Backboards to Boardrooms is a blog series that details the transition of athletes into the business world. You will get firsthand stories of the challenges, emotions, and triumphs of athletes who have faced the inevitable: the end of their athletic career and the transition that follows. The goal is to educate and inform athletes so they will be prepared for success in business and in life.
Dominique Soucy is a basketball player-turned-entrepreneur from Canada. In 2012, Dominique founded Pur Instinct. Pur instinct is an innovative sport that levels the playing field by bringing athletes from all sports and all genders onto the same field of play for competition.
Pur Instinct has worked with decorated Olympians, been named to the Hype Global Sport Innovation Top 50 Most Innovative List, and has already secured a major partnership with a public company for 2017.
For Dominique, the plan wasn’t always to start his own company. Before founding Pur Instinct, Dominique had hoop dreams.
At an early age the Quebec City native set his mind on playing basketball for a living and followed it up by executing on that vision. For much of his life he dedicated his time, energy, and effort to mastering his craft.
The struggles from his upbringing in a single parent household would provide him with the grit necessary to overcome his circumstances and realize his dream of playing professional basketball. His hard work led to an accomplished career, earning accolades such as: All-Quebec League First Team, All-Quebec League Player of the Year, and CIS All-Canadian 1st Team.
However, it was also his upbringing that contributed to his decision to walk away from the game of basketball at the height of his career to focus on creating the lifestyle that was best for himself and those around him…
Tell us about your playing experience—
Quebec City, Canada is not your typical basketball town. Growing up I was directed to our normal trilogy: hockey, soccer and baseball. At 10 years old I was introduced to basketball and then the love was born. I always had a crush for the bouncing of a basketball. Loved dribbling up and down the street. Loved all the individual challenges around the game. It took a while before I mastered the game but all through my high school years I kept grinding--always looking for new ways to improve.
The off-season was my real season. That’s when I could isolate myself and learn the game the way I really liked. No coaches. No parent (my mother could not care less about basketball). Just me, a hoop and an old basketball.
I remember reading every SLAM Magazine and the part I enjoyed the most was when you had some upcoming star like Ray Allen talk about his own routine. How he had to knock ten swishes in a row before leaving the gym. I emulated that.
At twelve years old, while everybody was relaxing in the summer, I was training to be great. But it took a while before it had a real effect in a real game.
I was cut by every summer elite team from my area until I was fifteen. Maybe it was because I was so skinny and had that Steph Curry baby face. It did not help that I skipped ahead one year in school while I was in second grade. School-wise it was perfect but for sports it meant that I was always compared to older kids.
Back then my mom could not afford the cable so the only English show I could watch was Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Will Smith did not help me to understand the game of basketball but at least I got better in understanding English. One month a year, we could have free cable. I always asked for March and I had the VCR prepared. I must have watched God Shammgod play against Chattanooga 30 times. I swear that was a big part of why I had such a high IQ on the court--watching so many games, over and over.
Then came my last year of high school. I was 16. Everything seemed to be going great. My game had evolved to be a mix of the Allen Iverson crossover game with some Trajon Langdon--the Alaskan assassin-- jab-jab jumper. Basically, I was a very old 1.0 version of Steph Curry.
I used to play two-on-two, with my best friend, against 22 year olds from the area and would beat them. I would organize pick-up games at my high school with college players. My time was coming.
And then it came. No phone ring. No letter. No handshake. I was 16 years old with a love for basketball, a dedication to be great, and off-season habits like no other. I had a very good handle, a potent jumper, and good ups. One thing I did not have was an invitation to join any of the pre-college (in Quebec, we go from HS to pre-college to university). So there I was. Loving the game with nowhere to go.
Fortunately for me, a coach gave me a 2 month summer tryout for his AAA team. By September I was on the team. By December I was on the starting 5. Three years later I was the first ever MVP from Quebec City and an All-Canadian with a handful of universities to choose from.
