Why the Daily Grind is Essential in Sports: A Conversation with Zach Sprunger

This feature is presented to you by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

By Chris Madden, @Madden_SBN

Often times, those who don’t work in sports assume it’s all fun and games; after all, that’s what it looks like when the product is displayed for the spectators. What the average spectator or fan doesn’t see are the blood, sweat, and tears that go into the grind of the working in the business of sports. Someone who knows the ins and outs of the 'sportsbiz' grind better than most is a man whose name you may not know; yet.

Zach Sprunger

"Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have" Photo via Zach Sprunger

"Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have" Photo via Zach Sprunger

Job Title: It's Complicated

For Zach, working a simple job isn't enough, he truly loves working in the field of sports. Don't believe me? Take a look at the list of his current jobs:

Sports Related Jobs:

Director of Inside Sales: Greenville Drive

Director of Ticket Sales: Greenville Swamp Rabbits

Club House Assistant- Greenville Drive 

Game Operations Coordinator- Greenville Swamp Rabbits 

Ticket Account Executive: Greenville Swamp Rabbits

Man, on the Mic: Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Greenville Drive, and Clemson Baseball

I've had the privilege of knowing Zach for years and luckily was able to get some great advice about how he got started in the sports business, as well as some things to pass along to those looking to make their way into athletics.

How did you get started working in the sports industry?

Zach spends countless hours working for the Greenville Drive, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Photo via Zach Sprunger

Zach spends countless hours working for the Greenville Drive, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Photo via Zach Sprunger

"I got my start in the clubhouse as a high schooler working for the Greenville Drive. The team had just moved in town and my Dad told me I needed to get a job. So, I applied to work with sports. Little did I know when I applied that it would become a career move for me."

"A few years went by and throughout college, I was able to be a mascot with the Drive (baseball), as well as the Road Warriors (hockey). I never knew how to answer the question of 'what do you want to do after college?' The school I went to didn’t have sports management, but there was always a major draw that kept bringing me back to the industry. I left school one semester before I graduated and started my professional career. My internship in sports was very unusual. I was with a new organization and was given quite a few responsibilities not typically given to interns. Being thrown into a high-pressure situation was exactly what I needed and ever since then I have been addicted to the thrill of live entertainment and customer service."

Want more great content like this? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter

"Working in sports never gets old. The interaction with fans as well as the business of making unforgettable memories are a huge driving force."

Tell me how you've adapted to working in different markets to ultimately be successful.

"Understanding who you are selling to is so important. Being able to relate with the people you are selling to is vital as well. I’ve adapted to different sports, crowds and markets by submersing myself in those markets. One easy way is to be in the stadium WITH THE PEOPLE! It blows my mind how many managers or even ticket reps sit in their office or behind the sales table all game long. You need to be a part of the public eye."

"There are three things that I take with me anywhere I go Character, Integrity and Effort. These three things are things I can control and I am determined to be the best at them. I am determined to be honest with the people I deal with. Clients and coworkers alike, I am determined to have strong character and be a valued member of my team. Last but not least, I know that I will hustle and then hustle some more. It will never be said of me that I don’t put forth all of my effort everyday! These three things can come with me no matter what market I am a part of and they help shape success in relationships that directly impacts success in sales."

"Find a job you enjoy doing, and you'll never have to work a day in your life."- Mark Twain Photo via Zach Sprunger

"Find a job you enjoy doing, and you'll never have to work a day in your life."- Mark Twain Photo via Zach Sprunger

If you take nothing else from this piece, I highly recommend following Zach on social media. Not only will you get a glimpse of what it looks like to balance numerous jobs within the sporting world, but also get some great advice. Almost every day, Zach tweets out some sort of advice with the hashtag, #ZsprungTIX, #TicketSales and #SportsBiz.

What led you to use these hash tags?

"We all have a personal brand. We can help shape it, but it will be shaped for us no matter what. Our brand is what everyone says we are. I want people to say that Zach knows a ton about sports business and sales. That’s why I use #ZsprungTIX. I want to help every team reach their ticket sales potential through fan engagement and creative ticket sales. My brand is more than about me, it’s about everyone I can impact whether they are in sports or not."

Where could the use of inspirational material like you provide on Twitter be used later on in your career?

"I would love to be a consultant with teams struggling to meet their goals or teams that want to mix it up and get creative with the way they present their product to the market place. Having credibility is so important when you are trying to grow in a career and with technology these days it’s important to show a track record of being the best at what you say you are the best at. Everyone has a resume that is about the same in sports. It’s about how you differentiate yourself from the competition and the way you present yourself to those you have an opportunity to work alongside."

Zach also works day and night for a minor league hockey affiliate of the New York Rangers; the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Photo via Zach Sprunger

Zach also works day and night for a minor league hockey affiliate of the New York Rangers; the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Photo via Zach Sprunger

Best advice to someone looking to make their next steps?

"Take every opportunity and don’t think you are better than any opportunity."

  • "I had someone tell me they wanted to start out as a manager. Starting as a manager without proving yourself is almost always not in the cards. Your education is a piece of paper, but you have to prove the value you bring to any company. In business, it’s no longer vital to have a degree to be successful. It’s all about the relationships you build. Opportunity is relational, so it’s not about who you know it’s about WHO KNOWS YOU!"

"Your personal brand can begin and end with your internship."

  • "The biggest piece of advice is HUSTLE and then be ready to HUSTLE some more. Hustle is easy to say but not many people get it. I’m filling this out in the office at 10:00 p.m. because I’ve been HUSTLING all day and I’m okay with it. Be okay with showing up early and leaving late. If you want to be the best at anything you have to do it more than anyone else."
  • "The other piece would be to work for the job you want not the job you have. Take care of the smallest details in the job you have and DRESS UP! Stop being a freaking slob and showing up in tennis shoes and wrinkly pants, BE A DAMN PRO! A suit is a great thing to own multiple of. Wake up early and be physically ready to begin the day not running in last minute hoping you get there in time. I’m sick of people being employees and not professionals, so don’t claim to be a pro unless you ACT, DRESS and CONDUCT yourself like a pro."

What I get from Zach's comments on professional dress, really come down to you as a sports professional knowing what look is appropriate. Look through some of the pictures of Zach; often times I see him come into work with a suit on, and that night he'll have a hockey jersey and a beanie on because there was a game. A consistent piece of advice I have gotten from everyone I've ever worked with is; dress for the job you want, not the job you have. 

Notice Zach didn't start his career with a high-profile internship, degree from a top institution or his parents giving him a connection; he earned it. That's the biggest advice I think anyone should take away from this piece. Do the daily grind and earn what you want. You're not going to be handed a job on a silver platter based on potential, you have to earn the job based on what you can bring to the table. 

Zach just spent the past week hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Greenville, SC; a job most people consider to be "out of reach" or "impossible to get at a young age." At this point, the sky is the limit for Zach and you too could be next in line. Take advantage of Zach's advice and begin grinding for the job you want, not the job you have. 

Joey Cutting: The Angler of Athletics Marketing

NCAA Life Skills: The Quiet Contributor to Student-Athlete Success