MEMBER SHOWCASE | DREW HAYS

Why did you choose a career path within sports?

In college, I thought I would be a pharmacist but my career path quickly changed after I had to spend a day shadowing at a local pharmacy. On top of that chemistry was way over my head and a stick and a ball is more my style. I wanted to be in an industry that was fun and that I had a passion for. Sports provided that opportunity.

Favorite event, project or client you’ve worked on in your career?

First-time events are always memorable for me, and since I work across such a vast spectrum of sports there isn’t one that stands out as a favorite. Some examples of first-time events that come to mind are the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball 1st & 2nd Rounds (the first time that event came to Wichita in 24 years), 2021 NASCAR at COTA, and 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semi-Finals at Q2 Stadium.

I’m also looking forward to the first-time events for Austin at the new Moody Center (PBR Team Series and the Spurs to highlight a couple).

Which tech or digital innovation do you think will have the greatest impact in sports over the next few years?

There are so many cool, forward-thinking strategic collaborations happening here in Austin between technology and sports, and I’m just excited I’m along for the ride. In-stadium fan engagement has always been fascinating to me and I love seeing the creativity in trying to attract new audiences to sports. NASCAR has done a great job at this lately.

I’m also interested in what role sports betting plays within sports facilities in the coming years. Kudos to Chris Quinn & Alison Roscoe at Austin FC for establishing a sports betting partnership at Q2 Stadium, especially ahead of sports betting being legal in Texas.

Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Be a kind person.

Worst piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

N/A

What is your favorite sporting moment of all time?

If you know me personally, you know I’m a huge Oklahoma State fan so I could mention a number of games/moments that are up there on my list… BUT, Austin FC’s opening match at Q2 and then their first win at home will be the sports experiences that will be hard to beat. I’ve been fortunate to attend a lot of big-time sporting events and the energy in the stadium was something I’ve never experienced before.

Who is your biggest inspiration within the sports industry?

I look up to everyone that’s involved on the Board of Directors at the Austin Sports Commission. If I had to specifically call out a couple of folks, I would say Jack Murray (Owner at High Five Events) and J.J. Gottsch (CEO of the Austin Gamblers). Jack and J.J. have worked their tails off throughout their careers and established so many great relationships both locally and throughout the sports industry. Most importantly, they’re kind and generous people. I hope someday when I’m retired I can look back and say I made an impact on someone else’s life and career like they’ve impacted mine.

If you could travel to any point in time (past or future), where and when would you want to go, and why?

As an Oklahoma State fan, I’d go back to 2011 and tell Mike Gundy to not kick the field goal against Iowa State. We should’ve been in the Natty that year but the BCS computers wanted the rematch of Alabama/LSU (9-6 final score… boring!).

Who was the biggest help to get your career started in the sports industry?

Jared Shope, Elisa Fogle, Adam Nuse & JJ Gottsch. These folks took a chance on me and helped me get my first internship with the Corpus Christi Hooks. That was one of the most fun summers I’ve ever had and it’s when I knew I wanted to work in sports.

Favorite Vacation Destination?

Cabo & Barcelona.

Favorite Local Restaurant, Bar or Hang-out?

Austin: Bury me with a chicken lollipop from Tommy Want Wingy in my hand.

Go-to sports industry resource?

The Joe Pomp Show (Podcast).

Want to be featured as a leader in the Texas sports community? Become a Sports Innovation Texas Member today

MEMBER SHOWCASE | LAURA DIXON

Why did you choose a career path within sports?

First, I thought sports were cool and I was cool at one point in time. Second, I’m kind of awkward and nerdy and when I started my career there didn’t seem to be that many awkward and nerdy people in sports, so I thought I could stand out. Finally, I love the power of the platform! People in pro sports can leverage their position to do a lot of good!

Favorite event, project or client you’ve worked on in your career?

Building Pro Sports Assembly and working on the very first FIFA World Cup Human Rights plan.

Which tech or digital innovation do you think will have the greatest impact in sports over the next few years?

Crispers.

Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

1) Master the mundane. 2) Big time is where you’re at.

Worst piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Fake it ’till you make it.

What is your favorite sporting moment of all time?

So many epic moments. From being a doping attaché for the first Olympic Trials for triathlon to seeing the US Men’s National Basketball Team fall to Argentina (both unexpectedly incredibly emotional experiences), to watching Serena crush balls, my favorite guys win hoops titles and Austin FC’s very first home MLS match…I’m old so I’ve had some fun ones! But my favorite is with my family. We have a tradition of playing a game on Christmas Eve every year. It could be flag football, whirly ball, or bowling, but it’s always followed by a cook-off. Two back-to-back contests with some of the best trash-talking small body athletes ever.

Who is your biggest inspiration within the sports industry?

My Dad.

