Saturday, December 3, 2016

Governance Decisions

The two governance decisions implemented this semester impacted my time in Econ 490K in a few different ways. First of all, class attendance was not mandatory. This immediately put me at ease because of my rigorous tennis schedule. Having attendance impact my grade always seemed to stress me out, as I would have to miss some classes when my teammates and I traveled during the week. It never made any sense to me how something that was, in my situation, impossible for me to control would impact my grades. In this class, it was not the case, but that never stopped me from showing up whenever I could. Personally, I don’t do very well learning material online or from textbooks. When there is an actual in-class discussion, students participating and asking questions, and the professor giving us different examples, I pick up more information. Having said that, having class attendance be optional did not impact my routine at all. When I was able to attend class, I was there.
            Secondly, after the first two weeks of class, we voted on if laptops should be allowed during class. To no surprise, we voted to allow the use of laptops. Just like the first implementation, I was relieved when this was finally decided. Truthfully, I think laptops can prove to be of great use to students and it sure helps me out substantially. Especially in higher-level college courses, such as this one, we are able to cover a lot of material in just one class session. It is impossible for students to try and write all the information down as well as not miss some of the material that the professor is going over. By being able to type my notes instead of write them down, I feel like I was able to take more notes in a shorter amount of time as well as not miss any important information that the professor was describing.
            However, having my laptop in front of me at all times create some desire to do things that are not related to the class. For instance, checking my Facebook, looking up sport results, looking up news stories and checking on other work for other classes. I have to admit, that in the beginning of the semester, when we were first allowed to use our laptops, I found myself doing non-Econ490k-related work more often that I would have liked.  I still took notes, participated occasionally and paid attention, but now and then I would catch myself going on these tangents of websites that were not for class. This changed once I got my first quiz grade back and was very unpleased with the result. I knew I had to get back to simply using the laptop to take notes and possible clarify some things that were being said on Google. Once I changed my ways, I learned a lot more, took more meticulous notes, and eventually did a lot better on the second quiz. All in all, the laptop had both positive and negative impacts on my behavior.

            These two governance decisions surely affected the class atmosphere as well. Having attendance be optional cut our class in half as our typical class size was probably somewhere between 12-18 people at a time. Having fewer students in our discussions made the discussions into more of a lecture than it should have been. If we had 30 people with their individual opinions and ideas participating as supposed to 15, I think we could have had better and more in-depth discussions. Similarly with the laptops, I’d like to think that if everybody didn’t have their head down looking at their computer, more people would have participated in our discussions.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Dealing with the Triangle

