SE: K-State Football Alum Chad Faulkner Uses Purple Roots to Create Thriving Sports Academy

Chad Faulkner may live in California, but his roots are still well connected to Kansas, specifically to K-State. 

The CEO of Sports Academy — a premier 96,000-square foot, all-encompassing athletic complex in Thousand Oaks, California — Faulkner has used his Midwest background and his experiences as a Wildcat as somewhat of a guidance system for his professional life.  

“I love the Midwest. I love my roots, where I grew up. A lot of it is work ethic and values. It is the ability to have a handshake deal and look somebody in the eye and trust that they’re actually going to do what they said they were going to do,” said Faulkner, who played football at K-State from 1986-89. “I take that orientation into what I do. That leads me into a very positive stance, an optimistic stance in approaching the world. That’s where a lot of my roots in Kansas values kind of paved the way.” 

More than two years ago when Chad Faulkner dreamed up the idea for Sports Academy, he knew he would need more than his entrepreneurial prowess to make it real. To build something great, he needed great people alongside him who shared his vision. 

“I knew it was never going to be about me. That’s not who I am,” he said. “What it was going to be about was getting great coaches, trainers, doctors, and bringing them together in a team, around a unified purpose and a goal, which is really to embrace athletes and their objectives, and to help them find their way.

“To me it’s really about the kids. I knew right away that I needed to put together a team that’s like-minded with people who were really about focusing on the leading edge in their field and having the spirit and focus to help others become better and pursue their own goals.” 

To find the right people, Faulkner leaned on his football experience at K-State, his last year being Bill Snyder’s first as head coach. Faulkner was a captain on that 1989 Wildcat team, which only won one game but set the foundation for the success to come. 

In the hiring stages of Sports Academy, Faulkner said he used Snyder’s “16 Goals for Success” quite often to bring in the best professionals possible for every sport and sector of the company. 

“That ends up being a fair amount of the interview template to explore people’s different passions, personalities, and how they kind of walk the planet and go achieve what they’re doing through the lens of those values,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of my own experience through the years, and I find from a real grounding perspective, those are the real fundamental pillars that I still rely on.” 

Before Sports Academy, Faulkner served on multiple non-profit Boards such as the Special Forces Charitable Trust, Soaring with Eagles Foundation and the Snyder Leadership Legacy Fellows, for which he was a co-founder. He also founded and helped run a financial services company, never planning to take his career into anything sports related. 

“That’s just how life turns, right? Since playing at Kansas State, I’ve always stayed close to the program, and I’ve had some other businesses kind of adjacent to the sports business. I’ve been exposed to some really brilliant people,” he said. “It’s definitely more of the passion of how I like to think about a lot of things, anyway, so once I finally found myself with enough time to really focus and go create entrepreneurially, I went right to this.”

Sports Academy, which opened last year, was designed as a one-stop-shop to help athletes of all skill levels. On any given day, athletes as young as 5 years old can be seen learning the fundamentals of a sport, while professional athletes or those training to become professionals are also in the building. 

“This is a business about making people better,” said Faulkner, whose business operates closer to an a la carte system as opposed to the traditional monthly fee of a gym. “When folks come to our place, they’re training intentionally. People are setting goals and working to achieve those goals and that creates an environment that’s really inspiring as you look all around.”  

Along with the vast amount of practice areas for several sports, the complex also houses a sports medicine office and rehabilitation facility, which includes state-of-the-art equipment like an antigravity treadmill and a cryotherapy chamber. 

Also inside is a biomechanics lab, which uses an array of cameras to record and analyze an athlete’s movement. Other features of Sports Academy include a learning center, a sports psychology lab, a healthy nutrition cafeteria, an E-gaming training center and much, much more. 

“It’s like Disneyland for athletes,” Faulkner said. “We’re really proud to be able to let an athlete find their own journey without a lot of limitations.”   

Last year, Sports Academy was named the 2016 Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year. The positive attention has been more widespread, too. A few weeks ago, an NBA Pro Day event was held at Sports Academy in which every team was represented, Faulkner said. 

“It was quite extraordinary to look around the environment and see Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Magic Johnson,” he said, listing three NBA legends. “We’ve picked the right spot, we’re working at the right levels and we’re creating some value for athletes, coaches and trainers. It’s working.”

Like any disciple of Snyder, Faulkner knows there is always more work to be done, however.

“We’ve got a long way to go to fulfill the vision that our team wants to get across. It’s always nice to be recognized along the way and to be appreciated, especially in a business where your core purpose is helping other people get better,” he said. “Really what I emphasize to our team is our job is never done. We have a chance to get better every day and that’s the mission we’re on. We take it a day at a time in that regard and we’ll let other people talk if we’re doing a good enough job.” 

For more K-State Sports Extra content visit the archive or subscribe to K-State Athletics and get great content delivered directly to your email inbox.