Erin has worked in sports for more than 16 years with organizations, including the Atlanta Braves, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the San Diego Padres in the areas of guest services and fan experiences. In January, she was named the Senior Vice President, Operations & Development – North America for MoonShot, a London-based company that works with professional sports teams and venues on fan and guest experiences through staff engagement programs.
“I was always inspired by the life lessons and opportunities sports can create. I still am inspired by the diversity that the world of sports attracts at every level, and that you can apply those lessons to life,” said Erin.
Erin’s father, Jerry, was her coach and a high school official for several years. It was then she saw the impact that sports can have on people's lives. She was inspired to make an impact by working in sports to bring people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs together, to help people enjoy an experience despite personal problems they were going through, and to show how teamwork can bring people together.
Her proudest professional moment was creating the Exceptional Fan Program for the Atlanta Braves, which expanded accessibility and inclusion for all fans to attend games. She wanted to create an environment at every event that families could feel comfortable attending.
“After meeting the founder of KultureCity, a nonprofit focusing on inclusion initiatives, I partnered with them to make Petco Park in San Diego the first sensory-inclusive ballpark on the west coast, and then, inspired by the airline industry, I created the first "Practice Day" at any sports venue designed specifically for families with Autism to experience the ballpark before a game day,” said Erin. “Opening Truist Park in Atlanta was a significant milestone in my career, and while at the San Diego Padres, I am proud to have expanded the childcare services offered to players to the front office members with the goal of recruiting and retaining female executives.”
Her advice to Marian students or alumnae interested in working in the sports industry is, “Get connected with others and reach out for advice. Everyone has a different path, but if you are willing to learn something from every experience you have, then you will be able to narrow down the area you want to focus on pursuing.”
Jessica Deneweth Zendler, Ph.D. ’04 took a different path in the sports industry as a biomechanist, engineer and researcher to create human performance technology. She discovered sports biomechanics when injuries sidelined her soccer career at Washington University in St. Louis where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical/Medical Engineering. Jess would go on to earn her Master’s Degree in Kinesiology and Mechanical Engineering at Michigan where she would also earn her Doctorate in Philosophy, Kinesiology and Mechanical Engineering. This allowed her to develop tools to help clinicians better prevent and treat injuries.
Jess is currently a sport and fitness technology/biomechanics consultant for Tacoma, Washington-based Rimkus, and is an Adjunct Search Assistant Professor at the School of Kinesiology at Michigan. She is also a member of the NBA Sport Science Committee which was formed in 2015 to promote research into player health and well-being. She is the Program Manager NBPA-NBA Wearable Device Program.
Jess began her career at Michigan’s Human Performance Innovation Lab while she worked toward her doctorate. She continued her training at UofM as a Senior Research Engineer and then an Assistant Research Scientist prior to moving to the Pacific Northwest where she has employed her area of expertise in biomechanics in the area of sports performance.
Always ready to share her expertise Jess said, “I have an open-door policy with anyone who reaches out. I’m always available to anyone who wants advice or mentorship on how to work in sports.” Changes in the sports world happen quickly, to stay current Jess follows sports media, like the Sports Business Journal’s sports tech newsletter and Axios Sports; she listens to podcasts; and keeps up with her contacts through LinkedIn.
Her words of wisdom for students and alumnae? “There's a lot of ups and downs in this career path and some significant grind, so it's important to keep following your goals even when it's challenging”. She continued, “And finally, at the end of the day it's just people trying to do their jobs, have fun, and get home to their family. I think when we forget we are all just people trying to do our best is when we lose sight of what's most important.”
Growing up a competitive gymnast, Lindsey Pyc Elizondo ’04 knew firsthand the risks that came with being an athlete. Having suffered injuries and knowing the laborious process of rehabilitation to get her body back to competition shape, inspired her to seek out a career in physical therapy.
“There are really amazing resources in today’s world of technology that truly put information at your fingertips instantly,” said Lindsey. “In whatever discipline you are working, there are countless seminars, conferences, webinars, podcasts, blogs, and online and in-person trainings. These are great ways to not only stay on top of the latest literature and developments but also a great way to network…some of the best information and ideas have come from brainstorming sessions with colleagues around the world.”
