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And So She Goes
And So She Goes

Episode 8 · 1 year ago

7. Kirsten Grohs, Atlanta Falcons Manager of Football Administration

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This episode is all about expectations and how to let them go. Kirsten is someone who changed expectations for herself in order to become successful. She grew up in Canada, dabbled in modeling and then fell into sports. After realizing that she loved football, she decided she wanted to work in the NFL. Knowing she wasn’t the only one with that dream, she figured out a way to separate herself from others in the job application process...she did make it into the league, and has since held very impressive jobs, even being one of the highest-ranking women on an NFL team at just 28-years-old... Kirsten is thoughtful, kind, super intelligent, hardworking, and dedicated. She’s worked as a scouting coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, the Director of Business Ops for the Mamba Academy before it was what it is today (RIP Kobe), she’s been the Manager of Football Administration for the Jaguars, and a Contract Research and Salary Cap Analyst. Currently, she is the Manager of Football Administration for the Atlanta Falcons.

Conversations with real women who makesports happen, this is, and so she goes, here's your host, Amanda Borgos, hello there. I hope you are enjoyingyour day finding time to yourself, maybe getting a chance to be outside orexercise or really anything. To get your mind right, this episode is allabout expectations and how to let them go not easy to do trust me, I'm in themiddle of setting new goals and taking limits off of myself to evolve into anew version of me. So I know it's not easy. My guess today is someone whochanged expectations for herself. In order to become successful, Kirstingrew up in Canada. She dabbled in modeling and then fell into sportsafter realizing that she loved football. She decided she wanted to work in theNFL. Well, knowing she wasn't the only one with that dream. She figured out away to separate herself from others in the job of application process, and I'mnot going to give away how she did that you're going to have to keep listeningto find out. She did make it into the League and has since held veryimpressive jobs even being one of the highest ranking women on an NFL team atjust twenty eight years. Old Kirsten is thoughtful kind. Stupor, intelligent,she's, hard working and she's dedicated she's worked as a scouting coordinatorfor the Atlanta Falcons, the director of Business Os for the Maa Academy,before it was what it is today. Rest in peace, Koby she's been the manager ofFootball Administration for the JAGUIRS and a contract. Research and salary capanalyst currently she's the manager of Football Administration for the AtlantaFalcons. In our conversation, she walks me through what N FL FR agency is likefor her, specifically with Thee, shelter and place orders, how she'sprepared for the NF l draft this year, how she landed her first job in the NFLbeing a woman in a department that is mostly men how she navigates n, pavingthe way for younger women while focusing on her job and we dive intothe importance of paying it forward. Here is my conversation with cirstengrass: Hey Kirstin. How are you good? How areyou doing I'm good? I'm good, how have you been holding up pretty good,adjusting to the new normal and working away from home and trying to fill up any spare time with as many umdistressing activities as possible? Yes, I feel like we're all in that sameboat. Anything that can you know, get our minds off of the real life. I thinkis is helpful at this point. What do you feel like has changed the most inyour daily life because of Cobid...

...nineteen O um? It's affected everything,so you know on one hand, I do consider myself an intrevert, sothere's this part of me that already feels very well primed for living thisway. But then you know, there's like your two placesthat you love to go to all the time and from me that's traitor, Joes in the gym,so that sense, you obviously have to adjust ti, reallyunderestimated the power of physical, distancing and introvert or extrahert. You know, being amongst a community of people isvery impactful and I truly miss it truly. I feel like I've never had somany video chats with family and friends which I'm so thankful forbecause had this happened, I don't know twenty ples years ago. We wouldn't havethat technology, so I feel like everyone's clinging to any sort ofhuman connection that they can get, which it's kind o cool, that we have toget creative in that sense. Okay, so before we get into your background, Ijust want to talk about free agency for the Falcons, because there were somevery exciting additions this year, the biggest get for you guys was obviouslyTad girly signing a one year deal. You also got defensive, Andante Fowler, whoyou are familiar with from the Jags, and you also got a few others as well.So can you just walk us through your responsibilities when it comes to freeagency? Signings? Yes, so my loss is the LEED negotiator. Hisname is nickpold and he does most of the communicating with the agents, butI'm always a part of that conversation with supporting data on the playersthat helps us create our negotiating positions. So a part of my daily ruleis to break down all of the contracts that are signed across the League andthen take that data, an input into a variety of different databases. Andthen, when we come to negotiate with a player, we use all that data to help usdevelop a markefer that player. You know our floor and ar sealing for howmuch we're willing to pay, and then also you know when we're midconversation with agents being rougferiends. Other players that arepaid in different ranges to help us. You know narrow, win on a final numberand then, on top of that, once the deal is agreed to, I create the contract. SoI write the contract of the player. A lot of numbers involved...

