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Planning The Grey Cup With CFL’s Camille Soldevilla

Camille Soldevilla | Manager, Grey Cup | Canadian Football League (CFL)

I’ve laid out 3 different types of days: the lead-up, one month out, and Grey Cup week.

Camille Soldevilla

Manager, Grey Cup

Canadian Football League (CFL)

×This interview was completed before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The interview with Camille Soldevilla was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as the Manager, Grey Cup of the Canadian Football League (CFL).

One thing is for sure, it’s never a dull moment! As Manager, Grey Cup at the Canadian Football League, my ultimate responsibility is to oversee the entire planning and execution of different events and projects during Grey Cup week. It involves a lot of preparation – building out workback schedules, planning site visits, implementing processes, and finding efficiencies to better equip our team. Once leads are assigned their events and projects I’ll track and monitor overall progress, ensure we are working cross-functionally with other departments, and help support the team whenever I can.

In conjunction, our team is in constant communication with the local Grey Cup Festival Host Committee. We work very collaboratively to figure out where we can combine efforts and essentially act as a resource to help their team make decisions in their planning and execution.

Grey Cup is really a beast of its own! There’s a ton of moving parts and many stakeholders involved but ultimately, what we want is to create the best possible experience and make each moment of Grey Cup week, including the Championship game, memorable for our fans.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m sure I won’t be the first to say this: every day is different and that’s what makes it exciting! I’m always learning something new. With that said, I’ve laid out 3 different types of days: the lead-up, one month out, and Grey Cup week.

  1. The Lead-Up: Early in the year, things are off to a slower start. We really take advantage of this time to do extra activities before or after work, work from home more often (which are great days for also catching up on laundry haha), and actually leave work at a decent time. There are other major CFL events and projects that happen well before November so part of my job is to focus on the Grey Cup year-round. This is the time to reflect on the previous year and focus on making improvements. What can we change? How can we better set up our events team and staff? How can we be of better service to the host team and the Grey Cup Festival team? These are all questions that run through my mind while gearing up for the current year.
  2. One Month Out: Technically, this is around the start of October. Things have been in full swing and now we’re getting down to confirming every tiny detail. This is also when you start losing track of the days and time (maybe even your own name) and realizing at 4:30pm that you should probably grab some lunch. The days are usually filled up with back-to-back meetings so, by the time I actually start on my work, it’s already after 5:00pm. Honestly speaking, I prefer to work in the evening when there are fewer people in the office. I also consider myself a night owl – all those all-nighters during University really prepared me for this!
  3. Grey Cup week: Where did the time fly?! I’ve worked 4 Grey Cups now, all in different capacities and nothing I’ve experienced in my life compares to the adrenaline rush my body goes through during that week. You’re running on very little sleep (5 hours of sleep is a huge win) and now the majority of your diet consists of Rockstar energy drinks and Miss Vickie’s chips for breakfast! During this time, you’re mostly putting out fires as they come up and all you can do is hope that things go as planned. About 2-3 days after Grey Cup that’s when you start feeling the effects. The best way to describe it? It’s like my body just got hit by a semi-truck. The next few days will be spent catching up on sleep and then it’s back to the office to start reconciling invoices.

When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization.

If someone told me at a young age that I was going to be working in sports, I wouldn’t have believed them! Sure, I played recreational volleyball and table tennis during high school, but that’s not why – I honestly fell into it.

Growing up in an immigrant family, a career in sports wasn’t even a thing! I’m Filipino and not to stereotype, but my mom wanted me to become a doctor or a nurse or a teacher. I knew early on that I didn’t want any of those career paths. Believe or not, I studied Interior Design. It wasn’t until years later I moved to Toronto to study Event Management, which got me to where I am today. While I was in university full-time, I managed to juggle working two part-time ticketed-relating jobs for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and True North Sports & Entertainment. Without even realizing it, that was when I first dipped my toe into the sports industry and grew to love it. My mom is also now one of my biggest supporters and is a Bombers fan.

What really attracted me the most to pursue a career in this industry is because of the amazing people I’ve met along the way. Sports have a great way of bringing people of all different backgrounds together both on and off the field.

I’m honestly lucky to be surrounded by some of the most passionate and hardworking people at the CFL. When we need all hands on deck, everyone is all in! How often do you see Directors or Executives in your office helping lift boxes, tearing down after an event or volunteering as a handler? Our office is like one big family – we support one another to overcome obstacles and get together to celebrate our accomplishments.

