Gabrielle Sims is now the Senior Coordinator of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the Charlotte Hornets. She’s well into her fourth season with the organization. Her awesome work with the Hornets caught our attention. Some of that work came before making the leap into CSR four months ago. Previously, Gabrielle was a Coordinator of Marketing the Hornets.
Gabrielle talks about her CSR role and briefly reminisces about her previous one too. In our conversation, she talks about her decision to get a Master’s in Sports Administration. Surely, it wasn’t an easy one. She had options. Options are a good thing after all. Nonetheless, she honed in on Sports Administration, reminding herself of that ‘ah-ha’ moment she had about wanting to work in sport not too long before. We chatted about many aspects of her career in sport and are pleased to share the conversation with you below.
Tell us about your role as Senior Coordinator of CSR with the Hornets.
I work closely with all members of the Corporate Social Responsibility team to plan, organize and execute programs and events that extend our organization’s reach into the community and their most critical areas of need—education, wellness, hunger, and military. My specific focus areas include leading our hospital visits, charity drives, Hugo’s Little Heroes and various NBA Cares Initiatives like Hoops for Troops and Jr. NBA.
Tell us a little bit about your previous role as Coordinator of Marketing.
My first three seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, I was the Coordinator of Marketing Administration, an administrative support role for our Senior Vice President of Marketing. My responsibilities included arranging accommodations for business travel, calendar management, collaborating with other departments on special projects and managing the department’s autographed memorabilia.
Talk about why you wanted to work in sport and when you realized it.
From the age of 6, my life revolved around sports. I played basketball for several years, dabbled in field hockey and gymnastics, but my love was in running track.
I started running in middle school through my sophomore year of college. Once I stopped competing, I thought my only dealings with sports would be as a fan—I NEVER thought I would work in it.
I sought out other careers because I had heard, “unless you know someone in sports, you’ll never get your foot in the door” countless times. So, I moved on from that idea and looked elsewhere. Before working for the Charlotte Hornets—I worked in retail, at two YMCA’s, unpaid internships and a high-end private gym. Each of those roles allowed me to gain life experiences and improve on professional skills I knew I would value once I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
“I had my ‘ah-ha’ moment when I was working for a private gym in Charlotte. I was in a role that I was not passionate about in a place I felt like I truly had outgrown. I knew that I needed to find either a role that was more fulfilling or looked at going back to school to get another degree.”
I considered master’s programs in non-profit management, business administration, marketing, and communication, but none of them drew my interest like sports. My decision to pursue my Masters in Sports Administration was honestly motivated by a comment a former professor made. It was my senior year and I wanted to revisit the idea of working in sports. He explained to me that working in sports would require a master’s degree and I was going to be overlooked without it.
Since I did not want to give an employer any reason to overlook me, I researched different online master’s programs that offered Sports Administration or Sports Management and eventually decided on the University of Miami. Since I was familiar with the athlete-side of sports, I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more of the business side of sports and hopefully find my niche. The online M.A. Sports Administration was honestly was the best decision I could have made for myself and my career.
The classes exposed me to different areas of the sports industry like sports law, specialization in youth sports and the NCAA policies and regulations. The information I walked away with allowed me to be more well-rounded in understanding the industry from a larger lens and exposed me to information and concepts that I would now hear regularly working for an NBA team.
However, I thought I was just going to go through my M.A. program and magically have some clarity on what I wanted to do in sports and why. Wrong. I still had no idea what I wanted to do and why I even wanted to be in sports, especially after hearing several naysayers tell me “you’ll never make any money in sports”.
In the beginning, the answer to “why do you want to work in sports?” was because it was something, I was familiar and comfortable with. It took being part of the Hornets organization for me to finally have clarity. Over three seasons, I have seen or worked with different areas within our organization and how each of those departments has contributed to our incredible fan experience. Additionally, I have seen and been part of how valued our organization is to our community. Sports are more than just athletes and sold out arenas. I’ve learned that it is a platform that provides organizations and it’s elite athletes the ability to create and promote change. Sports can build bridges between communities, people and even ideas.
My “why” has changed significantly.
“I work in sports because I want to help continue laying down the bricks/stones/concrete (whatever we want to call it!) that build those bridges between our community and organization.”
Tell us about your passion for community outreach.
My passion for community outreach and helping others really comes from watching my parents. Growing up there was never a time my parents were not doing something for someone else. Even now in their early seventies, my dad volunteers five days a week, picking up food from grocery stores to restock a local pantry for that provides food for schools in the Greensboro area. While my mom collects toys, books and clothes throughout the year in anticipation of the Hornets annual Adopt-A-Family event.
My parents have reminded me several times over my twenty-eight years on this Earth that, “it’s not always about you”. As small and silly as that advice first sounded, it honestly was one of the most valuable pieces of advice they gave me. It has allowed. In my current role, their “advice” has allowed me to know to remove my opinions or feelings from situations and think about how it impacts others first. I’m extremely lucky to know the reason I am who I am today started at home with the lessons and values my parents instilled in me.
What are a couple of main areas of personal development aspiring sport professionals should focus on and why?
Get Comfortable With The Uncomfortable
There will be opportunities where you will be pushed outside of your comfort zone—be okay with it! In those moments you will learn so many things about yourself and you are showing potential employers that you are willing to take risks.
Never Give Up!
Experiencing failure does not mean quit, it’s an opportunity to progress. There will be several instances in a persons’ lifetime when they will experience failure and it’s OKAY! These moments are opportunities for self-reflection and evaluation to find ways to push forward and work towards a new outcome.
Armed with a Master’s in Sports Administration, Gabrielle Sims is an example of how academic success at the level bridges with industry success. After serving the role of the Charlotte Hornets Marketing Coordinator, Gabrielle became the team’s Senior Coordinator of CSR. There are plenty of responsibilities in the CSR Coordinator role. Ask us to choose anyone else for that role, and it would be tough to find another! Gabrielle’s connection to the community, academic achievements and sports administration experience makes her an incredible example for aspiring professionals to follow.
Sr. Coordinator of CSR, Charlotte Hornets