4 Lessons all #sportsbiz Professionals Should Remember

This post is part of the #YPSportsChat Blog Series! This series will give young professionals an inside look at the intricacies of the sports business world and advice on how to navigate it.

By: Joey Elledge, @JoeyElledge

As I type this blog on my iPhone, since my laptop recently crashed on me, I look back over how this industry has impacted my life so far.

I’m the son of a mechanic and an accountant in the wonderful state of South Carolina. When my parents took me to the ballpark for the first time, I fell in love with sports and I have been enthralled with the industry since. Working in sports is different than being a fan, but this industry has offered me my highest moments of my life so far.

I’ve been invited to speak at a countless amount of events, met some of my best friends, and grown everyday as a person. In 2014, I was offered and accepted my dream internship with the University of South Carolina and spent an amazing 8 months learning from some of the best in the profession. I’ve been fortunate to be apart of the NCAA D2 Football Playoffs in 2011, NCAA D1 Final Four run in Women’s Basketball in 2015, and most recently an Elite Eight in the Women’s Basketball Division 2 tournament. These moments and many others will stay with me the rest of my life and I’m incredibly humbled to say I am a young professional in this amazing industry.

With how fortunate I’ve been in my young career, I also have had a lot of flaws and errors so far. I’ve turned down a chance at a full time opportunity initially after an interview due to being burn out with the industry and came close to leaving it all together. I’ve turned down other internship positions because it wasn’t the right fit. I was even was offered a full time position at University, accepted the offer, just to have the offer revoked the next day.

With all the achievements and disappointments in the last 5 years, there are life long lessons I have learned and I hope I can pass on to help others.

Lesson 1: Do simple better.

As a Cubs fan, I am a fan of Joe Maddon and his wise words referred to as “Maddonisms”. “Do simple better” is my favorite one because I think its absolutely crucial to success.

In this industry, you never know what could happen at any moment. It’s one of the many perks/drawbacks of the job. You could be pressure washing a sidewalk in the morning and be at a fundraising event that evening. Stay faithful to the task at hand regardless of whatever the task may be and do simple better. I’ve come to understand that those who are faithful at the little things are often times the leaders in the industry.

Lesson 2: Everything that comes your way is an opportunity to grow

On my first day of college, I sadly had to attend a class I knew I was going to dislike, Human Biology. The professor went over the course and assignments, cracked a few corny jokes, and then made a declaration that has stayed with me since that day. My professor said that his goal was not just for us to learn biology, but he wanted us to pursue learning with everything we encountered for the rest of our life. He would then say that everything that comes our way, even a cruel biology test, was an opportunity to grow.

So when a fan complains that his beer is too expensive and too warm, we can grow our patience and serve them by simply offering to pour him another cold one. When a donor missed his seat selection time and is worried they may lose their seats, we can grow our compassion and help them find their new seats. When we feel overwhelmed with doubt and scrutiny from your work environment, we can learn gratitude to work in this profession and to be collecting a paycheck. When no one cares who we are or what we are doing, we can learn humility and invest in others.

Lesson 3: Our jobs are meant to benefit others.

A lot of my friends make fun of me for working in sports. They crack jokes like, “I bet you just watch ESPN all day.” Others have said, “You go to a baseball stadium. That’s not a real job.’ While they may be joking, the one thing I know without a doubt: what we do matters.

Rick Reily’s last sport column is one of the most inspiring columns I’ve ever read. In the column, he wrote, “Never let anyone tell you sports doesn’t matter. Never let them tell you it’s all about the wins, the losses and the stats. Sports are so much more than that. It’s your grandfather and you and the way a Sunday Bears game bonds you like Super Glue. It’s what you ask of yourself to break four hours in the marathon. It’s the way your softball buddies can still laugh about you hitting the ump instead of the cutoff man 30 years later.”

I couldn’t summarize it better. Sports matter. Out jobs matter. We make a difference in peoples lives and should relentlessly pursue providing joy in this world where there is so much turmoil.

Lesson 4: Doors open when they are supposed to

I once went on an interview for an internship with a minor league baseball and thought the interview went really well. I waited for a week, and I never heard back. Another week went by, and I still hadn’t heard anything. I also had two friends that had applied for positions with the team, and they were hired after two weeks of waiting. A month passed — nothing. Then the season had started, and I still had not heard anything.

So 2 months after my initial interview, I was dejected due to my friends who had 0 sports experience has positions with the team, yet I hadn’t been offered a position with my experience at the time. After being frustrated and angry for another week, I checked my phone and I had a missed call from the team.

The supervisor has been calling the wrong number and apologized for the delay. He would then go on to say that he wanted to offer me a paid internship instead of the unpaid internship I interviewed. I accepted immediately and was asked to attend internship orientation the following Monday. That Monday, I met another intern who has become one of my closest friends and a brother in this industry.

I write this to hopefully help everyone (including myself) that doors open when they are supposed to. Had I taken the unpaid internship, I would have worked those long hours for no pay and had to find another source of income. For those who have worked minor league baseball know it dominates your life for the summer and would’ve been extremely hard to do. In addition to that, I would not have had the opportunity to invest in the friendship that I was able to gain from the internship. Which neither him or I would probably still be in the industry if we hadn’t been a friend to the other.

This story still calms me whenever I get anxious about pursuing a job. Constantly applying and never hearing back is incredibly rough. Yet, whenever the door opens, the possibilities are endless.