After moving from Vancouver, BC to Eugene, Oregon to pursue my MBA at the University of Oregon’s prestigious Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, I was invited to attend the 2011 Women + Sports Summit held Sept.26-28 in Tucson, Arizona. The purpose of the summit was to provide a forum for working together on the future of women’s sports. My intentions for attending were two-fold; to learn more about this new initiative from ESPN and how it can propel the women’s sports industry forward and to create connections with prominent leaders in the US sports business industry, particularly the female leaders.
Connecting With Influential Women In Sports
espnW is ESPN’s first business dedicated to serving female athletes and fans. The espnW mantra is “One Letter Says A Lot.” The website was launched in December 2010 and was created by the ladies of ESPN, with Laura Gentile (VP, espnW) and Christine Driessen (CFO, ESPN) leading the way, gaining support from ESPN/ABC President, George Bodenheimer. The tipping point in espnW’s initiation was recognizing that this is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do and makes good business sense. Thus, espnW was born and is growing quickly everyday.
I was fortunate enough to connect with many great women in sports at the Summit, all with lots of wisdom on how to start your career or build on your career in the sports industry. I’ve pulled together some of their advice in this video and added some of my own thoughts that I gathered from my new friends at the Summit, in this article.
“Proximity is power.” (Robin Roberts, Good Morning America)
You gotta show up. And don’t stop there – show up with intention. Do your research, know who’s in the room, seek out key women in sports that could help you in your quest and…drumroll please…talk to them! Be yourself and gently share your story with hopes it will spark some interest in their mind and lead into a friendly conversation. Networking is like training for a big competition – it’s about putting yourself in the optimal position to make things happen for yourself – just showing up automatically creates opportunity. In this case, it’s being amongst the industry leaders you aspire to be a part of. Like Steve Jobs’ said so eloquently, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” By just showing up, you are creating dots for yourself that are connectable later, somewhere, somehow.
“Think about why you win.” (Billie Jean King, Women’s Sports Foundation)
Too often we are taught to focus on what went wrong, or how we can improve our performance. Knowing what went well and why it was positive is just as important. Taking these key wins forward provide the confidence needed to succeed and create stories to talk about when at events like espnW. These stories are memorable and help others retain information about who you are. Be proactive, reach out to other women in sports, tell your story, and your chances of wining will increase exponentially.
“A hero is a hero not because of how they play the game but what they do with it.” (Richard Lapchick, Center for the Study of Sport in Society)
Everyone has the opportunity to be the captain of a team. However, only some step up, lead by example and project an appetite for success that the coaches and their teammates can’t ignore. Similar to landing a job in the sports industry, timing is everything. Yes, the captain role needs to be available when you are a member of that particular team, but other roles will often surface for the right person. Heros, as defined in the quote above, are hard to come by. If your story resonates strongly, you will be top of mind when the right thing becomes available. By being a hero everyday you are welcoming success for yourself and for all your teammates.