NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden (Director of Innovation @Nike Digital Sport

NetWorks Spotlight Interview with….Jason Mayden, Director of Innovation – Nike Digital Sport
By Tracey Savell Reavis

 

Jason Mayden Director of Innovation, Nike Digital Sports

Jason Mayden could talk about carbon fiber arch plates and laser etched tongue details all day. His goal, from the young age of 12, was to design sneakers, specifically Air Jordans. He chased his Nike dream with a laser-like focus, and landed a summer internship at Brand Jordan, while in his third year of design school.

But it was six years later, when the impossible dream, at least for a kid growing up on the Southside of Chicago, came true: He was named the lead designer on the new Jordan shoe. Drawing inspiration from the sport of fencing, from the propulsion of a Paralympic athlete, and from the legendary ball player himself, Jason created the Air Jordan 2009 with a design described as both conforming to the brand’s storied history, and demonstrating a fresh and forward-thinking approach. Since then, he’s spearheaded the design of signature shoes for Derek Jeter and Chris Paul.

More than just a former athlete – he turned down football scholarships to pursue a career as a designer – and more than just a creator – he considers himself an illustrator and graphic artist – Jason is also an innovator who can see the big picture for business. He just completed his Masters of Science at Stanford Graduate School of Business as a Sloan Fellow, where students are chosen based on their past accomplishments and their potential as future senior leaders. When Jason starts his new position on August 15th, one that was created specifically for him, there’s no doubt this is yet another chance for him to make an impression and to leave his unique footprint on the world of sport innovation.

So first question, what exactly will you be doing as the Director of Innovation at Nike Digital Sports?
[Laughing] Well, at Nike our core strength is the ability to innovate. This position is a way to implement technology into the sports world and to give the consumer a brand new experience. It’s a really fun, creative role, part design, part product development, and part business development.

And how did you find yourself on the receiving end of a newly created position?
I knew digital sports was a hot topic. And it was being in the environment at Stanford. It was a collaborative process, based on my interest and the company’s needs. I would say the process took the whole year. I basically went to class, and then this is what I would do 2 or 3 hours at night. This was my pet project. Then [this past] January I put together a presentation, and it morphed into the role that I now have.

It’s really about where the company is going, and where your core competencies and talents can fit in with that strategic vision.

You seem pretty proactive when it comes to your career. Would you say that has been a key to your success?
Yeah, ten thousand percent. But not even proactive, I would say I was curious. I pursued Nike because I learned at an early age that no one is going to come to your doorstep and give you a magic ticket. So I took the initiative. I remember someone telling me, Somebody has to design shoes. Why can’t it be you? And that stuck in my mind. Why can’t it be me? Why can’t I be that kid?

I asked for help early. I exposed myself to different conversations, different concepts. I had books that gave me a different perspective. I escaped through books. Reading Lord of the Flies, and Peter Pan gave me a chance to dream of a world outside of Chicago. That helped build my vision and that helped give me the confidence to take that first step.

What is it about sneakers that has captured your attention? What made you want to design shoes?
I’ve always loved shoes. When I was a kid, I had shoes that were literally un-wearable. I used to put duct tape on my shoes. So every time I design a shoe, regardless of how much it’s being sold for, I try to really pour my heart and soul  into it and give the kid more than just a piece of leather, but a story and value. Because I know there’s a kid out there, who was just like me who saved up their money, and this is their first pair of shoes, that really will make them feel confident and good about themselves, and I want them to take my shoes out of the box and put them on their feet and feel like they can do anything.

You consider yourself a designer, and yet you were interested in attending Stanford and pursuing an MBA?
I’m the type of person to turn my weakness into a strength. I applied, took my GMATs, and interviewed. But I don’t have an economics or finance background, and never worked as an analyst. And a lot of people said you’ll never get into business school being an artist. But I said, you know, creativity has purpose and a place in corporate America. I played it up as my strength. I said, “this is why I should be here”, because I’m completely different.  I knew this would be a chance for me to understand the conversations that were going on in [meeting] rooms and for me to contribute in my own unique way.

Michael Jordan at Press Event for 2009 Air Jordan Release

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I got was from my former big boss Michael Jordan. And he told me early on, when I was an intern, always under promise and over deliver.  And I live by that. I never over promise. I never try to sell someone on more than what I can do. I think being understated, being humble and being honest about your capabilities upfront then people start to build a trust and respect for your work and your work ethic. I live by that advice and I pass it on.