I’m sure everybody has heard of the term soccer mom, but not many have heard the term tennis mom.  Like any mother watching her son or daughter play competitive sports, moms obviously want their kids to succeed and sometimes even more than their kids. What’s even more dangerous is when a mother has seen her kid play a specific sport for years and starts to pick up on how to really play, or at least she thinks this is the case.
This is the exact case with my mother as she was right by my side all throughout my junior tennis career, going to every match around the country. After awhile, she really knew how to win in the game of tennis and had developed a clear idea on the path I should be taking to better my tennis game. Even though she never played the game growing up, she would always tell me her thoughts before and after each match that I played. The worst part was when she would get overly emotional and started tossing her hands in the air and putting her head in her hands whenever I would make a dumb decision out on the court. Obviously, she was trying to do what was best for me as any mother would, but eventually, it started to get in the way of my success.
 On the other side of the triangle stood my college coach, the guy I trusted in to help further my tennis career once I had officially committed to the University of Illinois. My coach was a successful junior player himself earning many different singles and doubles titles during his college tennis career at Michigan State. From there he worked his way to becoming a professional coach and worked with some of the best players in the world including Billie Jean King. The point being, this guy knows tennis and it would be foolish not to take his advice.
Once I got on campus, the first thing my coach decided to do was to change my technique on my forehand. This was no minor tweak either. I basically did a 180-degree turn in terms of forehand techniques and changing a stroke to this extreme at the age of 18 was something not may people did. My coach said that my other technique would break down against the players I was going to play in college. Putting my doubts aside, I put my faith in my coach and his knowledge and completely changed my forehand.
 It comes as no surprise that with a major change in technique, comes period of time that is simply just a struggle. You don’t like the way it feels, you regret ever doing it in the first place and more importantly it doesn’t seem to work. It was during this time period where the triangle was really formed.
Just a week after this big change was made, I was entered in my first college event. It featured some of the best teams across the country and we were hosting it. Since it was only a couple hours away from my hometown, my parents decided to drive up and watch me compete. I had told them already about the technique change over the phone and just as I thought, my mom was pretty skeptical about it. Nevertheless, she trusted my coach and myself, so it seemed like she came around to the technique change.
For my first match, I played a junior from the number three ranked Texas Longhorns who had a great sophomore season. As you can imagine, I was pretty nervous since it was my first college match, but I was also scared because this new forehand I was working on was horrendous to say the least. The only comfort I had was that my coach understood that this technique change would take some time, so he didn’t put much importance on winning the match, just getting some points in while using my new forehand. The match turned out the way I thought it was going to turn out, as I was frankly embarrassed out on the court losing 6-2, 6-2.
My mom had never seen me play a match quite like this for some time, so immediately after the match she went over and talked to my coach for what seemed like hours.
After talking with my mom, my coach pulled me aside and just reiterated that this tournament was not about the results, but just a way to give my forehand some practice during pressure situations. My mom had some different thoughts. She pulled me aside a little later in the day to ask me if this forehand change was really going to be worth it and to do what felt best for me. At the time, in my opinion, it was best to go back to my old forehand, so I could potentially win some matches. Either way I was torn. I really couldn’t satisfy my mom and my coach since there really wasn’t any middle ground. I could either use my new forehand and fail (coach) or go back to my old ways and potentially win (mom). After thinking it over I decided to trust in my new coach and stick with the process of developing my new forehand. I knew my mom would support me in any way I chose and it would have been foolish to not give this a try.

Once the tournament was over, my parents and I sat down with my coach and talked this situation through. The meeting was excellent, and by the time my parents walked out of my coach’s office we were all on the same page. It was as if the triangle completely disappeared. To this day, I’m glad I took the route of the new forehand and handled that situation like I did.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Team Conflict

Since most people would agree that being part of an athletic team at the intercollegiate level is a form of “work,” my teammates, coaching staff and I had a substantial ongoing conflict with one particular individual during my sophomore and junior year. For the sake of this post, we’ll call him Fred.

Fred was a sophomore from Whales when I started my freshman season. He had tons of potential as a tennis player, but never seemed to utilize his incredible talents. Yet, that does not define a good teammate. All through my first year, Fred loved showing the freshman the ropes, being a good student in the classroom, and most of the time, showed resiliency both in practice and during dual matches.

Fred was always doing things that were a little unorthodox such as taking other teammates’ practice gear without permission, spitting on the courts when he was angry at his performance (which is very frowned upon in the US), and goofing off during community service and public events. These were all scenarios in which his actions were unacceptable, but not terrible in the whole scheme of things. We thought it was simply because of his different cultural upbringing in Whales.

It was during my sophomore and junior season’s where his actions started to change and needed to be addressed. Over the summer going into my sophomore year, Fred started to really utilize his talents and began to see some serious results. By the time the season started, he had earned himself a top 30 singles and doubles ranking. Unfortunately for us, his success seemed to have changed him.

On top of his continuing quirks from my freshman year, he was showing up late for practice, doing his own warm up instead of warming up with the team, getting in constant verbal conflicts with the coaches and getting in constant verbal and an occasional physical conflicts with my teammates and I. It was at this point, my coaching staff and fellow teammates needed to control this growing situation.

In my opinion, and in the opinion of many of my teammates as well, the origin of our conflicts with Fred arose because of Fred’s stubborn mindset of doing things his way and on his clock. He really seemed to not care at all whatever needed to be done to help him be victorious, which as a result, would help us. By helping himself, he was helping the team, and after all, tennis is viewed as an individual sport. If you win your individual match, you do your part for the team.

Once everyone became fully aware of Fred’s actions, two different things started to happen. First, my teammates and I discussed this issue privately without Fred present. We wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page, and we all felt the same way about Fred. Second, the rest of the team, including myself, tried to get his side of the story individually. We loved having Fred on the team (at leas the Fred we knew before), so we wanted to the do the best we could to understand where he was coming from and then paint him a picture of how we viewed his actions.