...a lot of numbers and I never would have guessed in a millionyears if this is what I would be doing with my career, but I love it and thatit challenges my brain to know think in a different way and itkeeps Mo my cothes definitely so as the manager a football administration breakit down for us. What does your offseason look like and then how doesyour role change during the season yeah? So the OSSEASON you're spending alot of time, preparing forrd for agency, which we just went through and thenafter that you're preparing for the draft. So that's what we are working onnow, Um. Obviously this year is a biva anomaly, because our scheduleis kind of shaken up some. So after thedraft it will be interesting to see you know how we're going to be able tocarry out offseasand, workout programs and thedifferent phases, whether that's remotely or in person, but usuallyafter the draft. We are working on signing the rookie class and thensupporting the coaching and personnel staff with what they need to get usthrough the rest of the oftes an workout program. Now it is really up inthe AIRRIGT now the NF L hasn't come out and said anything specific about how the rules will change for theOfssan worket program or what we're allowed or not allowed to do so. Rightnow we are just focing on the draft yeah. I feel like everything's changedfor so many people on on so many different sides of sports, and even youknow on the players side. Players are having to get creative in theirworkouts and we obviously know that the draft will be virtual this year, and Idon't know it's just it's such a weird time and I'm sure something that you'vehad to get used to too is even though you know what your role issuposed to look like in the offseason this year. It's so different than it'sbeen before, yes, and you know freagency alone was I don't. I don't think I have the rightwords for free agency this year, because if you backtrack some, you know we were essentially told to start working fromhome March twelvth, so they shut our building down and then at that point we were stillwaiting on the collective bargny agreement to be voted on. So you know we had maybe three daysthere to wait, because so much of what we do with free agency and the offseason depends on that collected, barning room awell. Everything reallydepends on the collected bar ingreent, but for what we were preparing for Um,you know: Numbers Change, O miims salaries for for players, change rules,changed contract language needed to...

...change after the the new CB a we didn'tknow at that time, whether it was going to pass or not soyou know you get kicked out of your building March twelt, waiting on theCBA goats that Sunday, which was three days later, and then you know that,following day at noon, is the legal tampering period. So you know you'vehad twenty four hours or so to really digest what comes with the new CBA and thenyou're speaking with agents, and then free agency officially kicks off Um just a few days after that on whenMarch eighteenth. So so much happened in a very small amount of time. Lessthan seven days, you know my whole work and personal world got turned upsidedown in a lot of different fashions, and then you get into the conversationof trying to sign. You know unrestricted free agents withoutphysicals, so there's so much that really impacted my world that week andmy boss's world and the world of the Falcons and all the other teams- and itwas a rollercoaster ride. Well speaking of changing the world for the Falconsyou just you set this up perfectly for me. I know you work mostly with the numbersbut talk about the sense of excitement when you sign a big player like ToddGirlie, I'm sure, even though you know you have to be kind of strict Ta d,make sure everything adds up Um, I'm sure you can still feel the excitementin the room with with your direct team and then others in the organization aswell. Absolutely you know there's nothinglike, especially like a home grown localtalent coming back home again and seeing all of the fans get so excitedabout that everyone in the building getting soexcited about that. I think that was a pretty special moment and definitelyone of the favorites. I think for sure. Oh I'm sure, I'm sure. Okay, I want togive everyone a little bit more background on you. So, let's go back alittle. What was your first job in sports? So this goes back to Canada that where I'm from I grew up ina small town called King Carden Ontario and I had never watched a football gameuntil my first year- F Undergrad at Wilfar, Larier University, and so I didnot know a thing about the sport until college and by my third year ofUndergrad, I had the opportunity to start volunteering with our footballteam through a mutual friend and I just jumped in you know, and at that time itwas...

