Midwest Meetings: Tell us a little about yourself and how you arrived at your current role.
Scott Ash: I’m married to my wife, Monica, of 15 years and have two kids ages ten and eight who keep us busy with all sorts of activities. After my Junior year of college, my father, who was then the Executive Director of the Nebraska Sports Council, called me and asked me what my summer employment plans were. I told him I planned to go back to my mowing crew unless something better came along. That’s when he offered me a job that would change my life. That summer, I became the Assistant Torch Run Coordinator for the Cornhusker State Games. I’ve held various roles since 1993, but the summer of 2016 will mark my 24th summer with the Nebraska Sports Council.
Layne Frick: I got a BA in Education and taught sixth grade for about four years, as well as coached high school basketball and football. I knew I wanted to do more though so I went back to school to get my Masters in Sports Administration from Wichita State. After graduation I joined Mid America Youth Basketball as the Director of Marketing, where we hold tournaments throughout the Midwest.
MM: What’s the most challenging part of planning your event(s) and how do you work with the challenges?
SA: We put on multiple events throughout the year, but the Cornhusker State Games (CSG) is the most challenging and rewarding. We have 60+ sports and 4,000+ volunteers. The most challenging part is making sure that all the moving parts are going in the same direction. There are a lot of details that need to be nailed down, double-checked, and triple-checked. That is challenging and time-consuming.
LF: We do hundreds of tournaments a year, about 500 annually, so there are a few challenges. One of the most challenging parts is the organizing involved in handling all the moving parts with each event. Also, you’re dealing with a lot of different people at each event, from teams to parents to staffing. The ultimate goal is for everyone involved to have a good experience from the time they arrive until they go home. We want it to be the best weekend it can be.
MM: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
SA: The most rewarding part is a toss-up. With 4,000+ volunteers, you get to meet and work with some of the most loving, passionate, and caring people you can imagine. Their involvement makes my job not feel like a job. It’s more of a passion and love for what I do because they have rubbed off on me. Another major reward is seeing all the athletes marching in the CSG Opening Ceremonies Parade of Athletes and seeing the sense of pride on their faces, and then the excitement when the Games are officially declared open with the lighting of our cauldron, followed by our fireworks show. It’s an amazing feeling to see all our hard work and effort come together in that one moment.
MM: What do you feel is most unique when it comes to sporting events compared to other conventions and meetings?
SA: In our world, it’s the people and the excitement of competition. Most conventions I’ve been to have been fun. But, I was there to learn and share. When you organize or attend a sporting event, it’s more of a production and there is an added level of excitement and anticipation. Sports can bring out the best in both organizers and athletes.
LF: Without much experience outside the sports world, I’d say that sporting events bring a lot of passion. It seems like that energy that comes out in people in sports is unmatched in other settings. We have family members cheering the players on and an overall atmosphere where parents want to provide an opportunity for their kids to do well.
MM: What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing a similar career, whether new to planning or looking to switch from corporate/association event planning?
SA: I would have to say that you need to have a passion for what you are doing. I would venture to say that most people working in the sports world are not going to get rich. But, they are going to love what they do, day in and day out. It’s much easier coming to work every day when you love what you do, no matter what your income level is.
LF: Don’t do it, just kidding! You need to be passionate about giving kids a chance to do something and know how good it feels to impact society. This isn’t something you want to get into for the money, if that’s why you’re interested, then it’s not a good position for you. Parents and coaches can see right through that. Our group has been in business for 25 years because we are doing the right thing and in it for the right reasons.
MM: What qualities, traits, and skills are most important to have for someone to do your job successfully?
SA: In order to be successful at sports/event management, a person needs to be highly-organized, almost to a fault. A person needs to have a passion for sports and competition. They have to be sociable and able to work with people of varying personalities and skillsets. And, most of all, that person needs to be flexible and be able to solve problems on the fly.
LF: Passion, detail oriented, and great people skills. I might drive myself crazy with how detailed I am, but with so many events it’s necessary. I work with a diverse group and being able to relate with different people and personalities is important.
MM: What tips and insight would you offer to other planners based on your experiences?
SA: Devise your plan. Tweak it where necessary after running it by your leadership team. Involve the right people in implementing your plan. A good plan is only a plan unless you have the right people on the bus. Be flexible. Don’t plan on working 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. M-F. Treat your volunteers/workers right. We have a motto in our office that has stood the test of time; WORK HARD, PLAY HARD. We try to keep our office fun, but we all know when it’s time to put in maximum effort to make sure the job gets done in a professional manner.
LF: One thing that comes to mind is that the world is a lot about technology. Companies and organizations are focused on who has edge, how to do it easier and with a click of a button, and everything is web-based. We pride ourselves on not losing the customer service side of our business. If anyone wants to call us, someone will answer the phone. We have full-time staff to answer phones and while we provide online services, it’s the customer service piece that sets us apart from others. Especially in today’s world, it surprises me how many people want to speak with someone versus using technology.