New York Riptide Close Out Their Season Through #LastShift2020
Written by Jen Hildebrand, Director of Marketing GF Sports
Two countries. Eight states. Two provinces. 38 team members. 5,115 kilometers, or 1,023 participants, apart For Team Riptide, the HEADstrong #LastShift2020 virtual 5k was a far-flung, full-team affair on April 6th.
On March 12th, the entire New York Riptide staff left the office with the knowledge that we would all be working from home the following day and the next week but without really anticipating the complete change that was coming for our lives and sport over the next few weeks. For most of us, a bit naively, we thought that at most we’d miss a week or two of the season, pushing it back until the last week of April or beginning of May as the league suspended games indefinitely.
But after those first few days at home, as the number of people being stricken with the virus was climbing at alarming rates, especially here in New York, the dream of us having a home game on April 5th – we had a bye week and an away game on the schedule before that – became just that. A dream. Sports were put completely on the back burner as our friends, our neighbors, our fans were suffering from something unseen that none of us understood.
As a sports entity, we had to learn how to operate differently. I’ve worked in sports for my entire career in both public relations and marketing, and while I have experience and training in crisis management, this is not something that I – and pretty much everyone in the world – had any experience with or plan for. This was so much bigger than sports, and there were no sports at a time in which people needed them.
That was the biggest struggle for me and the rest of our team, honestly. How to pivot (anyone else hear David Schwimmer screaming when hearing that word? I know it can’t just be me.) to adapt to this new world we were all living in, especially in a time in which people were consuming media in record numbers. We wanted to stay true to who we are as a team and a brand, while also bringing levity to those that sorely needed it. Plus, our players are spread out all over the place both in the US and Canada and some of our staff went to be with family during this time and well, I’m a worrier so being able to connect with/check on them while being in quarantine was important as well.
We threw around a lot of ideas and executed many of them (follow us on social at @NewYorkRiptide to see) but were looking for ways to help as well. Our ownership group and the team are very community focused, both on Long Island and within lacrosse, and the game at NYCB Live on April 5th was going to be a showcase of that. It was our Youth Health and Wellness, presented by Orlin & Cohen, and HEADstrong was going to be our community partner of the game. We’d been very excited to work with the organization all season, so when they approached us about #LastShift2020, it really was a no-brainer that we got involved. I just didn’t anticipate the response.
Usually when I send a mass email to the team – and they’ve gotten a lot from me over the last month haha – I get a few responses on the chain or a few guys texting me about it over the first few days. The support that I got in the first 24 hours of sending this one was incredible, and not just from the players. It came from front office staff and families as well.
For the team, it was a way to support those that needed it most while also serving as an opportunity to still get in their workout. At that time the NLL regular season, and thus the Riptide inaugural season, had not been cancelled – that happened on April 8th – so there was still some hope that they would be taking the floor as a group again. But it was also a way to support those collegiate athletes that had their seasons ended in a way none of them expected (just like the guys) while supporting a cause that is near and dear to so many of their hearts.
For our staff, it was a way to do something to support a great cause and great partner (I’m not going to say what we had planned for April 5th because that will all happen next season and even more things in the future and I need to have some suspense in this job) while also being active. For most of us, especially those here in New York, being in quarantine has been a struggle. This was a different way to be active – following correct social distancing protocols of course – while showing our support. Plus, we can be a competitive bunch and this was another way for people to do some lighthearted trash talking while also connecting in a different way than our Zoom calls.
And it was a way to connect with our fans, which is so, so important to us, especially during these trying times. We had fans join the team, donate to the team and donate to individual players, which was great. We had support from the NLL as well. For us, it truly was a family affair, and we saw that as the times and maps were rolling in throughout the day.
For Team Riptide, our 38 participants ran a total of 190 kilometers on April 6th in support of HEADstrong and Nick’s mission. Which is ironic, in its own way. That number helped us raise over $2,800 for the foundation. But 190 kilometers is also the length of Long Island. Our home.