When I was a kid, like most football fans, I dreamed of being a pro baller. One of my most distinct memories was diving off my dresser onto my bed to catch an imaginary pass to win the Super Bowl. I could hear the crowd roar as I landed, see the cameras flashing as I came up from the "ground" with the ball in hand, and feel the surge of excitement knowing my team had just won it all.
The reality of it however, was far less exciting. As I grew to accept the fact that this particular dream would never come true, writing about exciting things took the place of actually doing them, and I settled into a groove.
Over the years,I’ve known guys who played college ball at a high level, only to have things derailed by injuries before they made it to the big leagues. I’ve also known hundreds more who, like me, were never going to get to that level simply due to the harsh reality of genetics.
What do you do if you have the overwhelming drive to be involved in pro ball, but aren’t blessed with the size/speed/talent to actually play? You find a way to work in a related field, or work on the field, or maybe even just next to the field.
Recently, through a mutual friend, my lovely wife and I had the opportunity to meet Kathryn Iribarren, the Texans Ticketing Services and Operations Coordinator. While Kathryn’s job is hardly as glamorous as "Super Bowl MVP" or "Number One Draft Pick," her entire career is a field-side seat to the behind-the-scenes world of professional football.
After chatting with Kathryn for a while and listening to tales of her day-to-day life, I found myself fascinated by what goes on behind the curtain, between games, and off the radar of most NFL fans. It occurred to me that if I found the stories interesting, some of you might as well.
With that thought in mind, I asked her if she’d be up for answering some questions and offering up some interesting stories of life behind the scenes of a big time professional sports organization.
What piqued my curiosity first was Kathryn’s passion and exuberance for the Texans. Aside from my wife and a small handful of friends, it’s just not that common to meet a woman who is so hyped about the NFL. The reporter in me had to know what drove that passion and what led to her acting on it to the point that it dominates her waking hours.
"I have always been very active in sports," said Kathryn. "I played basketball and soccer through high school and played basketball in college, so I've always enjoyed being in a sports environment. To be honest, I really didn’t have any interest in football, originally. I grew up in The Woodlands, and I would occasionally go to high school football games, but that was more of a social event. Also, I went to Southwestern University, and when I was there, we didn’t have a football team. However, once I started my internship with the Texans, I was hooked. I learned the rules fast and was shocked I never appreciated the sport before."
I knew she had gone to college for sports management, which elicits images of "Show Me The Money!" and all that, but I couldn’t see the logical leap from being Jerry Maguire to working as a team’s support staff. So I dug a little deeper.
"As I said before," she continued. "I went to Southwestern University. It is a Division III school, so the majors they offer are very limited and narrow. However, they had a program where you could form your own independent major. You were in charge of compiling a degree plan with relevant courses. It was presented to a committee and they would approve or deny it. I had always entertained the idea of going to school for business, but still wanted to learn about the business of sports. My degree covered a wide range of topics, and I was able to learn a lot about business, which has translated to my current job. In addition, I was able to study sports law, kinesiology, sports psychology and other interesting topics, so I was exposed to a lot of areas in business and sports, which helped when I came to a job that combined both."
While that list of subjects might seem daunting (law, medicine and psychology all at once...who does that?), listening to Kathryn talk makes it easy to believe she was a star pupil. Like so many bright minds before her, zealous motivation to achieve a goal, combined with solid opportunities and the talent to bring it to fruition, led Kathryn to her current role. The same could be said about any of the Texans players.
While the comparisons to professional athletes does have merit, like most who enter a new career, reality can often differ from what we imagine we’re getting ourselves into with our exciting new endeavors...
Come back tomorrow for Part II.
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