Imagine being in a (Zoom) room with some of the most successful and influential sports management professionals, getting to absorb the knowledge and insights they have to share. That’s exactly what the audience experienced at the upper school Nueva Sports Management Club’s first-ever conference, “Sports in 2021: An Inside View.” The impressive line-up of speakers covered topics including sports marketing partnerships, the design and construction of the Chase Center, profitability and the rise of Esports, competing in the Olympics, and leading through the challenges of COVID.
The speakers were:
- Rob DeAngelis – Head of global sales and partnerships at Creative Artists Agency
- Kate Johnson – Director and head of global sports and entertainment marketing partnerships, content, and media at Google and Olympic silver medal-winning rower
- Brandon Schneider – Chief revenue officer and incoming president and COO for the Golden State Warriors
Led by junior Coby W., the Nueva Sports Management Club was founded this year in response to the way sports have had to shift during this pandemic.
“When we were starting up school again, there were no sports in the world,” Coby said “Sports are a big factor, not just in so many of my friendships, but in general.They bring people together and provide an opportunity to connect.”
The club met four times in the fall to discuss topics including profitability in sports, changes to the sports industry and the impact of COVID, and viewership decline in certain sports over the past year.
The idea for this conference—organized by Coby and fellow junior Colin S.—was born out of those conversations.
“It is really hard to get folks to join a Zoom meeting but whenever you join, you always benefit from the experience,” Coby said. “I thought that if we combined all of the effort we were putting into the regular club meetings and made a conference, with really good speakers, it might incentivize people to join.”
Colin added, “I knew ticket sales, fans, and just overall activity in professional sports were being crushed because of limited in-person attendance but I was interested in hearing stories from speakers who are actively involved in the sports world and could speak about their experiences first-hand.”
To bring in the caliber of speakers they were seeking, Coby and Colin sent invitations to more than 15 professionals in the sports industry, and they were thrilled when Rob, Kate, and Brandon agreed to join the call. Coby and Colin recognized that in order to create an event with a broad appeal, the questions and stories they showcased would need to be accessible to their audience.
Coby and Colin both shared that the event was a success.
“Although much of the conference was focused around the actual impacts of the pandemic on their industry, we wanted to broaden these conversations to lessons learned and advice for high school students,” Colin explained. “We wanted to make the conversation more personal and engaging for our audience, and we feel the event met that goal.”
One attendee shared, “It was so interesting to hear from three people who have different roles in sports. I learned new things about the behind-the-scenes work and how decisions are made. How cool was it that Kate spoke to us on the same day that her team at Google announced an historic partnership with the WNBA?”
Towards the end of each interview, Coby and Colin asked each guest the question, “Do you have any advice for high school students?”
When asked by Coby and Colin what advice they’d share with high school students, the guests imparted some important perspective for our Nuevans.
“Ask a lot of questions, be humble, and stay curious,” Kate said.
Brandon shared that his first job in sports came as the result of a conversation he had with the father of an old friend.
“Being nice to people is so important,” he said. “[NBA Hall of Famer] Jerry West used to also tell me, ‘If you find something you love, you will never work a day in your life.’”
“One main takeaway that stood out to me was when Rob said, ‘Embrace the feeling of being uncomfortable,’” Colin shared. “He meant that we should get out of our comfort zones and try new things.”
One throughline that all of the speakers homed in on was the value and importance of in-person experiences across all aspects of sports—from the business end to the fan experience.
“After an entire year of Zoom calls, isolation, and COVID, where the general feeling has been, ‘This is good enough’ or ‘We are getting by,’ hearing Rob, Kate, and Brandon talk about the power of human connection brought me back to reality,” Coby shared. “Biologically, humans should be communicating and interacting with each other in person—building partnerships, building friendships. Their words were a reminder of the power of human connection.”
Given how well the conference went, Coby and Colin are looking toward the future, as they hope to organize a second event.
“We are looking to be ambitious,” said Coby. “Throughout the process, we did not know who would agree to speak at the event. We remain in contact with a large number of people and hope to have another event scheduled soon.”