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Being A Fan First Helps Put On A Show: Nashville SC’s Fan Experience Coordinator Kiley Kirkland

Kiley Kirkland | Fan Engagement Coordinator | Nashville Soccer Club

I like to pretend everyone is coming to the game for the very first time and create innovative ideas that are going to last in their memories

Kiley Kirkland

Fan Engagement Coordinator

Nashville Soccer Club

×This interview was completed before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The interview with Kiley Kirkland 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 Fan Engagement Coordinator of the Nashville Soccer Club.

In a nutshell, my role is to help put on “The Show!” Fitting since we are in Nashville and there is some sort of show or performance going on everywhere you look. What that truly entails is making our game days something fans won’t forget. From the time they enter the parking lot and see tailgates with our supporters, to an Opening Act Fan Fest, to our one-of-a-kind pre and post-game ceremonies, we hope that guests leave thinking this was the best soccer game they have ever been to.

At the end of the day, my job is to help showcase our community and the culture that surrounds Nashville. Creating ways to incorporate these ideas around a soccer game is something that has been so fun to do!

What does a typical day look like for you?

I think most people who work in professional sports can agree when I say there is no such thing as a “typical day” and honestly, that’s why I love working in this industry. Every day is different, and it keeps you on your toes. As a collective my department is responsible for creating the pre and post-game entertainment, so most of our time before a game is spent planning and mapping out our fan activities, booking special guests performances and appearances, and creating new ideas on how to get fans excited including our match-day traditions and rituals. We also work alongside with all of our Supporter Groups to execute things like their supporter march, goal celebrations, and overall atmosphere inside their section.

How do game days differ from non-game days?

Game days are special and for my department, this is our time to shine so there are a lot of moving parts! Although it is tough to have a set routine, I like to wake up early, have a good cup of coffee, and outline the day by time. From there, I set alarms and reminders on my phone for various items that need to happen to keep me on track.

What is one of your biggest accomplishments in your career? As a bonus, tell us one accomplishment you hope to achieve?

I’ve had a lot of accomplishments in the last few years of working in professional sports, and I am very proud of them all. When I was with the Ontario Reign, I was awarded the Rookie of the Year from an organization that recognizes industry professionals. For me, being more behind the scenes for the team, it meant I was truly making an impact and gave me the reassurance I was where I was meant to be. This was a huge stepping stone that helped me look toward what I could do next, which led me to where I am now. In the future, I would personally love to have a helping hand in planning a major event such as a Super Bowl, World Series, even a World Cup or Olympics!

How do you come up with your ways of engaging with the fans? Do you have a specific way of doing so ? Or do you follow trends you see in the industry?

I am a fan first! I know what it is like to walk into an arena or stadium and feel that excitement of the opening day, a rivalry game, or experiencing a new venue.

I like to pretend everyone is coming to the game for the very first time and create innovative ideas that are going to last in their memories.

Fans may not remember who won the game years from now, but they will always remember the unique things they encountered before, during, and after a game. Following trends is obviously important, but it is just as important to take risks and come up with ideas no one has ever seen before.

Knowing what it's like to be a fan must make your job a lot more rewarding and exciting. You're a big sports fan. When did you realize you were meant to do this as a career and tell us about your lifelong interest in sport.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved all things sports. Some of my favorite memories are riding MARTA to downtown Atlanta and going to Braves and Falcons games with my Dad. When I started playing sports, I tried to get involved with everything I could. I played basketball, softball, and soccer from about 8 years old through high school. In college, I continued playing these sports and picked up on a few more including flag football which I still play today.

I think I have always known I wanted to be involved in sports in some way. If you were to ask me in middle school, that would be by playing in the WNBA. That dream quickly shifted when I didn’t grow past 5’4!

In college, I began working directly with our baseball team at Valdosta State and even helped co-found the Batgirls program that is still up and running. After I graduated, I went into teaching but continued to be involved in sports by coaching soccer. I was blessed to have the opportunity to even teach Sports and Entertainment Marketing at the high school level, which is uncommon in many places.

Although I loved teaching and coaching, I wanted more- I wanted to be direct with a team and when I was given the opportunity to start over and do just that, I jumped at it. I haven’t looked back since!

What is your favorite part of your job? Do you have a most favorite and least favorite?

I have a couple of favorites when it comes to my job. The first is the connections I get to make. Working with all types of people and businesses gives me the opportunity to meet people I would never know otherwise. Second, would be seeing our ideas come to life. It’s a great feeling to see it evolve from an idea at a meeting to being put into action on national television. Although days can be long, it is all worth it when you see fans having a great time!

Is there someone you model your career path by? Or someone you look up to?

There is not one specific person that I model my career by, but I am inspired by all the women out there that continue to push the boundaries for women in sports. It’s refreshing to see more and more leadership roles be taken over by women who absolutely deserve to be there. I have also worked alongside many great men and women who have gone off to bigger and better opportunities; seeing them succeed and move up inspires me to do the same and to keep pushing myself personally.

Marilyn Napoli Marilyn's Final Thoughts

Hopefully, we can get back to enjoying live sports events soon. I mean, not just for the competition on the playing surface, but the fan experiences they create; the entertainment, traditions, sense of community, and much more. Kiley Kirkland’s role as the Fan Experience Coordinator for the Nashville SC shares the responsibility of ensuring fans get the most out of their visit to Nissan Stadium from the second they drive into the parking lot. That she will do as soon as Major League Soccer returns to action. I am quite sure Kiley Kirkland, a clearly empathetic, ambitious, and creative sports professional, has been thinking about novel ways to put on a better show for fans than she did last season during the pandemic. As a lifelong sports fan, Kiley Kirkland shows us in this post exactly why loving what you do is a necessity!

Connect With Kiley Kirkland