The Rising 25 class of 2019, presented by AB InBev, represents some of the brightest young professionals in the sports industry. Over the next several weeks, we’re proud to introduce you to this year’s winners and highlight some of their achievements to date.
Today, meet Dori Atkins: National Partnership Manager at Learfield IMG College in Chicago.
Like several other members of the class, Atkins has a student-athlete background, having played soccer at Amherst College in Massachusetts. But it was her major — psychology — that may have provided even more inspiration to pursue sports as a career, however unconventional it may seem.
“People often think that a psychology major sounds unrelated to sports,” Atkins recalls, “but a lot of what I focused on within my major was social psychology, which is really just studying why people think the way they think and why they are who they are. That made me interested in why people buy products. Once I figured out my passion was the sports industry, it grew into this question of ‘Why do people buy tickets to NBA games and what is drawing them to that experience?’
“Having that general interest in how brands are making decisions about their advertising and why consumers are buying into that advertising is why I was interested in the sponsorship field.”
A student-athlete’s workload is never easy. At times, it’s simply overwhelming. Atkins’ advice for current student-athletes is to focus on the successes they encounter along the way and not get too hung up on the rough days in between.
“First and foremost, try your best,” she says. “Not everything will go your way all the time. Sometimes, you might not do well on a test or a paper. But at the end of the day, if you know that you’re putting forth your best effort, everything will eventually work itself out. One bad game or one bad performance doesn’t determine the rest of your future.”
Atkins also interned with the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers in the group sales department during her undergraduate career in 2015. She calls the experience one of the most formative in her career to date.
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“When I was at the Sixers, that was the beginning of the ‘Trust The Process’ era,” she says. “As much as ‘Trust The Process’ has become one of the Sixers’ mottos, it has also become something that I think about a lot personally. Everyone encounters setbacks or challenges, whether it’s at work or in your personal life. I try to just trust the process of life, and I know that as long as I keep my head down and keep doing what I’m doing, things will fall into place how they’re supposed to.”
Atkins followed that concept into a full-time career with Learfield IMG College, where she has been since 2016. Through it all, she advises the next generation of sports professionals to be fearless, have persistence, and trust their own process.
“Don’t be afraid to take chances, and remember to be patient through the grind.”
Meet the full class of 2019 here.