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The Athletic Department and Blue Ribbon Sports...starting young at Nike. 1978-83

The year following my start as an unofficial high school wear test coordinator  for Nike  in 1977 I looked  for a job that was not washing dishes at a local diner or washing cars at the local Ford Dealership. 

Love at First Sight

I had visited a the BRS store on Hawthorne Blvd to purchase some shoes during my pre high school running days and heard that there was a Nike retail store being opened near my house at the Beaverton Bernard Mall.

I started dreaming about these products as early as 1972 and visiting the early Athletic Department on Hawthorne Blvd back in 1972-73. The next couple of years a few more popped up around town including Beaverton Mall and Plaza 106 in Portland. I loved hanging out at these places and seeing what new training and racing shoes were coming out.

There were about 10 Athletic Departments in the USA in 1973 and more emerged in the Portland area each year.

Nike's origins began in Oregon. I was fortunate and strategic enough to help where I could but the amount of knowledge I gained on the inner-workings of a company at it's infancy I watched and helped Nike grow from a start up and hanging around the product testing department then working at the "AD" with people I watched run at Hayward Field with Prefontaine and the Oregon Ducks. I could not have better mentors to learn from.

The shoes that were being launched in the late 1970's and early 1980's were amazingly innovative. The Terra TC with Blown Rubber, The Internationalist and Bermuda with Mesh Toe-boxes, The Yankee as a basic shoe for a high schooler and the amazing Vainqueur Spike that burned up tracks around the world. The LDV was the most popular training shoe at the time and we even produced at special edition of it: The Night Track, Nike's Limited Edition Disco shoe with shiny silver uppers, laces and smooth red rubber outsole with sparkles.

The silver disco shoes with a smooth rubber bottom with sparkles- Pure Performance
The Nike Night Track- A Disco Shoe Limited Edition we sold in the early 1980's

The Swoosh was not the iconic logo it is today even though the shoe started gaining a following with the rapid and fresh innovation coming out as quickly as the team at Nike's R&D facilities came up with something new.

Blue Ribbon Sports working at the Athletic Department and Employee #689

I applied for the job in late 1977 and was hired  nights during the week and on the weekends.

This provided me some income and more importantly access to discounts on the latest the products that were coming out on the market.

Product Testing leading to Selling shoes

It was a great job. I received my first W2 from BRS, Inc in 1978 and started as Nike's Employee #689.

I worked through high school and every winter and summer throughout my years in college. I competed for University of Arizona in 1979-81 and we had a houseful of Nike products at our doorstep. 

The following years were spent in Europe at University of Portland and finishing up at University of Southern California and finished my degree in China at a language program. While I was completing my International Relations Degree in China, I happened to visit a Nike Factory while I was there in the summer of 1983.

Each relationship and experience created a fabric that spanned 40 years with Nike a moment in time in the Fall of 1983 was a significant moment that will be covered in my next blog post...1983 and beyond.

One of my favorite memories was when we got the call that Phil and Penny Knight would their kids coming to the store to pick up a few things. Penny Knight's sister Kim worked at the store and it took me a longer than most to put it all together. I look back at each of these experiences and relationships and recognize how fortunate I was to give myself the Permission to Dream and Bring Fearless Innovation to my path forward at each stage of my life.

It is clear to me that the people worked with at that time went on to build the company it is today.

  • University of Oregon Track Athletes

  • Prefontaine's Teammates

  • Phil Knight's Sister in Law

  • Phil Knight and Family

  • Collegiate Athletes starting careers.

  • Local High School Athletes that went on to compete in College and beyond.

I look back at this time starting with a desire to help out where needed whether it is through testing products, selling them and being part of the early culture of Nike in the late 1970's and 1980's. I tell people I grew up with the company and love the experiences and relationships I gained through those formative years.

The stories and lessons that come with those stories will continue to emerge.

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