Skip to content
Mar 12 / King Kaufman

Mashable on how people in the sports industry got to where they are

Mashable writer Sam Laird trawled the hallways at SXSports, the sports component of last week’s South by Southwest conference, and asked people with coveted sports-industry jobs how they broke in.

Laird presents the brief career stories of three of them in their own words: Kevin Cote, Senior Director of Digital for the Golden State Warriors; Amanda Vandervort, Director of Social Media for Major League Soccer; and Will Yoder, Digital Lead in the Octagon Talent Division at Octagon sports agency.

I find it interesting, and not at all surprising in these rapidly evolving times, that none of the three started off in the direction of their current job. Jobs like “senior director of digital” and “director of social media” didn’t even exist when all but the youngest folks in the workforce were launching their careers.

Cote talks about taking any unpaid job or internship he could get his hands on with his college’s athletic office and local pro teams, which led to a job with the Warriors in what was called “e-marketing” at the time. That led to running the whole digital operation—something he’d never considered. Vandervort played and coached soccer before getting into social media as she helped launch WPS, a women’s league.

Yoder started off pursuing journalism before he “kind of realized where that industry was going.” From context, I’d guess Yoder means old media when he says “that industry,” because he turned next to blogging about the Washington Nationals and helping launch his college’s first online newspaper. He also worked in web development and interned with a couple of NHL teams before someone referred him to the sports agency, where he got the gig.

All three were open-minded, flexible, ambitious, resourceful and unafraid—or desperate enough—to pursue something that hadn’t been part of their original plan. That’s a pretty good set of qualities to get you someplace interesting and rewarding.

I thought it would be fun to ask Laird, the writer of the piece, for his own story. Here’s what he sent me via email:

When my sixth-grade teacher asked me join the school paper, I said no, which I’ve come to regret. But I got a do-over my senior year at UC-Santa Cruz when I signed up for the campus paper there. I loved it from Day 1.
After college I spent two years bouncing between different journalism and non-journalism jobs, then ended up going to J-School at Cal. That was a great experience, largely because I was lucky to freelance some good clips while there. I also fell in love with sportswriting—I’d always loved both sports and reading/writing, but had tunnel vision toward politics or civic news as far as my own work. After graduating in 2011, I spent six months freelancing but quickly got sick of the constant pitching and meager pay.
I wanted to stay in the Bay Area, but the media landscape here’s fairly dry. I saw a Mashable internship, applied and got it. Worst case, I figured, I’d learn more about technology and that’d help me get a real job in the area later. But I hit the ground running, they offered me full-time a month later and I said yes.
At first the job was mostly covering tech. That was fine but not really my jam. But I’d also get all the sports stories that did come up. Over time, sports has grown from maybe 25 percent to 50 to now 95 percent of what I write here.
As Mashable’s grown, the scope of what I do has also developed from a narrow social/digital focus to including viral stuff, to now I simply cover good/fun/cool stories. Period. Everything from 4,500-word HTML5′d-out longform stuff to 1000-word news/analysis posts to quick viral hits. I love the variety now, but it’s really been a process that’s developed over my two years here.
It’s funny: The job today is pretty much ideal for me, and a lot like what I wanted to do after graduating from Cal. But it’s not at all the job I signed up for two years ago, or anything I could have imagined doing in college—or sixth grade.
When Laird sent me his story, I hadn’t told him about the point I was making above, about people ending up someplace other than where they’d been headed. His experience was similar. There may be something to this. Flexibility and open-mindedness can pay dividends.