What are three things you do to ensure the day of the Grey Cup goes smoothly? – or at least as smooth as it can!

I wish I had the magic formula, but here are the 3 things I do that helps:

  1. Write it down!: When it’s time to travel to the host city in November, I spend my time writing out every little task or a reminder to myself in my notebook. Yes, it’s a very long list and my hand cramps up towards the end, but dumping out all my thoughts on paper helps me better remember, not to mention it helps alleviate some stress.
  2. Expect the unexpected: Even with MONTHS of planning and going through different scenarios in my head, I always expect something to happen. For those that know me, I’m a bit of a perfectionist so this can be hard for me too! It’s impossible to predict when, where or what, but when the unpredictable happens, I remember to stay calm, act fast, and do the best I can under the circumstances. If things go wrong, then they go wrong – chances are no one in the crowd noticed and in most cases, it’ll make for a good laugh once it’s over.
  3. Check-in with your team: I’m not just talking about hosting a final meeting to run through all the things before you hit the ground running (but yes, do that too). Make an effort to regroup with your team multiple times a week (or however long your event is) and check-in with each other. I think this is really important when you’re working in high-pressure environments so take a few minutes to say hi, ask if anyone needs help with anything, listen to each other vent, or maybe eat dinner at 11:00pm together in silence. Every little thing counts.

Which top three skills have helped you to be so successful in the position you are in?

  1. Attention to Detail: It’s all in the details! Take that extra care and attention with any task and check your work. Whether it’s fixing a formula on a spreadsheet, correcting the spelling of a guest’s name, or picking out menu items, these are small things that can help avoid mistakes and enhancing the guest experience.
  2. Organization Skills: Keeping yourself organized isn’t only a benefit to you, but it’s is a huge help to others you’re working with. It keeps you on stay on track to get tasks done, follow up in a timely manner, and share information efficiently. Someone who proves to be reliable will go a long way.
  3. Strong Work Ethic: No matter how big or small the task is, I always put my best foot forward. There are long hours involved within the sports industry, so if you’re not willing to put the work in or expecting a 9-5 job then you might want to figure out a plan B.

Although many aspects of your job are challenging, what would you say is the most challenging, and why?

Trying to get 40 hours of work done in 24 hours! But really, one of the most challenging aspects of my role is dealing with things that are out of your control. I know it’s easier said than done but try not to stress over it. A current example that the world is facing right now is working through COVID-19. There are a number of items up in the air right now, questions that can’t be answered, and site visits that can’t be done. All our team can do is focus on the things we can control at this time and find ways to work with what we’ve got. During this crucial time, everyone’s health is the number one priority. Stay safe everyone!

On the opposite side of that, what is the most rewarding part of your job, what is it and why is it so rewarding?

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing everything come to life! It’s one thing to see your stage set-up completed, for example, but seeing people come together and having a great time is what takes the cake. Knowing you had a hand in creating those special moments, it makes all the hard work you put in and sacrifices you had to make worth it.

Lastly, if you could offer someone advice who is breaking into the sports industry, what would it be?

Even if the position you want in an organization isn’t available and there are other job openings in other departments, go for it! Not only is it a way to get your foot in the door but who knows, you might yourself enjoying another path you weren’t expecting!

Be a sponge and learn everything you can. Shout out to Celine Seguin and Erin Moxley for teaching me everything I know. If you have the capacity and your manager approves, offer to help on projects or simply ask to go for coffee to learn about what they do. Learning different aspects of the business will prove to be valuable in the long run.

The last thing I’ll add is, soak it all in. This goes for anyone who’s just starting out or has been in the industry for a while. This industry can go by extremely fast and sometimes, it’s easy to forget to take a step back and appreciate everything that’s happening around you. Enjoy it!

Hayley Michie Hayley's Final Thoughts

With great power comes great responsibility as Camille has faced in her role as the CFL’s Manager of the Grey Cup. Change is inevitable when planning for a large event but after working four Grey Cups, Camille has learned to laugh at the things that may go wrong. Working in events is a grind, (long hours, lack of sleep, forgetting to eat) yet to those who watch, it’s a spectacle. As Camille said, things happen that are out of your control. Expect the unexpected but try not to stress it. After all, creating special moments is what matters most.

Connect With Camille Soldevilla