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From Entry Level To NFL Exec: I Created A Playbook For Women Who Work In Sports

I'm honored to have the opportunity to start, and build, a department in the NFL. So, now I'm here to tell you what I know.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Chanelle Reynolds' story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

I'm often asked how I got to where I am.

Mainly because the sports industry doesn't have many black execs within sports organizations, especially African-American women. Seeing us in this industry, is like seeing a unicorn and because of that, I think people are attracted to my story--which is why I'm always happy to tell it.

If you aren't aware, I am a female executive in one of the most male-dominated industries on this planet. I'm honored to be in my position, to have the opportunity to start and build a department for The Washington Football team. Yes, I'm consistently in daily and weekly board meetings with all departments, each being essential when you work for an organization that employs over 50,000 staff members. I train my team on new projects or initiatives we would like to accomplish. I also contact large corporations to build relationships and invite them to attend our games. Off-season schedule is typically 9-5 however, my in-season schedule varies as I tend to work longer hours on game and event nights.

Ultimately, I'm responsible for creating new and essential relationships with individuals to generate new business opportunities.

Sounds fun, right? A bit exclusive too. But trust, there is a lot of work that goes into this game.

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I was born and raised in the Mid-Atlantic waters of Delaware. Growing up, I always knew I would make an impact in business, someway. How, I wasn't exactly sure. I certainly didn't know I would be working in the sports business, but I always loved going to live sporting events. I remember going to the Sixers games with my dad, and my family and church members. It was so electrifying, so intense. And remember, this was during the A.I. era; I loved the type of player he was. He was so fun to watch and made an impact on sports and culture as a whole. So basically, my fandom gained momentum from here.

I began my career in the NBA G-League as a Ticket Sales Account Executive, where I worked in ticket sales, and which was definitely a grind. Coming in as an entry-level employee for a minor league team gives you a special type of grit and hustle that others may not be able to fathom.

But ultimately, while there, I enjoyed the thrill and decided to have fun with it. A shift came when I started exploring different departments, and building my reputation. I worked with so many amazing individuals and left the organization as a Group Sales Manager. My work preceded me and followed me all the way to being named Delaware's Top 40 under 40 in Delaware Business Times.

This opportunity prepared me for my next position. I knew there was a higher hustle there, I knew I could do more. I knew I could leverage these opportunities, and catapult myself into what was next. Eventually, I transitioned into the NFL, and was hired by The Washington Football Team as the Director of Group Sales, which is the point of where I am now in my career. Everyday, I am lucky enough to lead a team of dynamic and driven sales account executives, feeding and applying everything that I've learned over the years directly into my department, from grinding in the G-League, all the way to literally walking clients down to the field to experience halftime shows up close.

Is it all too much? I would be lying if I didn't say that sometimes it is. Because I've learned that I love people, and I love building relationships, and I love being in the sales department; my job is instinctual. But sometimes that can take its toll. I protect my energy by identifying with a tribe of people that I can be vulnerable with and I also create a safe space within my professional space. Also, I'm very passionate about my faith. So I often lean on prayer and read the bible. This is what keeps me going.

Most importantly, I take true moments of solitude; just reflecting on the journey, thankful for the lessons and being privileged enough to consider my trials and tribulations as a blessing.

And there are plenty of trials and tribulations that I could talk about for days, which I'm always willing to share. With being a black woman working in the industry, I'm often asked for advice on how to navigate, and how to stand out, and honestly, I could offer up gems and hacks for days.

So, my best advice lies here:

  • You need a mentor and you need to be vocal, but also connect with as many people as possible. This is a relationship industry.
  • The industry is a lot smaller than you think. Try not to burn bridges with colleagues or employers. You want people to respect you based on your reputation and if you have a bad reputation, then it might not work out in your favor.
  • Work ethic and integrity will trump what you see on how to be successful in the TV shows.
  • I know it's not popular, but Linkedin is your friend.
  • This industry gives you no time to process emotions or inconveniences. I was once pooped on by a bird while on-field with clients. Push through, even during the poopy moments.
But mostly, it is absolutely imperative that we know our individual limits, take a step back and regroup. Be in complete control of your calendar and your day.

For example, during football season I slow down on my "side hustle" endeavors because I know there won't be too much time for that. I decline speaking engagements, etc. It's important that we understand our limits.

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In the end, I just want the world, specifically black women, to understand that no matter who they are, what they look like, or what statistics say, success is at your fingertips. Whatever you want to do you can do it. Take a leap of faith, develop a strategy and hit the ground running...as if you have a football.

Chanelle recently launched Hustle University, a series of master classes, webinars and coaching calls that teaches entrepreneurs how to be successful in their career and personal life. She also operates The Reynolds Group, and is the author of The Success Playbook. For more information, visit her website or follow her on Instagram at @chanellesreynolds.

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