women in sports, work in sports, moms, mom life, sports

Supporting and Maximizing Moms in Sports

by Abby Jacobs - Retail & Partnerships Manager at Xenith
September 23, 2020

A fellow Sports Biz Mom once told me, “People bring their whole selves to work every day. It might not be visible, but it’s part of who they are.”

I think about this statement often and am grateful that I work for a company that appreciates my full self. In fact, I’m incredibly fortunate that both my current employer AND my previous employer possessed cultures that celebrated who I was both during and after work hours – an ambitious Mom of two boys; who likes to write about working and said boys; runs sometimes; and is also married to a Sports Biz Dad.

Support for an employee’s full self is not necessarily a concept foreign in the sports industry; but it is not uncommon for parents, especially Moms, to feel less valued at work after starting a family. Many women are afraid that adding the title of “Mom” to their resumé will negatively impact their career trajectory.

I was one of those women - terrified that my desire to have a family was going to erase a decade’s worth of commitment to my career. Would I be given the same opportunities? Would I still be viewed as dedicated to the job? Would maternity leave or a sick baby limit the opportunities I had to grow?

Whether you sell tickets, sponsorships, athletic apparel, or sporting goods – Moms are mostly likely one of your top target markets. Be sure to ask the Moms on your team for their “parent opinion” when developing new initiatives.

When most Moms experience the concerns referenced above, it’s not because their company is purposefully treating Moms differently than Dads or those in the office without children. Until recently, it was rare to have Moms working in sports, and the leaders simply didn’t know what they didn’t know. If there has never been a Mom on you team, you have never had to consider how to best support her or make the most of the perspective she brings to the table. Until I became a Mom, these things never crossed my mind.

If our industry wants to diversify and retain talent, improving how we support Moms in the workplace must be one of our top priorities. Yes, guaranteed paid family leave and on-site childcare would be hugely impactful; but these are long-term, institutional, changes that will take years. So, for today, I will be sharing three ideas sports business leaders can implement NOW to better support and maximize the Moms in your organization.

Address the awkward

One of the topics I talk about most often with new Moms is pumping; the parts, the stress over supply, the time commitment, and the terrible closets or bathroom stalls they find themselves in. As a leader, one of the best things you can do to support a new Mom on your team is to talk with her about what accommodations she may or may not need for breastfeeding when she returns from maternity leave (should she choose to do so).

I can tell you from experience, talking about such a personal activity with your boss is awkward, especially if you are a first-time Mom. As a leader, you need to make clear that you will be her advocate while she is on leave, and that you will work with your human resources department to ensure she has the appropriate space. When she returns, make clear that you fully support her taking the time she needs to pump, or do whatever she needs to do, to feed her baby.

A key consideration of said support is to notice (and adjust as needed) the amount of time allocated for breaks during marathon meetings or events. Build in enough time for the Mom on your team to take care of her pumping needs is crucial. Poorly planned breaks can cause Moms to miss important conversations or moments. Be proactive, and if she is comfortable, continue to ask her what she needs.

Will it be awkward at first? Most likely.

However, establishing a strong foundation for your relationship with your female employees early in their parenting journey is the key to success. The trust you do or do not build with a Mom in her first few weeks back at work will impact your entire working relationship and will most certainly be noticed by the younger employees in your office.

The Jacobs Family!

Don't make assumptions

I’ve heard from numerous Moms that after they had kids, they were no longer asked to join happy hours, invite-only networking events, or given projects that would require travel.

Leaders, please don’t EVER assume that the Moms on your team don’t want to travel or attend after-work events on behalf of your company. Is it possible that a parent may turn down a new project or dinner with the team so that they can spend more time with their family? Absolutely – but this is their decision to make – not yours to assume.

If their passion or performance would benefit from a unique opportunity; chances are they’re going to jump at it - provided you give them enough advanced notice to arrange for childcare.

This past February, before COVID-19 ruined what we used to call business travel, I spent two nights in Florida just four weeks after returning from maternity leave. It was GLORIOUS.

Of course, I missed my kids; but, after dealing with every imaginable daycare illness in my first month back to work, the chance to escape their germs and the Michigan winter had me running out the door with my suitcase. Not to mention, the trip was specifically scheduled to discuss strategy with our biggest brand marketing partner – a relationship I manage day-to-day. It was important for me to be there and because I had advanced notice, we were able to make it work as a family.

Appreciate your asset

According to a 2020 study by the Collage Group “Mothers control 85% of household purchases...yet 3 out 4 Moms still say companies have no idea what it’s like to be a Mom.”

If you have a Mom on your team you, you have an invaluable utility player on your roster.

Whether you sell tickets, sponsorships, athletic apparel, or sporting goods – Moms are mostly likely one of your top target markets. Be sure to ask the Moms on your team for their “parent opinion” when developing new initiatives.

The value Moms provide also extends to external conversations. On almost every partner call, someone references their children. Whether it’s a toddler running through the background in a Zoom meeting, sharing stories about our own kids’ sports successes, or commiserating over a bad night’s sleep – becoming a parent has made it that much easier to relate to everyone I meet.

We all know that the sports industry is incredibly small, and relationships are everything. Having a Mom (or Dad) on your team makes it that much easier for you to establish credibility and trust quickly with a new contact. Not to mention, negotiating peace terms with a three-year-old mid-tantrum is more difficult than any sponsorship deal.


Abby Jacobs is the Retail & Partnerships Manager at Xenith, where she manages Xenith’s brand and experiential activations across the country; including those with IMG Academy, the Cleveland Browns, the Women’s Football Alliance, the Under Armour All-America Game, Rivals Camp Series, DICK’s Sporting Goods and Academy Sports + Outdoors.

She has extensive experience in partnership marketing, community relations, and event planning in the sports and retail industry. Prior to Xenith she worked as a Community Marketing Manager for DICK’s Sporting Goods and an Experiential Marketing Account Executive at Team One Advertising on the Lexus account.

In 2018, she founded the blog, Sports Biz Mom, which celebrates the stories of Moms leading the way in sports and provides resources and advice to women and families working in the sports industry. She is a proud graduate of the Ohio University Sports Administration program and the University of Nebraska.

Abby lives in the metro Detroit area with her husband, Ben, and two boys, Fraser and Clark. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.