, the sponsor should work with the property to create something (e.g., award, event) that will serve a similar role to the actions that the brand wants to emphasize (e.g., the turnaround play of the game).

Analogies that explain deeper relationships are likely to be more effective than those that only explain surface similarities. For example, Gillette could explain a partnership with competitive swimming, a sport in which competitors “shave” the hair off their entire body prior to a major competition, by emphasizing shallow similarities associated with shaving hair and shaving seconds from a race time. However, a better fit might be achieved by explaining deeper patterns of shared relations. For instance, Gillette recently explained their partnership with Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby by emphasizing the relational importance of establishing close contact between a razor and skin as a way of making sure to not miss any hair follicles on one’s face with the importance of a baseball batter making contact with the ball in order to miss fewer pitches.

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Key Takeaways:

In this research we found analogy improves sponsorship fit, relative to other types of explanation. They help because analogies are perceived as creative. Also, short explanations of analogies seem to be equally effective as more detailed explanations.

For sport managers this means that short messages such as “The FedEx Air and Ground Players of the Year Awards” may be as effective as full press release in explaining a brand-property alignment.  Analogies are capable of concisely conveying a great deal of information. Because space and time are often severely limited in a sponsorship message, the use of analogy offers an efficient and creative method for concisely explaining how an incongruent brand is similar to a sports property.

How do we get there? Establishing The Narrative and Building the Network to get where you want to be

By Joe Favorito (@joefav

Much is made about how to navigate the complicated and very fluid professional waters we are in today. As someone who has been at this for over 30 years and has spent the last decade on my own, I offer some thoughts.

In August, Frank Bruni penned a New York Times column about going back to school, and the real value that students should look for when returning, or starting off, on the path to academic success. He touched on two areas that go well beyond the college experience, and have great value along the path of life; the value of storytelling, especially the personal narrative we build, and the value of mentoring and surrounding yourself with the right people to help you choose the path you may end up on.

As someone with a passion for learning from people from all walks of life, as well as someone who has now spent ten years in the uncharted waters of consulting, understanding your narrative contribution and the skills you have to help others, and the building of a personal network are invaluable. Here are a few thoughts as to what you need to get those two areas strong and healthy.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Stay relevant to the community around you. Learning something every day and figuring out how that can apply to the task at hand, is key. Being pigeonholed as someone who does one thing at a certain price for a certain period of time is a hindrance. Being able to balance advice and deliver at the same time is a challenge learned only by experience.

Time is precious, manage it well. Having the efficient use of time with all the distractions we have around us to finish projects, to work with others, to manage deadlines, even to think clearly and effectively, is so important, and is a skill that always needs improvement. If you can be successful juggling multiple projects in multiple time zones for multiple personalities you know how to make the clock work for you.

Take notes, lots of notes. Even the best with memory forget, and early in in my career, my boss Anne Worcester, who was CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association at the time, was big on making sure everyone had notepads. Make a list, check it twice, and review it at the start of the day and at the end. It really helps you see progress, and make sure that the little things are getting done in a world too dependent on email sometimes.

Look left, look right. I have always been admirer of how point guards in basketball go about their jobs in games. They are always looking to see where things are going and how things are developing. They rarely look down. I readily admit that, I am always looking down. However it is really important to have a sense of all around us, because if we don’t, we miss a lot of the activity that makes us whole, in business or in our personal lives. The people and places around us bring us much.

Most importantly, LISTEN. We are all in a rush with limited time and bandwidth. However if you take the time to listen to all that’s going on around you, you will HEAR people tell you some amazing things about themselves, their lives, their businesses, their needs personally and professionally. Ask questions off of what you have heard, and develop the narrative off of that. It becomes a personal conversation that may lead you to places that you were not expecting, just be gearing some of the simplest of things that people are telling you.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Now no one will say that the journey is easy. We are a global community with millions of stories waiting to be told, many of which are in our midst. Off of those stories comes the narrative that we ourselves can build, and off of that narrative comes the path that can lead us not just to where we want to go, but to where we can go personally and professionally. Is that road fraught with disappointment sometimes? Yes. Is the financial remuneration always the best? No.

However by being able to tell one’s story and by building the right group around you, the ability to get along personally and professionally becomes that much more manageable. Finding ways to do the little things, and build personal brand through storytelling and listening, is very rewarding.

