Keynote Speech • Diane Dahlmann

THE ALLEN V SAPORA SYMPOSIUM • University of Illinois • October 2, 2015

DIANE DAHLMANN • Executive Director • MizzouRec Services & Facilities • University of Missouri



“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion and enthusiasm touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.”

Good morning and thank you for the honor of addressing you today. And thank you Constantine Kavafy who wrote the poem, ITHACA in 1911. My journey to Ithaca; to this place on this stage in front of you this morning has been everything I ever dreamed my work in this field would be – and it has been more rewarding and wonderful than I could have ever imagined when I started out on this road. The word that comes to my mind most readily to describe the past four decades: Magic. The opportunities I’ve been afforded and the experiences I’ve had and continue to enjoy fill me with wonder, gratitude and the spirit of possibility.

Luck is what happens when your preparation and life’s opportunities meet up. This is where you are today – preparing and scouting opportunity as you get ready for your moment to come. Take care to not squander opportunities, as they rarely come again. Be advised that unlike luck, success and excellence in life are intentional. To prepare for success in our field, you must take deliberate steps. Please indulge me as I share some of my own deliberate steps with you.



It is more challenging today than ever before to hone the skills of listening and engaging. Our world is distracted and our senses are over stimulated. As a result, we must be intentional in developing the habit of listening. You should do your best to develop a talent for forming excellent questions. This is the first step to learning to listen.

With electronic communication all around us, all of the time; we must also develop skills for actual face to face engagement. Speaking to each other in real time is essential, and of equal importance is the ability to speak to larger in-person audiences. It all starts with one on one conversations, advancing to the skill of addressing difficult topics and moving along to being able to engage in full-fledged conflict situations. At some point in your career, you will need to argue your position, to advocate or to stand in front of someone who does not love nor agree with you and the organization you represent. You may perhaps even have to relieve someone of their position. These are not easy things to encounter and they are not easy things to do, but be prepared because these occasions will happen and they must be accomplished.



For the sake of your credibility, you must master our professional language and know the proper vocabulary of the body of knowledge that makes up our field. The need for this skill extends to each specialization within the profession so that you can make clear distinctions, as well. Without this essential competency, you will not be able to effectively and credibly communicate in any medium.

Becoming fluent in the language of the field takes practice and study. You are the next generation of great clarifiers, advocates and communicators.

LEISURE: Unobligated time
RECREATION: Activity that occurs within the space of unobligated time aka leisure
PLAY: Suspension of serious and non-serious consequences
LEISURE LITERACY: Knowing how to use your unobligated time in positive, productive and
enriching formats
SITUATED ACTIVITY SYSTEM: Six Elements For Engineering A Human Experience aka Leisure
Programming. It is the system that opens the door for a leisure occasion and interaction to happen. Interacting People Physical Setting Objects Rules Relations Animation
PHASES OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE: Anticipation Participation Reflection
THE THEORY & KNOWLEDGE OF LEISURE BEHAVIOR: Three elements Leisure Behavior Phenomology Structure of Social Occasions
LEISURE PROGRAMMING IS BASED ON SOCIAL SCIENCE THEORY: Three Approaches include Structure Functionalism – Conflict – Symbolic Interactionism
SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM: Human behavior in face to face interaction prevalent in games,
sport, recreation and play.

I regularly consult an enormous Webster dictionary which rests on the office library counter to keep my use of terms on track and correct. Why? Because it takes practice to be excellent and successful.



Literacy is the most important leisure skill. Read every day – everything and anything but preferably material that interests you, challenges you and broadens your knowledge of how people and our world function. Seek out sources that will broaden your perspective and challenge your truth.

I read the Sunday New York Times with my laptop to take notes on stories that interest me or to investigate certain bits with greater depth. For fun I breeze through USA Today and the Missourian each day. It keeps me informed and sharp and occasionally brings me something completely new to consider.

