/ FACES Magazine March 2017
Mark Hatfeild has had an incredible ride. After graduating from Bishop’s University in 1995 where he starred as an offensive tackle for the Bishops Gators Football Team, Mark earned a spot with the National Football League Miami Dolphins, and later played for the Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions. Mark then moved back to Canada in 1997 and joined the BC Lions Football club of the CFL. But football stardom was only the beginning for Hatfeild, who shortly after was headed for the screen.
Mark moved on to create and star in TV segments called “The Retired CFL Guy”, for the comedy network’s “Game Face” series. Mark also hosted the “Big Bad Sports Show” on Rogers cable for two seasons and has been a frequent guest on TSN’s “Off the Record with Michael Landsberg”. Now, Mark is also the founder and head trainer for Hatfield’s Athletic Development Centre and a professional firefighter in the city of Ottawa. Mark’s long and diverse list of achievements show a determination that comes from an incredible source of strength and inspiration—his brother—whose passing at a young age set the stage for Mark’s entire life, pushing him forward to each achievement. Today, Mark speaks on the secrets to his success, inside his life and role as a father, and how to enjoy the journey, no matter what.
When did you decide to become a motivational speaker, and what or who were your inspirations to do so?
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I think sharing is something I liked doing from a young age, and about seven or eight years ago I was in a car accident with my oldest son. I was just driving down the road and guy went through a red light going about 80 km/h and crashed in the side of us. I had to go to the hospital...that was an event that really changed my perspective, and inspired me to do what I loved. My motivation is my brother. From an early age I had vowed that the man I was to become would set a good example of the man my brother would have expected me to become.
What are SMART goals? Why are they so powerful?
Goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based. Once you have planned your project, turn your attention to developing those few goals that will enable you to be successful. You need to
identify the steps that will get things done, and then give it a time line. When I was aiming to play professional football, I literally wrote my goals down on a piece of paper and placed them on a wall at home. I would cut out pictures of people who were playing in the NFL and then put them around a picture of myself in the middle. I’m happy about that. Everybody has inspirations, or something they want to achieve, or someone they want to become, but they just don’t have the steps to follow. So if you just take the time to write them down, your life will start moving in that direction all by itself. It’s an amazing thing—a lot of people have gotten back to me by e-mail and to say “Wow! You know this is really working.” It’s very important to write
What has been the most significant change in your lifestyle from when you played football to now?
Three kids! That changed everything, but it’s great. When you become a new father or a new parent the first thing you think of is all of the things that are going to change, or all of the things you won’t be able to do—but just let it change you. Just go with it and be the father, be the role model to them on a 24 hour basis and life gets real good. Being a father has been the most incredible thing in the world. But being that person has definitely changed who I was from when I was a football player.
You’ve had many accomplishments in your life; football, firefighter, fitness trainer, comedian, Olympic torch bearer, father… What would you say has had the most impact on your life?
Well, the first thing to impact my in a huge way was the passing of my brother, and my goal has always been to try and live up to his dreams we had set together, but then over the next 10 years following I found that I was questioning myself on a daily basis—and I was unsure about what I wanted to do. I didn’t know if I was a failure to him, or didn’t live up his expectations. But I have come to realize that the fact that I never gave up because I made that promise to him is what matters.
A lot of people don’t have that sort of thing. It was just by chance - I mean my parents were always supportive and there for me - but since I had made that promise I always had something to look forward to, no matter what. I knew if I would just keep moving in that direction then I wasn’t a failure yet. I learned that after 10 years. I look back now, and 10 years is a long time, and I realize that all those failures were the reasons why I achieved what I wanted to achieve, and made me the person that I am. So looking forward I can see what it is I want to accomplish in the future. It’s a road full of failures but it’s everybody who’s failed that’s reached what they’ve wanted to reach.
What do you miss most about being a football player?
I guess being in my 20s. Being a firefighter there’s a lot of teamwork, it’s a physical job - you have to stay in shape and work out, there’s a game day, there’s adrenaline when we get a call. I guess it’s really just hanging out with the guys off the field, that was always everybody’s favourite thing. The connections you made were off the field. But you know, you still talk to people today and keep up with them and realize that it’s all about the human connection - that was the real cool thing.
What advice can you give people about how to set goals for ourselves, and be successful?
One thing that always gets me is when someone says to set a “realistic goal”. I mean what is a realistic goal? So get rid of that. I mean I played college football at Bishop’s University in Canada and made it to the NFL. Write down whatever goal you have, whatever it is you’re passionate about, find out from everybody around you what it takes to do that, accept failure as part of the process, and keep moving forward. Everyday write a list about what you’re going to do the next day to achieve your goal, and wonderful things will start happening. Your life will start moving in that direction. Keep in mind that if you don’t reach your goal, other amazing things will happen along the way.
What was best advice you were ever given, whether it be about sports or life?
“Make sure to have fun”. Whenever you have something you’re nervous about, or scared about, people always say to “have fun” and I never really understood why. I wouldn’t have fun at something I’m nervous about doing, but it always just stuck, and I realized that if you just go out there and leave everything behind and have fun, you’re going to be successful. I always like that. It’s always something I tell myself before I go out on stage.
On Friday nights you perform at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club here in Ottawa. Can you tell us a little bit about these shows and what first time attendees can expect?
It’s about me, about work - I tell my stories, I tell different jokes. It’s a great bang for your buck, an hour and a half show, 7 o’clock and you’re in and out and it’s a great time, guaranteed. You’re also on Elgin Street so you can go out for dinner afterwards if you like.
How do you personally deal with the odd nightmare in the crowd?
Well I mean I’m 6’6, 280 lbs! I’ve actually never had one. I’ve seen people get kicked out, but it’s usually someone who is drunk and they may or may not just become a topic in the show, and then they usually just shut up because they’re getting laughed at. But honestly, I’ve never had a nightmare. I’ve had people who don’t realize they’re being disruptive, and they are talking with their friends, but that’s when you have to be professional and just keep going and realize everybody else is there to enjoy the show. I’m never mean; I’m always nice and just ignore those being disruptive. I just want them all to feel like they are a part of the show.
What is your biggest challenge, and how do you manage to overcome it?
Like everybody else, time. You want to do so much, but you have kids with their busy schedules and then you also want to write jokes, go to a club, go to work, hang out with your wife, have a fire and watch Netflix…it’s just time, and finding the right time for everything. You just want to do so much and that’s usually the greatest challenge for me. I’m healthy – knock-on-wood, my family is all healthy so I have that luxury and I enjoy everything I’m doing, but it’s just finding the right amount of time for doing it all.
You seem to be a very busy person. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, and what are some of your favourite things to do in Ottawa?
I like going to the Wellington Street Diner! As a family, we love going to Anthony’s on Wellington as well—it’s got pizza, and it’s delicious! We go for a lot of walks—it’s one of our family things. We take the dogs out, we go to Gatineau Hills a lot, the kids like to snowboard, and we go to the Chelsea Pub. We’re a big hiking family and we really enjoy doing things together—we take walks along the canal in the summertime, go to the market and that kind of stuff. We’re also big campers so we go camping a lot and we have a cottage,so we often go there in the summertime, too.
What does it mean for you to be voted as Ottawa’s favourite comedian for the 2017 FACES Awards?
It’s amazing. It is a fantastic thing. Just the fact that people know my name and think of me and take the time to vote for me. I feel honoured and privileged. It’s a great thing - it gives me confidence. It was definitely a really big honour and a big deal for me, and I am very appreciative of it.