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Scouting out success


Former Olympian and owner of Canada’s most popular baseball training facility, Rick Johnston, recently spoke with first and second year Sporting Goods Business students about what it takes to be successful.

Johnston – although born in the United States – is a Peterborough native and graduated from PCVS. He is co-founder and director of operations for The Baseball Zone in Mississauga, an elite indoor complex that offers training and clinics for baseball and softball players of all ages and playing levels.

He played baseball for the Canadian national team in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea and has since had various positions coaching and managing national teams as well as scouting for Major League Baseball teams.

Throughout the years he has also worked within the sporting goods industry – from starting out on the floor at National Sports and working his way up through the ranks, to serving as a sales rep for companies such as Rawlings.

“I was an initiative-taker,” he said of his sporting goods career. “I didn’t want to just be a guy on the floor. I wanted to learn the business…. For me, it was trying to learn as much as I could about what I was doing.”

Networking was another key component to his career. Sales people are in the “relationship business,” Johnston told the students.

“People skills are the most important thing. I cannot emphasize that enough. If you are a sales rep you have to work hard for your customer.”

At times in his career, Johnston was making little money and trying to support a young family.

“For me money wasn’t important. It was my integrity, my relationships.”

Too many people are satisfied with mediocrity, he said, advising students to attack any opportunities they receive.

“Put time in to be the best.”

He also warned them to take their college courses seriously, calling the Sporting Goods Business program a “two-year job.”

“You truly don’t know where this can take you. There’s so much out there – you’ve got to reach out for it.”

Charlie McGee, Coordinator of the Sporting Goods Business program, said he brought Johnston in to speak to his students to remind them that “life is a journey.”

“You should be open-minded when it comes to careers and life because you never know where you will end up,” said McGee. “Rick is successful because of his commitment to hard work and integrity and doing what is right for the customer, and his knowledge that networking and relationship-building will open doors to many opportunities both in and out of the sporting goods industry.

“These are skills and values that the students can easily transfer to the classroom and their co-op placement, and when they begin their careers after graduation,” he added.

Johnston is a member of the Peterborough and District Sports Hall of Fame (2008) and was named Canadian Coach of the Year in 2005. He has served as a hitting coach for both the Team Canada juniors and seniors, and has held several manager positions including with the Croatian national team.

Among the many pupils of his programs are one of only six Canadians ever drafted in the first round of the MLB draft as well as more than 200 other professionals, draftees and players on college scholarship. Johnston has also served as a technical consultant on several TV and movie productions including Fever Pitch and Angels in the Infield.


For more information on Fleming’s Sporting Goods Business program, visit: http://flemingcollege.ca/programs/sporting-goods-business