Your value lies within, it is the only thing you take with you for the long term.
Good luck on the road, but be sure and enjoy the ride.

Sport, Twitter Hashtags, and the Public Sphere: Curt Schilling Case Study

Instantly, the hashtag #CurtSchilling became a flashpoint for debate about the issue on Twitter. Thousands of users deployed the hashtag over the following 24 hours, either criticizing Schilling for his homophobia, or castigating ESPN for political correctness. Capturing 10,000 of those hashtags revealed fascinating findings.

Read more

Challenge accepted: Why women play fantasy football

As expected, women play fantasy football for similar reasons as men, but also play for unique reasons. A total of five motivation factors were uncovered.

Three factors (Enjoy, Enhance, and Socialize) are similar to motives previously found by sport management and communications scholars, and two factors (Challenge and Connect) are unique to female participants.

Read more

Laissez les bon temps rouler à la Nouvelle-Orléans!

Written by: Chris Yandle, Doctoral student, Mercer University
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You might not know this, but New Orleans is more than French Quarter and Bourbon Street. However, 700 words aren’t nearly enough to share the wonderful things this beautiful city has to offer.

After moving my family all across the southeast from Louisiana to Waco, Texas, to Miami to Atlanta, the melodic jazz notes of New Orleans were calling us home. We moved home to Louisiana in 2016 after I gave up my college sports career to focus on my Ph.D. studies.

Moving home to New Orleans was the best decision we made. Whether the NASSM 2019 Conference is your first visit to New Orleans or your fifty-first, bienvenue! There is so much this city has to offer, and once you’re here, New Orleans feel like home. You may never want to leave.

Start applying your sunscreen and bug spray now because the end of May is around the time New Orleans becomes hotter than the surface of the sun.

By the time you arrive in New Orleans for NASSM, you’ll be greeted by our new Louis Armstrong International Airport (set to open in February 2019). It’s a much-needed facelift for the city, and if the renderings are any indication, then you’ll be greeted with a great first-impression. Expect about a 25-30 minute ride from the airport to the Sheraton, but it means you can be a tourist and take in the scenery on the ride into the city.

The Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, your home for four days in the Crescent City, is located in the heart of the CBD (Central Business District). You’re a five-minute walk from the winding banks of the mighty Mississippi River, but you can hear the steam calliope of the Steamboat Natchez as she rolls up and down the river.

As someone who’s been to many conferences in cities where I don’t have a car, the first question I always ask: What’s near the hotel? You’re in luck because you have your choice of more than 100 restaurants, cafes, and a myriad of entertainment options within a 10-minute walk of the hotel, including:

New Orleans is the city that never sleeps…and that never stops eating or partying. No matter your entertainment preference, there is something for everyone in New Orleans. Since you’re five blocks from the river, take a stroll along the Mississippi in Woldenberg Park or evade the heat with the intoxicating air conditioned Aquarium of the Americas. Don’t want to walk back to the hotel after a great visit to the aquarium? The Canal Streetcar line terminates at the base of Canal Street at the river. Buy a five-day pass Jazzy Pass for unlimited streetcar rides through the city of New Orleans – trust me, it’ll come in handy in a later blog post.

Who can forget the French Quarter (the oldest neighborhood when New Orleans was founded in 1718)? The French Quarter is 0.49 square miles of history, food, drinks, fun, and- well- other things.

Every morning when you walk out the hotel, a city of endless possibilities awaits you. All you have to do is wear sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and “pass a good time”.

Let the good times roll in New Orleans!

P.S. If you want more local info for your visit to New Orleans, send me an email or a tweet. Hope to see you here!

Issues: Discussing Diversity

Discussing Diversity at NASSM 2018

by Kristy McCray, Co-Chair, NASSM Diversity Committee

In today’s political and social climate, it is increasingly important to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion. This is particularly true in sport, as issues related to diversity intersect at every level of sport participation. Even a cursory glance at the front-page headlines shows that diversity and social justice issues are everywhere in sport.

Just recently, we’ve seen two NBA teams seriously considering a woman, Becky Hammon, as their next head coach, which would earn her another ‘historic first’ title. We’ve also seen the announcement of a $500 million settlement in the Larry Nassar sexual assault case. Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed because of his protests. One of the largest sporting events on the planet, the World Cup, is being held despite the anti-LGBTQ policies of the host nation, Russia. In short, issues of diversity and inclusion are everywhere!

