APU Business Careers Careers & Learning Everyday Scholar Podcast Sports

Women in Sports: Charting a Path to New Heights

Dr. James ReeseFaculty Member, Practicum Coordinator & Community Relations,  Sports Management & Esports and
Amanda Windsor-White, President of Rugby ATL ; APU alumna

What’s a career in the major leagues like? How welcome are women, really? And, when they get there, how far can they go? APU’s Dr. Jim Reese talks to APU alumna and Rugby ATL president, Amanda Windsor-White, who answers all these questions, and more.

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Jim Reese: Hello everyone, I’m Jim Reese, Coordinator of Internships and Community Relations for the Sports Management and eSports program at APU. This is the second of two podcasts in our series, Women in Sports: Charting A Path. I’m really excited to introduce you to a former student, Amanda Windsor White, president of Rugby ATL. Good afternoon, Amanda.

Amanda White: Hello, Dr. Reese.

Jim Reese: How are you?

Amanda White: Doing well, thank you.

Jim Reese: You have come a long way since Athens, Ohio. Congratulations on all the success.

Amanda White: Thank you.

Jim Reese: And it’s great to see you again.

Amanda White: Likewise.

Jim Reese: For our listeners, would you be kind enough to share a little bit about your education, work experience, and a little bit about Rugby ATL, and what your responsibilities are there?

Amanda White: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I graduated from The Ohio University in 2004 as a sports management major. I moved to Atlanta in 2005, and that was after three unpaid internships in sports. And when I moved to Atlanta in 2005, I found it challenging to land a permanent role in sports. So, I took a role with a trade show company working on events, because, of course, transferable skills really matter. I decided to pursue my dream of getting a master’s, an MBA, earned that at Emory University Goizueta Business School where I went to school while working at Endeavor from 2016 to 2018, and I knew that I really, really wanted to pivot to the brand side.

So, once I was finished with business school, I decided I was going to have a very targeted search. Ultimately, found a home at the Coca-Cola company, and a permanent role on their sports marketing team in North America, working on motorsports. Coca-Cola restructures every few years, and I was, unfortunately, caught up in one of those.

But, all things for a reason, because shortly thereafter, I found my home here at Rugby ATL, running business operations for the organization. That includes everything that happens off the pitch, so operations, sales, business development, HR, marketing, social media—essentially, every business function within a professional sports organization rolls up to me.

Jim Reese: Wow. What a path. I remember those conversations when you were thinking about going back to grad school. So it’s really exciting to see what you’re doing now. Would you share a little bit about Rugby ATL for our listeners that might not be familiar with Major League Rugby?

Amanda White: Major League Rugby currently has 13 teams all over the United States. The 14th team is coming online in Miami. We play a 16-match season between the middle of February to the middle of June.

Jim Reese: Excellent. There’s one thing when I looked, I did a little bit of research on not just Rugby ATL, but Major League Rugby, the thing that jumped out with the locations of the teams was the incredible amount of travel money that you must spend. I can only imagine how coordinating all that and how expensive that might be.

Amanda White: Yeah, it’s not cheap, that’s for sure. Certainly would get even easier with additional league sponsors coming on. So American Airlines is currently the airline partner of the league, but there’s still plenty of coordination and logistics that go along with getting a team from A to B because we do fly commercial comparison to an NFL team that may have their own plane.

Dr. Jim Reese: And as more teams join the league that will help restructure divisions and conferences and all that kind stuff, which will really help quite a bit. So this is a kind of delicate question, so I’m going to approach this gently. In your opinion, has being a woman hindered your path in any way? And if so, how did you make your way through that?

Amanda White: Honestly, the answer to that is no. When I was coming up through the sports industry, there were certainly far fewer women than leadership roles. And even now, it’s really important for women to have allies as they rise in the ranks. And I’ve had incredible mentors, like yourself. I’ve been very fortunate from an education standpoint. I’ve been able to check the boxes on working on the agency side, brand-side, and now the team side. I would say that you might even get an extra look, because you are in fact a woman, because you might be in a sea of men interviewing for the same position or going for the same project. So no, I would say it absolutely has not hindered my path whatsoever. If anything, it may have been an advantage.

Jim Reese: That is actually very refreshing to hear really, because that’s not always the case. So I’m very happy to hear that. You mentioned earlier about doing three unpaid internships, and it just reminds me of when I was with the Broncos and that little thing at the bottom of the job description that says, and other duties as assigned, unloading tractor trailers and painting the bottom of the stadium and all that other stuff that comes along with paying your dues. Is there anything you can share for the students that are listening about how to stay positive and maybe see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re going through that grind?

Amanda White: Well, here’s what I’ll say about that. And you’re right, the three unpaid internships, it was a very small NASCAR track west of Cleveland. It was actually working in the Ohio University athletic department in various areas. And then it was also working for an ESPN high school football conference that was, I guess the game was ultimately broadcast on ESPN. But it doesn’t matter how far you go in sports, you could decide two years in, it’s not for you. Could be 10 years in, could be nearly 20 years in like myself, that sort of, we’ll just use the word, the grunt work, it never stops. It never stops.

