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THE STRAND

Life's Work: Colin Hutzler

We've been seeing this common theme among our customers – one that extends way beyond the garments they choose to wear. It's this idea of passion and purpose: no matter what their life's work demands, these guys are digging deep and giving it their all. 

Call them “modern Renaissance men”, but these are the guys we design for. Getting the corner office doesn't define their success (and most don't even work in a traditional office). They've made a life out of honoring what brings them joy, and are constantly working to achieve the best versions of themselves. Family, societal, and physical triumphs are just as important as their jobs, because these guys are building something bigger: a strong mind, body, and soul. 

And that’s the inspiration behind Life’s Work: it’s a celebration of the people who pursue their lives with unwavering passion and purpose. 

Colin Hutzler brings this very concept to life daily. We met Colin at a launch party in New York City last year, and while his enthusiasm for our products was much appreciated, we were most taken by his Life’s Work: at present, Colin teaches Mandarin Chinese, coaches high school soccer, and runs Next Level Sports & Leadership Academy, which he himself founded last fall. Colin's schedule is rigorous for sure; but, totally immersed in what he loves, he wouldn't have it any other way. 

We caught up with Colin to learn more about his passions and how, both on and off the field, they're driving these many pursuits. (Checking out his soccer moves was also an obvious must.) 

All photos by Cinzia Brandi

In one sentence, how would you describe your Life’s Work?
I continue to challenge myself in a variety of ways while leading by example and creating relationships and environments that allow others to put their best self forward.

What's the story behind your expertise in Chinese?  
My introduction to Chinese (Mandarin) was in the 8th grade.  I had an immediate understanding of, and profound connection to, the language, dispelling the notion that Chinese is an impossible language to learn. I was a strong language student and close to my Chinese teacher in high school, who would call on me to tutor the underclassmen or fill in for her and teach the younger classes. Standing in front of the classroom, teaching a language to younger students in a way that would make it fun and break any challenging barriers, was a seminal experience that stayed with me.

I minored in Chinese in college, and during my junior year, spent a semester studying at the Zhejiang University of Technology while playing international soccer for the Hangzhou city team. Teachers command a great deal of respect in Chinese society.  The more I was exposed to and learned, the deeper my admiration for Chinese culture became. It’s a culture based on principles I hold dear: honor, family, close relationships, and discipline.  All of these events combined to make my decision to teach Chinese quite clear.

On and off the field, your career boasts this common thread of instruction. Can you tell us more about that?
My mom was a pre-school teacher for nearly 25 years, so I grew up in an environment based on compassion, instruction, and putting others’ needs first. I have always had a very high emotional IQ, and still clearly remember moments, as a student and athlete, that impacted me the most, both positively and negatively. As I grew up and was exposed to more opportunities to give back and serve as a mentor, teacher, and coach, I quickly realized the effect I had and results that followed. I take this role very seriously, and it is a constant in my life. Every decision I make could ultimately carry significant weight for someone else, so I am always on my toes making calculated, well thought-out decisions. I am in a unique position to help others put their best self forward, which always requires me to do the same.

 

You recently launched your own sports academy. What was that like?
Exciting, liberating, and blissfully exhausting. I have been working summer camps, both day and overnight, for over ten years. Through the years I have learned what campers want, what they need, and how they react to certain factors. I am blessed to be in a position to create an environment and program where, after just two or four short weeks, they will see exceptional personal growth and development. This has been a long time coming for me, and I am beyond excited to offer this opportunity for our campers.

Next Level isn’t just a sports academy - you emphasize the importance of leadership and personal growth. How did sports teach you about this in your own life?
Athletics are an integral part of anyone’s development in the way that they teach crucial life skills. While our training on the field will be a focal point, ultimately we are looking to create better people through sports. Every lesson our coaches instruct is generalizable to every day life. 

From playing on a variety of teams with varying successes, I've learned many lessons –including what types of coaches, teammates, and leaders create the ideal environment for players to feel comfortable and come together as a team. When one can celebrate another’s success just as much as his own, well… that’s hard to put into words. 

Ultimately, very few youth athletes will go on to play professionally or even in college, so it is important that we use every teachable moment, both scripted and spur of the moment, to help players understand, and buy into, the skills and lessons they are learning. There is more to athletic success than a max bench press and 40-yard time. 

Where did you do most of your World Cup watching last summer? 
I was at camp, surrounded by about one hundred equally excited fans, campers and staff. We intently cheered on the US (except for our international contingency from France, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and Canada). I will not deny that tears were shed when Dempsey got stuffed in the box after the US’ free kick in extra time. 

Best IT band stretch? (We do a lot of running over here.) 
I generally lie on my back, cross one foot over the opposite knee, and then bring my knee to my chest. It works for me and is easy to control while easing pressure on my knees and lower back.

Where do you go when you want to learn something new?
Each day I walk into school, into my classroom, onto the playing field, I learn something new from my students and athletes.

It's like the anti-Groundhog Day. They constantly remind me to stay malleable in my thinking. They keep me humble; the questions they ask show me that there is always more to learn and that I might not know everything about a subject that I myself have been a student of for the better part of 15 years. They challenge me to look at things with a different set of eyes. They are always keeping me on my toes with their innate curiosity; their thought processes and the way they look at the world will never cease to amaze me. I might actually learn more from them than they do from me. It may be the same space that I go into every day, but it's never the same energy, lesson, conversation, or teachable moment.

How have you chosen your mentors? 
Carefully. Like most people, I respond well to those who operate through encouragement and constructive criticism. I want to be mentored by someone that I can respect and who can respect me, without acting as a “yes-man” or pandering levels of agreement. 

I treat my students and athletes in that way, and it’s so much more effective than stripping someone of their dignity and confidence. I don’t believe in wholesale deconstruction and demolition followed by a rebuild.  A good mentor raises expectations, challenges you to go the extra mile and with those challenges, fosters personal and professional development and a feeling of accomplishment in learning and mastering the task at hand. 

 

 

What’s your ideal use of a day off?
I don’t necessarily believe in “days off”. I always have many pots on the stove, so to speak, so jumping from project to project is enough to change it up while refocusing and reenergizing. Incorporating music, a workout, or an open-road drive always helps.

 

 

 

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