Wednesday December 6, 2023

Women in Sports are Leveling Up

  • Ohio University’s PMSA is opening new doors for female leaders in sports and entertainment.
  • Kirsten Grohs, ‘13, used creative networking tactics to launch a career in football operations.
  • Andrea Williams, ‘16, became the first African American woman to be commissioner of a D1 conference.
  • Jackie Reau, ‘12, Founder and CEO of 20-year-old Game Day Communications, expanded her business into eSports.
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This spring, FOS Fundamentals introduced Women in Sports, a three-part webinar series presented by Ohio University’s Professional Master of Sports Administration (PMSA). Three female graduates of the Ohio University joined host Amie Sheridan to share the stories of their rise to leadership in the sports business. 

Taking networking and outreach to the next level

As Kirsten Grohs, Manager of Football Operations for the Atlanta Falcons, approached the end of her PMSA curriculum in 2013, she began the process of searching for her first full-time role in the sports business. Grohs executed a clever strategy — with the help of a mentor and former supervisor Marcel Bellefeuille — that landed her not one, but three interviews with NFL teams. One of these interviews turned into a full-time offer.

“As the last ditch effort of my job search, I mailed thirty-two $3 Starbucks gift cards to all of the NFL General Managers, inviting them to schedule an informational interview with me,” said Grohs. “In total, I received five responses, two in-person interviews and one full-time offer with the Jacksonville Jaguars.”

Breaking down barriers and excelling in the moment

Andrea Williams, now the Chief Operating Officer for the College Football Playoff, was accepted into the PMSA program in 2014. She held the role of Associate Commissioner of the Big Ten at the time. Little did she know she’d soon become the first African American woman to hold the title of Commissioner of a Division 1 athletic conference… In 2016 — just as she graduated the PMSA — Williams accepted that title, overseeing all business operations for the Big Sky Conference. 

“By no way or means should I have been that first person,” said Williams. “There were so many more qualified and talented and sharp strong black female leaders that should have been given that opportunity well before I came along, but I have to imagine that they paved the way for me. Because I was able to learn from their experience, I was able to be granted a position like that.” 

Staying ahead of industry trends

Jackie Reau is a self-proclaimed double Bobcat. This means that she attended Ohio University for her undergraduate degree, and then returned for her master’s in the PMSA program graduating in the first cohort. She shared that the degree opened new doors for her and allowed her to not only tap into the massive sports business network that is OHIO Sports Administration, but also expand her business offering. In YEAR, she returned to Athens, virtually, to pick up a certificate in eSports. This allowed her to land new clients in the burgeoning gaming sector.

“Leading into 2020, I started looking at three new billion dollar industries in sports: World Cup 2026, sports betting, eSports,” said Reau. “This prompted my return to OHIO for a certificate in Sports Gambling which has helped expand my offering in PR and communications.”

Tapping into a national alumni network, virtually and in-person

Each of the Fundamentals interviewees cited the “Big Green Book” — OHIO’s alumni directory — as one of the most valuable elements of their investment in their own education. In addition to the deep rooted alumni network and relationships built during and after the program, PMSAers have the benefit of attending up to six on-campus residences during their time at OHIO.

“All of the PMSA content was great,” said Reau. “The online format worked well. For me, though, it was the time that we were in Athens that I’ll remember most. That’s where the magic happened.”

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