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Omaha Magazine

Passion Play

Apr 13, 2020 03:25PM ● By Mike Watkins

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Josh Todd, executive director of the Omaha Sports Commission, believes that sometimes you lead, and sometimes you follow; and a good leader knows when it’s time to do each. 

For him, it’s about continuing to seek out his own best leader by challenging himself every day in some capacity. 

“We lead families, we lead co-workers, we lead friends, we lead organizations, churches, businesses, etc.,” he said. “Leadership potentially shows up in every person, every day.”

Todd’s roots in leadership appropriately began in sports. Self-described as a shy kid growing up in Tempe, Ariz., with speech impediments and not much confidence, he developed his innate athletic ability in high school to blossom into a leader on the field. 

He said he lacked natural leadership skills initially, but with hard work and dedication to his sport, he ended up a team captain in high school and college football. 

Todd transferred that on-the-field leadership to his professional life, eventually serving as the director of sports for Visit Mesa in Mesa, Ariz., for six years. He then moved to Connect Sports, which helps connect events with communities, and Huddle Up, a consulting firm that works with cities and sports commissions. He joined the OSC in March 2018 and has been leading in Omaha ever since. 

His motto is leadership breeds confidence and confidence breeds leadership. 

“I feel like my leadership has changed with every role I’ve ever had, as it should with any leader,” Todd said.

“You are a product of the situation and who/what you are leading. The best way I ‘hone my skills’ is by paying attention to what works and knowing that leading is all about adapting to the situation at the time you are called to lead, and adapting with versatility to who you are expected to lead.”

This constant evolution hasn’t gone unnoticed. Todd’s dedication to strengthening the Omaha sports brand, bidding on and creating more local community events while honoring the past, present, and future of sport in Omaha have proven that the OSC board that hired him made the right decision. 

“In his role, Josh is responsible for building and nurturing relationships with key stakeholders ranging from business and community leaders to NGBs (national governing bodies) and other nonprofits,” said Donna Kush, chair of the Omaha Sports Commission Executive Committee that was responsible for recruiting/hiring Todd. 

She continued, “While he is competitive with other communities in recruiting sporting events to Omaha, Josh is a collaborative leader for our community who works to have the right community partners involved and working together to develop strategically aligned and economically beneficial sporting events.”

OSC has helped Omaha grow into a sports capital by landing events such as the U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming (being held for the fourth consecutive time this summer) and curling, coming for the second consecutive time next year. The OSC's strategy moving forward is to diversify their revenue stream and opportunities so that they aren't as heavily reliant on one or two events. The economic development chances are huge with Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft, College World Series, and Olympic Swim Trials all happening within the same three-week period this summer. 

“2020 will be an epic year for sports in Omaha, and is a year to grow upon for the future,” Todd said. 

The OSC also has plans to increase community engagement opportunities in tandem with putting on first-class events. For example, the OSC provided curling kits to schools during the Curling Trials and is now working on an initiative to coincide with the Swim Trials to provide free swimming lessons to children who might not otherwise have access to a pool or lessons. 

Todd said his goal is to align and partner with sports groups in town, co-exist and not compete. 

“We are all 'Team Omaha,’ and we all have our own strengths and add major impact to the Omaha metro,” Todd said. “Collaboration is huge for me, and it is how I choose to lead. You don't get that if you're not a willing partner.”

“Obviously we will continue doing what we have always done, and that is book and produce awesome sporting events, but we do not want to be known as a ‘one-trick pony’ that may be in the spotlight once a year,” he said. “I love the power of sport. I love impacting communities and economies because I ‘get’ to do both. 

“If you can exude your passion and love for something to others and make them believe in what you believe in (like that Omaha can be the best youth and amateur sports city in America) then that is leadership. That is what we, as a staff and board, believe in at the Omaha Sports Commission, and we hope the community follows our lead.”

This April/May 2020 edition of B2B printed before the announcement of the cancellation of the 2020 College World Series and Olympic Swim Trials.

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