SportsJam with Doug Doyle: New York Riptide and GF Sports Executive VP Rich Lisk

Apr 26, 2020

The Rich Lisk family
Credit Rich Lisk

Rich Lisk, the Executive VP of of the NLL's New York Riptide and GF Sports, has quite a story of success and survival.

Lisk, the latest guest on SportsJam with Doug Doyle, talks about how he beccame a sports marketing guru, his love of the Jersey Shore and now Long Island, and how sports helped him deal with "the nightmare" of growing up in an abusive household.

Lisk has more than 25 years experience in the sports industry.  Prior to joining GF sports, he was General Manager for the New England Black Wolves (NLL) where he was named GM of the Year in 2016.   The Rutgers University graduate was also the GM of the Philadelphia Soul (AFL) and President and GM of the East Coast Hockey League's Trenton Titans, an affiliate of the Philadephia Flyers (NHL).

The coronavirus abruptly ended the final three games of the Riptide's inaugural season
Credit Sammy Steinlight

Rich was brought on during the later stages of the New York Riptide's inaugural season in 2020 and has already established a great rapport with business partners and the community.   That season was cut short by the coronavirus outbreak.  

Because of the stoppage and its impact on the Long Island community, the Riptide organization is stepping up to help local charities, one of them was to done $5,000 to Catholic Health Services of Long Island to buy PPE and other equpment for hospital staff to combat COVID-19.  The New York franchise teamed with Maspeth Federal Savings to donate $5 for every save a Riptide goalie made this season.

"Long Island has been one of the places hit really hard and Nassau and Suffolk counties have been hit really hard.  This is a little way we can work with them and work with one of our partners to do that.  We're also working with Jersey Mike's, which is another one of our partners, and we are going to be delivering food and pre-package meals to senior citizen homes that are having some tough times. We're also working with another partner Orlin and Cohen Orthopedic Group to go to hospitals and start feeding the shift workers.  We want to do our part to help out."

The Long Island fanbase of the New York Riptide were supportive of its NLL team despite the team only winning one game this past season
Credit Sammy Steinlight

Despite only winning one game in its first season the Riptide has been embraced by Long Island.  

"One of the things I've been impressed with during this pandemic is that we missed three games at the end of the season so we had people's money in our hands.  We did an effort to reach out to every season ticket holder and talked to them.  We had our players with our sales reps get on the phone and call them.  That call wasn't to talk about money and it wasn't about talking the games it was more about a call to say we adopted Long Island as our home too.  'How's your family?  How's everything going?'  We sent video messages and training workouts to kids.  Then the league canceled and we had to them back and tell them we had a credit here with you. I'll be happy to say after doing about a week of that we have about 50 percent  of season ticket holders have said we love everything you guys are doing and we're staying with you for next year.  And we got a few months to talk to the rest.  That tells me something that the marketplace has really taken to the team."

GF Sports, a live events and sports media entertainment company, recently expanded Rick Lisk's role to oversee all lacrosse and business operations for the Riptide while continuing to provide sales, marketing and operations leaders across the company's portfolio of live sports and entertainment properties.  

The ATP World Tour's New York Open is one of the tournaments owned by GF Sports
Credit Sammy Steinlight

GF Sports owns two of the ATP World Tour's longest running American tournaments, The New York Open and the BB&T Atlanta Open, as well as the Riptide.  In addition, GF Sports is partnered with the American Kennel Club, the leading registry and governing body of canine events in the United States, to further develop and expand AKC's "Meet the Breeds" event platform.  The company also incubates new and emerging sport concepts utitlizing its global expertise and network to develop miche sports, like Wolf Pack Ninjas.

Rich Lisk successful sports marketing career began with the WWF where he worked in the pay-for-view department.  He landed that job after meetings in NYC and Atlantic City with some high powered executives.  That job followed a brilliant high school sports career on the diamond where he was star for St. John Vianney High School in the mid 1980's.

Rich Lisk has 25 years experience in the sports industry and did it all on his own after growing in up in an abusive home
Credit Rich Lisk

Lisk, who was also an excellent student, never told his teachers that he was being abused by his stepfather in their Union Beach home since he was 10 years old.  Baseball become his safe haven.

"It all comes back to sports.  There was nothing that made me feel better than being on a field and being away from that.  When I stepped on that baseball field those lines were like walls.  Nobody could touch me on those fields.  So you would always find me on a field somewhere playing.  I had a built-in family with my teammates.  I had comradery. I had respect.  That was a big deal.  Kids that are abused lack that respect and I didn't have that respect in my house but I had it on the field.  I played hard.  I stuck for my teammates.  And to me that I microcosm of what a family should be and I think that's why I gravitated towards it so much."  

Lisk says he left home at the age of 18.  For many years he didn't talk about being abused and he stresses that's not a healthy way to live.  

"So as time went on and you talk to different people and you learn about things, you kind of put in perspective that it wasn't your fault.  I started to come around.  Couple of times in the past, I haven't done it recently, I go to high schools and talk about it.  It's a different story than some others, because we grew up in Union Beach.  Is it Holmdel? No.  Is it Rumson? No.  It was lower on the socio-economic scale but we were a lower-to middle class family.  You would have never known.  I had two step-sisters and a brother.  Looking at my family you would have not really known.  But behind closed doors it was a nightmare and it was a mess.  That was another thing that you hold onto when you're a kid.  You hold onto that persona.  It's almost like you have two lives.  So when I go to high schools and speak one of the things I do like to do is to tell my story.  I'm just like those kids sitting there.  A couple of times, one specifically, the principal came up to me at the end and said we have some problems with kids here.  One kid came up to me and I talk to him off to the side.  I got a note from the principal saying they got that kid out of an abusive household.  One of the things was my speak that gave him the opportunity to speak up."

Lisk says he was a straight-A student, a really good student and excelled in sports and he thought that we be his way out.

"You kind of have two paths.  You come to a fork in the road.  You can go the route that I did or you could drugs and alcohol and that route.  That was readily available for me to do that.  I made the conscious decision not to do it.  I had some really good people that helped guide me through that, which was a godsend.  I'm happy that they did.  I do like to give back."

Even though Rich and his wife Terry have lived for more 20 years in Lawrenceville, they're moving to Long Island to be closer to his position with the Riptide.  Rich met his wife when he was just 17.  They went to Rutgers together and our proud parents of three children. (See above picture).

Legendary WWF wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow, who was born in Asbury Park, NJ, helped Rich Lisk meet Bruce Springsteen at a local clubs. Bigelow died in 2007.
Credit WWF

Eventually, Lisk says he's come back to his beloved Jersey Shore.  He was introduced to one of his favorite musicians in a rather fun way.  During his time working with the WWF, Lisk became friends with the late wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow.  Bigelow had been working as Bruce Springsteen's bodyguard when he retired.  Bigelow paved the way for a friendly handshake and encounter with "The Boss"  at a local club.  Lisk's favorite album is Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and he's enjoyed 36 Springsteen concerts. 

Lisk says he's had plenty of conversations about what sports will be more likely to return when the coronavirus pandemic subsides.  He thinks tennis, NASCAR and golf have the best opportunities because social distancing could be more easily enforced between the performers and the audience.

Click above to hear the entire SportsJam conversation with sports marketing guru Rich Lisk.