In Part One and Part Two of this interview, we met Texans Staffer Kathryn Iribarren and learned some of the ups and downs of her life working for our favorite NFL team. In this third and final chapter, Kathryn gives us more insight into her world and offers up a few sneak peaks of what the Texans have in store for fans at NRG Stadium this season.
We ended Part Two of our discussion talking about fringe benefits of her job that Kathryn couldn't use, but she quickly moved on to share some of the bennies she does enjoy.
"Probably one of the best perks is we get lunch provided for us in the cafeteria every day during the week," Kathryn shared. "We may have weird times because we have to work around the players, but I am not complaining when there is really good free food involved! It is so nice to not have to worry about bringing in a lunch or going out to buy lunch every day. We save money and the convenience can’t be beat."
Okay, everyone loves a free meal, right? Especially when it’s the sort of free meal fed to pro ballers who eat like kings. But the proverbial buck doesn’t stop there.
"For me, however, the best perk is getting to travel with the team a game or two every year," she continued. "I love any excuse to travel! We have one ticket representative that goes on the team plane to help with last minute player and coach ticket requests, and we rotate. You fly on the team charter, stay in the same (nice) hotel and dine like royalty. The first time I went on a road trip, I could not believe the amount of food available on the plane. When I got on, they had snacks right when you entered - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grapes, cheese and crackers, hummus, chips, etc. They also had a hot sandwich, like a Philly cheesesteak or burger. I thought that was our food for the plane ride, so I loaded up. Turns out that was the snack, before the next snack and then the full meal. After the meal, they came around with warm cookies and ice cream bars and other tasty items. I fast for a week before and after I go on a road trip because the number of calories I consume in that short amount of time isn’t human. That they are able to hold enough food on that plane for the players, coaches, staff, media and others is beyond me. It seems like we wouldn’t be able to get off the ground with all that weight!"
By this point, I was thinking working for an NFL team, especially the Texans, sounded like a dream come true. But before I went too far off the deep end, Kathryn brought a dose of reality into the conversation.
"One of the downsides of working for a team is you rarely get to see the games," she said, trying to hide her disappointment in that fact. "I am in a booth on the first level of the stadium, and I can hear the crowd and the action, but I watch the game on a TV. It’s crazy! You definitely don’t work in sports for the opportunity to watch the games!"
So, maybe sometimes doing what you love isn’t all rainbows and sunshine...
"Also, the hours can be very long and you often spend your holidays at work. This year we have a game on Christmas Eve, so we won’t be with our family at all that day, and then we will have to be right back working the day after Christmas because we have a college bowl game that week. If we have three weeks in a row of home games, I’ll work almost a month straight with no days off. People that don’t work in sports have no idea the time commitment and crazy schedule. When the NFL schedule is released in April, that is when we know if we can go to weddings that year, birthday parties, family vacations, etc. It is so crazy how your schedule for the entire year is in the hands of the NFL."
As I processed this, it occurred to me that I must not be the only one who had delusions of grandeur when it comes to working for the Texans.
"My friends and family definitely have a skewed perspective of what it is like to work in sports," Kathryn added. "I am not hanging around J.J. Watt, asking the players for autographs, or talking to Coach O’Brien about the plays for the game."
Well, that right there might be something I’d have to have written into my contract.
"In the ticket office, we are pretty isolated from everybody else and we don’t see players and coaches on a regular basis. Also, people assume that we get paid very well since the players and coaches make a lot of money. We are not quite to their scale, I’ll tell you that!"
Now that we’ve come back down to earth, I wondered about the other extra-curriculars NFL careers brought with them, so I asked about those sorts of things. She let me know she has access not only to the medical staff if she ever has a need, but also the training facility – although most average humans can’t do much with the massive weights Brian Cushing, Duane Brown, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest use to stay in shape. But there’s more to a career than just those sorts of industry perks. Kathryn opened up further when I inquired about the other benefits.
"We have a lot of fun employee events planned throughout the year that are put on by a committee. Our events don’t include the players and coaches, but we have a fun time. Every year we have a night at the Rodeo, a Ticket & Gear Distribution event, a pumpkin carving contest and a white elephant party. The committee does a great job of picking new places and trying out new things every year. Texans know how to work, but we also take time to play!"
Speaking of work and play, things are ramping up like crazy around NRG Stadium with the Super Bowl less than six months away. Anyone who’s been in the vicinity of the stadium recently has seen all the road improvements going on, so I asked about what couldn’t be seen from the outside.
"Having the Super Bowl here has already put a lot in motion at the stadium," she replied. "We have been working on getting Wi-Fi throughout the stadium, and it is ready to go for our first game. That will be a welcome addition to all! We have also updated a lot of the concession stands and beverage areas to allow for better quality and faster service. These (food related) improvements we had in the works for our fans already, so it will be nice to showcase everything when the Super Bowl is here."
It also brings a lot more attention to NRG from folks that wouldn’t normally look to buy tickets to a Texans home game.
"I do all the staff tickets, so I have had to work on some things in regards to Super Bowl ticket offers. We have also fielded a lot of calls about people wanting to purchase Super Bowl tickets. There has been a lot of buzz and excitement!"
Now, as long as the home team for the big game is really the hometown team, everything will be alright.
As we wrapped up our conversation, I thanked Kathryn for her time – which is obviously a rare commodity. So, if you see her at the stadium, helping out a Guest Services, thank her and the rest of the Texans' staff for all the hard work they put in so that we can sit back and enjoy watching our beloved Texans kick butt in their awesome stadium.
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