Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning for WorkInSports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast.
I started to read a new book the other day and after about 70 pages I had to put it down.
This is abnormal for me, I’m the type of personality that once I start something I have to finish it. I have to know how it ended.
This is true for novels, movies, hikes to waterfalls you name it. I have to reach the moment of closure.
I could be watching the worst Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy, which is slowly rotting my brain away with each passing line of dialogue (hello Failure to Launch), but I still have to see how it ends.
This frustrates my wife, who can cut ties in a moment’s notice… but that’s another story. She’s from Philly, she doesn’t suffer fools.
Back to the book.
I had to put down this book for a very simple reason. And this is a book of great acclaim, an international best seller that was turned into a pretty darn successful movie.
I put it down because it followed every generalized cliche you could possibly make about races, cultures, religions and creeds.
The Japanese character was good at math and a whiz on computers.
The Palenstinian character had been involved in terrorist acts.
The Russian character was cold, calculating and emotionless.
The Mexican character worked hard in the fields and then drank beer every night.
The Jewish character was tight with their money and a shrewd negotiator.
Of course, the American character was dashing, intelligent, and fearless — I’ll leave that to your own interpretations.
But I didn’t make it much past those characters. This isn’t me being “woke” or pandering to our current culture war, I just really hate generalizations. I hate cliches, I hate lazy, boring storytelling.
Spreading this narrative and reinforcing to people where they should fit, is a dangerous weapon, meant to discourage.
I’m not having it. I may spark some outrage with this, but I fail to believe we are all pre-determined to fit into categories at birth. We can be whoever we work and are driven to be.
Of course, I am oversimplifying, there are systemic obstacles that prevent many of us from becoming exactly who we desire to be, but the over-arching point is simple — none of us fit into a cliche, we are all individuals.
Generalizations like the ones exhibited by this trash book slide their way into our sports world often.
I just finished reading an article where the EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT/CHIEF REVENUE OFFICER OF THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, Renie Anderson, posted an opinion piece on NFL.com reminding people that “hey, women work in sports too, and there are lots of us in the NFL!”
Let me repeat that – She is an Executive VP and Chief Revenue Officer in the NFL – which immediately qualifies her as a badass – and she had to write an article telling people that women really do work in sports. In 2020.
Let’s break down some more walls, let’s get out of this generalized, homogenized world and invite in change, diversity, and something a little unexpected.
Ameena Soliman has one of the most interesting jobs in sports. As a player personnel coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, she is an integral piece of the player personnel department, and I’ll let her explain to you what that means, exactly.
I’ll sum it up from my point of view — I’m jealous.
She is a Muslim woman working in football personnel, meaning she breaks all the rules of probability and smashes every stupid cliche.
Now, let’s be clear about something — I didn’t invite Ameena on just because she is a Muslim woman working in player personnel. I invited her on because her role and experience are incredibly interesting and there are things we can all learn from her.
Being a Muslim woman in sports is part of her story and we will talk about it some, we will talk about micro-aggressions and the way she has been disrespected at times…but 90% of this interview is about her and her role – what it means to be in player personnel and how she got here.
I love this conversation and I know you will too — here is Ameena Soliman.
1: There is so much to talk about in regards to your football journey, but let’s start with this – you grew up in the Philadelphia area, in Yardley, PA, you went to Temple and worked for the Football team, worked in the NFL league offices, and then got a job with your hometown Philadelphia Eagles in Player Personnel – do you ever just pinch yourself and say “this is amazing?”
2: Let’s get into how it all happened – when did you figure out you wanted to work in sports, and was your focus always in football, or did you have a different direction at the start?
3: How did you first get in with the football team at Temple, what was your approach to getting involved?
4: You started out as an academic tutor and recruiting intern, by the time you left you were a Football Operations and Recruiting Grad Assistant – how did your roles and responsibilities advance as you progressed at school?
5: I’ve heard many coaches say, “recruiting is about building relationships and trust” – first off do you agree? And secondarily, what was your approach to building those elements?
6: The dream scenario for most people is to get a good internship and have it turn into a full-time job. You did this…at the NFL league offices! You were a Player Personnel Intern the summer of 2016, and then a little over a year later they hired you full-time as a Player Personnel Assistant.
What was your approach during that year away from the league to make sure they didn’t forget about you?
7: How different is it to operate at a D1 program like Temple, compared to the NFL?
8: After about a year with the NFL you come back to your hometown team, the Eagles, and work your way up to your current role as Player Personnel Coordinator – what do you remember most about your first day at with the Eagles?
9: I know now two days are the same, but how would you articulate the main parts of your role as a Player Personnel Coordinator?
10: Evaluating players requires a lot of film study – it’s not like they teach you this in a college classroom, how did you learn the specific skills of how to watch tape, what to look for, and overall how to evaluate?
11: I would imagine the combine and draft have a big red circle on your calendar each year – these events are like the Super Bowl for player personnel staff – what is your role during these events and how do you provide the most value possible?
12: As a coordinator who is trying really hard to make life simple for the rest of the staff – what is the fastest way to get in the doghouse of the rest of the organization in attendance?
13: You have worked for and earned every step of your career, but let’s speak honestly, you are a woman, wearing a hijab, in pro football and there are a lot of ignorant people out there. I am sure you get looks, I am sure you hear mumbles – how do you deal with this undercurrent?
14: I have a 13-year-old daughter, and I told her your story working your way up in football, earning every step, not being dismayed by stereotypes… and she was inspired. Do you recognize that you are a role model for all the young women out there, regardless of industry?
15: What is your vision for yourself, where do you hope to end up eventually in your sports career?
16: Let’s finish up with this – we have a lot of people in our audience who I assure you are very jealous of your role in the NFL. Trust me, almost everyone wants to work in player personnel. What is the one piece of advice you can share with our audience that you believe can help set someone up for success in player personnel?