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Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Business of People and Sports

By: Travis Gorsch, @tgorsch3

Chad Collins, Founder & President of Legacy Search

Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Chad Collins, Founder & President of Legacy Search. Chad was gracious enough to offer up his time and insight into his journey of opening up his own company, Legacy Search, to pursue his passion of sports and people. Chad has worked in almost every capacity from the NBA to minor league hockey and baseball to college athletics and now owns his own national executive search firm that specializes in sports.

You completed your education at the University of Idaho earning dual Bachelor degrees in Public Communication & Recreation Management. How did this prepare you for a career in the sports industry?

I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I got to college. I started out as a Physical Education major but switched my major to Communication and Recreation Management.

The classes I took at the University of Idaho taught me public speaking skills, time management, the ability to work in groups and think strategically. My goal was to earn a Bachelor’s degree and as it turned out, I earned two of them. I absolutely loved my experience at the University of Idaho. Throughout my entire college career, I worked very closely with my advisors every step of the way. I’d recommend every student get to know their advisors.

Talk about your internship in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and how you decided it wasn’t the career path you wanted to do long-term. How did you end up in the sports industry?

I went to Hilton Head Island, SC to work for a company called Resort Recreation & Tourism Management. I had a great time working with contracted high end resorts and working closely with adults and kids running activities programs, golf and tennis tournaments and booking off site activities. I built great relationships with general managers who were managing these properties and talked to them about what we were doing on a day-to-day basis. The GM’s loved our internship program and the energy we brought. Eventually, I realized that the resort industry wasn’t going to be a career path for me. Once I got more experience in the field I learned it wasn’t a very lucrative opportunity and I would most likely have to live in expensive areas of the country, where people choose to vacation. At the time I didn’t know what career path was for me.

I always enjoyed meeting and making new friends but at the same time, I came to realize I had a passion for sports. My dream as a young college graduate was to work for my hometown San Francisco Giants or Oakland Athletics. Once I graduated from the University of Idaho, I went home to Vacaville, CA. Back then, I had to mail, fax or deliver resumes in person. I had an interview with the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants but at the time both teams were looking for more experience. A friend of mine suggested that I go to the Baseball Winter Meetings. When I got there I figured I’d have the opportunity to talk with the A’s and Giants. However, there were only two MLB teams hiring and the rest were minor league teams looking to hire entry-level positions. I ended up meeting the General Manager of the Boise Hawks, Short Season Single A baseball team. I was hired to be the Stadium Operations Manager. It was a lot of fun and I learned a ton, but it was only seasonal work with very low pay.

What advice do you have for students and young professionals when seeking an internship? When should they get started?

Sports is a lifestyle. You have to be passionate about building a career in sports. You have to want to learn and be a sponge and soak up everything you can. If you end up landing an internship you need to be prepared to learn everything. Build relationships and learn from the hiring managers representing various business and operations functions for the team. See if you can grab coffee or spend five to ten minutes in their office. Job shadow them for a game and learn about what they do. The industry is so competitive now. I would recommend to students that are currently in college to secure an internship during their sophomore year. A few years ago, I had a high school student reach out to me during his senior year. He’s now going on his third internship and just a sophomore in college.

You went from shooting t-shirts via a slingshot at minor league hockey games to founding your own executive recruiting firm. What advice do you have for students and young professionals for getting their foot in the door?

My advice would be to get your foot in the door however you can. My first job in sports was a seasonal role with the Boise Hawks with no guarantee for a full time position after the season. Fortunately, the ownership group that owned the baseball team also owned the Idaho Steelheads minor league hockey team in the same market. I decided this would be an interesting opportunity because hockey was a relatively new product to the area and the arena where the team played was a brand new facility in downtown Boise. When I started with the Steelheads, there were no prospect lists or a database.

I literally started calling people out of the phone book and keeping a spreadsheet. During home games I was part of the on-ice promo crew throwing t-shirts and chucking hot dogs over the glass. I eventually worked my way up to Director of Ticket Sales & Services where I managed a team of four people. After my fourth season with the Steelheads, I was fortunate enough to secure a position with the Sacramento Kings and Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA, where I spent four great years selling for both teams. In addition to selling NBA and WNBA basketball games, I also sold Globetrotters, Monster Jam, Disney on Ice, etc.

