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Will Rock Sports Executive Showcase- James Burge | General Manager

Updated: Mar 17, 2023



Why do you work in the sports industry?

Personally, I like being a part of people happiness. I like slowing time down for families and friends so they can make lifelong memories. I remember my Stepdad taking me to games when I was little. I don't really remember who won but I remember being with him and the fanfare and excitement surrounding the experience. We still go to games together and now bring my kids along.

Professionally, I feel the greatest sales and marketing minds exist in the sports and entertainment industry. This allows me to surround myself with the best and learn from and compete with the best. The business is cutting edge and rapidly evolving. Every day is a challenge keeping my mind dreaming of the next big thing.


When starting with your current organization, what were some factors that weighed into your decision?

The opportunity to work with a large company with endless learning resources and growth potential.


What do you look for in potential candidates?

  • Big dreamers/believers

  • Relationship builders/connectors

  • Firefighters -people who run toward challenges

  • Comedians /entertainers

  • Self-starters

  • Teachers


What advice would you give sports executives in similar roles to yours?

Don't let the magic of sports and entertainment fade away into a career.


What has been your most memorable moment working in the sports Industry?

When I first started in ticket sales I was struggling. Everyday was filled with repetition and rejection. I was getting grinded down and felt like giving up. The sales people around me were all negative. Complaining about pay, the team performance, basically any excuse to justify their failure. I realized I needed to find little victories. I needed to seek out happiness in the little things. Sad, angry waiters don't make good sales people. I challenged myself to be positive and find opportunity. I didn't have a choice. I had a wife and child at home counting on me.

One day I took a call I may have previously rushed off the phone but instead I stopped to listen. It was a Mother calling for her Son. She had purchased tickets as a Christmas gift for he and husband to go to a game together. Sadly the husband passed away just prior to the game so they couldn't go and the tickets went to waste. She purchased new tickets to another game in hopes he would go and find some normalcy. Her son was angry at his dad for dying. He was closing down, and she was having a hard time connecting with him. Basketball games where the son and Dads thing. They watched together and would get to the occasional game when the budget and time would allowed for it.

She wanted to have his Uncle take her Son to a game and try to make him happy and connect again with basketball. She asked if I could help make it special. There wasn't any way for me to financially benefit from this as she already bought tickets and didn't have much money. I was a new sales rep and didn't have much to offer but I felt her heart was heavy and desperate. I wanted to be part of the solution. What could I do within my power to make a positive difference. I told her I would help. So, I met the uncle and son at the VIP entrance early. Greeted them both with a team gift pack and jersey. Walked them down on the court to watch the teams warm up in the courtside seats. The arena was empty except for the players and staff. It was just the sound of music and basketballs bouncing on the court. I kept looking over at he and his uncle. I could see his Uncle was nervous and concerned. But slowly the boy was coming alive. His demeanor was changing. He was smiling. As the arena opened and fans started filing in, we made our way back to his seats. His Uncle shook my hand and thanked me. I said to the kid, "sorry your dad couldn't be here." He responded, "he was." I think about that every time I'm stressed about work and it inspires me and reminds me how lucky I am to work in this industry. We make lifelong memories.


If you would like to be in our next Executive Showcase please contact: sshagovac@willrocksports.com

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