...more or less curiosity and because itwas fun, and I had a lot of friends that were already involved with theteam in some capacity. So I actually films, practices and Games for our teamat Larier, and then I helped with our booster club and marketing and sometravel lagissix. So you can call it football oxs. I guess at the time edidn't really have a word for it, except for it was a killer, volunteerGig, and it really wasn't even on my radar to make it a career. I didn't even know wh.You could do that at that point of my life. It was just fun and you didn't,like you said you weren't, even involved in sports. Didn't you pursueoccrin modelling at some point yeah so who allthough high school inthe first couple of years of college, I was doing modeling and it just became too difficult to hold up both goto school and Molat the same time. So I let the modeling go Um, but I wasn'teven allowed to really play sports in high school because my agent thought th.That would make me too muscular an unappeeing for job. So you know I hadalways wanted to play sports or be a part of Sports D. I think in some wayme being here now is like a me tapping into my like subconscious, Fridianchildhood experience and wanting to relive what I really wanted to do, notthat I didn't want to do modeling, but I also wanted to play sports and sosecretly. I think that's why I'm doing this so fast forward. A little bit. Yourfirst job in the NFL was with the Jaguars, which is where hersoon I met.By the way you became the manager of Football Admon for the team, and youstarted, though, as a contract, research and salary cap analyst- and Ifeel like a woman in either of those rules, is pretty unheard of. So howwould you summarize that experience yeah? It was difinitly the first timethat the club had ever had a woman in that position, and I actually thinkit's the first time of the Falcons too, but um at the time. It didn't really feel it didn't really feel like. I wasbreaking any type of barrier, I guess at the time or a glass cealing at thetime. I think I just felt so at home and still due to this day, where youkind of you don't forget about him, but untilsomebody brings it up you're like Oh yeah, I guess you're right, you know Um,but I had always looked up to don Aponte. Who was the, in my opinion, thefirst woman to ever really do it and negotiate contracts, and you know getto that. V. P level- and I had always...

...admired her excuse me- admired her andlooked up to her since I was in Grad school and so forme. I just had it in my head. You know I want to be like dawn one day. I wantto get to that level and that's the way I was looking at it was that I justwanted to keep working hard and keep seeing how far e could push this thing.It's funny you mentioned that you didn't. You didn't even think about howyou were blazing a trail for young girls, because you just you're just init right, you're, just so focussed on what your job is, and it was your firstjob in the N fl, so you K Ow, you don't want to stand out for the wrong reason.You want to prove that you belong, but you still have a lot to learn. There'sa lot to balance there yeah there there is a lot to balance. Ithink what helps is that I had been aroundfootball since Undergrad, so I think when you are accustomed to the culture, you alreadyknow what sort of norms to expect, and obviously, if I didn't like being one of the only women, then I wouldn'thave gotten into football in the first place. That being said, I always thinkthat there is room for more of US or rever anybody that that wants to getinto these types of roles or whatever type of role they want to get into infootball. But I think the point that I'm trying to make is you know I just didn't mind to hangaround a bunch of gus and it never dawned on me as much at the time and itstill doesn't either, but I'm also happy to work with many women too. Ithink there's definitely room at the table for everybody. Of course. I thinkthere might even be this facade about sports, where, when you look around,you do see a lot of women in sports, but a lot of times on individual teams,there's really only one. Maybe two women on that small team within theentire organization. So, as a female in the industry, you do quickly get usedto working with all men and then you know you get excited when you get towork with a female colleague or another woman joins your team or whatever, butyou do have to be flexible in that way for sure you have to be able to getalong with really anyone ind everyone for sure. You know you're going to meetall types of different personalities and football, whether they're, Nale orfemale, so being able to find common granma just about everybody is veryimportant socirson. I was reading an article about you and your journey andyour strategy to get a job interview specifically in the NFL, but I think Imean we've all been there. We've all had to send out a bunch of resumes andyou know just hope for a call. We just want an interview for a job, but youhave a secret trick that you used. Can you explain what that is?...

Yes, so when I was in Grad School atOkijo? U, as doing their dual degree, masters program, Yo would get like aMBA and then Youo'd also get a master in sport administration and it's agreat reputable program, part of their Um. Their Mo is the network of a Lovniye thatwill help you get a job after your time. There is finish, but me being Canadian,I felt like I was having a difficult time, not only networking but also Um, just meeting people that worked in theNFL and in the specific side of the NFL that I wanted to get into. I felt likethere were some hoops to jump through and I was having a tough timenetworking. So my mentor, one of my mentolrs up in Canada, was the headcoach of the Hamilton Tigercats. At the time. Give me an idea to mail out fivedollars: STARBUCKS GIFT cards to every single general manager in the NFL,along with a copy of my resume, to show that I had to groper credentials for the Gigas well and askd them for five minutes of their time over coffee, and I just bought right into it, and Ithought it was the greatest idea ever. But I was also AGROPP collegn Eein in my head. I felt like fivedollars was a lot, so I knocked that down to three dollarsand I sent out three dollar starwaks gift cards to every general manager,just by regular US male, no fedex, and I I just thought that at the timethat's what I could afford and it works like when you nail out anything regular, USPS, Male, there's,no, there's no waitong guarantee that it's going to land on anybody's desk,especially in the NFL. So I really rolled the dice and the first call thatI got was from Tretbali at the San Francisco forniters Wen. He was jamthere and I just never. I J, I was completely surprised. I J T reallydidn't think I was going to hear that from anybody and he wanted to set up atime for me to interview with Brian Hampton who is there leaving rucherethere, and I was just fored and excited to have aninterview and then a couple of days after that the Jaguars called me and wanted to flyme down the next day for an interview and the rest of hi history. So itworked. It worked. That's amazing and correct me. If I wrong, the Jaguarsdidn't have a specific role for you. They just knew that they wanted to hireyou as that right.

