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The 1-On-1 Project: Part 2

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Team Insight has been the voice of America’s team dealers ever since our first issue 15 years ago. There have been some significant changes in the world of team sports since then – even before a pandemic changed the entire world – and we have always been there to document it in the words of team dealers across the country. Now we decided to really let these leaders speak in their own voices — to address the challenges and opportunities in team sports and how they and their businesses are addressing them.


Teresa Martini

Yours and Mine Sports, Modesto, CA

Teresa Martini’s official title is manager of Yours And Mine Sports, but she is prefers “head mouse in charge of the cheese.” She grew up playing most sports – everything from roller and ice hockey to soccer and basketball and then club lacrosse at Santa Clara University (Go Broncos!). She got into the business in a roundabout fashion by first opening an art studio/antique store in 2009, but her now-fiancé went from working at the local sporting goods store to working at her parent’s company across the parking lot and he recommended she get into doing T-shirts and sporting goods. The art studio had only been open for two months, but she realized he had a point. By the start of the next year she had transformed it into a sporting goods store and Yours And Mine Sports just slowly kept growing.  

What’s the past year been for you, personally and professionally, in dealing with the pandemic?

The uncertainty of it all is the hardest part. Do I have COVID? Should I not go see my parents? My mind tends to go towards the worst-case scenarios. Thankfully, I have been really lucky compared to what it could have been.

Youth sports have taken quite a hit in California. How has that impacted your business?

Not having youth and high school sports in California has been hard. We sort of pivoted to doing more on the skateboard side of the store because that was where the demand was. I feel bad for all of the vendors and reps that we were doing business with. We did a little team and corporate business so we had a few orders, but they definitely decreased if not stopped altogether. We used to do a lot of letterman jackets, but without sports kids weren’t getting block letters or championship patches so we weren’t selling jackets or sewing on patches.  

Any good come out of all of this?

One of the best things to come out of the pandemic probably was a shuffling of positions. It forced me to take a hard look at how we were doing things and realizing that I need to do what is best for the company. I feel very fortunate to have the staff that I have now and if it weren’t for the pandemic I don’t think we would be where we are in that respect.

So what is your “typical” day like these days?

I do a little of everything on a typical day — it just depends who walks through the doors. Helping customers always comes first. I do the graphics for customer projects when needed and all in-house stuff. I have a minor in studio art so I enjoy getting to use some of my artistic skills.  

That sounds like the more enjoyable part of the day.

Yes, but there is also all the “fun” stuff like paperwork and making sure product is on order and the store is organized that is usually on the agenda for the day, too. This last year our skate shop really took off, so I have learned a lot about that side and putting boards together.

Do you view yourself as a woman in the team sports business or simply a person who is in the business?

I would have to say just as a person in the team sports business. I mean, there are definitely times where being a woman comes up and may effect a situation, but it’s not something I think about most of the time.

The team business has historically been male dominated. So what are your unique challenges of being a woman in this business?

It definitely has its challenges and sometimes it is just trying to gain the respect of people. I’m not sure if it is because I’m a woman or maybe because I’m in my 30s and not the “typical” owner, but I think sometimes it’s hard for people to recognize that I can have just as much, if not more, knowledge on a subject.  

Has that changed?

I’m not sure if I just notice it more now, or it effects me more, but I feel like it may have gotten worse over the last few years.

Any examples of that?

Just a couple, of the many, instances: I was helping a customer with a bat and he asked me if I could go ask one of my managers if he could take a little bit more off the price.

Ouch. Anything else?

We also have a skate shop in our store and it’s the same thing. A customer came in looking for two skateboards for his kids. I asked if I could help and he was basically, like, no, I want his help. Sometimes you just have to smile and laugh it off, I mean he did walk out with a skateboard that I had put together.

On the flip side, what are any advantages of being a woman in the business?

I can’t say that I’ve really thought about that before this question and I’m not sure that there are necessarily. Maybe I just haven’t looked at all of the avenues that are available in that aspect. I tend to be a shy person, so going to things like women in business events isn’t something that I’m comfortable doing so I tend to avoid them.  

What do you think you bring to Yours and Mine Sports with a woman’s perspective as compared to your male colleagues?

Probably just looking at things from a different angle or approach sometimes.

Do you think being a woman helps in the business you do in girls’ sports?

