Dear Younger Me: Oh, the places you’ll go.
Dear Younger Me,
As Dr. Seuss once said, “Oh, the places you’ll go.” You may have thought your best memories of athletics were behind you as you left for college, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Memories of Friday nights under the lights, summer practices before the sun has risen, and shared memories of victories and defeats will be replaced by even bigger and more unforgettable experiences. They won’t come easy, they’ll take lots of work and an unconventional path, but they’ll be worth it. In just a short time you’ll learn some valuable lessons, experience some pretty cool things, find a support system, and discover some unfortunate truths about the sports world.
Coffee — You’ll learn to love it
I never liked the taste of coffee growing up, but have quickly learned to love it. Working in sports means a lot of long hours, late nights, early mornings, and coffee. In fact, it’s become so much a part of my routine that the people working at Starbucks know me by name & drink. Rather than asking what I want, they’ll ask, “How many shots this morning?” This happened at two different locations on campus and when I changed stores they’d joke that I was, “cheating on” them. While it’s all in good fun, the smiles and warm welcomes coupled with the strong coffee have become my morning routine and at times have changed my outlook on the day. There have been times where I may not have slept the greatest or I’m worried about getting a project done ahead of a deadline, but a simple hand written message on my cup can brighten up the morning. I used to laugh when my parents would say, “Wait, the morning doesn’t begin till I’ve had my coffee,” but now understand exactly what they meant. I’ve gotten to the point that I’ll go out of my way to get “my coffee” when I’m on the road, even if it means having to walk around the city to find a “real” Starbucks.
Travel — Your suitcase is always ready to go
Working in sports means you’re going to travel quite a bit. Whether it’s a fall camp, a road game, or a bowl game, I’ve spent quite a bit of time away from home. What does this all mean? It means getting to experience plenty of new cities and new stadiums. Each new city and stadium presents its own unique adventures and experiences, which would only be made possible through work. I’ve spent time on Bourbon Street, seen Provo from the mountains at night, and spent time at historic Dealey Plaza. Each new road game presents the opportunity to travel to a new stadium, some of which people rarely get the chance to visit.
From historic venues like Ohio Stadium and Sun Life Stadium (now Hard Rock Stadium) to picturesque venues like LaVell Edwards and Aloha Stadium I’ve traveled the country all because of what I do for a living. While these can be some pretty cool experiences, it also means many weekends spent on the road. Leaving on Friday afternoon and returning late on Saturday, or even early Sunday morning, becomes a routine in the fall and has left some family and friends referring to me as the “ghost” during the season. In some instances, if we return home late I’ve crashed on the couch in my office to avoid driving home only to turn around and return to the office a few hours later. While some may be envious of the travels and experiences, they don’t realize the times that are spent living out of a suitcase and on the road.
While the travel has been a constant, the experiences are far from it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever have the chance to ride in a NASCAR Stock Car, experience a game at Navy Marine Corps Stadium, or climb the mountains in Hawaii because of work. I’ve filmed games where I could barely feel my fingers, yet was left jumping for joy as the team wraps up a thrilling victory. I’ve experience the joy of winning a conference championship and the frustration of a season that hasn’t gone as expected. I’ve be on the inside of some pretty big announcements and events surrounding the team and program that I won’t soon forget. It’s all of these moments and opportunities that make working the long hours and late nights worthwhile. However, while I’ve gotten the opportunity to experience a lot, I tend to forget to fully appreciate the opportunity. When visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial, I was so focused on work that I never fully experienced the awe of the setting that I was in. Often times I have responsibilities on the road that cause me to overlook the chance to fully enjoy the opportunities a new city presents. It can be tough to learn, but I wish I had learned to prioritize the work tasks and manager time better to avoid leaving a trip wishing I’d done more.
Relationships — Co-workers, players, and friends
Working the long hours and late nights means that you’ll develop some close relationships with co-workers. These co-workers will be there for support through a difficult time & often be the first to give praise for the work that the group accomplishes. They’ll also be the first to give advice when it’s needed and offer suggestions on how to make a project more effective. However, they become more than just co-workers, they become friends. It’s a big reason why there have been many late night texts back and forth that have nothing to do with work, but rather what’s going on in each other’s lives. As some will move on to other opportunities, keeping in touch is what makes, “reunion” games against each other that much more fun.
Beyond just the co-workers, I have also had the pleasure of getting to build relationships with our players. Our office is located just down the hallway from the coaches, which means that from time to time players will come in just to hang out and catch up with us. We’ve had times during the summer where they’ll come in to talk current events, the upcoming season, projects we’re working on, and even plans for their future. So many see the product on the field, but never truly get to know the young men beyond the field. Having the ability to connect and tell the player’s stories is truly one of the best parts of my job. Of all the stories and accolades I’ve gotten to tweet or post about, being able to announce two of our players being drafted might be the most memorable. After getting everything posted, having the ability to send them the custom graphics we had created and getting to see their genuine appreciation was truly remarkable. These relationships make the stress and long hours a little bit easier because, “we’re all in this together.”
Family — Always there, even if you’re not
No matter where you go, or what you do; family will always be there for you. Working in sports means missing some birthdays, holidays, and other major life events. You can take classes and read books, but nothing can prepare you for the first time you miss a family gathering.
I am lucky enough to have an amazing fiancé who loves sports and what I do for a living. It’s given us some pretty cool opportunities as we’ve gone to bowl games together, but it’s also meant that we’ve been apart for other holidays. Though we’ve been together since 2012, this year was the first that we’ve been home together with family for the holidays. Let that sink in for a second. The first time in five years we’ve been home together to spend the holidays with our families. We’ve spent the holidays together, but we haven’t been with our family as we’ve been at bowl games. Even when we were at the bowl games together, we often didn’t see each other as I was working and she was assisting in watching/taking care of the coaches’ kids. The ones who often are left simply getting a phone call in most situations is my parents. I rarely see them because of the demand of work, though they live twenty minutes away from me. Even though I seldom see them, they are extremely supportive of what I do. I tend to joke that my dad can be, “that dad” when it comes to showing off what I do for work and some of my accomplishments. While he tends to embarrass me, it shows that he truly cares and is proud of what I’m doing. They are always there to give advice or support when needed and quick to criticize and stay on top of me when it comes to paying attention to the small things.
While you’ll love working in sports, the sacrifices can be tough to stomach. At times you’ll miss family gatherings or spend the holidays with the team in a hotel. You may have to find a way to make a quick phone call to wish everyone a Merry Christmas or just check in for the day. No matter where you may be making that phone call from, even if it’s a balcony overlooking a beach in Hawaii, it never gets any easier. While it can be difficult at times, you’ll get to travel the country, build relationships with co-workers and players alike, and create some unforgettable memories. How will you achieve an acceptable balance? Keep the coffee strong, your cell phone charged, and your schedule organized.