5 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Got Started: Michael Chiaradio from The Professional Softball Club

“Meaningful connections shape lives and I always thought it more important than drilling fundamentals.“

Gene: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Thanks for having me. I grew up playing baseball so when my college career ended and I didn’t have any pro opportunities, I elected to jump in my car and “knock on doors.” I drove indirectly from New Jersey to San Francisco and back, stopping at independent baseball stadiums in every state. I was on the road for almost a month, sleeping at motels and living in my car. I would show up with my equipment and ask for a tryout, on the spot. There was plenty of rejection but I got a handful of workouts. Most of the people I met were supportive of my passion and respected my determination. I eventually got an opportunity to play independent professional baseball but the game is competitive and I phased into a role in the Front Office. I started by doing odd jobs and the next thing I knew I was in the press box doing Public Address. I ended up overseeing an expansion franchise in Plattsburgh, New York by the end of my tenure.

All the while, I was on staff at a sports academy where I found a group of High School girls who won three State Championships while I had the privilege of working with them. My softball fandom started by following their local press. Long story short, I elected to pivot my plans and apply some of my baseball strategies to the softball sector.

Gene: Please tell us what exactly your company does?

We’re an agent for change. Given the popularity of softball in the amateur ranks, the professional discrepancy is startling. Over 1,000 men turn professional every year. This simply doesn’t exist in the women’s game but it’s not their fault, there is no infrastructure in place for them to build on. We are changing that.

Gene: What do you think makes your company stand out?

The primary factor is our team’s passion and our desire for change. The goal is to transform how women view their college career. Instead of a “last ride” through competitive athletics, we’d like to offer a greater number of players the opportunity to use college as a developmental stage prior to the possibility of a professional career.

Another important element is our business model which gives everyone a more equal stake. The system was designed to enhance the athlete’s ability to earn money and access resources. There’s no overnight fix but consistent action will lead to improvement.

Gene: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I’ve been lucky to have a lot of people who’ve helped guide me. None more important than my parents. They’ve always supported me through everything and without them I can’t say I’d be the man I am today.

Gene: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be “successful” to bring goodness to the world. Besides, most of us are tremendously successful but we pervert the meaning of success to limit our lives.

As a coach, I came across hundreds of young people. Only a handful are able to meaningfully apply lessons and less will use the game to shape their future. That’s why I made it a priority to energetically contribute to the player on a human level before focusing on how I could contribute to the player’s game. The idea was to use sport as a tool to reach the person, not the player. Meaningful connections shape lives and I always thought it more important than drilling fundamentals.

Gene: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.

  1. Recreate daily. The mission is constant but the practice of achieving said goal must be applied with flexibility. There’ve been times where I was stuck in my vision and I didn’t allow for something greater to show up in my life – simply because it didn’t fit my original plan. I determine the best course of action by proceeding as if I didn’t have to be right or defend against being wrong. Your point of view will shape your reality, don’t be afraid to step away from that when shaping your company. Remember, the company is brand new every day.
  2. Collaborate. Collaboration goes deeper than simply asking for someone’s opinion; leadership is servant hood. It’s important for the people you work with to know that you encourage autonomy and freedom to create in good faith. Don’t be afraid to have people on your team who are smarter than you, in fact, it’s vital.
  3. History is a great teacher. I read anything I can get my hands on relative to company matters and I network with people who have faced similar challenges. Sometimes you have to draw parallels from different sectors and be creative connecting the dots but success doesn’t have a year attached nor a specific demographic.
  4. People won’t work at your speed. This goes back to my life as an undersized athlete. The game made me tenacious and I apply that to my work life. Sometimes I have to take a deep breath because things are not happening as quickly as I would like but, if you can relate, I’d suggest leading by example. Be yourself and bring the effort every day. People will notice and it becomes contagious. It becomes the culture.
  5. Don’t recognize failure. Before I make decisions, I ask myself, “What would I choose if I could not fail?” Take risks. Be aggressive. And always believe in your ability to execute.


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