Insider Sport’s Matchday Programme offers a personal look at what sporting moments and figures have inspired industry stakeholders. Through candid reflections, the programme delves into the stories behind the inspirations that have shaped their perspectives and fuelled their passion for sports.

In this edition, Jonathan Strause, CEO of Invincible GG, showcases his wide range of sporting experiences and shares how his perspective on Jim Valvano, a figure he was initially taught to hate, has evolved into one of admiration.

 Jonathan Strause, CEO of Invincible GG.
Jonathan Strause, CEO of Invincible GG

Which athlete do you think demonstrated the best winning mentality throughout their career?

Being from Boston, it would be very easy to shout out the GOAT, Tom Brady, but to me, the two people who have demonstrated the highest levels of success throughout their careers are Brianna Stewart and Bill Russell. 

Both achieved championships at every level and were the most influential players on the court and in the locker room. I would give the edge to Bill Russell because he won the title in 1967 (the year I was born) as a coach. Brianna has yet to reach that stage of her career, but if she does go into coaching, my money is on her to reach the top of the coaching mountain as well.

Who was your childhood sports hero, and why? Which of their sporting achievements had the biggest impact on you?

As mentioned, I was raised in Boston. I was fortunate that my dad was the go-to paediatrician in Boston and took care of many of the pro players’ kids – he was an all-work-all-the –time kind of guy, and I was an all-sports all-the-time guy – so he connected me with several ‘greats’, a few of which I got to learn from. 

For example, I got to know John Havlicek and played ball with his son, so I got a handful of coaching sessions from Hondo. That was truly inspiring. But the Beantown athlete who inspired me the most was Larry Bird. He just gave me hope. I was never the fastest nor the strongest, but I always felt that with hard work and becoming a student of the game, there was a chance for me to succeed. 

What sports team do you follow the closest? Is this a family team, a local side, etc., and what has been the biggest moment in your history of supporting this club?

This list for me is long, as I have an insatiable appetite for sports. 

  1. My daughter Olivia and her St. Andrew’s basketball team are number one on the list. They compete in the ultra-challenging DC Metro private school league, and every game is an absolute battle.
  2. I am blessed to be a Duke kid and alumnus, so I have enjoyed a lifetime of Duke Basketball.
  3. My oldest son went to U of M, and so I became a diehard Michigan football fan overnight.
  4. Beyond these, my favourite sport to play is soccer, and I try to watch every AC Milan, Chelsea and AC Miami game (even if it is on replay in the middle of the night).

The greatest moment was when Duke won its first national championship. It came after four years of close calls when I was a classmate of Danny Ferry and Quin Snyder. That day was definitely the best day of my life.

Is there a team manager from any sport, such as football, rugby, NFL, NBA, etc., who you think demonstrated the best leadership qualities?

The easy answer here for me is Coach K. I hands down learned more about leadership and how to have a competitive perspective from Coach K, but this was from afar. 

I had a unique experience as a summer intern at The Boston Consulting Group in New Zealand, working with the All Blacks, meeting their skipper, Sean Fitzpatrick, and seeing how he led up close on multiple occasions. 

He was the epitome of talent, combined with effort and leading from the front and by example. He not only was one of the greatest hookers in history, but is arguably one of the greatest team leaders in the history of sports.

What sports tournament do you think consistently provides the biggest thrills? Which moment from this league stood out to you the most in recent memory?

This is an easy one: March Madness. It always delivers. For me, the greatest moment will always be Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beating turnaround jumper, after receiving a court-long pass from Grant Hill to beat the hated Kentucky Wildcats. 

If you could travel back in time to any historic sporting moment to watch it then and now, which would it be and why?

It would be to see Secretariat win the Triple Crown at Belmont Park. I love horse racing, and seeing the greatest ever, run his greatest race ever, and so visibly vanquish the other best horses of that time, would be amazing. 

If you could go out for dinner with any sporting figure, current or historical, who would it be, and what would you want to learn from them?

It would be Jim Valvano. I would love to hear what he did behind the scenes to get his team to come together and win the 1983 National Championship. I was in high school and raised to hate NC State, but that was the most exciting game I witnessed to that point in my life.

He had no business winning the ACC Championship and much less the national championship, but they pulled the impossible off. Plus, I have always admired how he handled real adversity with the ultimate consequences with such strength, courage, selflessness and grace. There is a lot to learn there.

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