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Learning To Be Aggressive

If there's one thing that I have learned while building The Stride Report over the seven-ish years that we have been active, it's that almost nothing that you plan over the long-term will work out how you think it will.

Sure, maybe you'll get the end result that you thought you would, but the process to get to that final point will likely look way more different than you had initially visualized.

And sure enough, in 2023, it felt like we were thrown a barrage of curve balls. On numerous occasions, we were forced to change course on a handful of stead-fast initiatives and our entire approach towards operating the website shifted as well.

Phrased another way, TSR was more chaotic this year, at least operationally, than it was during the pandemic three years ago.

Like I said, life never goes quite how you think it will.

* * *

Upon reflection, the origin for most of that aforementioned controlled chaos stemmed from conversations that happened between April and July. During that period, TSR's former parent company, Streamline Athletes, and myself began to chat about the different ways as to how we wanted to operate the site.

I wanted to go with Option A. They wanted to go with Option B.

In the end, a mutual parting of ways, and an accompanying reacquisition deal, was ultimately what we had decided on. And suddenly, in the span of two to three months, TSR was back under my sole ownership -- and so were all of the expenses and responsibilities that came with it.

Oh, those dang curve balls...

To make matters even more complex, a small handful of our most veteran writers, including our very first non-Garrett TSR writer, John Cusick (who was also our D2/D3 editor), opted to pursue new endeavors after years of hard work and dedication. And after going through the emotional toll of two acquisitions in the span of 15 months, I could understand the need for some writers to step back -- but gosh were their absences going to be tough.

Simply put, the life that I entered 2023 with looked nothing like the life that I have now.

And you know what?

I love it.

Gavin Struve, despite much of his prior focus being on Division One, was hired as our part-time D2/D3 editor. And so far, he has been outstanding, especially when evaluating his attention to detail.

But in order for him to be as great as he has been, our D2 writers (Grace McLaughlin and Marissa Kuik) and our D3 writers (Kevin Fischer and Conor Daly) had to be at the top of their game. And in case you couldn't tell, they have done that -- and so much more. Even with an increased workload, those two teams have never been stronger -- and that goes for their writing styles as well.

Maura Beattie and Finn Birnie continue to be absolute work horses for our D1 women's content (what else is new?). Meanwhile, Donny Speas has given TSR a refreshingly consistent flow of thoughtful and knowledgable high school/recruiting content.

And Ben Weisel? Our Blue Oval Podcast host? Well, despite having a one-year old, he has continued to consistently make our weekly show part of his routine.

The reason why I love this unexpected next phase of my career is partially because I have full control of the site (again). But the larger reason is because my team has stepped up when they've been needed the most. During a time when I could have been floundering to keep TSR afloat, they have rallied behind the site and have made it as strong as it ever was.

And no, I'm not just making that up -- the numbers support that.

* * *

"Now is not the time to play it safe," my Dad explained to me.

"Now is the time to take risks. Now is the time to be aggressive."

I'm not entirely sure why, but I remember having that conversation and feeling like it was a massive wake up call. He was right. We couldn't just be stagnant. We had to find new ways to capture attention, new ways to keep our current subscribers entertained, new ways to present content, etc.

It's one thing for this site to survive, but it's another thing for it to thrive.

As a result, I did the impossible: I put aside my patented stubbornness and listened to someone else's advice.

This was the first year where we sent people out to meets as on-site correspondents. By expanding our budget expenditures by roughly 25%, we bought hotel rooms, we bought flights, we paid for travel stipends and we paid for the actual services of those freelancers. In turn, we received post-race video interviews and instant post-race photos that we could post to our social media channels and include in our written analysis/coverage.

We began to (slowly) build out our YouTube page (which you can subscribe to here) and we also established a more consistent flow of high school/recruiting content.

And guess what?

We got results -- good results!

But for as positive as those developments were for our business, I couldn't help but think, "Gosh, really? We haven't even cracked the surface of all of the different things that we want to do with the site."

That's what truly gets me excited for 2024.

There is, however, a fine line between being ambitious and being risky.

No one wants to expand our coverage more than I do (we hear you, NAIA people). But we don't want to quickly rush into expansion until we are able to consistently produce quality content. Sustainability is arguably just as important as deliverability.

And yet, how can we reach new heights if we aren't consistently providing new and unique content to our audience? How do we ultimately push the envelope without compromising stability? How do we maximize the utility and benefit of our investments so that we can further improve our scaling -- and therefore give all of you greater value?

I don't have the perfect concrete answers to those questions (yet), but at this stage in our site's lifecycle, almost no one would. In a way, we're still learning to be aggressive...and when not to be.

* * *

Thank you to everyone who has continued to support us! From our first three or four readers back in 2017 (a group championed by my mother) to the thousands upon thousands of people who consistently check in to the site, it has been an absolute honor to have you all watch our evolution and growth as a site.

And who knows? It's possible that you'll see The Stride Report evolve even further as we enter 2024 -- maybe as soon as January.

Have a happy and healthy 2024, friends.

Your loyal admin,

Garrett Zatlin

The Stride Report

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