February 9, 2018

By Madison Leigh McCullough

Special to The Achiever

The Indiana Fever Be INspired Women in Sports Clinic provided an eye-opening day highlighting the exceptional values of women in the sports industry.

Madison McCullough

Over two days, I experienced different careers and connected with new opportunities. On Friday, Feb. 2, I had the chance to tour Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Fever and the Indiana Pacers, in downtown Indianapolis. There, I joined approximately 40 other female high school athletes to learn about influential women in the sports industry and their challenges, accomplishments and lessons learned.

I had the honor of serving as a student reporter, which afforded the opportunity to interview some of the players and staff who shared encouraging words and helpful advice.

On Saturday, I returned to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to job shadow Mei Chao, Corporate Partnership Activation coordinator, during the Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers game. I stood courtside and observed Mei directing promotions and preparing guests to participate in exciting timeout and halftime activities. By the way, the Pacers pleased a very proud home crowd by earning a win!

As a student athlete, learning about various careers in professional sports – without a “careers for women” qualifier – helped me realize the range of options I could pursue is outstanding. I can work with a major company like Nike or lead operations for a pro team; I can plan sporting events, emcee a game, be a sports reporter or analyst, or just about anything else.

Having the opportunity to speak with female professionals such as Bobbi Courtright, director of Community & Player Relations for the Indiana Fever, and Pokey Chatman, Fever head coach and general manager, has inspired me beyond words.

I am now, more than ever, certain that I will pursue a career in professional sports. One of the most powerful things I heard from nearly each person who engaged with us was “anything is possible.”

Aside from having an opportunity to explore careers in the sports industry, I had lots of fun at the two-day event. Being allowed to watch Fever players work out and then being able to step foot on the three basketball courts at Bankers Life Fieldhouse – high school, college, and professional – was superb. The sidelines of the Pacers court say “We Grow Basketball,” and the level of effort behind that phrase definitely makes it true.

In Bankers Life Fieldhouse, legends like Tamika Catchings and Lin Dunn are recognized with banners in the rafters, alongside their male counterparts from the Pacers. Watching other leaders perform their off-court jobs at an actual live game was very exciting and made me aware that each sporting event is a major production.

I saw exceptional women in action, and to know that they are making great things happen is really motivating. I can be just like them; I can do even more. These women took time out of their busy schedules to share their experiences with us and explain how they “want to not only help support other women, but also bring young women up with them.”

Being a part of this amazing experience has confirmed for me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to, and be successful beyond measure.

About Madison: Madison Leigh McCullough is a senior at Arsenal Technical High School. She is co-captain of the girls’ basketball team, has a 4.0+ grade point average, and hopes to major in sports, entertainment and event management at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C., where she will begin studies in the fall of 2018.