DePaul to host event looking to spark more interest in the sports industry


Eric Henry

DePaul redshirt senior defender Adrian Walker goes for the ball against a Marquette defender on March 7 at Wish Field.

DePaul athletics will host a webinar on Tuesday that will talk about how college students can break into sports. The webinar is open to all DePaul students, faculty and staff members.

The event, which is called “So You Want to Work in Sports,” will feature four women who are currently working in sports in one way or another: Big East commissioner Val Ackerman, DePaul volleyball Head Coach Marie Zidek, ASM global accountant Samantha Dodd and Nike employee Anna Martin.

Jessica Ley, who works as brand strategist and integrated marketing at DePaul athletics, and junior track and field athlete Isabel Ingram will help moderate the panel. With March being women’s history month, Ley and DePaul wanted to get a panel that features successful women in sports.

“The idea was to bring in somebody who’s currently works in DePaul athletics, and then alum of the school or athletics,” Ley said. “When we came down to our women’s history month panel, we decided to branch out a little bit and commissioner Ackerman was a really great person from our perspective for this panel, because of what she has done in her career and all of the efforts that she has made with the Big East in terms of advocating for female student-athletes.

“With the rest of the panel, coach Zidek obviously is working with our women’s volleyball team, so that is a specific subset of female athletes that she can speak to. And then with Anna and Sam, they are both former DePaul student-athletes who have found their way in the industry in some interesting ways.” 

The panel will touch on several topics surrounding sports, but the main issue for many college students is getting their foot in the door. For women, that can be even harder because sports has long been a male-dominated field, but this event hopes to address those concerns.

“We want to make sure that we talk about obviously like getting your foot in the door, like what does it take to start a career in sports and we are going to touch on that sort of advice for people who are looking to be part of the athletics industry,” Ley said. “But since we are celebrating women’s history month and we have had this all-female rock star panel, we are also going to be talking about sort of the personal end of things as well.”

Ley mentioned that the panel will discuss both the career advice side of things and then the personal experience of working in sports as a woman.

Zidek, who is one member of the panel on Tuesday, hopes to inspire other women to get involved in the sports industry.

“I’m very humbled and honored to be asked to participate,” Zidek said. “I know one of the women is Val Ackerman, and she is one of the only female commissioners in the country. And to get a chance to be with someone who’s found a very powerful position and worked her way up towards the top in college athletics is going to be a really big honor for me. I think it’s going to be really important as we migrate through a time in history where we actually have a chance to make sure that there are increased opportunities for groups that typically haven’t been afforded that same level of access.”

Growing up in Chicago, sports have always been a part of Zidek’s life. She played volleyball in college and studied sports psychology, which then helped propel her coaching career. As well, she was an assistant coach at DePaul from 2010-12 before leaving for Buffalo for one season, then moving to San Diego in 2014.

Zidek was hired to be DePaul’s volleyball coach in 2017, improving the team’s record each season. The Blue Demons are 6-5 this season and 3-5 in the Big East, but it’s a much more shortened season since volleyball was moved from its traditional fall schedule to the spring. 

“My experience has been very important and sports has been a big part of what I get to do,” Zidek said. “And like my grandmother always said is you to find what you love to do and then find a way to get paid for it, and that’s usually a key to a happy life.”

The event will take place from noon-1 p.m. on Tuesday, and people can sign up here

The goal of the event is to provide people with a roadmap of how to get involved in sports, what are some of the important things to know and continue to open the door for people who previously did not have a route into the industry. 

“I hope to empower young people who are listening, and whoever’s listening, with the purpose of giving them a little bit more insight on how to choose decisions and choose opportunities so that their job leads to their next step in their careers,” Zidek said. “It really starts with identifying what your end goal is and doing some soul searching, so I really hope to impact a roadmap and give people some critical thinking skills that they can use.”