November 20 was my last day as an assistant media relations director at San Diego State, as I started a career as a marketing and communications specialist for The Bishop’s School, a private 6-12 school in nearby La Jolla. Because they’re wonderful, Katie and Olivia have graciously allowed me to remain a part of the S&S staff.
Working in sports was all I ever wanted to do.
When I was little, my dad had season tickets to the New Jersey Devils and I’d make him quiz me on the numbers of the players, and I’d reply with who wore that number. No. 21? My all-time favorite Randy McKay. No. 23? Turner Stevenson. No. 22? Claude Lemieux. We’d go on like that for the entirety of the 45-minute drive to the Meadowlands from the sleepy suburb in which I was raised. When I was in high school, I realized that I could combine two of the things I loved most in the world, writing and hockey, into a career. You mean I could spend all day being around hockey and learning about people and telling their stories? Count me in. I even chose my college based off of that; Buffalo had professional franchises and was in close proximity to a number of other teams. In my sophomore year, I began my career in sports as an intern with the Buffalo Sabres, and the rest is history.
In 2015, I moved to San Diego with every intention of continuing my career in sports, and I did. For almost two-and-a-half years, I worked at San Diego State with teams who became like family, taught students who, I’d like to think, learned a lot, and came away with a better understanding of what makes a good public relations professional.
Working as closely as I did with the student-athletes helped me uncover my true passion: telling stories. What I loved most about being an SID was learning about and promoting the student-athletes I covered. My third year at SDSU, I took over the student intern program and there were a few students that came into my office on an almost daily basis. I treasured the relationships that I made with those young men and women. I loved mentoring them, helping them discover what they wanted to do once they got into the “real world”, teaching them about what it takes to be a good public relations professional and providing them the support they needed (and occasionally a place to nap) when college life got too hard. I cherished those moments.
Yet one day, while updating my LinkedIn profile (like the good former CoSIDA Job Seekers Committee vice chair I was), I came across the job posting for The Bishop’s School, an independent Episcopal school for grades 6-12 in nearby La Jolla, one of the best private schools in the country, working in marketing and communications with a focus on social media and video. I knew I had to apply; the ability to tell the stories of the students in a totally unique setting drew me in. And within two weeks, I had applied, interviewed, was offered and accepted the position.
My last day at SDSU, I went to women’s basketball practice and at the end of the session, was called into the huddle where I told the team that I was leaving to work across town, and that today was my last day. I wanted to tell them how proud I was of them, how I was honored to be welcomed into the family, to feel like I had found my true calling my becoming close to them through long bus rides in California and cross-country trips and hours spent in airports. But instead, I just got choked up, and the team, the 17 young women who I loved to highlight and boast to really anyone who would listen, enveloped me in a group hug. When we pulled away, a few individually approached me with tears in their eyes to wish me luck.
So, how could I leave sports?
For me, it was not easy. It was my life. It factored into every major decision I had ever made, from where I wanted to live (as close to campus as possible for when you’re leaving at 1:30 a.m.), to what phone I had (the one with the best camera, please), to my wardrobe (comfy heels all the way for when you’re running across a football field). I thrived on the adrenaline of a last-second shot, or that perfect video of a football player stretching his arm into the endzone for the touchdown.
But that women’s basketball team, and those students whom I had mentored, enlightened me. They helped me realize that I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to tell stories more than I wanted to work in sports. I will always be a huge sports fan. I’ll continue to be a diehard hockey fan, and will most likely still score baseball games, and will definitely flip to softball or women’s basketball when it comes on TV.
Yet, it wasn’t working in sports that I loved so much; it was the thrill that came with making a difference in the student-athletes’ lives, of helping them reach a goal off the field that they might have thought was unattainable.
The moral of the story is that, sometimes, you have to dig deep to uncover your true purpose and even then, it may illuminate when you least expect it. I stayed open to what the universe handed me and when the time came, I was ready to receive its message with an open heart. Maybe I’ll stay in school public relations forever. Maybe I’ll return to sports. Maybe I’ll get involved in athletics at my new school. But either way, I know now what my calling is, and I’m ready to ride that wherever it takes me.