There is never a straight line to success in the sports industry, there are steps forward, sideways and even, at times, backwards. But through it all, when you have an established goal that you can cling to, a desire that isn't easily pushed around, you can find your way through thick and thin.
Traci Campbell had a clear goal after getting her Masters from Oral Roberts University, she wanted to pursue a job in sports media. Quickly, she learned the name of the game.
"Versatility is key! Whether working at CBS Radio or with the Dallas Cowboys, I jump at any opportunity that comes my way," says the former Division 1 athlete. "No job can ever be too small, the more you can learn the better an asset you become. I am constantly asking if I can observe another person's job so I better understand what it is they do. I want to be the most valuable employee to my team.
"To work in sports and media you have to be willing to commit the time. It is never a 9 to 5 job. Always be the first person to step up and volunteer."
Just a few years removed from her Masters, Campbell has wisdom for the sports industry far surpassing her years of experience. Her perspective is refreshing, instead of blaming struggles on others or the unfairness of the world, she perseveres and continues learning along the way. Maybe that attitude is why America's Team now signs her checks.
Read on, it will be worth it.
You received your undergrad degree from the University of Tulsa and then received your Masters at Oral Roberts - why did you think it was an important step to get your Masters and looking back, was it worth it?
Campbell: Furthering myself in school was a personal goal, but also a conscious career decision. The sports industry is a tough business and the more experience and dedication you can show, the more valuable you will be to a team.
My Masters has helped me get in the door to smaller teams. They see the dedication to education as a valuable asset. They want to know a potential team member can be dedicated and by furthering yourself in school it shows extra dedication and commitment to further yourself and your future.
I believe my Masters was worth it. No matter where I go in my career I will always have a small competitive edge because I took the extra time to better myself collegiately.
Getting your Masters is not for everyone, but it was the right decision for me.
Your Masters is in Management Studies and Communication - when you enrolled did you have a specific career path in mind, or were you still in the process of figuring things out?
Campbell: I did have a specific career in mind which was directed more to media and public relations. It was not until I moved to Dallas, that I discovered my excitement to dedicate my skills to sports communications and media. Coming from Oklahoma, we did not have professional sports teams at that time so professional sports jobs were not my primary focus.
I played sports growing up and was a Division I Collegiate Athlete in college, but when arriving in Dallas I discovered all the possible career opportunities within the sports arena. This showed me I could have it all. My career of working with the media and doing it with a professional sports team.
You had a 4 month stint as Director of Communications with the Allen Wranglers indoor football league - while you were there Terrell Owens was released from the team in a story that became national quickly - what was that experience like? Was it a tough introduction to what professional sports jobs are like, or was it exciting?
Campbell: The Allen Wranglers gave me a taste of what it would be like to work in the sports industry.
Getting your feet wet with a smaller professional sports team is a great way to learn how to navigate the industry and gain the experience teams like the Dallas Cowboys require. One season under your belt can truly teach you a lot. Smaller teams have to work to compete with large professional teams.
As the Director of Communications for the Allen Wranglers I had to find inventive ways to get the media to attend games and show them the value of what my team had to offer. In essence, why is my team news worthy.
Bringing in a former NFL player like Terrell Owens made the Allen Wranglers valuable sports news. I joined the team for the perfect season to gain experience of what a large professional team would be like. A player like Terrell Owens brought in crowds and new fans to the team. It also brought attention from ESPN and other major sports networks which gave me the opportunity to communicate with them.
We released Terrell Owens with just a few games left in our season.
This again gained huge national media attention and was a headlining story on every major sports network. It was the first time I had to say "no comment" to the media. Working with the Allen Wranglers gave me a taste of what the ups and downs can be like working for larger teams. It prepared me for the national stage in sports.
The difference between working for a small local team and a team like the Dallas Cowboys was night and day, but I would not have been as prepared without the valuable experience that the Allen Wranglers were able to teach me.