I was at an event, I was honored as a trailblazer as woman in sport here in Atlanta. The CEO and the president of the Atlanta Dream was there, the CEO of the College Football Hall of Fame was there, and we were all sort of commiserating around, that stuff never stops the, they’re like, “We’re still stuffing gift bags, we’re still hauling signage.” I personally, without exaggeration, was helping load the equipment truck last season and I would drive it over to the stadium on game days, because we had people that didn’t show up or we had young workers that weren’t old enough to drive it yet. So I think it’s just part of the fabric of sports, and as fans looking in, it seems very sexy and very exciting and it is, and we get to do some incredible things, but that sort of labor, a lot of people just don’t see it from the outside. And even at this point, this stage in my career, we’re still doing it.

Jim Reese: Exactly. And you’re right, it never ends. And I’m not sure which leadership style that you subscribe to, but obviously it’s always a combination of a few, but I’m a big fan of servant leadership. Just roll up your sleeves and get down there and do what needs to be done to get the job done that that’s what your bosses want to see. They don’t want to see whining or complaining, it’s like, we’ve got a task to do, let’s go ahead and knock it out. But I got to tell you though, loading the truck and then driving it, I think that’s what you call something coming full circle.

Amanda White: You’re absolutely right. But I fall in the same category, the servant leadership.

Jim Reese: Good. In my experience, it really motivates people to see that the folks that are either leading or managing aren’t afraid to get down there into the trenches with them and help get things done. So we’re really trying to focus with this series, especially focusing on women, we’re really trying to get more women interested, not just in our program, but in sports, period. Working in sports. Is there any advice that you would have for women out there that are working on their degrees in sports management about things that they could do to separate themselves from the competition?

Amanda White: Yes. I think I’ll answer this question two ways. First is, I remember when I was coming out of Ohio University, I’m originally from the Cleveland area and IMG was born in Cleveland. And so all I wanted to do was work at IMG, just that was like the North Star. And so for a long time I applied for jobs there, internships there, and I didn’t get a job there right away for multiple years. So even though it didn’t come right away, never lose sight of what your ultimate goal is because you can always get there if you’re developing transferable skills. But also don’t hesitate to go to the small clubs, the small teams, the small agencies, because you are given so much responsibility at those organizations.

That’s what it was like when I went to the NASCAR weekly series, which is the bottom series of NASCAR and I learned so much there. Right now, Rugby ATL is a niche sports startup, but directly prior to this, I was at the Coca-Cola company where I had a box and my box was working on motorsports and it was a very specific way of doing things versus you come to a smaller organization, you wear a lot of hats, you were a lot of different people and no two days are of the same. So what I would tell young professionals is that don’t be afraid to go for the smaller opportunities, even though they may not be as shiny and as exciting, both of which will be very valuable experiences.

Jim Reese: I forget when I pick these little cliches up, if this is one I shared with you several decades ago or if I picked it up along the way, but one of my mentors at some point said that sometimes you have to do something to realize you don’t want to do it. And what you had just explained, Amanda, is that when you touch all those different areas, that’s how you figure out where your passion is. And so I think that is fantastic advice, I really do. Okay, so million-dollar question, what’s next for Amanda? What’s your ultimate career goal? Where would you like to go from here and anything else you would like to share about?

Amanda White: I really wanted to check the boxes on agency, brand and team, so I’m quite pleased with how the path has taken me here. When I think about what’s next, I don’t know. I don’t know what sort of role might be next, but what I can tell you is that my husband and I really want to live overseas. So rugby is in fact a global game. It’s possible that a rugby team in France or a team in Italy, I don’t know, or Germany may need a new leader. I don’t know. I’m still an unconventional candidate for rugby teams because I did not have prior rugby experience. I certainly had worked on a multitude of other sports and entertainment properties and fashion and music and culinary before coming here, so it gave me a different perspective. So I would say, ultimately, the goal is to get overseas somewhere, but I can’t speak to that timeline. I have no idea what I would be doing, but that bug to work outside of this country very much exists.

Jim Reese: That’s really exciting that you have so many possibilities. Mine is the Olympics. I’m hoping to be able to do some work in LA in ’26, so that would be a big check mark for me as far as my career. So that’s really the only thing left that I had on the career bucket list.

Amanda White: That would be very exciting.

Jim Reese: It would be, because as you know, having experience that you can bring into the classroom, to me there’s nothing like that. You’re not just teaching from a textbook, you’re bringing, you’re sharing, oh my gosh, you had to listen to all my stories I don’t know how many times, but it’s those mistakes and those successes that you share that people can learn from and you can’t find that stuff in the books. And so that’s why, like you said earlier about how the grunt work never stops. Well, I don’t think the volunteer work and the building your resume ever stops either in our field, because you can always learn more. In my case, I share that with students.