I still remember the process and the failure more than anything.
I decided not to pursue a college career in the USA because my hometown university was up and coming and the coach wanted me to be the point guard of the future--very rare for a 6’3 200 lbs. player in Canada. I decided that was probably the best choice.
It allowed me to nurture my relationship with my soon-to-be wife--we are going on our 10th year of marriage right now--and I managed to have a very productive career with my team being in the top 5 in Canada for most of my playing time. We were really close to winning Nationals and if it was not for Carleton University, we would have probably won at least one.
For me, those years were very intense. I finished on a masterpiece year winning MVP honors, All-Canadian First Team, All-Canadian Academic and received the Ken Shield’s award given to an athlete for his social work--I made a DVD with 300 ball handling drills named ‘Handle Your Game’ and used the proceeds to go to Uganda to build a house for orphans.
After my college days, a businessman from Quebec City approached me to be the face of a new ABA pro team. After given thoughts to turning pro in Europe, I figured it was best for me to stay in Quebec City and start a family with my wife and play some ball at the same time.
Three years later, my first daughter was born and I decided basketball had to stop. I took my shoes off and never put them back on...
What was your transition like after sports? What were the emotions and thoughts that you were feeling?
I never had any regret leaving the game. For me it was a no-brainer. I was raised by a single-mother and while being a professional athlete had always been a goal of mine, being a present father was way more important. Growing up without a father-figure, I just could not see myself going on long bus rides to play ball anymore.
In my 4th year of college (we are eligible for 5 years of college basketball in Canada), I discovered the sport of squash. After I quit basketball, I can find real deep emotion playing squash every week. I have the same squash partner for 12 years now and we still do first to 50 wins championships (I’m currently struggling a bit, but I’m still grinding!). Other than squash, I decided to quit my day job of physiotherapist to become a full-time basketball coach and educator in my former high school. I found a lot of fun teaching the game I was raised with.
What challenges did you experience and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge was finding the right amount of excitement playing others sports than basketball because I never wanted to play in old-school basketball leagues. Why? Too much yapping, too much ego on the court and frankly when you love the game as much as I loved the game, it was very difficult to play basketball at a lower level of collective efficiency. Now, I have put more time in squash lately and I have start to do mountain bike more and more (no, not the one where you just do downhill… the one where you go up and down a lot) and loving it. I also have played a lot of Pur Instinct (my invention and my current life project) and I have put a lot of energy in building my company.
Did you have a plan for life after basketball? Did you know what you were going to do when your playing career ended?
I always thought I was going to be a university basketball coach. I did not have a real plan other than having a diploma in physiotherapy and knowing I was not going to be a physiotherapist for more than 5 years. I only ended up doing one year…
What are you working on right now?
Currently I am working on a big project called Pur Instinct. It’s a new sport that I have invented with the help of elite athletes from the area and kids I used to teach basketball to five years ago. I’m building a community around the sport that goes beyond playing in a simple league. I’m looking to engage athletes from all sports in a new way of playing a sport after their own playing career. I think this will be a game changer in the years to come. I decided to go full-time on Pur Instinct a year ago with a lot of success in primary and secondary school all across Canada. I’m looking for 2017 to be a stepping stone of this project with a very big partnership with an international company coming up.
What inspired you to start your company?
I always had the entrepreneurial spirit--from my playing days when I use to organize pick-up games with players 5-6 years older than me, to my basketball DVD project. It’s in my bones. I love being in control of my own destiny and setting up my own rules. I’m mostly inspired by anyone who follows their vision and who is actively doing something and not just talking and dreaming about it. There’s a big difference between a dream and a vision. Dreams are at night, with your eyes closed. Visions are deep inside everybody when you are awake. It’s the voice inside your head that wants to bring the best out of you. It’s what makes you think of things much greater than you. I have a vision for sports in general. A vision for what sports should stand for. My way of expressing my vision is Pur Instinct--the sport, the movement, the events and the community around it. I did not wake up one day with the goal of building a billion dollar company using a new sport. I have a vision of improving sports in our society and I’m using Pur Instinct to get there. Money is a way to get there.
