By: Peter Studer, @Pete_Studer
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Trent Wilfinger. After a number of years working with the Arizona Coyotes, Arizona Diamondbacks, and in Athlete focused real estate, Trent currently serves as Vice President of Operations and Professional/Elite Sports for EXOS. He’s built his success on the ability to find opportunity, form lasting relationships, and serve his clients and employers with honesty and hard work. We talked with Trent about his path and how others might follow in his footsteps.
Your career has had a number of twists and turns since your ‘Game Operations’ days for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Did you envision the path you took, or was it a product of hard work and seizing opportunity?
I always knew I wanted to work in sports. A lot of kids grow up wanting to play professional sports, but I grew up wanting to work in professional sports. I was fortunate enough to land an internship with the Arizona Diamondbacks my senior year of college at Arizona State University. As much as I would love to say I went in and killed the interview, that wasn’t the reason.
The person who was interviewing me happened to be from Chicago as well and it turned out that we had a lot in common. So it’s a good example of how timing, who you know, and developing personal relationships can help in the world of sports. From there, I took that internship opportunity and turned it into a full-time job through hard work and determination.
During your time in Real Estate, you worked in an ancillary way to professional sports. Could you elaborate on how that opportunity came about and how the experience benefitted you going forward?
While working in sports I had the opportunity to work closely with a lot of professional athletes. As I got to know them, and ultimately earn their trust, they would often ask if I could check on their homes while they were away on long road trips. The next thing I knew, in addition to checking on their homes, I was helping them ship their cars, picking up pets, you name it. It quickly became apparent that there was a need within this population for someone that they could trust both during the season and in the off-season. At one point my business partner and I were taking care of roughly fifty homes across the valley for professional athletes. With Spring Training taking place in Arizona a lot of guys have second homes here and often travel back and forth.
To expand upon services offered, I went and obtained my real estate license to help assist players with buying, selling, and renting for not only Spring Training but also as they were traded or signed by a new team. During this time, I really got to see what the personal life of a professional athlete looks like. It helps me relate with the athletes in my job today and show athletes that I understand where they’re coming from and that I understand the challenges that they face on a personal side. Athletes value trust and it is extremely important in order to build relationships. So often athletes come across people who seem to be sincere, but ultimately have ulterior motives or a hidden agenda.
You now serve as VP of operations for EXOS, probably the most highly regarded performance training company in the US. What kind of challenges do you face on a day to day basis that most people wouldn’t expect?
It’s been fantastic to see the growth of the company over the last few years and as a result there is no such thing as a slow time of year. We’re constantly looking ahead and planning for the next quarter. We have four main divisions on the API side-. Pro/Elite Sports, International Sport/Education, Facilities and Tactical. It definitely keeps us busy as there is always something new happening. With Pro/Elite Sports, as one sport’s off-season ends, another sport’s just begins. For example, we recently wrapped up the NFL off-season and the focus has now shifted to Combine and MLB.
In addition to your day job you sit on the board of an organization (Sereno Soccer Club) that positively impacts youth in sports. What does this work mean to you both personally and professionally?
Sereno Soccer started off as a client of EXOS, but as I got to know the players, coaches, staff, and other board members I knew I wanted to get involved at the board level. It really is a five-star organization dedicated to helping young players develop. EXOS has been involved with Sereno for almost five years now, and both professionally and personally it’s been very rewarding watching the player’s hard work pay off and ultimately watch them transition to the next level.
You went back to school to receive your Master of Science in Sports Administration after almost a decade of professional work. What has that additional education meant to your career?
For me getting my masters was always on my radar and a personal goal. I am lucky enough to have several mentors within the industry who I look up to and try to emulate and all of them have their masters as well. That really helped give me the motivation to just dive in and do it as there was never going to be a “perfect time.” When I learned about the sports management program at Drexel University I knew it was the right time and the right place. I strive to be as knowledgeable as possible about the sports industry and I am always trying to push myself to continue to learn and grow. The world of sports is constantly changing and it’s important to stay current on the industry you work in.
Could you elaborate on the work that EXOS does and how you’ve continued to grow over the last 5 years?
EXOS’s mission is to upgrade lives and we are doing that all over the world. We have become the leader in proactive health and performance and are ultimately trusted by elite athletes, the military, and innovative companies worldwide. EXOS designs and delivers health and performance plans that guide people to achieve higher levels of success. Through world-class partners, facilities, technologies, and specialists spanning six continents, EXOS is progressing the intelligence behind human performance.
Some of our recent company wins include:
- Supported 150+ NFL Vets this off-season
- Partnered with Thorne Research to create EXOS Performance Nutrition
- Opened new facilities at Porsche and Altru
- Supported over 80 MLB/MiLB players this off-season
- Earned a spot in Inc’s list of “The 5,000 Fastest Growing Companies”
- Powered Germany to World Cup Title
- Supported the Los Angeles Galaxy to their third title in four years
- Supported 128 combine athletes (13 Selected in the First Round)
- Launched our first online education courses and online EXOS Performance Specialist Certification
- Acquired Medifit
- Released Mark Verstegen’s new book “Every Day Is Game Day”
- Teamed up with Odell Beckham Jr. on EXOS PerformanceNutrition
- Named to Fast Company’s list of “Top Ten Most Innovative Companies”
- Named “2015 Gamechanger in Wearables” by Wareable
Aside from hard work, what’s the one thing students and young professionals should do to succeed in Sports Business?
Hard work is definitely first and foremost. I would also encourage everyone, although cliché, to get a job that you’re passionate about. Working in sports often involves long hours and personal sacrifice so you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. Confucius nailed it when he said “Do the job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think that working in sports should be your ultimate passion. At the end of the day working in sports is the dream of many, but ultimately the reality of few.
We’d like to thank Trent for taking the time to speak with us and offering insight that any young professional can benefit from.
You can follow Trent on Twitter here for more insight and updates from EXOS.