What advice would you give to people starting out about reaching their goals and achieving a seemingly impossible dream?
First thing, don’t tell yourself that it’s impossible. [Laughing] Tell yourself that it is going to take a lot of hard work and that it will be difficult. But with faith and the right team around you, nothing is impossible.

Dreaming is a free ticket to your final destination of where you want to be. I’m constantly daydreaming, about where I want to go in my life. I encourage myself; I’m constantly pouring positivity into my life.

And do everything you can to arm yourself with knowledge.  If you remove the notion of impossibility, be prayerful, and surround yourself with a positive group of people, the sky’s the limit.

What kind of career advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry, especially about the amount of work?
People look at hard work as if it is degrading or that it will take too long. I look at it from the framework of there’s heart work, h-e-a-r-t, where you have a passion and you’re going to do it anyway, and hard work, h-a-r-d, manual labor, where you’re doing it because you have to, because you need to take care of your family. I grew up watching my parents do hard work. They did what they needed to do to give us opportunities.  Now I’m in a position to do heart work, something that I love, a passion. And when it’s something you love, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes. You should be doing it because it makes you feel complete.

What does giving back mean to you and how do you support young people?
Giving back to me means giving time. I try to make myself available to as many people as possible. You can give money and resources, and that’s all necessary. But for me, in the type of world that I’m in, I try to spend time talking with people. And it means the world, because I had key people talk to me, and I never forgot it. Because everybody has gifts, whether developed or not. Sometime it takes just one person to let you know that they see it in you. So I try to be that one person for a lot of people.

If you weren’t designing shoes, what do you think you would be doing?
My other dream job besides designing the Jordan while working at Nike was to be in the movie industry, in special effects. And if that didn’t work out, probably an art professor, or coach. I just really love any way to interact with the young generation. At some point in my career, I want to go back and teach.

Get to Know Jason
Favorite Artists: Czech illustrator Alphonse Mucha and American concept artist Syd Mead

Favorite Clothing Designers: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs

Favorite Shoe Designers: Manolo Blahnik, Tinker Hatfield

On his nightstand: Warrior of the Light, by Paulo Coelho

Most influential book: Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

 

In his music library: Anything from Bjork, Joe Henderson, Miles Davis

Follow Jason on Twitter @JayMay_ChiCity and find out more about what he’s doing on his website www.megamayden.com

Follow NetWorks Sports Consulting on Twitter @NetWorks_Sports and sign up to receive the “Changing the Game” Newsletter today!

 

Let us know what you think of this NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden in the Comment section below!

 


NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden (Director of Innovation @Nike Digital Sport

NetWorks Spotlight Interview with….Jason Mayden, Director of Innovation – Nike Digital Sport
By Tracey Savell Reavis

Jason Mayden Director of Innovation, Nike Digital Sports

Jason Mayden could talk about carbon fiber arch plates and laser etched tongue details all day. His goal, from the young age of 12, was to design sneakers, specifically Air Jordans. He chased his Nike dream with a laser-like focus, and landed a summer internship at Brand Jordan, while in his third year of design school.

But it was six years later, when the impossible dream, at least for a kid growing up on the Southside of Chicago, came true: He was named the lead designer on the new Jordan shoe. Drawing inspiration from the sport of fencing, from the propulsion of a Paralympic athlete, and from the legendary ball player himself, Jason created the Air Jordan 2009 with a design described as both conforming to the brand’s storied history, and demonstrating a fresh and forward-thinking approach. Since then, he’s spearheaded the design of signature shoes for Derek Jeter and Chris Paul.

More than just a former athlete – he turned down football scholarships to pursue a career as a designer – and more than just a creator – he considers himself an illustrator and graphic artist – Jason is also an innovator who can see the big picture for business. He just completed his Masters of Science at Stanford Graduate School of Business as a Sloan Fellow, where students are chosen based on their past accomplishments and their potential as future senior leaders. When Jason starts his new position on August 15th, one that was created specifically for him, there’s no doubt this is yet another chance for him to make an impression and to leave his unique footprint on the world of sport innovation.