At the end of our season our team closed, but I am grateful for the experience I gained. You have to work very hard at that level, which makes you appreciate such things as an established fan base and already established media attention.
From there you began working at CBS radio in promotions, give us a run down of what your role consisted of?
Campbell: Even with experience in the sports industry it is still hard to gain professional sports jobs.
My background was still media and CBS Radio has 6 stations in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) as well as 105.3 The Fan who is the official station of the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers. Working as a Promotions Assistant is another foot in the door to working in the media and with sports teams.
Many of my colleagues at CBS Radio work with the major sports teams in DFW. Working in radio gives you the opportunity to work in several markets such as professional sports and television.
As a Promotions Assistant you are on the front lines of the station. You meet lots of people and get the opportunity to work with all 6 stations. This helps well round you in the media.
You've grown in your role at CBS radio, now you are in programming and voice-overs - why do you think you have found success?
Campbell: I am still working on success.
Radio is constantly changing and you have to be flexible and work in any and all departments. I still work as a Promotions Assistant as well as programming and voice-overs as much as possible.
I have developed by making myself a jack of all trades with the station. It's not enough to only know your job, you must know the jobs of your colleagues as well. This makes you the most rounded and valuable asset to your company.
Breaking into the sports industry is hard, what was the most important thing you did to help launch your career?
Campbell:Make contact with everyone. I cannot tell you how many resumes I have sent to teams even when they are not hiring. Let them know you are out there.
A lot of times teams hire from within, so another great way is to do an internship while you are still in college. Internships are key, they help build a Rolodex of people you know which will ultimately help get you a job out of college.
If you are already out of college, then start emailing and calling. Be persistent, but not annoying. Make it a point to check in with them quarterly or send them updates when you have a major change to your resume.
Recently you started doing work with the Dallas Cowboys as an Event Presentation Assistant - how did this opportunity come up? I imagine hiring for this role was competitive, I mean, it's the Dallas Cowboys, why do you think you were hired?
Campbell: Getting an opportunity to work for major sports teams is predominantly about who you know. I had a chance encounter with a high ranking member of the Dallas Cowboys and at the end of our conversation he said let's get together and discuss further. He handed me a card and said shoot me an email, so the same day I did. The ball was in my court and I did not waste time. We met the following week.
He brought me in to interview with three members of the Dallas Cowboys staff. I presented myself as what I can do for the team and they liked me from there. I was told here is your foot in the door, now make the most of it and each day I work hard to be the greatest asset I can be to the team.
It is important not to think about yourself and what the team can do for you, but how your experience and knowledge can benefit the team. That's why there's no "I" in team. Each member of the Dallas Cowboys staff plays a vital role that all leads to a successful game day.
Take us through Game Day - what is your role as an Event Presentation Assistant?
Campbell: My role on a game day changes from what my task can be when we are not in season. During the season, I assist in running a 90 person promotions and flag team. We are in charge of game entertainment and fan interaction.
Most of our work is during pre-game and television time-outs. We make the fans feel more like family members, than just another ticket holder and to us our fans are family. The beautiful ladies on our promotions team, and I do mean beautiful, interact with the fans and assist with contests that you see on our jumbo-tron.
The flag team has an amazing job, they run the players onto the field and overall make the environment of the game exciting. During the game the guys are spread throughout the end zones and are there to pump up the crowd.
What's next for you, what is the ultimate goal and how will you get there?
Campbell: I plan on continuing to grow my experience within the professional sports world in Dallas.
We have some of the most high profile teams in the country and there's not a better city to work in when it comes to sports. I hope to grow within the Dallas Cowboys and take on more responsibility. The only way to get where I want to go is through hard work, persistence and networking even within my own team.
The Dallas Cowboys is a large organization and it is vital to know everyone you can. We are having a tremendous season in 2014 and will continue to be America's Team and hold that title with pride. All I can say at the end is work hard, do not give up and Go Cowboys!
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