Fed seemed like a reasonable and understanding guy. After we sat down with him for the first time, he seemed to take it well, like he understood where he went wrong and was more than willing to change. This however, became an ongoing routine as nothing seemed to change and these meetings became more and more pointless. Finally, one day at practice, Fred crossed the line. Long story short, he basically called one of our coaches dumb and he was indefinitely kicked off the team. As hard as it was to let one of our best players go, it was time for him to learn his lesson and our culture to get back to the way it was supposed to be.

Ultimately, Fred humbly apologized to the coaching staff and the team a couple weeks later and he was immediately reinstated. We saw excellent results for the first few weeks, but over time, Fred slipped back into his old ways and unfortunately, he damaged a lot of relationships with the guys on the team because of it.

Looking back at how we handled the situation, I thought we handled it almost perfectly. We basically executed Argyris and Schon’s Model I of interpersonal behavior to the exact steps as shown in Reframing Organizations. To be honest, I would have liked to have seen more drastic measures be taken earlier to really show Fred how his actions were unacceptable. Just because Fred was so successful on the court, did not give him the right to be treated differently than everybody else. Even if we changed our ways and acted more harshly towards Fred, I’m positive the situation would have ended up the same way in the long run and I’m sure my teammates would agree with me.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Team Production and Gift Exchange

This week's prompt was slightly confusing to me and hard for me to really grasp. The idea of team production with gift exchange as well as making connections with the news articles made this weks post the most challenging one yet. However, after pondering this question and the three articles for awhile, I believe I was able to make a connection. I know I must sound like a broken record at this point, but since I have a lack of business experience, I again see a clear correlation between what this post is asking for and college tennis. Not so much the game of tennis as a whole, but college tennis specifically. Let me elaborate.

College tennis players, and all student-athletes for that matter do not get paid. In tennis specifically, my eleven teammates and I get the same amount of clothing, racquets, shoes, string, and everything else needed to participate in our sport. The only thing on paper that sets each of us apart is the amount of scholarship money we receive each year. You see, before committing to a school to play collegiate athletics, the coach will give you a four year offer. Each year can be a different amount of scholarship money, but this is pretty much agreed upon before you step on campus of the university of your choosing. With this in mind, there are student-athletes everywhere that take advantage of this gift and "coast" after their NLI (national letter of intent) is signed. Sure, we win an lose as a team, but tennis, being a very individual sport, is hard to look at as a team sometimes. These "coasters" knowing they have their scholarship money in pocket no matter what, simply go through the every day motions and put in a very mediocre effort. No matter if the guys with little or no scholarship money are the ones grinding on the courts day in and day out, the "gifts" given by the coaches are given to the guys who were just ranked higher in the juniors, not the ones who really deserve it. In some rare cases, coaches find the funds to give deserving individuals more scholarship money, but that doesn't happen every day.

College tennis, being and individual sport, is easily relatable to Jonathan Haidt's "How to Get the Rich to Share the Marbles." Like I said earlier, tennis is a very individualized sport, even if there are tennis teams. To really grasp what I am about to say, one needs to know the basics to college tennis. The dual match (where teams face off against teams) starts off with three doubles matches. The team who wins two out of the three doubles matches gets one point. Following doubles, six singles matches start and each match is worth one point. The team who gets four points total wins the dual match. It's important to know the format because college tennis is a lot like the marble experiment with the three year olds. When the kids both pulled on the string, marbles would come out to each of them and most of the time, they would even out the marbles so each of them had the same amount. Similarly to dual matches, if everybody pulls their weight by training hard, puts the team in front of themselves and leaves it all out on the court, if you happen to lose your individual match but the team wins, it truly feels like a victory to you. On the other hand, if there are guys who only care about themselves and put in a sub-par effort, it never feels nobody is going to end up satisfied because with that culture, winning is scarce. This is similar to when each kid pulls on the rope individually, nobody wins and nobody is satisfied.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Current Decisions that Reduce Income Risk

I have always been hesitant to spend money where it is not needed. Even when I was as young as 10, I would never spend my money. My younger brother was quite spontaneous in his purchases of the newest toys and games, but I always valued saving over spending. However, over the years, I became less "cheap" per say. Now more than ever, having less than one year left in school, I am making decisions with my future income in the back of my head at all times.