So first question, what exactly will you be doing as the Director of Innovation at Nike Digital Sports?
[Laughing] Well, at Nike our core strength is the ability to innovate. This position is a way to implement technology into the sports world and to give the consumer a brand new experience. It’s a really fun, creative role, part design, part product development, and part business development.

And how did you find yourself on the receiving end of a newly created position?
I knew digital sports was a hot topic. And it was being in the environment at Stanford. It was a collaborative process, based on my interest and the company’s needs. I would say the process took the whole year. I basically went to class, and then this is what I would do 2 or 3 hours at night. This was my pet project. Then [this past] January I put together a presentation, and it morphed into the role that I now have.

It’s really about where the company is going, and where your core competencies and talents can fit in with that strategic vision.

You seem pretty proactive when it comes to your career. Would you say that has been a key to your success?
Yeah, ten thousand percent. But not even proactive, I would say I was curious. I pursued Nike because I learned at an early age that no one is going to come to your doorstep and give you a magic ticket. So I took the initiative. I remember someone telling me, Somebody has to design shoes. Why can’t it be you? And that stuck in my mind. Why can’t it be me? Why can’t I be that kid?

I asked for help early. I exposed myself to different conversations, different concepts. I had books that gave me a different perspective. I escaped through books. Reading Lord of the Flies, and Peter Pan gave me a chance to dream of a world outside of Chicago. That helped build my vision and that helped give me the confidence to take that first step.

What is it about sneakers that has captured your attention? What made you want to design shoes?
I’ve always loved shoes. When I was a kid, I had shoes that were literally un-wearable. I used to put duct tape on my shoes. So every time I design a shoe, regardless of how much it’s being sold for, I try to really pour my heart and soul  into it and give the kid more than just a piece of leather, but a story and value. Because I know there’s a kid out there, who was just like me who saved up their money, and this is their first pair of shoes, that really will make them feel confident and good about themselves, and I want them to take my shoes out of the box and put them on their feet and feel like they can do anything.

You consider yourself a designer, and yet you were interested in attending Stanford and pursuing an MBA?
I’m the type of person to turn my weakness into a strength. I applied, took my GMATs, and interviewed. But I don’t have an economics or finance background, and never worked as an analyst. And a lot of people said you’ll never get into business school being an artist. But I said, you know, creativity has purpose and a place in corporate America. I played it up as my strength. I said, “this is why I should be here”, because I’m completely different.  I knew this would be a chance for me to understand the conversations that were going on in [meeting] rooms and for me to contribute in my own unique way.

Michael Jordan at Press Event for 2009 Air Jordan Release

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I got was from my former big boss Michael Jordan. And he told me early on, when I was an intern, always under promise and over deliver.  And I live by that. I never over promise. I never try to sell someone on more than what I can do. I think being understated, being humble and being honest about your capabilities upfront then people start to build a trust and respect for your work and your work ethic. I live by that advice and I pass it on.

What advice would you give to people starting out about reaching their goals and achieving a seemingly impossible dream?
First thing, don’t tell yourself that it’s impossible. [Laughing] Tell yourself that it is going to take a lot of hard work and that it will be difficult. But with faith and the right team around you, nothing is impossible.

Dreaming is a free ticket to your final destination of where you want to be. I’m constantly daydreaming, about where I want to go in my life. I encourage myself; I’m constantly pouring positivity into my life.

And do everything you can to arm yourself with knowledge.  If you remove the notion of impossibility, be prayerful, and surround yourself with a positive group of people, the sky’s the limit.

What kind of career advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry, especially about the amount of work?
People look at hard work as if it is degrading or that it will take too long. I look at it from the framework of there’s heart work, h-e-a-r-t, where you have a passion and you’re going to do it anyway, and hard work, h-a-r-d, manual labor, where you’re doing it because you have to, because you need to take care of your family. I grew up watching my parents do hard work. They did what they needed to do to give us opportunities.  Now I’m in a position to do heart work, something that I love, a passion. And when it’s something you love, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes. You should be doing it because it makes you feel complete.

What does giving back mean to you and how do you support young people?
Giving back to me means giving time. I try to make myself available to as many people as possible. You can give money and resources, and that’s all necessary. But for me, in the type of world that I’m in, I try to spend time talking with people. And it means the world, because I had key people talk to me, and I never forgot it. Because everybody has gifts, whether developed or not. Sometime it takes just one person to let you know that they see it in you. So I try to be that one person for a lot of people.

