Paul Rabil may be the best-known lacrosse player, but his success isn’t limited to the field. Rabil, who plays midfield for the Atlas Lacrosse Club, also co-founded the league in which he plays — the Premier Lacrosse League — innovatively restructuring what professional sports leagues could look like for athletes and fans alike. He puts the same intuition, risk assessment, and agility required to be successful in his sport to use in his entrepreneurial ventures, and has earned much-deserved respect for the business he’s building off the field.
On the common ground that athletes and investors share:
“As pro athletes and investors, I think the most natural path to domain expertise is to first start with a foundation. In lacrosse, we talk about the fundamentals of passing, catching, dodging, shooting, defending, picking up groundballs, and so forth. With investing, it's important to build a financial plan, understand how to achieve diversity within your portfolio, and gather core understandings of stocks, bonds, investment funds, options, annuities, and on and on. However, the next step to becoming great in sports or investing is to build our subject matter expertise — what we're better at — and become great at it.
“In lacrosse, I became a great dodging midfielder who could shoot accurately and hard on-the-run. It was a rare skill set that I continued to develop well into my pro career, and I became the best at it. I would spend roughly 80% of my practice time there, while continuing to develop other skills. With investing, I think becoming an expert in a specific sector where you can both analyze opportunities and become predicative will better suit you than trying to be good at everything.”
Risk-taking is something that every athlete and entrepreneur knows well. For Rabil, navigating risk is a staple of investing too.
On approaching risk in investments:
“A common thread for most entrepreneurs is that we're absolutely nuts. In other words, we didn't view starting our own sports league as a major risk. We knew it would be very difficult, but we had the ambition and supported our vision with enough data to convince our investors to feel as confident as we did. I have a similar approach with investing. I try to get really smart about the stocks I want to invest in to mitigate the feeling of risk. I like to encourage thinking critically about broader market trends, reading credible articles on the products and services, and listening to industry experts on podcasts before taking a position.”
Another way that Rabil’s world overlaps with investing? Making sure that athletes were personally invested in the league was a key element of its foundation.
On the benefits of starting a single-entity league:
“Structuring our business as a single-entity league [as opposed to a franchise] enabled us to move faster, be more decisive and aggressive, and actually more nimble in a competitive marketplace like pro sports where the fight for relevance among fans is equally as important as putting the ball in the net. A single-entity status enabled us to structure stock options into our player contract compensation plans — much like early-stage employees at a technology startup. We're the only pro sports league in North America whose players have equity — a trend I predict will happen more in the future.”
And though Rabil has seen an impressive amount of success throughout his career as an entrepreneur and investor, he still remembers the first investment that he regrets not making.
On passing up Chipotle’s IPO:
“The first time I wanted to invest was when I was a sophomore in college. I had been eating at Chipotle ($CMG) for 4 years prior to its January IPO in 2006. I didn't know anything about the stock market but was in love with the company's product and expansion footprint. I knew about their relationship with McDonald’s and the forthcoming divestment, which caused some hesitation, but the biggest challenge I had was that my parents had never invested in stocks and nobody I knew did either. I ended up not investing. The stock IPO'd at $22 and doubled its value when it opened up to the secondary market later that day. Put it this way, had I invested my $10,200 of life savings, it would be worth half a million bucks today. Sometimes we screw up our firsts.”
This content is for educational purposes only. It is not investment advice. Past performance does not guarantee future results. See Public.com/disclosures.