Can you tell us about a typical day for you?
Around 6:40 am-- I wake up and start my day with a quick look at the news on 3-4 web sites for about 20 minutes. Then I take a good look at incoming messages I have in my inbox to see if I can answer some of them in a quick 2 minutes drill (I try never to let any email or Facebook message out there for more than 10 hours, just out of respect). Then I go on my Twitter feed and go to my personal list to see if people I follow closely have something I can comment on or a great article to post for later in the day. Then I go on my Pur Instinct Instagram page and look to post a fresh pic of the day. After that it’s time to connect quickly with my Pur Instinct’s group on Facebook to know what’s going on with the players this week.
Around 7:25 am-- I get my kids breakfast ready and around 8:21 am my wife leave the house and I leave with the three kids for school and daycare.
9 am-- I’m back at my house but now it’s office time (i.e.- I don’t answer the house phone, only my cellphone). I drink a good coffee (always a home-made espresso mocha).
9:30 am-- I start working on my project which means planning future meetings, giving feedback to former meetings, sending infographics jobs to a designer, working on a new video editing of Pur Instinct, working on new images of Pur Instinct that were taken lately, reading an article on new digital marketing.
11 am-- Time to get up and go play squash.
12:30 am-- Back at home. I eat lunch while listening to one of my favorite podcasts--sports or business.
1 pm-- Time to send emails and answer incoming emails and Facebook messages.
1:30 pm-- Meeting time to find new partners, investors or sponsors.
3 pm-- Second coffee of the day. Last time I check my email--normally in a coffee place. I exchange some thoughts with my business partner on our google drive or via Facebook. One last business article to read.
4:20 pm-- Get my kids from school/daycare, go to the grocery store to setup dinner, cook, eat dinner, chill with the kids, and look at some homework.
If it’s a Pur Instinct day (once during the week and once on the weekend), I leave the house until 9:45 pm.
11:05 pm-- Check my inbox one last time but I never answer anything at this time.
11:30 pm-- Read a book until I fall asleep.
Do you have any advice for athletes making the transition into life after sports? And into entrepreneurship in particular?
I don’t believe in universal advice because life is so complex. And I don’t see life as a before and after. For me you are always only in the moment and I never saw my actual life as a ‘life after basketball’, it’s basically just ‘my life’. But if I try to play the game and can keep it simple here’s my 2 cents.
If someday while you’re going into your day, you hear a voice in your head and that voice has an idea that looks to be impossible but at the same time so amazing, challenging and fun--listen to it. You don’t have to do it, but at least listen.
The other thing that is important to figure out is not to have big overhead before you start your life after sport. That means, no car loan, no house, no nice computer. Go very basic. If you don’t do this, you’ll probably always say that you have to do this and that to pay for everything and it will be so difficult to even listen to that inner voice and nearly impossible to act on its vision.
What do sports mean to you?
Sport for me is a powerful tool to unite people and communities. It is way more powerful than just having people in the stands cheering for their home team. Sport is a feeling, a constant challenge, a place to listen to our own inner voice. Don’t dream. Be.
Anything else you would like to add?
We are building an amazing event in March 2017 in Quebec City, Canada. If you are from the Northeast, send me an email and we will send you info about it. We are currently looking to expand in the USA, mostly going into universities that are strong on intramural and have a big alumni community. If you would like to be an ambassador and propose your alma mater, just email me and I will get in touch with you. Pur Instinct is a very competitive sport and we are looking to reunite athletes from different sports all on one field. I am interested in launching from East coast to West Coast as soon as April 2017 so email me if you want to hop in. We have a very big partner to help promote the sport all across the US in a big bang. Stay tuned!
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