For the past three years, Phil Hagen has been Editorial Director for WENDOH Media in Las Vegas — one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 5,000 Fastest Growing Companies — whose publications include Vegas Seven, a weekly city magazine; Vegas/Rated, a national travel magazine; and several custom publications, including Backstage, for the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. He has also been the creator, consultant and editor of various consumer and custom magazines, including the Maggie Award-winning Desert Companion for Nevada Public Radio.
As part of an ongoing series to illustrate how the benefits of participation in college sports extends beyond the playing field, NCSA asked Hagen how his athletic career helped shape who he is today.
What college or university did you attend?
Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, 1981-85
What college sport did you play?
How is business like sports?
Chemistry is vital. But so is consistency. I still occasionally think back to not only the championship feeling, but WHY we were able to achieve that. Why Augie — one of more than 300 NCAA Division III schools in the country? It’s important to know not only the feeling of victory, but to understand why it happened. In our case, it had a lot to do with consistency (in practice and in the locker room) and every guy doing his job every time. Very boring stuff. Oddly, I’m not built for consistency; internally, I’m up and down, slightly manic. (Not surprisingly, I didn’t always fit in the team’s plans!) But, indirectly, that football system made me aware of the value of consistency, and it has helped keep me level—at least for appearances. On the other hand, I’ve always been a guy who gets the job done, and I’ve always expected everybody else to do the same.
What did you learn through sports that your “formal” education did not teach you?
Getting back to consistency, our coach never gave “One for the Gipper” type speeches. He was, in fact, very monotone, if not monotonous. The most he’d ever do is sort of complain if we did not doing something right. So, much like the real everyday world, there’s not a bunch of highs and lows. But answers are usually somewhere in the middle. My life has definitely been shaped by some extreme dramas, but most of the road to success lies in the grind. And not surprisingly, I’ve never been one to give speeches! I don’t spend a lot of time getting psyched up for big moments. I just prepare the best I can and let it rip.
How have sports helped you become successful in your field?
Relative to the fact that we were a Division III team, we received a lot of national attention during our undefeated run (I think we went 51 games in a row without losing). Anybody who watched a decent amount of football had heard about this little team that had won four championships in a row. But mostly it was a quiet success. It’s not like we had a rabid fan base or boosters. We practiced on our game field, which was pretty much destroyed by year’s end (and hard as a rock). I remember wearing damp T-shirts and shorts under my practice gear because the dryers didn’t work very well. And one of the championship games—our “bowl game”—was in Ohio, after a big snow. Yeah, the game was televised live on some cable channel, but it was mostly about us achieving something as a team and as individuals. I’ve carried with me that memory, that knowledge that you can be best; it’s not always just a dream.
What are the most important lessons you learned through sports?
It’s driven me to try things I wouldn’t have otherwise attempted. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always somehow been put in leadership roles and never had “a losing season”—things haven’t always turned out for the best, but at the very least I’ve stayed on my feet and finished the fight. And I’ve always grown. I credit those Augie days with giving me confidence. And if nothing else, I’ll always know that I was once part of greatness, by any definition.
What advice do you have for student-athletes?
It’s a funny thing … for a variety of reasons (some in my control, many not), I’ll always be a small/medium-market media guy. I’ve never really cared about the big-time media (except to observe and learn from them, of course). I found my niche in what’s called “city and regional magazines,” which I love because you have a lot of freedom as a journalist to experiment with your craft and do things your way, but also have a significant impact on the community around you. I’ve always had a passion for understanding how things work (or don’t) and sharing lessons and stories about them. So, my advice—and, yes, I do tell my kids this—is to play or do your best no matter what the circumstances, whether it’s the position, class or job you wanted or not. It’s the little successes in life that matter, and 99 percent of the time, they’re victories only you will truly understand or appreciate.
If you’re an athlete interested in following in Phil’s footsteps and succeeding in life by playing collegiate sports, then click here or call 866-579-6272 for a free evaluation with an NCSA Collegiate Scout.