Having played a lot of sports growing up I feel like I bring a certain knowledge set. I don’t know that being a woman necessarily helps. I think most customers just want someone that is knowledgeable and will help them get what they need.

What advice would you give to other team dealers about selling to female athletes?

Female athletes are a big section of customers. Most people will just go to the football teams or the baseball teams, but there are plenty of other sports and organizations that need equipment and uniforms and fan wear. And they usually appreciate that you took the time to talk to them.

What advice would you give to any women considering following a similar career path in the team sports business?

It’s impossible to know everything, so I would say just don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are so many knowledgeable reps out there that are willing to help. And don’t be afraid to share the knowledge that you do have with the customers. There will always be people that think they know more about something than you and you aren’t going to change their mind about something no matter how wrong they are. Most importantly surround yourself with good people. It’s easier said than done, but it’s important.

Finally, what are you expecting for you and your business out of 2021 and what is it going to take to achieve that?

Hopefully California will open back up and allow youth sports to happen. That will be the main determining factor I think as to what this year holds for us.  

That would be nice. Anything else?

Last year we did a lot more corporate-type items and our skate shop really took off because it was one of the activities that people were allowed to do here. So if sports do come back I think it will be more of a mix of sports and the stuff that kept us going last year.


Jan Kushner

Sports Connection, Emporia, KS

Jan Kushner began working for Sports Connection when she was in college as a part-time employee on the sales floor. After graduation as she worked in higher education and coached high school softball she continued to use Sports Connection for apparel and equipment and five years ago she joined the team dealer as a salesperson in a new territory they were opening. Today in addition to her sales territory, Kushner helps with its social media and sales programs while continuing to coach softball at Eudora High School.

How has the past year been for you, personally and professionally?

The past year, while challenging, has also been very rewarding.  I love a challenge and it allowed me to be creative and find new business opportunities, besides your typical schools and rec centers.

What types of new opportunities?

Local businesses and corporations were still needing apparel, masks, signs, etc., and adapting to what they were needing was an easy way to gain new business and keep existing business.  We were also fortunate in Kansas that youth sports were still being played over the summer and that kept another revenue stream open.

What is your “typical” day like these days?

A lot less travel!

Yes, for all of us. What else?

I spend a lot more time with phone calls, emails and Zoom, building relationships with customers and also showing them products. Online stores have continued to grow and become a vital part of the school and youth sports business.

We want to ask: Do you view yourself as a woman in the team sports business or simply a person who is in the business?

Honestly, simply a person who works in the team sports business.

The team business has historically been male dominated. So what are your unique challenges of being a woman in this business?

Every industry has challenges regardless of who you are. For me, I’m competitive so I like to be the best in what I do. I have to make sure that I am educated and knowledgeable on every sport, regardless of who plays the sport.

How about in being able to build relationships with coaches and ADs?

I spend the time to make sure that I build a great relationship with my clients and make sure that I understand what they are needing and correspond with them in a timely manner. I have a smaller window of error that I am dealing with than others.

On the flip side, what are any advantages?

The biggest advantage is that I can speak to a market that has seen a huge increase over the years — girls’ and women’s sports. Also, as more females are in coaching and administrative roles, I think it helps to be able to connect with someone with similar experiences.

What do you think you bring to Sports Connection with a woman’s perspective?

I think it makes our entire sales staff better, including me. Boys and girls are very different, especially at the high school and college level, in what they want to wear and how they want to feel in what they wear. My colleagues have been able to ask me more in-depth questions about women’s products, how they fit, how they are used, are they still the “in” brand.  

Does it go both ways?

Sure. In return I’m able to ask the same type of questions.  Being able to address the differences in products and having a bigger knowledge and experience base makes our sales staff much stronger.  

Does having a woman in sales help in the business Sports Connection does in girls’ sports?

Having a diverse sales force helps Sports Connection better sell to all markets, not just one specifically.

What advice would you give to other team dealers about reaching out and selling to female athletes?

Team dealers should consistently look at their business and consumer demographics as well as what trends and demands in the industry. Any market share or niche market that you aren’t selling to, that is increasing in popularity, you should be, whether that is women’s sports, youth sports, etc.

What advice would you give to any young (or older) women considering following a similar career path in the team sports business?

Sports have been a passion of mine for my entire life. My advice for other women is to find your passion and follow a career in it, regardless of what obstacles there may be. If there is a will, there’s a way. If the team sports business is your passion then dive in, it’s a great industry.

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