If you could travel to any point in time (past or future), where and when would you want to go, and why?

I would want to meet my maternal grandfather who died when my Mother was 16.

Who was the biggest help to get your career started in the sports industry?

John Underwood

Favorite Vacation Destination?

Anywhere in Mexico or Colombia

Favorite Local Restaurant, Bar or Hang-out?

Austin: Fonda San Miguel

Go-to sports industry resource?

Do old-fashioned phone calls count?

Want to be featured as a leader in the Texas sports community? Become a Sports Innovation Texas Member today

MEMBER SHOWCASE | MATTHEW COLLETTE

Why did you choose a career path within sports?

None of the other options seemed like they would be nearly as much fun.

Favorite event, project or client you’ve worked on in your career?

I was very lucky to produce a show called Garbage Time with Katie Nolan for FS1 from 2015-2017. Our bosses let us try and figure out how to do a half-hour sports comedy show without too many rules and people ended up really liking it. We won an Emmy in 2016 for it and I’m so proud of everyone that worked on the show and everything we put into it.

Which tech or digital innovation do you think will have the greatest impact in sports over the next few years?

Streaming. You’ve already started to see how it’s changing the way live sports are produced and where we’re watching those live sports. It’s going to keep getting better and things are going to get easier to watch anywhere on any device. We’re in one of the bigger transition phases in sports media at the moment and on the other side should be a much more accessible content environment that more outlets can participate in.

Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

The best idea wins, but the goal is to create a culture where everyone understands what the best idea is.

Worst piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Being told not to try something because it hasn’t worked in the past.

What is your favorite sporting moment of all time?

Richard Sherman’s tip INT to Malcom Smith in the endzone to win the 2013 NFC Championship Game. I’ve been a Seahawks fan my whole life, and that play at that time against that Niners team we battled with for years was amazing. And that it led to that Super Bowl blowout doesn’t hurt.

Who is your biggest inspiration within the sports industry?

Erik Rydholm and Kevin Wildes, are two of the most impressive and creative producers in sports studio television over the last two decades. Erik has created and run shows like PTI, Around the Horn and Highly Questionable (among many, many others) and Kevin has been behind everything at ESPN from SportsNation to The Jump. They are both masters at elevating sports television, pushing creative boundaries, and giving new and non-traditional voices a chance to succeed behind and in front of the camera.

If you could travel to any point in time (past or future), where and when would you want to go, and why?

We can stick with the sports theme here…any and all of Secretariat’s Triple Crown races in 1973. Just watching those races as grainy YouTube videos gives me chills, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be at The Belmont in 1973 and see him win by 31 lengths live.

Who was the biggest help to get your career started in the sports industry?

An absolutely wonderful person and recruiter for ESPN named Stacy Williamson. When I applied to be a Production Assistant there in 2011, she saw that we both went to Virginia Tech and helped me get an interview…without that, I may have never had a career in sports at all. We all need a helping hand or a lucky break to get into this industry and Stacy was mine.

Favorite Vacation Destination?

Las Vegas.

Favorite Local Restaurant, Bar or Hang-out?

Austin: I’m still new to Austin so I am very much not qualified to answer yet…though I am thoroughly enjoying the process of figuring it out.

Go-to sports industry resource?

The answer is unfortunately still Twitter. Despite some of its annoyances it’s still the best way to curate an efficient and comprehensive picture of what’s happening in sports. Beyond just a resource, I’ve really enjoyed what Dan LeBatard and his crew are doing right now (and have been doing for some time). They have some of the smartest people having the smartest conversations about where sports and sports media currently are.

Want to be featured as a leader in the Texas sports community? Become a Sports Innovation Texas Member today

MEMBER SHOWCASE | MILES ONYEGBULE

Why did you choose a career path within sports?

I found great success as an athlete in youth sports, which led to my curiosity and ultimate love for the industry of Sport.

Favorite event, project or client you’ve worked on in your career?

Because I can’t get into the details of any, I’ll list a few of my favorites: Golden State Warriors – Playoff Push campaign, NASCAR – Talladega Superspeedway Creator Campaign, LIV Golf – Brand Development, and Washington Commanders (Formerly Football Team) – Logo and Jersey release campaign.

Which tech or digital innovation do you think will have the greatest impact in sports over the next few years?

Augmented Related (Metaverse), Drones and Social Media.

Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Daron K. Roberts, J.D. – Stay in the Deep End

Worst piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

The individuals tell kids not to let (insert passionate sport) define you.

What is your favorite sporting moment of all time?

Though I bleed burnt orange, my favorite sporting moment would have to be Michael Crabtree’s Game Winning Touchdown Catch to beats Texas back in 2008.

Who is your biggest inspiration within the sports industry?

