SBJ/February 4-10, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Spotlight: Rachel Gary, 2014 Special Olympics USA Games

‘It’s a really great time for Special Olympics right now’

The 2014 Special Olympics USA Games recently named Rachel Gary director of communications. Before joining the Special Olympics, Gary spent three years as a public relations consultant for various companies, including the Women’s Sports Foundation, Sports Management Resources and Test Football Academy’s 2012 NFL Combine Training. She spoke with staff writer Anna Hrushka.

Photo by: 2014 SPECIAL OLYMPICS USA GAMES
Age: 41.
New title: Director of communications, 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.
Previous title: Public relations consultant; formerly senior public relations officer, United Football League.
First job: Cashier at Herman’s World of Sporting Goods.
Education: Bachelor of science, radio and television, Ithaca College (1993).
Resides: Springfield, N.J.
Grew up: Hamden, Conn.
Executive most admired: Donna Lopiano.
Brand most admired: Under Armour.
Last book read: “Sports Illustrated: Going Deep: 20 Classic Sports Stories,” by Gary Smith.
Last movie seen: “Rudy.” (“Over the holidays, I introduced my sons [9 and 11] to the movie. ... It’s a great movie for young athletes.”)
Favorite movie: “The Outsiders” and “Good Will Hunting.”


What will be the biggest challenge in your new position?
Expanding the network of people who are already supporters of Special Olympics and showcasing our athletes’ abilities on a national scope. To do this and be successful, we need to work with a variety of media and corporate partners to help spread the message. It’s a really great time for Special Olympics right now. Our athletes are currently competing in South Korea. We have the 2014 USA Games in New Jersey, which is what I’m directly involved with, and the 2015 World Summer Games in Los Angeles.

What is the biggest risk you've taken in your career?
I would say taking time off to have children, but one that I would do again in a heartbeat. I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom. I always thought I would work all the way through, but it was the best decision for me and my family. I spent invaluable time with my two sons.

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
I’m not sure that I have one quintessential moment, but more all the little accomplishments that I thought might never happen. The front-page story for a client that you worked really hard to get, helping a charity achieve its financial goals through your marketing efforts or advocacy work that helped to change legislation so that more people could participate in sports; all of those little moments are what make me excited to get up every morning and go to work.

What career advice do you have for people wanting into the sports industry?
Become involved in as many areas of the industry as you can, whether it’s public relations, social media, marketing, finance, operations, whatever it is. Because when you start to really specialize in one area, you’re going to touch upon all the other areas and you’ll have a greater understanding of each other’s needs. And network, network, network.

What is one story you are continuing to watch in the sports world today?
How to enhance the overall at-home spectator experience while simultaneously making people want to come to live events. I was just reading about how they are experimenting putting down the first-down line in-stadium because people love seeing it at home.

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