Thus, in the context of sport, it is critical to continue having important discussions about the role of diversity and inclusion. People, organizations, and public policy all have roles to play in the development of a more inclusive sport landscape. Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela famously acknowledged the power of sport to transcend human difference and bring people together.

From an organizational standpoint, diversity is related to improved performance and creativity. Further, sport consumers come from all walks of life. Thus, increased attention on the ways that we create inclusive sport and physical activity environments is good for both the consumer and organizations’ bottom lines.

The NASSM Diversity Committee provides a number of resources for those interested in diversity issues in sport. At this year’s conference, there are several opportunities to meet and discuss diversity-related issues with your NASSM colleagues, including:

Diversity Breakfast – Saturday, June 9th – 7:00 AM

Come enjoy a free breakfast with the Diversity Committee! This informal gathering is a great place to meet and connect with others interested in diversity and inclusion as it relates to research, teaching, service, and more. (Nova Scotia D)

Workshops sponsored by the NASSM Diversity Committee

Saturday, June 9th – 11:00 AM
The Consistently Diverse Institutional Stakeholder’s Devotion to Diversity and Inclusion: A NASSM Diversity Committee Sponsored Workshop (Acadia B)

This workshop will discuss the role of diversity and inclusion policies in Sport Management university programs. In particular, the breakout sessions will discuss strategic management of diversity and the role of faculty and administration in promoting inclusion across campuses.

Breaking Down Silos: A Professional Development Workshop on Methodological Diversity in Sport Management Research (Sable B)

This workshop will discuss the increasingly segmented research landscape in Sport Management and encourage attendees to explore new ways of approaching their research work. Top researchers in the field will lead small group discussions and answer attendee questions related to research methods.

The Diversity Committee also maintains several resources for those interested in various issues related to diversity in sport.

Diversity Resources

List of Diversity Related Presentations at NASSM 2018. This list was compiled by a keyword search for “diversity” in the program, plus includes any presentation (keyword diversity or not) with an author from the Diversity Committee’s self-identified list of Diversity Scholars.

List of Diversity Scholars in Sport Management. The Diversity Scholars are self-identified. Please contact Kristy McCray to be added to the list or have your information updated.

Student Corner: Student learning and participation

What is WWE World Heavyweight Champion of Jeopardy Review? Creating a sport-oriented approach to student learning and participation

Written by: Farah J. Ishaq, Doctoral student, University of Kansas

As a 2nd year Ph.D. student and graduate teaching assistant (TA) at the University of Kansas, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a full instructor in two sections of sport finance and economics. While this was my first semester teaching, the opportunity was there to create and craft a unique, fun, and engaging course, especially on a topic like finance and economics. This blog post will specifically address my experience teaching, while also illustrating specific initiatives that have worked well to increase overall participation and engagement in my classes.

Overall, as a first-year graduate TA, I was nervous about the thought of teaching two sections of over 80 students in the sport management undergraduate program. While I have never taught a class before, I was prepared with the resources to succeed, including weekly advisor meetings, past course materials, and a supportive cohort. Initially, my biggest struggle was finding a balance between a class size of just 13 students, who meet three times a week, and a class of 70 students, who meet twice a week. However, as the class progressed, I learned that there was an opportunity to provide the same course material while establishing a positive classroom environment through discussion, complimentary audio-visual materials, and participation initiatives.

Ishaq blog 1The single greatest help to me was using my own personal undergraduate experiences to develop positive learning initiatives through resources that I found helpful and engaging during my time. As I am not much older than the students I am teaching, I appreciated the opportunity to apply my own undergraduate experiences to my class. One specific undergraduate experience that stood out to me was the use of participation “certificates” that were handed out during class and allowed for extra credit opportunity at the end of the semester. I decided to adopt a similar strategy by applying a sport-oriented twist to this approach by utilizing baseball cards as an incentive for participation.Baseball cards are handed out during participation opportunities for students who positively contribute to the discussion. The baseball cards are then kept by the student throughout the semester and handed to the instructor during the last week of classes in an envelope with their name on it and ultimately returned for the student to keep. Collecting 20 total baseball cards results in 10 points of extra credit added to their final grade. Needless to say, the students have loved it so far and it has created a way to be more involved in sport finance, which is a class that typically does not have a reputation of being the most interesting to students. The baseball cards only cost six dollars for 500 cards from Amazon and were each signed by me on a little removable sticker in order to control that the cards returned to me were indeed the ones I had handed out.

