From The Beach Reporter News, “Athlete’s Touch takes lessons of sports and puts them in business”
Manhattan Beach resident Justin Blaine grew up in a family that valued strong relationships. Raised in West Lake Village, he watched his dynamic father create a vibrant career built on strong networking and mentors.
Davis Blaine founded a successful California networking group, and Justin learned from example, forging a similar but distinct path of his own—as a baseball player, investment analyst and co-founder of Athlete’s Touch, a membership-based group of former professional and college athletes who are changing gears from the sports to the business world.
Blaine knows what it’s like to make that move; he played minor league baseball as well as starred at the University of San Diego—ranking in the school’s all-time top 10 players and the sixth pitcher in USD history to strike out more than a 100 batters in a single season. He was tapped as one of the country’s top professional prospects by Baseball America.
He graduated with a BA in Business Administration, but sports and baseball were still more familiar territory. “It was all I knew,” he said.
He met Kent Seton, a tennis pro and former USC, at Morgan Stanley and they hit it off. Both experienced the same challenges going from athletics to the ‘real world.’ And they discovered they weren’t the only ones: A friend of Seton’s—a top Stanford athlete—contacted them asking for help in his own transition. Seton and Blaine by then had a substantial contact base between them, and they started brainstorming.
“We realized that these people are kind of their own island,” Blaine explains. “They have the drive and the desire, but maybe just need to meet people who can point them in the right direction. So we decided, ‘Let’s get them all together.’”
The first group formed in 2007—men and women from every athletic background meeting men and women in business with the same frame of reference. By 2012, there were four groups, and currently, there are 13 groups across four states, with a 300-strong membership. They have mixers, fundraisers, charity drives, community enrichment programs and guest lecturers—all with the goal of getting people talking to each other and sharing resources.
The Manhattan Beach team meets each month at Carico Macdonald Kil & Benz law offices, whose partners are also from athletic backgrounds. Walk into the room, and the energy is crackling with well-dressed, articulate people having conversations. No one sits or stands alone. Everybody is quick to put out a hand and make an introduction, and group leader Andy McGuire makes his way through each small gathering, greeting members and chatting while also keeping an eye out for new faces. The bond of athletics is an underlying safety zone; everybody has the common ground of goal-setting, meeting challenges and teamwork.
McGuire works in residential real estate in Manhattan Beach, and though he’s a local, he credits AT with helping him build a contact base and develop his business.
“It absolutely had a huge impact for me. I’m a better person and a better professional because of it; the people and relationships I’ve built in the South Bay through this organization are the backbone of my business.”
He joined AT two years ago and became group leader the following year.
“It’s a similar model to the one Justin’s dad started, but Justin spun it off with a twist, so that it was specifically for athletes.”
“You don’t have to be a great athlete, either,” Blaine is quick to point out. “You just have to embody the idea of helping your teammates win. It’s about collaboration and conversation.”
He’s also enthusiastic when people take the model and spin it off. “One member who was a former NFL player created a consulting business that transitions football players while they’re still in school. He’s helping them make that shift before they graduate, so that they’re ready to go straight out of school.”
Blaine’s support is unequivocal. “I think it’s great that people have taken it and made it their own.”
While the organization plans to stay at its current level of growth, Blaine and Seton would like Athlete’s Touch to work with more schools and professional organizations as a go-to resource for recruitment and referrals.
“Another colleague wanted to build a sales force from people with athletic backgrounds, so we gave him some recommendations, and he ended up hiring some of them. That was really rewarding.”
He’s happy to see people forge new careers for themselves out of the connections they make with fellow members. “Athletes aren’t done when they hit 35,” he said. “They still have a lot to offer.”
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