You have also been a Corporate Partnership Account Executive (Stanford Sports Properties), Director of Ticket Sales & Business Development (Sacramento River Cats), VP of Business Development (Idaho Steelheads) and Director of Recruiting (Prodigy Sports) Can you talk about the journey through these career moves in the sports industry?

I enjoyed working for the Kings and Monarchs for four years. At the time my wife had a great opportunity with her then company Westfield to relocate to San Francisco. I also had an opportunity to sell sponsorships for Stanford athletics through CBS Collegiate Sports. Stanford was another great experience because I was introduced to the sponsorship side of the sports business. After a couple of years in the Bay Area, my wife and I moved back to Sacramento where I spent almost five years working for another great organization, the Sacramento River Cats.

Once we had our two girls (Molly & Ella) we decided to relocate back to Boise to put down our roots and raise our family. I was fortunate to be welcomed back to the Idaho Steelheads for a few years and served as their Vice President of Business Development. It was during my time with the Steelheads that I became aware of Prodigy Sports and the recruiting industry. I really enjoy networking and helping people advance their careers through my professional connections. I was able to connect with Scott Carmichael and Prodigy Sports who gave me a shot at recruiting professionally. I am very grateful for the time I spent with Prodigy Sports.

Having experience in Sales & Marketing where you have sold tickets and sponsorships does it make it easier when you are hiring for this position since you know what to look for?

I believe it has helped since I used to be on the other side selling tickets, sponsorships and being a hiring manager. On the phone I like to listen to a candidate to hear what their energy level is like, what they are currently doing and what they’ve done in the past, and ask for examples of their day-to-day process is both personally and professionally. I’ll ask the candidate questions about what their previous/current manager would say about them. Most of the roles I am filling are mid to high-level sales and marketing positions.

How did your previous experience as Director of Recruiting for Prodigy Sports help set you up to start your own company in Legacy Search?

My experience with Prodigy Sports taught me how to manage my time even more closely, especially when I spend most of my day on the phone. The recruiting industry is just like sales; it’s a numbers game. It’s about talking to as many people as you can each day over the phone or through email. I learned how to review resumes closely and determine if a candidate has the qualifications a particular hiring manager is seeking. I also learned how to transition my skills and experience from the team side of the business to the recruiting side.

When placing mid to high-level sales and marketing executives in an organization trust is key. Can you talk about the importance of relationships with the candidates as well as the organization? Do you fill positions with people inside your network more often than having to go out and find new candidates?

The sports business is all about relationships. Coming up through the ranks on the team side, many of the colleagues I “grew up” within the industry are now Directors and Vice Presidents. I frequently connect with these former colleagues and ask if there are opportunities to continue to work together by doing a search for them.

When talking to potential candidates, my goal each day is to reach out to twenty new people or people that I haven’t talked to in a while just to say hello and ask how things are going. I fill most of my roles through my network or referrals.

Is there one or more people that you can point to and say they mentored you in some way?

I have been blessed with so many great mentors throughout my career and am thankful for each and every one of them. The list would be too long for this interview but you never forget who brought you into this fun and exciting industry. In my case, John Cunningham and Eric Trapp, two great gentlemen that I met at the 1997 Baseball Winter Meetings. They gave me my first opportunity.

Parting Wisdom?

Two things I’m passionate about are helping people in their career and my passion for the business of sports. If I can marry a candidate with a hiring manager and it all comes together, that makes me happy.

Working in sports you have to have a strong work ethic and always stay positive. This industry changes and you have to adapt to change. Don’t get into the industry thinking you’re going to get rich. There are a lot of sacrifices such as late nights, weekends and holidays. I’m in it in a different capacity now on the recruiting side and I get a few of my nights and weekends back.

I recommend young professionals start building their network on LinkedIn now. Have a professional profile on LinkedIn looking your Sunday best. This is your online resume. Work on keeping all social media clean or hidden.

We would like to thank Chad for his time and insight and we wish Legacy Search the best of luck in their future endeavors!

You can follow him on Twitter here, connect with him on LinkedIn here, or check out Legacy Search here.

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