Amanda White: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And I think you’re right, there is so much you learn from a textbook, but hearing firsthand from someone with experience like yourself or guest speakers that you have come in is completely invaluable, they’ll tell you all the things that aren’t necessarily in their textbooks. I had someone on my team this year that he had gone through the training program at the Atlanta Braves and he came here and did a really incredible job, but he kind of realized that his heart wasn’t in it. It wasn’t in sports. I mean, part of it could be the fact that you don’t make a lot of money for a long time, maybe ever.

You don’t make a lot of money and you work a lot of hours and that can be really challenging for your family or your friends, maybe they just don’t understand 100% why you can’t be there or why you work so late, you work such long hours, you’re not paid enough. You do it because you love it, whether it’s what’s happening on the field or the court or the track or maybe you just love sports business. I love sports business. For me, it’s less about watching the game. I love going to Atlanta Hawks game and I watch a little of the game, but I’m also looking around at the sponsor signage and I want to hear what the fans are saying out at the concession stands. And I want to understand why those brands invested in that specific team. Who were the people sitting in the seats? What are the ages? Why are they so passionate about the Hawks? So it’s kind of those sort of nuances that excite me about being in sports. And it’s less about fandom for me.

I think as your students start to think about either going into this path or if they’re already in it, why is it that you want to be there? And the answer should be, and here’s in an interviewing tip, if you’re interviewing for jobs or internships and someone says, “Well, why do you want this job?” Don’t say because you love sports. That is a very common answer. Go a little deeper. What does it mean to you? Do you have a childhood memory that you kind of hold on to? Companies and brands and interviewing, you love to hear stories like that to go a little deeper. Find your why.

Jim Reese: I think that’s a great, great point. And here’s something I don’t think you know, how about that? All these years, did I ever share what got me started interested in sports? I don’t think I did. So I haven’t told many people this. I had a chance to meet Muhammad Ali when I was 12. His training camp was in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, which was not too far from where I grew up. He was fascinating to me, I mean, he was his own brand. I mean everybody knows. And that’s what really got me interested in sports and just started that whole passion, love of sports that…

Amanda, the other thing that you said a little bit ago that I think is really, really important for our audience is that the people that refuse to take no, the people that keep pushing forward through the difficult times because they love sports that much and are that passionate about it; when the money’s not good and the hours are long, those are the folks that make it. Because, it’s so easy to say, “I’m exhausted. The novelty has worn off. I’m out of here, and I’m going to start making some more money.” But, those that persist and get through that, I think, are the ones that really make it and become successful.

Amanda White: And I think too, keep in mind, you’ve got to be resilient, because you’re going to hear a lot of nos. It’s still very competitive to get into sports. Landing a permanent role or an internship, it’s still really competitive. I’ve been impacted twice: restructured out, part of an organizational wide layoff, your client runs out of money, if you’re working on an agency team. That is really common. So, just kind of having a thick skin, in general, will go a long way. Finding a way to kind of be a little bit of a utility player and not getting too pigeonholed into one function will help ensure that you can be nimble, if you need to be.

Jim Reese: That is fantastic advice. The more you do, the more experience you have, the more things you touch, the more valuable you become, without question. Amanda, before we sign off for the day, is there anything else that you would like to share with our listeners?

Amanda White: Yeah, I think I do want to reiterate to your students that you’ve probably heard multiple times that relationships are everything in sports. That is very true. And as you kind of start out, it is extremely important to get whatever experience you can, to meet as many people as you can, and do it in a very genuine and authentic way. Because, when you’re starting out, people that are more senior, if you ask them for help, they should do it. That’s the right thing to do, because we’re all sitting in these seats because someone or multiple people helped us along the way. They had conversations with us, they made recommendations for us. You need more senior people in your corner. So, when you do get those opportunities, don’t take them lightly. Use that time wisely with the person you grab on the phone or over coffee, and keep in touch with them. Again, it’s not a one-off transactional-type conversation. These are potentially people that will help you down the line, you will keep in touch with for long periods of time. As you go in your career, there’ll be plenty of opportunities for you to return the favor to other young and up-and-comers. So, to say that relationships are important, is a huge understatement, because your network will be everything in sports.

Jim Reese: So true. More in our area than many others. I think it’s important in any job, but ours is such a small circle. You’re usually one or two contacts away from just about anybody. You know that whole Kevin Bacon thing? It’s pretty small, it’s not seven degrees in sports, it’s probably three degrees. So Amanda, I cannot thank you enough for joining us today. It’s so good to see you, and I look forward to catching up when we have more time.

Amanda White: Likewise. That sounds great. Thanks so much for having me.

Jim Reese: Oh my gosh, it’s our pleasure. Thank you. For our listeners, please don’t forget to follow AMU and APU Sports Management on Instagram at AMU APU Sports or on LinkedIn. It’s been great to be with you today. Until next time, this is Jim Reese. Wishing you the best.

Dr. Jim Reese is an Associate Professor and Internship Coordinator in the Sports Management program at the University. He is a former NCAA Division III baseball player. Dr. Reese holds a B.A. in business and economics from St. Andrews University, a M.S. in in sports management from Georgia Southern University, and an Ed.D. in physical education and sport administration from the University of Northern Colorado.

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