If you weren’t designing shoes, what do you think you would be doing?
My other dream job besides designing the Jordan while working at Nike was to be in the movie industry, in special effects. And if that didn’t work out, probably an art professor, or coach. I just really love any way to interact with the young generation. At some point in my career, I want to go back and teach.

Get to Know Jason
Favorite Artists: Czech illustrator Alphonse Mucha and American concept artist Syd Mead

Favorite Clothing Designers: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs

Favorite Shoe Designers: Manolo Blahnik, Tinker Hatfield

On his nightstand: Warrior of the Light, by Paulo Coelho

Most influential book: Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

In his music library: Anything from Bjork, Joe Henderson, Miles Davis

Follow Jason on Twitter @JayMay_ChiCity and find out more about what he’s doing on his website www.megamayden.com

Follow NetWorks Sports Consulting on Twitter @NetWorks_Sports and sign up to receive the “Changing the Game” Newsletter today!

 

Let us know what you think of this NetWorks Sports Spotlight Interview with Jason Mayden in the Comment section below!

 


NetWorks Rising Star – Vencent Kirkwood

NetWorks is committed to supporting young professionals looking to get their foot in the door in the sports industry.  Our team has received an extraordinary amount of support throughout our careers and are truly impressed with the generation of young leaders who are ready to help take the sports industry to all new heights.  If you know of any individuals like this, please let us know about them.  If you are in a position to hire or recommend these NetWorks Rising Stars, please contact us and we will put you in touch with them.  They are our future!

Vencent Kirkwood

 

Today’s NetWorks Rising Star is Vencent Kirkwood

Vence is someone who has a great understanding of what it takes to be successful in the sports industry.  He possesses strong leadership & communication skills and demonstrates a willingness to take on a plethora of responsibilities to help the organization be successful.  At this stage in his career, he has significant work experience that will be beneficial to any company interested in succeeding
–Angela Taylor, President – NetWorks Sports Consulting


Name: Vencent Kirkwood

College: Wayne State University

Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication with Minor in Public Relations.  Master of Arts in Sports Administration – conferred June 2011


Resume Available: Yes, upon request (send email request)

Tell us a little about your background.
I grew up playing sports in the suburbs of Detroit Michigan. I began my career in athletic administration as a volunteer manager for the Mens basketball team at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

What type of work experience have you had?
My experience working in sports started as a manager for the Wayne State basketball team while in undergraduate school. From there I went on to become a graduate assistant with the Women’s basketball team at Wayne State University while in graduate school. In working with Wayne State Women’s basketball I played a major role in implementing different marketing strategies on improving our fan attendance to a more residential student fan base. Some of my main responsibilities as a graduate assistant included: monitoring study table, classroom checks, and staying current with academic reports from professors. In the summer between my two years in graduate school, I moved to the nation’s capitol and interned as a game presentations intern with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. While working with the Washington Mystics as a game operations and new media intern, I had the opportunity to work in marketing, promotions, accounting and sales. In Washington, I was responsible for: game day operations, promotional events, and various marketing incentives. In addition, as the intern manager, I was responsible for managing ticket selling competitions and social media projects. Following my experience in Washington, I became the Group Events Seasonal Coordinator for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. While working with the Cavaliers, I was responsible for assisting in the planning, organizing, and execution of various aspects of special events at Quicken Loans Arena. In this role, I provided a high level of customer service to group leaders and members. Each one of these opportunities has taught me incomparable skills to one day be a great manager.

What type of job(s) are you seeking?
I am looking for a career in the field of sports that will be challenging and allow me to piece all of the skills that school, internships, and work experiences have given me and use the skills to help a sports organization reach its’ highest possible potential.

What is your greatest strength?
My greatest strength is my personality. I have a deep understanding of people and how to interact with people in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Networking is a skill that I have become very familiar with in college as well as in my adulthood. Networking is not only a key factor in landing a job but once you do land that job networking is what builds relationships with managers, interns, clients, season ticket holders, and even executives at higher levels. The ability to network and have a welcoming personality is a very important strength that must be honed in this great field of athletic administration. I possess that as well as experience in being able to articulate the benefits of an organization to a top athlete who is considering your team or your organization.