If I want to amp up my entertainment, I reach for one of my college textbooks which are still on my office bookshelf, and open it at random to recharge myself. My favorites are Recreation Administration by Lynn S. Rodney (my first recreation text) or One Third of Our Time by Chubb & Chubb. Most recently I dove back into
Joe Bannon’s problem-solving book because I wanted to remind myself of how wrong I was once at the age of 21 years. Joe’s book features an excellent structure for working through any issue of any size – it’s timeless and should be on everyone’s desk.

Reading is an outstanding source of inspiration. Fresh views revive our minds, our thinking and our performance. Words and thoughts and stories committed to print regardless of the medium can inform us, lift us up, and shake us loose from conventional thinking. Seeing life through someone else’s eyes helps us build perspective or it can reinforce our truth.



You are digital natives so you have a head start on writing. I encourage you to build upon that platform and deeply develop your writing skills. Reading will help you do this with greater ease. Having a command of your professional vocabulary should provide confidence in your written word. Becoming fluent in the language will
benefit you by allowing your ideas, perspectives, justifications and proposals to be shared and comprehended by others.

Countless proposals filled with outstanding ideas are stalled because the author didn’t commit to developing basic writing skills and the supervisor was too burdened to perform a rewrite. Writing well allows you to be the master of your universe and supreme commander of the fate of your ideas.

The ability to write well will grant you autonomy. It will allow your agenda, your ideas, your perspective
to be considered and shared faster.



Has anyone ever covered the topic of sacrifice in  your lectures? It is an important term to understand and discuss. We work when everyone else is recreating. We work with people. We work in a field that has plenty of misperceptions, looks easy and is often taken for granted. This field requires sacrifice. Simply stated, if you are not prepared to make the sacrifice, take note that I did not say “a sacrifice” or “some sacrifices” but
THE SACRIFICE then you are not prepared to join the profession.

Sacrifice is the act of surrendering something prized or desirable for the sake of something having a higher or more pressing claim. What are you giving up? Your time. An unrenewable, unreclaimable resource.

Michigan State Volleyball Coach Chuck Erbe told me years ago that when he was considering an athlete for the team he would ask them three questions.

  1. How hard are you going to work?
  2. What are you willing to give up and going to sacrifice to be on the team?
  3. How long are you willing to make that sacrifice?

If you are to be considered for this professional team, I would submit those same three questions to ask yourself. There is plenty of average in the world, our field is crowded but there is always room for the best. To be the best, to succeed and to experience excellence you must make the sacrifice.



This work requires courage. We don’t typically think of leisure and courage partnering together. Yet in every corner of our field there is a competing interest or compelling higher priority in the eyes of others. It will take courage for you to defend a program, a facility, an initiative or a cause. And you will be called on to lead whether you to intended to or not. Being a reluctant leader can pass but being an unprepared leader will not serve you well.

To help develop your courageous mind and spirit, learn what leaders do.

  • Leaders challenge the status quo and ask “why”and “why not”.
  • Leaders solve problems for organizations and people.
  • Leaders deliver results that can be articulated.



In our field we work with the three P’s.

PLANNING: The most important
PROGRAMMING: The easiest
PEOPLE: The most difficult

I was introduced to this breakdown in my graduate recreation administration class during the first week of the session. It was the most out of touch thing that I had ever heard. I’ve never been so wrong in my entire life.

People. The greatest reward is working with people and serving people. The greatest challenge is working with people and serving people. You will be sorely tempted throughout your career and your life to strike out as those who cross you. You will want to take short-cuts. You will want to consider end-runs. You may consider
pay-backs and various forms of revenge.

Do not allow that devil in your house. In every situation and in every case, even those I still encounter today I have taken what is known as the high road. It’s taken longer, it is not immediately gratifying, it is more tedious at times, it can be personally painful but it has always paid off without exception.

Stay true to your values.

This is a wonderful, satisfying and enriching profession. After four decades of listening, engaging, reading, writing and more I am confident in saying to you that there isn’t a better calling. No other field affords you the opportunity to engineer human experiences that enrich peoples’ lives and make the world a better place.

“Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.”