At the moment, it would have to be my man Emmanuel Acho. We were teammates my first year in college and have stayed close. We come from similar backgrounds (too many to count), so I’ve found joy in seeing him climb the Sports media ladder.

If you could travel to any point in time (past or future), where and when would you want to go, and why?

The moment my parents met each other for the first time. They both immigrated to America from Nigeria for college in the 80s. Since I’ve spent my whole life here, I think I’d learn a lot more about myself and why I navigate life the way I do.

Who was the biggest help to get your career started in the sports industry?

Dr. Tina Kien, guided me to pursue and finish my Master’s degree in 2017.

Favorite Vacation Destination?

Tie between Kauai and Maui Hawaii

Favorite Local Restaurant, Bar or Hang-out?

Austin: Matt’s El Rancho

Go-to sports industry resource?

The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Sports content on TikTok and Youtube, Sports Business Journal and WOM

Want to be featured as a leader in the Texas sports community? Become a Sports Innovation Texas Member today

MEMBER SHOWCASE | REBECCA FEFERMAN

Why did you choose a career path within sports?

I’ve been a massive sports fan, consumer and athlete my whole life, and pivoted my career to work in the business itself out of passion, after spending a number of years working in entertainment first.

Favorite event, project or client you’ve worked on in your career?

It’s a tie between starting the Blue Out at University of Michigan my senior year, and starting SXsports at SXSW, both of which were born out of pure passion and resulted in lasting legacies at major institutions.

Which tech or digital innovation do you think will have the greatest impact in sports over the next few years?

I really like the model Luke Bonner has going with PWRFWD, utilizing Web3 stuff to not just connect and engage community around the WNBA, but literally invest in the sport and its players by doing so. I think there’s a mountain of opportunity for similar models to impact the potential of every sport-related business, by enabling the human connections that are the most important X factor to its success.

Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Your job is to make it easier for the person you work for to do their job. Applies at every level!

Worst piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

If you expect to make it on your own, you must have a formal business plan and aim to scale.

What is your favorite sporting moment of all time?

It’s a personal one – Michigan vs. Notre Dame in September 1999. It was the season opener, and I was a freshman attending my first game at The Big House. Behind 22-19 with under two minutes to go, Tom Brady handed the ball off to Anthony “A-Train” Thomas who ran it in for a TD, and Michigan won in epic fashion 26-22. An unforgettable experience that cemented my identity as a Michigan Wolverine and all the joy (and sorrow) that comes along with it for the rest of my life.

Who is your biggest inspiration within the sports industry?

Melissa Brenner, EVP at the NBA. She’s always at least one step ahead of the game, universally respected, and somehow still makes time to connect on a personal level with folks she collaborates with. She’s an absolute boss, and I feel privileged to aspire to her level someday.

If you could travel to any point in time (past or future), where and when would you want to go, and why?

Somehow this is the toughest question to answer! The practical side of me wants to pick a time after indoor plumbing and electricity were invented, but I’d love so much to go back and witness this country’s landscapes undeveloped by man, in all its natural and undisturbed beauty.

Who was the biggest help to get your career started in the sports industry?

Bill Simmons. When he agreed to participate as the first marquee speaker of SXsports when we launched, it legitimized the whole event in the eyes of the sports world, which helped open many doors and make easier inroads with the rest of the industry.

Favorite Vacation Destination?

My sister-in-law’s family cabin on Lake Martin in Alabama. Little slice of heaven.

Favorite Local Restaurant, Bar or Hang-out?

Austin: Central Machine Works is a real favorite. It’s a great space that’s as equally laid back as it is fun, easy to bring my dog along, and there’s always amazing people watching.

Go-to sports industry resource?

A combo platter of the ESPN Daily podcast and Axios Sports Newsletter. They both offer pertinent info with thoughtful context, and Pablo Torre and Kendall Baker are each very likable and trustworthy voices at the helms.

Want to be featured as a leader in the Texas sports community? Become a Sports Innovation Texas Member today

MEMBER SHOWCASE: ALEC ALVAREZ

Why did you choose a career path within sports?

As a goalkeeper during my childhood, I learned values on the pitch, such as accountability, dedication, perseverance, leadership, and the power of team chemistry, which helped me in the classroom, professional setting, and personal life. When I discovered there was a career path within sports, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to be a part of creating the magic that inspires and unites so many in a way that few other things in life can. Sports can transcend cultural boundaries and bring out the best in us, so there’s no doubt I’m excited to make it my career.

Favorite event, project, or client you’ve worked on in your career?

Working with UT Athletics. Attending all of the football games and interacting with players like Bijan Robinson has been a blast. However, creating the SITX Member Showcase has been a personal favorite. I’m excited to highlight the incredible sports community within Texas. I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that launching my own podcast, The Smart Alec Show has been incredibly rewarding. Sharing the conversations and stories of guests on the show has been a highlight of my life.

