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Interview with Asst. Gen. Counsel Bobbi-Sue Doyle-Hazard - On the Field: Women in Sports Law

I’m pleased to introduce Bobbi-Sue Doyle-Hazard, Assistant General Counsel to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law Graduate, Bobbi-Sue is a mental health advocate, an experienced in-house counselor, and sports law champion. She is also the founder and host of Leveling The Playing Field podcast.

“Are you ready for some questions? A Ms. JD party!” Excuse the cheesy Monday Night Football knockoff, but welcome, Bobbi-Sue! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Let’s jump in! You’ve had such a diverse legal background, working initially as a sole practitioner to general counsel for companies in life sciences and telecommunications and now as Assistant General Counsel to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What advice would you give to those who have a similar diversity of experience and are looking to break into sports?  

Bobbi-Sue: Whether you’re looking to break into sports or any other industry, the most important thing to do is look at the job posting and dig into what skills are needed to be successful. Then, look at your own resume not as merely a list of accomplishments, but in terms of what skills you’ve used to bring those accomplishments to fruition. Now, compare the two (job listing and list of skills). Being able to tell a story and link the two will show that you have the skillset needed even if you acquired those skills in a different industry. Also, be curious. I like to understand the business holistically as opposed to just the legal part of it. Knowing how the organization works, its processes, and what it sells will only help you do your job better.

May is Mental Health Awareness month. As someone that balances mental health and a high-stakes position, what techniques can you share that have helped you manage?

Bobbi-Sue: In my experience, I waited too long to start working on myself and make my mental and physical health a priority. When I began to do so within the last couple of years, my life changed dramatically for the better. In reality, I prioritize very simple things that I need to function at my highest: sleep for one. I’m that girl that can be in bed at eight o’clock. When I prioritize staying out later to go to events, I make sure that I have a calmer day ahead, and not a slew of coaching agreements to negotiate, for example. I also take some time to slow down during the day, whether through meditating or just taking a break. I can be reactionary which I’ve gotten better at, and I’ve noticed when I’m consistently meditating my reactions are much more in check. Therapy is also always helpful, particularly with a therapist that you connect with.

One thing that I’ve done within the last two years, specifically, is I stopped drinking. On a holiday, I might have a glass of wine, but that’s the rare exception. Drinking was never a big problem for me, but what would happen is the day after I drank anything my anxiety would be intense and would follow me through the week. It was amazing how much clearer my mind felt when I decided I wasn’t going to drink anymore.  

So many law mixers center around alcohol. How do you handle not drinking in these social situations and how have others responded?

Bobbi-Sue: When I first stopped drinking, I mostly stayed away from these events because I felt awkward and wasn’t sure of myself. At this point, if I can get out of work in time for a happy hour it’s amazing and I’ll go. Find your own mocktail type thing and you’ll blend in, my go-to’s are soda water or ginger beer with a lime. Most of the time, people really don’t care. If they ask, rather than say “I stopped drinking,” I just say “I don’t drink.” Most people honestly couldn’t care less what you’re drinking.

When I first decided to stop drinking, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be “fun” anymore. It’s a very real fear that people have when they stop drinking and it can take some time to adjust to. Though my friends are all great and lovely, I wasn’t sure how they would react. I’ve learned some techniques, for instance, alcohol used to give me energy and amp me up. Now, if my friends want to go bar hopping, I have to figure out how to keep myself awake without alcohol because I can get drained. I find not drinking most interesting when it comes to dating. Alcohol is such a lubricant in society and not drinking sometimes puts people off. But in the end, it’s all about learning what works best for you and helps you prioritize your self-care regardless of what others think. 

Since February 2017, you’ve interviewed 30 women in sports for your Leveling The Playing Field podcast, with careers ranging from running clothing companies to talent management. What is the biggest misconception about women in sports? What are some growing trends in this field?  

Bobbi-Sue: One of the most common misconceptions is that just because women are at the table means that we have a voice and have reached parity. A lot of these women hustled to get to the table and may still not be listened to. We still have a lot of work to do there. There are many more women in the pipeline for leadership positions, but women are still not quite getting those top leadership positions. There are also some women that are highlighted often, making it appear parity’s been reached when in fact it hasn’t.

More encouragingly, one of the trends I’ve seen is that more women are starting to work in sport and are creative in that work. Some women are creating their own positions, for example. Yet, we’re still not quite there. Something that the founder of TeamWorkOnline shared with me is that women are still flocking to positions in Administration, Community Relations, and Human Resources. We’re still pigeon-holing ourselves, focusing our efforts on applying to these types of jobs as opposed to sales and top leadership positions. Though some organizations are better than others, there’s often an unconscious bias at play when women apply for those roles. As opposed to explicit sexism, recruiters will use phrases like “she’s not a good fit” or “I can’t really see her in that role.” Unfortunately, women are still not perceived as strong, innovative leaders. We’re getting there but it’s taking time. 

What changes do you think professional sports organizations can make to become more inclusive employers?   

Bobbi-Sue: The first step is admitting that there might be something working against diversity within the organization. We all have these unconscious biases, and until someone takes the time to expose them, they’ll always linger at the unconscious level.

As humans, we tend to be drawn to people like us. But you can’t be innovative, or on the forefront of any industry, if you’re just listening to people like you. You’re not getting new approaches to existing problems. Diversity of thought comes from diversity of experience which is particularly found through gender and racial diversity. We have seen, from the legal perspective, what happens when there is a lack of diversity: laws are made or enforced in ways that have negative consequences for marginalized groups. Once you access this diversity of thought, then you start to get creative, innovative, smart approaches to things and can succeed in the long-term. 

I’m currently reading Tony Dungy’s Quiet Strength. In it, he identifies one small part of his coaching philosophy as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: do the “ordinary things better than anyone else.” How do you think this advice applies to law students and lawyers?

Bobbi-Sue: I think that this advice encourages us to focus on the fundamentals. Don’t try to be the showiest person out there, but instead take care of your basics. In doing so, you’ll be able to handle the bigger things. As a student that means figuring out how you learn best and using that when studying for exams, even if it’s not what you’ve read is the best approach or how your friends are reviewing. As lawyers, it’s remembering that we work with other people and that they’re not always on the same level. We’re tasked with relating to others and speaking like humans, not lawyer robots. In sum, focus on your basics. I’ve seen firsthand how doing so can help people break through. 

Thank you so much for your time, Bobbi-Sue! Please consider taking the time to learn more about Bobbi-Sue and other women in sports by listening to Leveling The Playing Field podcast. You can find it on your “podcatcher” of choice. Also, check it out on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram: @LTPFPod

---For those interested in going in-house check out these recommendations from Bobbi-Sue:

---And, for those specifically interested in Sports Law (in addition to the Leveling The Playing Field Podcast of course!), check out:

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Tatum Wheeler is a fellow law aspirant based in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she’s not working, she spends her free time exploring new trails with her dogs, reading narratives, and cheering on her favorite sports teams. Please feel free to contact her with any questions, comments, or further advice.

 

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