Lindsey’s career has her traveling the world, working with professional athletes. Her most significant is working with professional tennis players on Center Court at Wimbledon in England. She currently works for the Orlando Magic as an athletic trainer/ physical therapist. She understands that in addition to her own passion for healing, it is the support she has received along the way from professionals in the industry that she finds invaluable for her career, especially as a female trainer.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of several people, both men and women, along the way,” said Lindsey. “So many people opened doors and took a chance on me as a female before females were mainstream in professional sports. I’ve always tried to honor that and keep those doors open for the girls coming after me.”
She finds mentorship critical for anyone, but especially young women, interested in working in sports. Lindsey has been exposed to all the offerings and career opportunities in sports, something she shares with young women who are looking for a pathway that goes far beyond the traditional NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL. She has seen a growth of opportunities in collegiate athletics that exceed even some of those available at the professional teams.
“There are also new expansion leagues and a huge emergence (finally!) of more mainstream women’s sports,” said Lindsey. “These are incredible opportunities and, especially on the women’s side, there is a growing support system to help women balance careers and family and elevate the level of women working in sports. Personally, I’ve had the privilege of working in professional female athletics on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour - this organization has been at the forefront of women in sports since the 1970s and has consistently pushed to open doors for women.”
She believes patience, perseverance, integrity, and initiative are qualities crucial for success in the sports world, especially for women. She stresses that goal setting and putting in the time are key to patience. Staying true to oneself is an important part of integrity. Sports can be challenging to break into, but persevering and putting in extra work help get you to where you want to go. She reminds anyone interested, that sports is a grueling career path with many long road trips, and missed events with family and friends. Having a good support system who understands the grind, is important. Her advice to any Marian student or alumnae interested working in sports:
“Working in sports isn’t always as glamorous as it seems, but if you find an area you enjoy, dive in because it can be extremely rewarding. I’ve been able to see the world, meet amazing people, and made lifelong friends while doing a job I absolutely love.”
From a young age, Lauren Robinson Barsamian ’04 loved playing sports and was motivated by the “team mentality” of working alongside her swim teammates. She has taken her love of team sports and competition through her 15-year career in sports sales and marketing. She is currently the Director of Sports Brand Solutions at The Walt Disney Company, ESPN in New York City.
During her career, she has led a variety of large-scale events, including College GameDay, The ESPYs, The ESPYS, ESPN's Super Bowl events, College Basketball events, and many more. In 2014, when the College Football Playoff (CFP) replaced the Bowl Championship Series, ultimately evolutionizing the postseason for College Football, she helped to successfully launch its official sponsorship program while also planning and executing multiple events surrounding the games.
“These sponsorships and events have changed the way that the sport of college football is now consumed, watched and experienced throughout the country on an annual basis,” said Lauren.
The Michigan State graduate is a proponent of mentoring women aspiring to work in sports. Her first piece of advice is to “level-set their expectations’’. She believes there is a misconception of sports being glamorous, which is mostly a product of the team of hundreds of people who work behind the scenes working non-stop to create these sporting events successfully.
“It is time spent on the weekends, traveling over holidays, long hours in the office, long hours on-site, troubleshooting weather complications, the list goes on,” said Lauren. “The ability to physically see the end product, though, by giving fans opportunities of a lifetime and know how much work went into it, is simply one of the best feelings in the world. It might not compete with the "winning a championship" feeling, but in reality, you're winning a championship of your own with your team, learning, growing and creating.”
She stays up-to-date with the latest trends in sports in two ways, the business side and the actual sports themselves. Working in digital media requires 24-hour content, which can be overwhelming. She relies on trade publications to navigate new technologies and ideas, and looks to key influencers to get a feel on the pulse of what people are saying about a variety of sports topics globally.
Qualities she finds have been key to her success in the sports industry include hard work, confidence, and having a solution-oriented mindset. Additionally, relationship building and fostering those relationships is crucial.
“This business is vast but small, meaning you start to grow with your colleagues across the country whether you're at a league, a team, a media company, or a stadium,” said Lauren. “Everyone is working towards a similar end goal. You will stand out if you are able to develop your skill set while also embracing the team that you work with. Listen. Observe. Learn. Female or not, you have a voice, find it, use it, and then make sure you become the person whose call will be answered.”