Which tech or digital innovation do you think will have the greatest impact on sports over the next few years?

I’m excited to see the real-world impact of consumer sports tech devices like the Oura Ring, WHOOP band, Levels’ Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), and other devices. These give professional and everyday athletes massive actionable data on how to work out, sleep, recover and eat better making us a healthier and better-performing society. Insights into other health-optimizing tools like sauna therapy, infrared therapy, and cold exposure are also encouraging for recovery and other health benefits.

Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

“Pursue your passion and double down on your strengths.” It’s as simple as that. If you’re lucky enough to have an intrinsic motivation to work in a specific capacity or pursue a goal, then follow that passion. While it may be more taxing on the front end, you’ll reap more rewards in the long term via your efforts in pursuing your true calling. You’ll be better at it than others because you engage in it more. After all, it’s something you love, and there’s a greater purpose driving you.

Worst piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t share your personal story with anyone. The failures and trauma are baggage and seen as a detriment or weakness in the workplace.” The opposite can be true. Finding a way to tell your story authentically by sharing your failures and your shortcomings can also showcase your perseverance, character, and strength. Finding the people willing to hear those stories are the people you want to work with, people that can believe in you and recognize the value you bring to the table. Telling your story authentically can also inspire and help others with similar backgrounds who are facing their own challenges.

What is your favorite sporting moment of all time?

My hometown Dallas Mavericks defeating the Miami Heat 4-2 in the 2011 NBA Finals. Dirk Nowitzki defied the odds that playoff stretch in defeating Aldridge & Roy’s Blazers, sweeping Kobe’s b2b champ Lakers, a young KD-Russ-Harden OKC team, and the then stacked Big-Three Miami team. As a troublesome kid in middle school, this was the start of my falling in love with sports.

Who is your biggest inspiration within the sports industry?

It’s hard to pick one amongst many that I look up to from different industry spaces. Of people I know, Rebecca Feferman has always been a great inspiration due to her genuine desire to help others and be a great person in addition to leading a successful career. Katherine Rowe has also inspired me greatly because of her work ethic and discipline in carrying out her projects within sports analytics. More importantly, Katherine’s dedication to helping people (like myself) better their lives and achieve their dreams. It’s easy to achieve individual success but to help others achieve their own success is the mark of a true leader and great person. Of people I don’t personally know in the industry, Pat McAfee is an inspiration because of his authenticity. His story is an incredible example of how betting on yourself and keeping it real can pay off big. 

If you could travel to any point in time (past or future), where and when would you want to go, and why?

I’m curious to go back to the primitive days of humankind when we were hunter-gatherers. Before zoom-meetings, processed foods, cell phones, 24/7 news cycles, and social media. I’d be curious to see what lifestyle we lived, the food we ate, how we interacted, how we found meaning, what we did for leisure and relaxation, and more. I’d love to bring these insights back with me to the present to better lead where we go in the future regarding our diet, lifestyles, systems, careers, biggest questions, and more.

Who was the biggest help to get your career started in the sports industry?

Amy Bennett was the fantastic recruiter who first helped me land an internship with ESPN, then the following summer again with another Walt Disney company Hulu. These two experiences really got me started in the sports and entertainment industry. From there, Katherine Rowe has been an immense source of inspiration, guidance, and support in my subsequent roles. Thomas Alomes has also been an incredible help in helping me acclimate to the growing industry.

Favorite Vacation Destination?

Anywhere in the Riviera Maya in Mexico, from Playa Del Carmen to Xcaret or Tulum, the beaches and nature are beautiful, the food and service are great, and the vibes are immaculate. A close second is Rosario Alto, Puerto Rico, in my great-grandmother’s old neighborhood up in the mountains, with the relaxing seclusion from society and beautiful mountain sun-rises.

Favorite Local Restaurant, Bar, or Hang-out?

Austin: Native Hostel, the combo of work ambiance, social environment, food/drink offerings, fitness scene, and more, all in one place, make it a great hang-out. I started going recently for the FIFA World Cup watch parties, then discovered they have a turf soccer field for small-sided games (hosted by connected fitness/ soccer company Sphere). Not to mention, they host an authentic Mexican food truck, La Santa Barbacha, with delicious barbacoa, chilaquiles, tacos, and more, run by an awesome trio of siblings from Veracruz, MX. So whether you want to knock out some work in their café early in the day, grab a drink with friends, or play some fútbol, it’s a great vibe.

Go-to sports industry resource?

The Front Office Sports and Sportico newsletters have been consistent reads for some time now. Following FOS on social media also means consistently keeping up with sports business news. Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s 35 Ventures and The Boardroom also provide sports business info with a great cultural touch.

Want to be featured as a leader in the Texas sports community? Become a Sports Innovation Texas Member today