Shannon Elliott has always been a sports person. Having played competitive sport all her life it was only natural that she would study both her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in sports management. After graduating from the AISTS MAS in Sport Administration less than one year ago, Shannon has landed her dream job back in her hometown with the Los Angeles Rams. We spoke with her last week about life in L.A.
AISTS – Tell us your journey so far from Lausanne to Los Angeles, since graduating.
Shannon - Shortly after finishing my internship I was given the opportunity to work at the Copa America Centenario Local Organizing Committee (LOC) as the Accreditation Manager at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. I was put to work immediately, coming late into the planning of the tournament - I started only three weeks before the matches were set to begin. Working in accreditation wasn’t always fun. We were stationed in a trailer in the parking lot of the stadium in 39 degree weather with lines of media and photographers over two hours long with computers and printers that broke sporadically, leaving people not always in the best moods by the time they got to the front of the line to me and my team. But, it was an amazing experience and it was an absolute rush.
We hosted Brazil vs. Ecuador, Colombia vs. Paraguay, and Jamaica vs. Mexico in the span of two weeks. I was able to speak Spanish with the Latin American teams that came through, spoke my broken Portuguese with the Brazilian team staff that my AISTS classmates taught me, and met some amazing people. Being the accreditation manager I met thousands of people and once I walked into the stadium it was like I knew everyone, since I personally had given them all of their credentials. It felt as though this huge, crazy world of international football filled with different languages and cultures, all of a sudden felt so small and connected in this one stadium, like we were a family speaking the language - football. It was the first time I felt like I was back in Lausanne again and it felt so comfortable.
After Copa came to a close, I accepted a job with the National Football League’s (NFL) Los Angeles Rams. I thought it would be an amazing chance to get in on the ground floor of a team from the most profitable professional sports league in the U.S., and world, returning to Los Angeles. I didn’t know what to expect considering I honestly did not grow up watching the NFL since I grew up in Los Angeles, which at the time did not have a NFL team. I, like many other Angelenos, grew up loving the other sports teams we had i.e. the Lakers (NBA), the Kings (NHL), the Dodgers (MLB) or the Galaxy (MLS). It would be interesting to see how Los Angeles would accept professional football back into our city and see if it would survive in a city that accepts nothing less than winning seasons and over the top entertainment.
AISTS - The LA Rams!!! That’s big – what is it like working for a team in the NFL?
Shannon - I currently work in External Football Affairs for the Rams. We work mostly with all of the youth and high school football initiatives and with the former player's programs. I deal a lot with the former players in helping to build relationships with anyone who has worn a Rams uniform.
It’s been nothing short of amazing.
I started at a crazy time really since the team moved to LA in April 2016, I was hired in June, we began our intensive training camp in July and pre-season began in August with the season kicking off in September. There were no days off and a lot of work ahead. I quickly had to learn the names of over 500+ former players as their emails and phone calls came through my desk asking for tickets, appearances, side-line passes, media interviews, etc. It wasn’t as if I knew former players off the top of my head, I barely knew our current team of 50+ guys but little did I know players who have played for us since the 1930’s. I still don’t know them all but as a main contact to the organization, it was my job to learn and learn quickly.
I can confidently say it has been exciting from day one. Los Angeles hasn’t had a team in over 20 years so we have had to think of ways to meet a whole new generation of people who have no allegiance to us what so ever and make them in to die-hard fans. Thankfully, Los Angeles has been very responsive and positive about our move home and in three short years we will have our brand new $3 billion dollar stadium to play in.
AISTS - What is your typical day like?
Shannon - My typical day in the office mostly involves game production. Whether it’s making sure we fill our suite with former players, sending Rams memorabilia to charities or auction, helping former players charities, getting tickets to local football teams and local charities to attend games, designating a local Southern California football coach of the week, etc. It’s always changing and never predictable and that’s what I love about it. I couldn’t do the same thing all the time and this job keeps me on my toes. I love the relationships I have with former players and their families and I love the community outreach we are able to facilitate with our organization. Every game we give a block of tickets to local charities or youth teams and when we bring them down to the field it’s the best feeling.
Fridays, before game days, is my favourite. The whole office dresses in Rams gear, we pack up our game day bags and get ready to host 90,000+ on the Sunday, ahead.
Game days I would have to say are the best.
I show up to the stadium early in the morning, dressed in my business game day attire, make sure our alumni suite is in pristine condition to host of former players and their families, make sure all the proper tickets are at the will call windows and make sure youth teams are ready to play at halftime. While most of the time I am in the suite speaking with former players and putting names to faces, I also am on the field for all pregame and halftime performances that involve our youth football or salute to our former players.
