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Volume 20 No. 42
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Renee Washington, USA Track & Field

Photo by: USATF
t’s a nice coincidence that both USA Track & Field and its chief operating officer are making up for lost time.

USA Track & Field // Chief operating officer
Renee Washington manages a staff of 71 for the national governing body, which in her tenure has set a new benchmark in the Olympics world for sponsorship revenue, built a modern media distribution strategy and rebuilt relationships with track groups domestically and abroad.

Managing all those fronts is an intense affair, especially at an organization that was slow to join the modern sports business world. But for Washington, a heavy workload is welcome after she took a decade off, midcareer, to care for her daughter.

“Everybody has their own journey they go through, but I have 10 years in which I didn’t get to do this,” Washington said. “While I got to do something else that was meaningful in a way, there was this reluctance about it. It was something that weighed on me. I appreciate the opportunity.”

It’s been an uphill battle in some respects. Neither she nor CEO Max Siegel are “track people,” making for tough sledding when they proposed big changes. Five years after they arrived, the sometimes insular NGB world is coming to embrace the notion of outside business expertise, but it wasn’t like that in 2012.

That’s why Washington’s a game changer. She is hitting her targets and gets points for degree of difficulty. Speaking of the organization she and Siegel inherited, she said: “You couldn’t necessarily call it successful. Some might say it was dysfunctional, and I helped change that culture. And I don’t mean just with respect to the field of play, the things you notice. I’m talking about the other aspects of the sport that we as an NGB are responsible for.”

— Ben Fischer

  • Where born: Franklin, La.
  • Education: Spelman College, B.A. in political science; Georgetown Law Center, J.D.
  • Attribute I look for when hiring: I look for someone who has invested in themselves so that they have developed substantive skills that can translate into all work environments, and I always ask them what they are reading.
  • Networking tip I’ve learned: I must answer with three related tips — Effort: make an ACTIVE effort to be where people are that may impact your professional growth; Knowledge: be up to speed on environment and people in it; Sustain: develop and maintain meaningful relationships.
  • Best advice I’ve received for career development: Never stop seeking and accepting opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Sports business industry can foster a healthier work-life balance by: For me, it comes by accepting the fact that this is a lifestyle, not a job.
  •  If I had it to do over again, I would: Not change a thing (except use Excel more). The opportunities I’ve had have made me into the person I am today.
  • Woman in sports business I’d most like to meet: Virginia Halas McCaskey, owner of the Chicago Bears. Her life story must be fascinating. I anticipate that she has much wisdom to convey. That would be an opportunity.
  • Is discussion about challenges women face working in sports necessary or played out? If I understand the question, discussion is always necessary and men must be a part of the conversation. We can’t have discussion in a vacuum. Moreover, from discussion we need goals and action.
  • Causes supported: Junior League of Indianapolis. Encourage all young women to join in their local communities; skills learned and other women you meet will transform their lives.