Tell us about a project that you completed successfully.
In 2010, I produced and co-directed the “Club 35″ documentary style video for the Wayne State University Athletic Department. The “Club 35” documentary style video highlights some of the most influential female student-athletes to play at Wayne State University. “Club 35″ is a celebration of Women in Athletics for 35 years at Wayne State University.

What experience (if any) do you have in the sports industry?

I have been a manager for the Wayne State University Men’s basketball team. I have experience as a graduate assistant with the Women’s basketball team at Wayne State University. I have experience as a game presentations intern with the Washington Mystics and also experience as a Group Events Seasonal Coordinator for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Aside from those great experiences:

Produced/Co-Directed- “Club 35” documentary style video on the Celebration of Women in Athletics for 35 years at Wayne State University

Coordinator- Wayne State University Basketball annual “Think Pink” event, which recognizes those who have suffered from breast cancer within the community.

Coordinator-Wayne State University’s 1st annual “Sock Drive”, which collects diapers for low-income families in the metro Detroit area.

Why do you want to work in the sports industry?
The best way to describe why I want to work in sports is passion. Passion is simply wanting to surround myself with a sport or an organization and becoming wrapped up in it. It is true, I want to always be around the competitiveness of sports, but it goes beyond watching the game and sitting in the seats. After all the school, internships, work experiences, and networking I have come to know that my passion now stems from getting others into the seats that I once used to want to sit in as a sports fan. The business side of sports is what drives me to continue to pursue a career in sports. I have a desire to help mold and structure an organization to be the best in performance on the field, court, arena as well as best performers in the business aspects of the game.


Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
My grandfather George W Young has had the greatest impact on my life. Although I have never met him I feel as though I have known him all my life. His life accomplishments inspire me everyday to be great.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years I would hope to be working in some aspect of sport administration. Not just working in sport but using my skill sets and abilities to have great impact on the lives of those around me and the organization I am a part of.

More specifically, my ultimate goal would be to take steps toward being a general manager/president of a professional sports organization. I believe this job involves everything I have learned in school, from people, and through experiences. Being a general manager/vice president of operations brings all the pieces of a sports organization together whether it be ticket sales and service, community relations, player relations, scouting, on court performance and creating a one of a kind organization. In this role I will be able to have a part in many aspects of the organization offering my knowledge and abilities where needed

Anything else we should know about you?

Throughout undergraduate school and graduate school I have been involved in several groups and organizations that include:

Spiritual Development Chair – Student African American Brotherhood (Wayne State University 2008-2009)

Vice-President – Mercy Faith Temple Youth Department (present)

Chair of Academic Affairs – Black Student Union (Wayne State University Undergrad 2007-2009)

Board Member – College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts Alumni Association (Wayne State University-present)

NABC (National Association of Black Coaches) – member

MBCA (Men’s Basketball Coaches Association) – member

PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) – member

Produced/Co-Directed – “Club 35” documentary style video on the Celebration of Women in Athletics for 35 years at Wayne State University

Coordinator – Wayne State University Basketball annual “Think Pink” which recognizes those who have suffered from breast cancer within the community.

Coordinator – Wayne State University’s 1st annual “Sock Drive” collects diapers for low-income families in the metro Detroit area.

My community service efforts are as follows: Scholars Together Learning Community, Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Faith Temple COGIC, Great Lakes Second Youth Department, Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Harper Woods Recreational Center


For more information about Vencent or to request a resume, please send an email to info@networkssports.com




NetWorks Spotlight Interview with Charles Davis

NetWorks Spotlight Interview withCharles Davis, Sports Analyst, Fox Sports & NFL Network

By Tracey Savell Reavis

Charles Davis

The voice you hear when Charles Davis calls football games on TV sounds equally energetic when you speak with him one-on-one. The 13-year veteran announcer has covered college football, basketball and baseball, the NFL, NBA, PGA, Arena Football and has worked on both radio and TV. And he’s just been partnered with Gus Johnson, as the two become the lead team for Fox Sports College Football games this coming season.