There is something so fun about having kids gets involved and go out to play in front of these huge crowds. I have dozens of kids stand there in awe and you can just see it in their eyes that they are in disbelief that they are about to play their favourite sport in front of this entire stadium on the same field where their heroes play every week. There is something very sentimental about knowing that I help these kids have a memory they will have for the rest of their lives. Some of those kids may never play at the professional level but some might and I hope that I help them create a memory that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
(Photo 1:Sports broadcasting legend, Jim Hill; Photo 2:NFL hall of famer, Eric Dickerson; Photo 3:Former LA Rams Quarterback, Vince Ferragamo)
AISTS - What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job may be that I feel like I am in the fire of something big.
I feel a part of this historic season, with the Rams returning to Los Angeles, and a part of this new stadium we are building. I love knowing that we are building this state of the art stadium that will host not just football games, but one day World Cups, the Olympics (LA 2024 – I hope!), international soccer games, college football and basketball, concerts, tournaments, etc. I am excited to be a part of something that is huge, not just for the sport but for my hometown and I think that is one of the most special things about what I do.
AISTS - You were just in London for the NFL International Series. How was that?
Shannon - It was remarkable and so amazing to be a part of. I personally think I have a skewed angle on it I guess since I have lived in London before and after living in Switzerland, I see how Europe views the NFL or American Football as a whole but I also grew up in America where I saw how Americans worship the NFL and football as a whole. I have been to extravagant, over the top Superbowl parties in the U.S. and I have been to Darlings at 1am in St. Francois in Lausanne watching the Superbowl on Sky Sports with British announcers calling the field - a pitch and the game - a match and making remarks about the teams “kits”. I understand soccer announcing and American football announcing and it was funny to view the two.
This was huge as it was the first non-rugby game to ever be played at Twickenham Stadium and we were there a part of it. While the game was to be played between the Rams and the Giants, you wouldn’t know that, however, because it was more like a sea of colour walking to the stadium, with jerseys from every one of the 32 NFL teams present that day at Twickenham. The crowds were chanting, drinking and having a blast and I loved being in the stands with my co-workers and friends taking it all in. It was interesting because I knew there was a following abroad but didn’t quite know the extent until that day. The stadium was sold out and out of control.
AISTS - How can you relate what you’re doing with the NFL and how you got there, to your studies with AISTS?
Shannon - I really feel that my education with AISTS has helped me out a lot, particulary when it came to working within international settings. When I was working Copa America, I was so grateful to know the structure of sports organization, federations and associations as I worked with many people in CONCACAF, FIFA and country federations. And I was so grateful that I knew a lot of the soccer players from my nights watching Champions league with my roommate and friends or driving to see games around Europe last year.
I was happy that with my Spanish, broken Portuguese and French, I was about to laugh, relate and bond with people that didn’t speak English. Working at Copa reminded me a lot of being at school because I was constantly interacting with people from all over the world coming to cover the games from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, etc. I met some Swiss who were shocked I had hiked Creux du Van, met Brazilians who sang and dance to Seu Jorge with me in my trailer, sent pictures of the Jamaican national team to my former classmate, met FIFA officials who knew of AISTS and applauded me for exploring school outside of America and to learn amongst people from all over the world.
I have always been proud to have attended an institution filled with diversity from different cultures, languages and backgrounds but it was in that time where everyone expected me to be the same and not know about other cultures, that I was truly glad to say I had friends from their country or I spoke their language.
AISTS sets me a part from the average American in sports, and so far has only proven to be beneficial in my career.
AISTS - What would your words of wisdom be to someone looking to follow your footsteps and get into a sports administrative position like yours in a BIG league?
Shannon - I would say to not give up. If this is what you really want it won’t be easy to come by - at least with my experience in the U.S. So many people want to be in sports and there are so few positions to do so, so it can get exhausting and defeating if you don’t get there right away but I would say don’t stop. If it’s worth it and your heart is in it, you’ll get there.
So many people are educated and knowledgeable on the business so what matters is setting yourself apart and standing out from the average person. While knowing as much as you can is important, it’s not everything. I am a big believer in it’s not just what you know but it’s who you know so network, network, network. Talk to everyone, put yourself out there and be unforgettable. I met my current boss at a Clipper’s basketball game through a mutual friend back in January and once he told me he worked with the rams we traded cards and started talking. I emailed him once a month for 6 months and went to lunch with him before he sent me a job opening for his team. I took the interview and I got the job. In a small market like sports, it is important to be as competitive as the athletes on the field and remain focused if this work is your goal. I work about 6 days a week with minimal vacation but it doesn’t feel like work. If you’re lucky enough to love what you do it doesn’t seem so much like work in the end and I am really lucky to have found that in my position with the Rams.