Career growth, success, sports, business, career

4 keys to growing your career in sports

by Lewis Gray - director of sales at connect partnership group
July 23, 2020

Growing a career in sports, let alone any industry, takes confidence, dedication, perseverance, and patience. Understanding what you want with high levels of self-awareness and self-reflection are key to building a plan to accomplish your goals. Do you want to be the best sales rep? Future leader? President of the team? Ambition drives us forward, but only with strategic decisions, and a little luck, can you turn a “wish” into an accomplishment.

I’ve been fortunate to meet some incredible people throughout my career and that is only the case because I have maintained a conscious effort to follow my goals and work to build a network. Having humility is the first step to understanding that no one gets where they want to go alone and the earlier you open yourself up to support, then the sky is the limit. Think of your network as your own personal “Board of Directors” that you can consult with when mapping out your career. The best measurement to know who to appoint is do you look up to them, are they in positions you hope to be in and are they the type of leaders you one day want to become?

Most people in sales are natural “people pleasers” and by trade are good at maintaining relationships and meeting new people, but “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” and you have to stay on your game to get ahead. Hopefully you agree that these 4 areas are critical to that process:


Everything starts with confidence. When you wake up in the morning, when you pick up the phone to make a call, when you deliver your pitch, when you review your pipeline with your boss, these are all moments that require confidence. Even on days when it doesn’t come naturally!

"It’s important to also remember that growing YOUR career is as important as helping others grow THEIR career."

Maintaining a level of confidence is critical to taking advantage of opportunities when they come. If you get asked to attend a dinner or a happy hour, and you aren’t feeling confident that day, you may find it easier to go home instead. Although that may seem like a small decision at the time, you never know who you could have met at that happy hour and what impact it could have had on your career.

There have been many moments in my career where I’ve had to walk up to total strangers, introduce myself, speak with intent, and leave an impression on people that lasts. If you find yourself in an elevator with Richard Branson, Mark Cuban or David Beckham, what are you going to say??


This is where the hard work comes in. Daily habits become necessary to building momentum towards your goals. Growing a career requires time management, both in your day-to-day activities, and spending time tracking your goals and measuring your growth.

I have a practice that I have been doing since I started working in sports and every Friday morning, from 9am-10am, every week, I run through a list of “Relationship Calls” that I compile when I make new acquaintances, need to re-visit with old colleagues or clients, and ultimately anyone in your relevant career network that you genuinely care about.

The best of example of this, is how I first reached out to Mr. Bob Hamer, who graciously asked me to write this blog post. We talked for an hour about sports business and how he is growing his company and here we are almost 3 years later, still friends and constantly finding ways to work together. Authentically staying in touch with people is as easy as it sounds… just call them! But you have to proactively set aside time for this and stick to it.

"Remember, the things you have today are among the things you used to wish you had."


So, you have found ways to stay confident and you are making your weekly “Relationship Calls”. Now what? You may not see how important some of your network is until the hard times. If you lose a job or need a reference to apply for a new job, you’ll be thankful you have some people on your team.

It’s important to also remember that growing YOUR career is as important as helping others grow THEIR career. I have had a lot of friends and colleagues lose their job or leave their jobs in search of something new and I have lent a hand or an ear to listen to their goals and hopefully provide support where I can. It’s a two-way street!


We all get frustrated with where we are in our careers from time to time and it’s important to first look back and remember how much you’ve grown and far you have come from previous days.

My first boss had a sign above his desk that said “REMEMBER, THE THINGS YOU HAVE TODAY ARE AMONG THE THINGS YOU USED TO WISH YOU HAD”, and that has stuck with me today.

Growing a career takes a long time, but if you stay confident, stay dedicated to the details, persevere through tough times, and stay patient, your time will come. Keep your ears and eyes open for opportunity, self-reflect on your goals and your ambitions, and always be kind to all people.


When reaching out to new connections on Linkedin, don’t just hit “Connect” and call it a day. Be thoughtful. Be genuine. Why are you reaching out? Why should they care? Do your research and mention something relevant to them and always lead with an open-ended question. For example:

“Hi Bob, I noticed your company recently partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of America. Do you typically include community involvement in your sports partnerships? I’d love to schedule a call to introduce myself and learn more about your goals. Are you free on Friday?”

Lewis enjoys working in the sports business for all the same reasons he loves sports: competition, practicing, winning, losing and working as a team. Early experience with collegiate athletics and Major League Soccer allowed him to learn about different consumers and fans and hone his craft in corporate partnership sales. Working with Connect has allowed him to diversify his skill set in building mutually beneficial partnerships between sports & entertainment properties and the brands seeking to utilize these platforms as a way to drive business results. Born in the U.K., Lewis grew up playing football (soccer) and is an avid Manchester United fan and active member of their U.S. Supporters Group. Lewis enjoys Crossfit workouts, anything outdoors and spending time with his wife Morgan, and dog, Ozzy.