Well, at the time, so they had had a woman resign who was an executive assistant and then theywere deciding if they wanted to hire like a scouting cornator as well assomebody in football administration, they were kind of on the fence. So atthe time I was really interviewing for two different positions and I ended up getting the rule in footballadmin which looked out great, because that is where I really wanted to beanyway, but they kind of we had this discussion at first, where it was likeHay. We had an executive assistant. We know that you just wrapped up twomasters degrees and you might not be looking to settle into an EA role, buthow about we snart you as an adaman assistant, you kind O, learn the ropesthrough Tim Wall Sho's their director of o administration, and then we addfrom there, and that was the deal and that's how word an worked out great. Itwas awesome, I learned so much and it really set up a stable, inknowledgeable foundationfor what I'm doing now, absolutely and you're being. I know, you're beinghumble, because you got promoted like at least twice or something an only afew years that you were there, which is so igpressive so impressive. I am forever grateful and DaveCalldwell WHOs Sol the general manager there now, for you know him giving memy first shot an the NFL instills this day, being somebody that I can reachout to four advice and just talk to about no career career advice oranything. I think those types of bonds are so precious and I'm very grateful Ilike that. You brought up your masters because I feel like some of us gothrough a similar. I don't know I guess crossroads where we graduate. We get our bachelors and some people almost haveto get their masters in order to succeed in the type of career they want.But not everyone does like when I went right into broadcasting. I I just knewthat experience was more necessary than continuing my education. So what didyou learn from that experience and how do you feel like getting your mastersactually benefit? You benefited you in your career yeah I so coming from Canada, especially like youcant Master, in a lot of different fields: N in Canada. When I wasapplying to Ohio, you know you could go to Grad School in Canada for likethe the basic standard things like okay, if you want to be a lawyer and you gohere, if you want to be a doctor, a d you go there or psychologist whatever,but you couldn't master in Sport...

Administration in Canada and to be ableto pare a sport. I degree with an MBA. You especially could not do that inCanada. So I think that was really woring to be able to work on both ofthose at the same time and then also in Canada, theres of a limited amount ofschools. You can go to verses in the United States. It's almost likeoverwhelming how many institutions there are. So I wanted to make surethat where I was going to apply to had a great reputation, a solid network ofalom working in sports and just had a culture set up of tradition and historyand that's what Ohio had and still has- and you know I I thought it was sovaluable because quite frankly, I've majored in psychology and French inUndergrad, I takning business classes. So for me to be able to do what I'mdoing today I mean getting an MBA, really really helped. I was reading anarticle about you on your journey from Canada to the- U S, which I imagine maynot be as hard as moving from a country with like with a four language orsomething, but still there there's definitely a learning curve. But therewere so many doors that have opened for you and then there were times where itjust wasn't going to work out and then someone sometimes a stranger, wouldjust step in and help. And I don't know I j, I feel like the upplies to allindustries, not just sports, but how important is it to just be kind and tojust pay it forward? I cannot stress it enough. I would notbe here today without the numerous people that have lent me a helping handwhen I did nothing to to deserve it and Y. I feel like being authentic and ingenuine in yourpursuit and just having a a general kindness and appreciation for everybodygoes a really long way and even to this day, you know where I'm working from right nowremotely I would not. I would not be where I am without the number of peoplethat just do insanely kind and generous things for me, and so it just goes sucha long way to the point now where I finally feel like in my life. I amgetting to an area where I feel like I can start getting back to others, and Ifind me doing the same things for other young women that others have done forme as I grew up, and so I it really does come full circle and the more yougive the more you get really that's the best too, because we've all been the...