You could say in terms of my spending risk, I am a hard dove. Maybe dollar bets here and there with my friends when college or professional sports are on, but nothing more. Having the safety net of good credit and money in the savings account, puts me at ease, but things are about to change.

This notion of self-reliance really settled in my mind during the summer between my sophomore and junior year. I had dropped engineering as a whole because I had simply lost the love for it. The whole reason I applied to the engineering school at Illinois in the first place was for the sizable check waiting for me at my first job afterwards. After my third semester, my complete lack of interest got the best of me. Plus, the culture surrounding that major just wasn't my style. I needed more engagement and interaction with my peers. The only problem was that I couldn't switch into the business school because I was already a sophomore and that school only allowed freshman and rising freshman to apply. After much research and communication with my parents and mentors, I landed on economics, knowing that I had a interest in the subject, it's a "business-like" major and that steady pay came with the degree.

A steady paycheck would be great, but how will I make it to that point when that first paycheck arrives? I already told my parents to completely shut me off at the start of September 2017. After enlightening my parents with the news I started to really think. I have a little money saved up, but that amount will not be sufficient if I want to live in downtown Chicago where I hope to find that steady paycheck. I needed to find a way to make money while still being a full time student-athlete.

After talking it through with my parents, we came upon the decision that I was going to speak with their investment banker. I could do the research and invest myself, but that is a higher risk scenario and with amount of money and time I have, risky is not an option. I sat down with the investment banker under a month ago and she asked me what I wanted to invest in. I honestly had no idea. The only thing I care about is getting a positive return on my investment and quickly if possible, but I know these things take time to really make an impact. Hesitantly, I brought up the idea of investing in champaign real estate since Illinois is trying to up its enrollment to 100,000 students and there are apartments flying up all over campus. She said she'd do some research and get back to me with some options. Also, she brought up some different ideas that all sounded exciting and easy, but we all know, that nothing is set and stone. Just waiting now to hear back from her.

Along with the future investments, I make decisions daily to save money and lower my future income risk. For instance, varsity room. The varsity room is the place connected to the south side of Memorial Stadium where student-athletes can grab food for free. It sounds great, but I'm telling you the food is well below average. There's no variety, the quality is somewhat poor and there aren't many options to choose from. It would be so much better to just eat at Chipotle or Noodles. However, before varsity room, the majority of my payments made each week were food related. By going to varsity room despite its mediocrity, I am saving money and eliminating some future income risk. Even though my parents would be paying for my meals outside the varsity room, I am adapting and getting rid of old habits to eventually help with reducing income risk as I enter the "real world."

Friday, October 7, 2016

Prior Posts Reflection

After reviewing my previous posts, I was able to see two clear connections between my respective posts. The first connections I saw were between the post on my experience in organizations (Johnson Controls) and the experience of being on a successful team (Illini Tennis). After reading through these two posts, I was able to reiterate in my head what intangible truly made for a successful group. In my Product Development Project group, each member brought unique skills and experience to the team. Because of this, we were able to clearly distinguish what roles each member would play in making the project an utter success. I felt the same way when describing what made the Illini Tennis team of 2015-2016 so successful. We all knew what role we had to play on the team in order to achieve our desired results. To summarize, in order to be successful when operating in a group of people, which is inevitable for all college students, you have to know your specific role within the group. If everyone around you understands their unique role, and executes that role to the best of their potential, then your group should find success.

The other connection I saw was between two different posts: Opportunism and Illini Bucks. This connection reiterated the idea of allocation of resources, which is commonly used in the study of economics. When I missed an opportunity for a coveted internship, it was because I decided to use my time, knowledge, and energy towards pursuing my professional tennis career. I could have better utilized these resources towards the internship, preparing me for my life after college and tennis, but instead I somewhat wasted those resoureces. In regards to the Illini Bucks, no matter where you would use your Illini bucks, whether that be for class registration, study room time at BIF, or being first for a specific book at the bookstore, you had to allocate those Illini Bucks in a specific way in order to maximize your potential utility.