Charles grew up in the small town of New Paltz, New York, but his roots are anchored in Tennessee. Partly because he was born there, and partly because it’s where both of his parents are from, he’d always wanted to return to college in the Volunteer State. Back when he was eight-years old he saw Condredge Holloway, the first African American quarterback to start at an SEC school, playing in a University of Tennessee game, and knew from that moment exactly where he wanted to play football. After four years as defensive back for the Vols, Charles left Knoxville armed with an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a Masters in History.

Since football season hasn’t started yet, you can’t tune in to hear the sportscaster’s voice. But you can read the story of how he achieved success, in his own words. It will have to do for now, while we all wait for the first Saturday in September.

In your career, you’ve had a number of different sports-related jobs. How did you end up in broadcasting?
I found out a friend told a TV exec that he thought I’d be good on TV. I never knew he’d had this conversation. Then two years later the TV exec called me, asked me to try out and I got my first assignment as an analyst with Fox Sports South.

Do you remember the first game you covered, and what the experience like?
Yes, it was August 1997, Memphis State at Mississippi State. I may have been awful, but I remember I had a lot of fun and that I thought I wanted to do more of it. Now I’m working on the craft.

What was the transition like for you going from playing college sports to not being able to play as a professional athlete?
My goal was always to be in the NFL. Fortunately to prepare for life after football, I did have a Plan B. I started grad school in my red-shirt year. Then I thought about politics, I thought about law school. But I knew I wanted to stay in sports. Sports has always had its tug on me.

What would you say to people who think it’s a given that a former athlete would be able to get a job in sports broadcasting?
Yeah, I say it takes 20 years to become an overnight success. It’s like that with actors. Someone will have a breakout movie and people will think they are new and say, ‘Where did they come from?’ When they’ve been there all the time, putting in
10, 15 years, getting better. And it happens not just in movies, but in all walks of life. If it were a given, I would have started right after school. I fought my you-know-what off to prove that I am capable. I’d say very few people will outwork me. And I’ve never taken it for granted that I’ve arrived.

Can you give us an idea how much preparation and work you put into a game week? Or is it just a 3-hour game broadcast and you’re done?
Wouldn’t that be nice? I don’t typically count the number of hours I prepare, but it depends on the game. I know the teams, but there’s extensive research. The number one thing is to know the players’ names and numbers. And I look at game tape to watch for a teams’ strength, for nuances, and to learn things about players. We’re looking to tell interesting stories. We’re ‘Taking off the helmet’ figuratively of the players, to tell you something different.

What kind of career advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry?
I’d say be prepared. Everyone always wants the answer that eliminates the hard work. But it’s the work that keeps you there. And probably not to take no for an answer. If one company doesn’t want you, try others. Go through the stages – anger, grief – then move on. Opportunity could be at the supermarket, or on the seat next to you on a plane. It could be anywhere. If something is your passion, figure out how to make it happen. There are other ways to get through, get over and get by it. Be a fighter.

Let’s talk about your new assignment and partner at FOX Sports. Are you friends with Gus Johnson, and are you looking forward to working with him?
No, we’ve never met. But we’ve already spoken on the phone a little before the announcement and chatted after as well. It is exciting and I am looking forward to it.

Do you think this is historic or worth mentioning the pairing of two African-American broadcasters calling a Division I College Football game?
I think it would be disingenuous not to notice. But it’s not the principle focus. We’ve both worked hard to get to where we are, and we’ve gotten there because we’ve merited it. The bottom line is it’s the work.

Do you think there will ever be a College Football playoff system with a championship game?
I don’t know. I don’t think it would necessarily be good or bad. I think the bowl experience is great for many kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Each one that I went to was distinctive. I don’t think you can put bowl games into a playoff system. I’d say if we ever go with a championship game, to know what you’re giving up – it could change everything.

Get to Know Charles

Sport he’d love to broadcast but hasn’t yet: Hockey

Favorite sport after football: Basketball

On his nightstand: The latest Harlan Coben thriller

All-time favorite film: Say Anything

Most influential book: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

In his music library: Old school, sounds of Motown

Tune in to FOX and the NFL Network as Charles offers his expert analysis on college football and the NFL.