Ishaq blog 2Furthermore, in an attempt to create motivation to do well and create a sense of competition for my students for an exam review session, I surprised them with an opportunity to win a WWE World Heavyweight Champion belt. Jeopardy review has never been this fun! While the Jeopardy-style review offers a classic way for students to be engaged in friendly group competition, adding a sport-oriented prize created a greater sense of competition among the groups as well as willingness to learn and participate. Although my past experiences in my undergraduate did not play a role in the implementation of this initiative, teaching this course has allowed me to exhibit my own teaching style and play a role in the overall positive classroom environment for my students. While at first, I struggled to find a balance between my classes and was nervous to be responsible for more than 80 students my first semester teaching, this opportunity has allowed me to be creative, while contributing to the overall enjoyment and learning of sport finance and economics.

Student Corner: An international student experience

From London to London: My experience as an international student in Canada

Written by: Swarali Patil, MA Candidate, Western University

My journey as a graduate student is unlike my peers. I was born in India. I grew up near Mumbai (Bombay) before moving to New York. This was followed by a move to the United Kingdom for my undergraduate degree, and a year each in Malaysia and the Philippines. Presently I’m a second-year master’s student in Canada. Here are some of my tidbits as I navigate my journey in graduate school as an international student.

Choosing a School – Graduate school can be daunting, and with the incredible choices available, how can you choose the school that’s right for you? Research! I spent almost a year researching schools online, spoke to my lecturers at Coventry University, and contacted various schools before making my choice. It is a time consuming task but if you plan to spend two or more years taking on rigorous academic work, you should be well prepared to do it. The NASSM website is a great source of sport management programs available in North America. Identify the schools and programs that appeal to you, make a list of potential supervisors and read some of their work, contact the department for additional information about funding and other pertinent details before making your choice.

Choosing Classes – Your classes are meant to help you gain a deeper understanding of concepts you’ve previously learned, and introduce you to some new ones. Your classes can be a fantastic means to meet your fellow graduates, learn about interesting research happening in your department or faculty, participate in an exchange of ideas with your peers, and work on projects that can help you hone your presentation and writing skills. Classes are also a great medium to explore your interests that may lead to a potential thesis topic. Choose wisely but don’t overburden yourself.

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Professional Development – Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you, whether it is volunteering, attending conferences, presenting at symposiums, or being a teaching or research assistant. I have volunteered at conferences on campus, presented at symposiums run by different faculties, participated in 2-minute and 5-minute presentation contests, and more. I have also been a teaching and research assistant, which has helped me add to my repertoire of skills and experiences for my CV.

Teaching and Learning – If your school has a Teaching and Learning Resource Centre, utilize their workshops to add to your knowledge base. Most programs will also provide a certificate of completion. Grab every opportunity you can to augment your CV. I’ve found several workshops to be incredibly helpful, particularly when I was a first-time TA. Several workshops provide video recordings of your presentations, which can be a great tool to showcase yourself to a potential employer.

Swarali at SCRINetwork – If you attend conferences or volunteer at social events on campus, take the time to meet faculty and students from different universities. This can lead to interesting contacts, friends in new cities, collaborations and other opportunities. Conferences are also a great way to discuss your research interests with experts in the field. Register early, utilize the student rate, and plan your schedule with ample time to socialize.

Appreciate and Have Fun – Take the time to appreciate where you are. Appreciate different perspectives, new experiences, new friends, new food, and new places. Graduate school provides unique opportunities, which can not only help you identify your future avenues but also provide a sense of accomplishment. Yes, time management is key, and work-life balance needs to be achieved but there is a feel-good factor in accomplishing what you have set out to do.

Graduate school is incredibly daunting and time consuming but it can also be very satisfying. As an international student, whether you plan to stay in your new city for a long while or move back home, you can enjoy the journey and the discovery. I have found my first year to be quite different from my expectations but I’m happier for it. I’m moving full steam ahead in year 2 but deciding if I want to sign up for 4 more!