After seeing these connections, I was also able to see a big change in the way I wrote my first post to the way I wrote my last post, and I'm looking forward to more developments moving forward in the posts. The prompts for these posts played a large role in these developments, but I do believe that I put more time and more emphasis on economic principles in later posts. These principles were not necessarily the ones we talked about in class, but are ones from past economics courses such as opportunity costs, shortages, surpluses and things of that nature. I think being able to use real life examples and writing about these examples helped evolve my blog writing process and I'm sure that it will only come easier and easier the more in depth we get in class, and the more I continue to write blog posts.

Going forward, I would like to see myself go more in depth with the economic principles. I started by not really mentioning much at all, then progressed to mentioning more of these principles, while slightly expanding on them. Moving forward, I want to really push myself to go in depth on these economic principles. I believe I can make this happen if I continue to critically look at the prompts for the posts and more importantly the economic material involved. By asking more questions, I will be able to find the depth in the material that I want to find, in addition to being able to uncover bigger connections between economics and the things around me. Also, I'd like to utilize more of the material that we discuss in class. At this point in time, I haven't seen many opportunities to use this information even though I'm now looking out for them more than ever. By using more material covered in class in these blog posts, I'll be able to view this material much more in depth, as well as do better in future blog posts and assignments.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Illini Bucks

The idea of "Illini Bucks" is an interesting one. Students obviously have different tastes for what type of college experience they want as well as what unique parts of college they have more interest or want a priority in.

When I think of the major parts of what makes up the University of Illinois, a few things come to mind. You have academic side of the University which consist of majors, minors, electives, tutors, office hours and everything else that makes up the academic institution of the school. You have athletics, which consists of varsity sports, club sports, attendance at varsity sports, and jobs given around varsity sports such as student-media, practice helpers and student trainers. Then you have the social aspect of the University which consists of the greek system (frats and sororities), bars, and the countless different clubs offered around this campus. Lastly, you have your housing which consists of living in the dorms, houses and apartments.

When breaking down the different sections of this University, I see value in the Illini Bucks in just about every one of them.  In the academic portion of this University, I really see the Illini Bucks being used to decided who gets to sign up for classes first. As of right now, student athletes get first priority, James Scholars get second, honor students get thrid, and then it opens up to the whole student body (or that is what I've been told). With the use of Illini Bucks, the students could pay a certain amount of their money to gain first access to class registration. Similarly to class registration, you could use Illini Bucks for housing. There are definitely better dorms than others on this campus and students will surely pay more for better quality and location.

I also see value in Illini Bucks for use in the University of Illinois Athletic Department. Specifically football and basketball tickets. The student section is operated as a first come, first serve experience. The students who arrive the earliest will get front row seats to the action. With Illini Bucks, you could pay to have the best seats in the student section reserved just for you. Also, there are many different students who want to work with student athletes in order to help their chances of getting into top PT (physical therapy) schools. Many who apply, but only few get the opportunity. If you value this position more than others, use your Illini Bucks to get you that position, with possibly the team you really want to work with.

Lastly, with the social aspect of the University of Illinois, I see the Illini Bucks being used to gain access into bars on campus. When talking with other people who get into bars or enjoy going to the bars, the biggest complaint seems to be the line to get in. Getting into to Lion, Joes, Brothers, or Kams over the weekend is a time consuming process. Maybe if there was a deal made between the University and the bar owners, students could use their Illini Bucks to get into the fast or "V.I.P." line which takes less than half the time to get in. If you value your social time out at the bars, then Illini Bucks could be a great way to stretch the time you actually get to have inside the bar rather than waiting around.

Me personally, I would use my Ilini Bucks for housing and VIP bar lines. My freshman year I lived in Snyder hall. After seeing the other options that were available and seeing the other dorms offered by other Big 10 schools, I could have definitely used an upgrade. In regards to using the Illini Bucks for VIP bar lines, that is simply because I don't get to go out very often with how busy my schedule and weekends are. I don't want to spend the small social time I have waiting in line when I could be inside having a good time.

Now, there are issues that would arise if the facilitators of Illini Bucks place the price either too low or too high. If the price is too low, the demand for such opportunities like priority classes and priority housing would exceed the supply available creating a shortage. Then, because of the limited supply, it could come down to the matching concept for which individuals the particular dorms or bars want. Or there could be the potential of a bidding war to start. On the other hand, if the price was set too high, then the supply would exceed the demand and their would be a surplus of either dorm rooms or VIP bar line space in this case.