Aaron Polansky '97 is an unorthodox leader and entertainer with a passion for life. Fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride as Aaron brings his message to life with an 'Authentricity' that will leave you wanting more. Aaron will captivate your audience with active analogies and his 'direct speak'. Aaron has dedicated his life to inspiring positive change with a simplified formula designed to 'pay it forward' and transform culture.
Aaron graduated from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and secured a Master of Science degree in Administration with a research focus in Sport Psychology from Springfield College. He is currently enrolled in the Harvard Business School Online where he is working toward his Certificate in School Management and Leadership (CSML). Aaron has served in the capacity of coach, teacher, or administrator at all levels of education from pre-K through college.
Aaron worked in the private sector as the Executive Sales Manager and designer for a multi-million-dollar landscape construction company and as the Director of Massachusetts USA Wrestling (affiliate of the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado) for ten years. He was the Director of Athletics for the 2003 Dalton Award Winning Hopkinton Department of Athletics, a 2x Wrestling Coach of the Year, 2011 Wrestling USA Magazine Massachusetts Man of the Year, 2013 Virco/NASSP Massachusetts Assistant Principal of the Year, a panelist at the School Culture and Climate Conference held at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education in 2014, was presented with the Frederick Douglass Award in 2015 for his contributions to 'at-risk' youth, and serves as a Keynote Speaker for events nationwide.
Aaron signed with DBC Publishing in 2017 and released his first book, Dolphins in Trees: A Children's Book with Implications for All of Us, in the summer of 2018. Dolphins in Trees has been used to guide leadership teams, school systems, cultural expectations, and family values throughout the country and internationally.
His second book, Beyond Us: A True Story with Implications for All of Us, was released in July of 2019. Beyond Us embraces vulnerability, encourages connection, and encapsulates the beauty in celebrating our differences. It is a courageous testament to the power of moving beyond fear to a place of authenticity, kindness, and love.
Aaron resides with his wife Rhonda, their six children, and their dogs Stella and Auggie an hour south of Boston, Massachusetts.
Why did you pick UMass Sport Management/McCormack?
In 1995, my girlfriend (at the time) raved to my roommate and me about a Sociology of Sport course she was taking with Dr. Todd Crosset. The two of them spoke about the program as if it was an extracurricular activity and not a class. The description of professors was colorful and inspiring as if they were charismatic movie characters. My curiosity was spiked and I decided to attend the class just to see where their excitement was coming from. I left the class and went immediately to my advisor to begin the “change of major” process.
What was your favorite memory from attending UMass?
My professors in the Sport Management Program truly changed my life and my views of education. We were always a name and never a number. I fell in love with the process of education when I changed my major.
My professors were the difference makers. Dr. Mary Hums, Dr. Carol Barr, Lisa Pike Masteralexis, Dr. Todd Crosset, Dr. Julius Gundersheim were some of the names that truly resonate for me. As a latecomer to the program, I didn’t have the opportunity to experience the influence of the entire faculty.
My professors taught me to love learning and to celebrate growth. I focused on people and experiences because of the investment made by the instructional staff. They made us feel as though we mattered and brought clarity to our potential options. Classes felt like motivational speeches, rich with information. Creativity was encouraged and unleashed.
I remember sitting with Dr. Crosset in his office and sharing that I wanted to become a high school Athletic Director upon graduation. He replied, “You need to pursue a Master’s Degree from Ohio State or Springfield College in Athletic Administration” or establish a stellar coaching record over the next 25 years. I chose the former and enrolled at Springfield College. I was lucky enough to secure a position as the Director of Athletics for the Hopkinton Public Schools shortly after graduating from Springfield College.
Dr. Hums told our Introduction to Sport Management class that she was less concerned with whether we earned an A or a B. She indicated we should focus our efforts on establishing meaningful relationships through hard work and selflessness. She encouraged us to persevere in the toughest of circumstances and to remember where we come from. She stressed the importance of creating the best version of our self to make it easier to help those who come after us.
Relationships are at the foundation of so many of our successes. So many of the relationships established at UMass have stayed with me to this day. Friends, mentors, and experiences have inspired me to pay the gifts forward.
How did UMass Sport Management/McCormack prepare you for your future?
In my first two years at UMass, my professors taught me what I would like to refer to as “book knowledge”. When I made the move to the Sport Management program, they taught us about life. Lessons didn’t come from a test They came from the heart. The lessons came from rich discussions, office hours, personalized packets, and deliberate challenges. We learned to think critically and to engage in dialogue that would pave the way for success beyond the graduation stage.
Was there a faculty member(s) with whom you were particularly close?
It’s because of Todd Crosset that I fell in love with the process of education. During an interview in August of 2018 after keynoting an international education conference in Boston, I spoke about Dr. Crosset’s influence. The 2-minute interview is available at this link.
What advice would you give to recent alumni?
Growth and contribution are synergistic gifts. The more we grow, the more we are able to contribute. Seek opportunities for growth and contribution. Love who you are. Love what you do. Help others do the same.