Follow Charles on Twitter @CFD22 and find out more about him at www.charlesdavissports.com


NetWorks Spotlight Interview with Reneé Brown

NetWorks Spotlight Interview withReneé Brown, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, WNBA

By Tracey Savell Reavis

Renee Brown announces players selected in the 2011 WNBA Draft in April (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser)

The calendar indicates that the WNBA season officially spans approximately 4 months. The work, however, especially for Reneé Brown, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations for the league, is in reality more of a 12-month, all-inclusive, lifestyle. So it helps that Reneé, a Henderson, Nevada native, a former UNLV player, an ex-college basketball coach, and a former US Olympic team assistant coach, loves her job.

As Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, Reneé directs scouting for all players and manages personnel policies and programs.  She joined the WNBA in September 1996, right after winning a Gold Medal at the Centennial Olympic Games as an assistant coach of the US Women’s Basketball team.

We caught up with Reneé, during a late lunch hour, from her New York office, talking everything WNBA, dishing success tips for women looking to get into the sports industry and letting on that’s she’s a really big fan of a certain ‘Funny Girl.’

The league has just announced a new president, Laurel Richie, and is about to tip off Season 15.  What can you tell us about the expectations for this season?
I think things will go well. Val [Ackerman] and Donna [Orender] worked hard so that we are going in the right direction. With Laurel, I think we have a chance to take things to another level. The game is in good shape. We have great players, who are fine citizens. The games are full of versatility, precision and great execution. We are 15 years young and I think we’ll do great.

WNBA.com recently ran a piece when the writer listed 15 things he was looking forward to in the WNBA this year. How would you finish this sentence: The thing I’m looking forward to in the WNBA’s 15th season is ___________.
The competition. There’s not a team out there that can take a night off. Everyone has to come ready to play. There’s a lot of parity in the league and the competition is going to be great.

What are you most proud of in your role at the league?
Probably that if any of our players has an issue, that they know they can call me, and I will help them to the best of my ability. That I have a good, working relationship with the players.

What challenges do you face in your work?
I can’t think of any challenges. When you have a passion for what you do, you wake up every day, ready to go. I’m grateful to be able to do this. The WNBA has given me an opportunity of a lifetime and I’m fortunate to be a part of it.

When you look back over the past 15 seasons, what stands out as your most cherished moment?
Oh, wow, there are so many. I’d have to say, the Opening Tip-Off. The very first game, it was the Liberty vs. the Sparks. I just remember looking at Val [Ackerman] and we both were like we couldn’t believe, after all the work, it was finally happening. And we cried. I’ll never forget it.

It’s no surprise there are not many African American women in decision-making positions within the sports industry. Do you see that improving?
I think it’s getting better. I think women of color have to raise their hands and say, this is what I want to do, then go after it. If you’ve got the knowledge, put yourself out there. Gone are the days where you wait for someone to notice your talents. You have to step up and make it happen.

Your career has been mostly teaching and leadership roles. Has there been the secret to your success, examples that you could pass on?
It starts with confidence. You have to have confidence in yourself, know what you want and be willing to do the hard work to get it. Dawn Staley used to say, you have to do the things you don’t want to do to get to where you want to be.

I believe it’s important to have mentors. I stand on a lot of people’s shoulders. Find a mentor who is willing to tell you the truth, and who’s willing to help you as you develop.

And in my career, I learned something at every step along the way. It is important when you enter any field to learn as much as you can. Learn the business side. Open yourself up to learning about every area. Learn as much as you can. Be hungry.

Are you comfortable being labeled a role model?
It is the ultimate compliment. I embrace being a teacher. I take it very seriously. I believe each one should teach one, and that it is my responsibility to give back.

What do you think will be the legacy of the WNBA?
That young girls can have their dream of playing professional basketball, with elite players, here in their own home. Before young girls would say, ‘I want to be like Mike, or Magic, or Larry.’ And they were forced to play overseas.

Now they can say, ‘I want to be like Diana Taurasi’ Now they have the same opportunity as the men. They have female role models. Knowing that they’ve been watching since they were 5, or 6, or 7, and that they can have their dreams come true, to play the game they love, at home, in front of their family and friends, just makes me so happy. It warms my heart.

Get to Know Reneé

In her music library: Barbra Streisand; Gospel tunes

On her nightstand: The poetry of Maya Angelou

In her Netflix queue: Black and White classics – especially films starring Katharine Hepburn or Dorothy Dandridge

Her top travel destination: Anywhere in Italy

Workout: The elliptical machine

Favorite Quote: Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding

Find out more about the WNBA at www.wnba.com