Daniella Orsi is a Game Presentation and Talent Management Specialist with the Toronto Raptors. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Daniella about what her role involves, how she got started working in game day operations and how she approaches the challenges faced and relishes successes experienced in her work. Besides Daniella Orsi’s route to the 2019 NBA Championship, what I found most inspiring is her fearless attitude towards making the most of every opportunity in her sport career. She has great insight for those just getting started or looking to make their next career step.
Please note: This interview with Daniella Orsi was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the essence of the interview.
What does your role as the Specialist in Game Presentation and Talent Management with the Toronto Raptors entail?
My role entails creating and delivering extraordinary moments for fans at all Toronto Raptors home games. This would include developing new in-arena promotions and giveaways, rituals, videoboard footage, and overall new moments to engage fans. In addition, I oversee and coordinate all entertainment such as halftime acts, anthem singers, mascot and other talent appearances and rehearsals. On a game day, my team and I execute all of the game presentations needs to bring the show to life. Whether this is our anthem singers, in-arena host hits, or performances happening on the court, I ensure all our entertainment is executed starting from pre-game all the way to the very end.
What is the best part about your position as the Specialist in Game Presentation with the Toronto Raptors?
If I had to narrow it down to one thing, I would say it’s the impact that my team and I make on the fans at every single home game. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that done in preparation of a game day and It’s so rewarding to see your hard work pay off once its executed and knowing that we impacted so many people each night. It motivates us to continue doing what we do and to elevate the in-game experience at every game.
I noticed you were the Team Manager for the Wilfrid Laurier Men’s Basketball team for three seasons while you were in University. How did you get into this position and are there any skills you gained from this that translate into your role with the Raptors?
This opportunity came up in my first year of University when the Head Coach was searching for somebody to fill the role. At the time, I was no longer playing competitive basketball and missed being a part of a team and the competitive atmosphere. I thought that this would be a great opportunity to experience a different side of the game while also getting back into being involved with the basketball community. There are many skills that I developed which have translated into my role with the Raptors, however, time management and being detail-oriented would be the most significant.
On game day, challenges are bound to happen. Are you willing to share some of your biggest game day challenges between working with the K.W Titans and Raptors? At the same time, could you tell us your thoughts on how you cope with challenges?
Working in live entertainment can be challenging as everything is on a strict timeline in order for the show to flow smoothly. There have been instances when there are technical issues where, for example, we could no longer execute a video board feature or contest that was planned. In these types of situations, it’s crucial to think quickly on your feet, be adaptable and keep calm.
“Regardless of the challenge, the show must go on so having a backup plan wherever possible is important as these things can happen at a moment’s notice.”
You went to university and obtained a degree in Kinesiology and Physical Education. Also, you were a multi-sport high school athlete. When did you realize you wanted to work on the business side of sport? Take us through that realization.
Once I started university, I stopped playing competitive basketball and sports in general. I’ve always had a passion for sport and knew that I wanted to get back into the competitive sporting world. The Team Manager position with the Laurier Men’s Basketball team came up and it felt like the next best step to take. I was with the team for three seasons and loved every minute of it. Each year I took on more responsibility and helped to further develop the program. Overall, it gave me the opportunity to learn new skills and to experience the business side of sport. It was during this entire journey that I knew I wanted to continue down this path. I was eager to learn more, passionate about the game, and it got me excited about seeking additional opportunities that could be out there within this field.
Tell us your top season and/or playoffs game day highlights from your time so far with the Raptors?
There are a lot to choose from especially with the 2018-2019 season being my first year with the Raptors. So, I’ll go with my top three from our playoff run, in no particular order.
1 Eastern Conference Finals – Game 6
This game was an emotional rollercoaster, but definitely one of the most memorable. Executing the trophy ceremony and then celebrating this historical moment on home court was a feeling like no other. It was also incredible to see all of the fans in Jurassic Park and then flooding the streets of Toronto post-game.
2 Fans During Game 5 NBA Finals
The fans were amazing throughout the entire playoff run, but there was something different about the energy during Game 5 of the NBA Finals. You could literally feel the nerves and excitement of the fans in the building the moment gates opened. The fans took over singing the Canadian anthem and you could really sense the pride everyone had as they sang in unison. There was something extra special about that moment and I think everyone in the arena felt it too. Overall, the energy that the fans brought that game was insane.
3 Winning the NBA Championship Finals
I think I’m still trying to process this one, but the Raptors winning the NBA Championship comes in at number one. This Championship means everything to a lot of people and the way the entire country came together to celebrate this was remarkable.
Tell us four skills that you think all sport management professionals should have.
1 Adaptability and Flexibility
It’s important to be able to adapt to different situations and scenarios that you encounter and to be flexible in what you’re willing to do. Things don’t always go as planned in sports, so possessing these skills allows you to keep an open mind and to respond well to changes in a quick manner.
2 Time Management
There’s a lot that happens on a given day within a sports organization so it’s crucial to manage your time effectively. Having good time management skills allows you to enhance your performance and accomplish your goals more effectively.
Interpersonal skills tie in all communication skills together. In your professional career, you will need to interact with many different groups of people whether that’s the sales department, marketing team, or external clients. You’ll need to build connections with people you’ve never met before so having interpersonal skills can foster strong working relationships and contribute to productivity.
What advice would you give to aspiring sport professionals looking to get into game day operations?
Take advantage of volunteer experiences and any other opportunities within the industry that are related to game day or event operations. This helps to expand your network of people and allows you to get a sense of what game day operations really entails from all different aspects. The path was not linear for me.
There will always be challenges that come your way, however, if you’re really passionate about something you have to be willing to put in the work and time that goes along with it to get where you eventually want to be. My last piece of advice would be to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.
Some of my most memorable and best experiences have come from experiences that were outside of my routine. It pushes you to grow and learn new skills which can only lead to greater opportunity.
Thoughts From Amber
Daniella Orsi’s energy and passion for working game day operations are felt throughout the interview. She was an absolute pleasure to converse with from the point of the first connection! I am so glad Daniella shared her story with us because it truly serves as an inspiration for any aspiring and current game day professionals. You can follow all of Daniella’s incredible work at any one of the Toronto Raptors home games. In fact, we are only a few weeks away from the first! Sunday, October 13 is the date to be exact. The Toronto Raptors will take on the Chicago Bulls at Scotiabank Arena in their first preseason home game.