...twenty something, a young kid who justneeds a chance. You just need someone to give you an opportunity, and youdon't know even once you get that opportunity, you don't know how it'sgoing to work out. You don't know where you're going to live or who you'regoing to meet, or there are so many question marks and we've all been there.So it really is rewarding and really cool. Once you reach a spot in yourlife or in your career, where you can give back and hopefully make adifference for someone sinse, someone once did that for you, so that's verycool that it's come full circle. So in talking about all of your experience,Kirstan, we missed a part that I think is super important and I wanto talkabout it. After working for the JAGWARS. For a few years, you moved across thecountry to become the director of business operations for the MambaAcademy. How did that come about and what was that experience? Like yeah, Big Switcou? I never thought Iwould leave the NFL, but I had some good friends that had already workedthere. I have a really corn nucleus of friends that are like family out in L Aso I was already familiar with the city, and a couple had already worked at theacademy which, at the time this was before Kobe Bryant. Russin peace hadacquired it, so it was just called Sports Academy and they were in full started mode. Theywere looking for people to be flexible, were a number of different hats andhelp them get the thing off the ground, and I received a unreal opportunity to goout there and try something different. You know see if I would be good atanything other than just football and I jumped on it because it just it seemedlike the adventurer of a lifetime and it really was and Um. You know: Sports Acadeny, Monba porsacademy is like Disney world for athletes. You can, you can doeverything under one roof. It is literally the size of a Walnart andthere's you know: Five: six basketball, courts, sand, byball, full strength andconditioning Jym in house doctor's office, Inhouse Sportssike, you knowinhouse spits recoveries of norm atteck in all of those things, Um and that's that's just the tip of theiceberg. So it was like a one: Stop Shopping for athletes of all ages,amaseur o pro, and it was such a unique experience and I'm forever gratefulbecause it taught me so much. You know if, if anyone has ever worked in astart up, you know you have to not just wear a ton of different hats, but youalmust fake, some of it until you make it and you're drowing things at thewall to see what sticks. So it was so different from what I knew working inthe NFL, where everything as like, very rmene, Berry, structured and for mebeing a structured person. I had to...

...really adapt an adjust to start up lifeand I think it made me stronger. Definitely, I think whenever we take arisk in our career or in our lives in general, even if it it doesn't turn outthe way we thought, for whatever reason you always learn from that Um and younever want to go through life thinking what? If what? If I had just tried thatjust you know just for a little while or whatever, and I'm sure now just knowing that you were a part ofthe heartbeat of that organization, I'm sure it's it's even more special tothis day, given everything that's happened recently, absolutely I still have people thatwork there that I would consider family and it's really, you know, th the level of tragedy. That was what happened. I I can't even Ican't even speak about it without feeling overwhelmed, because I justcan't imagine from from all different levels: Tut they're still they're Sol, pushingthere they're still doing it them on the way, and you know I'm very proud of of them forcontinuing. You know: Kobeand G Gsisy like that, definitely absolutely! So.What are your goals for the future? I it seems like the sky is the limit foryou, and I know it's so hard to paint a picture of even what five years downthe road could look like for you, because you've taken risks that youdidn't ever really set out to take in the beginning. But do you have specificgoals for yourself? Yeah, I would love one day, be aLeegingo sheeter, whether that's you're with the Atlanta Falcons or somewhereelse. I am loving my time right now in the rule that I'm in, because I stillhave so much to learn- and I am reminded of that daily. I justyou know IAM, so laser focused on just being the best. I can at my job rightnow, but I would love the shot one day to be a LEA negotiator. I love that. Ithink that would be perfect for you. Okay, before I let you go. Can youleave us with a woman in sports who inspires you? Maybe someone you look upto or someone Youe worked with before anyone that has left a lastingimpression on you yeah. I go immediately back to Donaplante. She isnow at the League head office working football operation, but to me s is likethe biance of football. She is untouchable, aold woman, to get that far and I thinkif she wanted to, she could be ngm today, gosh, that's so cool to be known,as he biyona a footballly to one person yeah. She is awesome. Well, thank youKirsten. I really appreciate it. Good...

...luck with everything. That's going onwith you working from home and figuring out what the rest of the offseasandbrings in the NF L. I really appreciate it a thank you. So much for letting mecome on your pordcast. Tis is fun. It really is crazy. How every part ofour lives has changed since the PANDEMAC and yet we're all trying tofind ways around it to move forward and still try to keep our lives somewhatnormal and, of course, aside from normal Sey stay safe, which is of theutmost importance. I hope you enjoyed this episode with Kirsten. I've had ahandful of broadpastors on the show, and I really wanted to highlightsomeone who works on the operation side of things which, as we all know, isvery important, and even though it's not a front facing role, her jobimpacts, players and teams and their money. So ID say she is a pivitlpieceto the puzzle. If you enjoyed archat, please rate review and subscribe andthen share with me that you've listened on social media. You can find me oninstagraam at Miss Amanda, Borgos and a, and so she goes pod thanks forlistening.

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