EARLIEST ENTREPRENEURIAL MEMORY: Sold candy in the 1st grade for a 100% mark up. A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: My parents and all the women like Billie Jean King who paved the way for me in sports. SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME GO "AWW": Watching my son walk for the first time. SOMETHING PEOPLE DON'T USUALLY KNOW ABOUT ME: That I hate the cold even though I played hockey all my life.
Sports are no longer just fun and games
SEEING A NEW FANDOM EMERGE FROM TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES. Angela Ruggiero holds a wealth of stunning achievements, but at the end of the day, she wants to be known as someone who’s passionate and focused on the future of sports. Known for being a four-time Olympic medalist, elite Hall of Fame athlete, Harvard College and Harvard Business School graduate, acclaimed author, fierce competitor on her season of NBC’s The Apprentice, educator, advisor, speaker and more, Angela’s background is breathtaking—but it’s her current work as the founder of Sports Innovation Lab that she hopes is going to really take your breath away.
“I saw that technology and data were outpacing the talking heads on the topic and future of sports. The consumption of sports was now being driven by a variety of tech, but it didn’t feel like the sector knew what to make of this change. That was my “a-ha” moment: I knew there was a new epicenter in the sports sector, and I wanted to be at the center of the center,” Angela explains.
“All of a sudden I’m seeing a democratization of access to the content of sports and athletes, allowing for everyone, anyone, to become as die-hard or as casual a fan as they wanted. Maybe they don’t spend money on tickets, but they did to access televised game packages. Maybe they don’t buy jerseys, but they did buy endorsed products. Maybe they don’t even watch sports, but they follow athletes on social media and their causes. Everything is changing and it’s awesome in all the ways it’s happening,” Angela shares, showcasing the opportunities that she and Sports Innovation Lab are working to examine, explore, and explain.
BREAKING FREE FROM THE SIDELINES. Angela’s excitement over the future and potential of sports is also fueled by her experience as a lesbian athlete, wife, and mom: “Young people see a version of themselves with women’s sports suddenly—which is wild. When I was younger, I didn’t see women like me in sports. I saw only male role models. That’s all changed. Now women’s sports are so front and center, even boys are looking up to women athletes, which is amazing.”
Angela is also excited about the growing visibility of LGBTQ athletes: “In many ways, it’s still slow-moving, influenced by the days of the old boys’ clubs and the hyper-masculine influences that can linger. However, now there are more allies, and there are more athletes coming out and being out, but the circles are still small at the moment. Growing, but small.”
As she continues to move herself and Sports Innovation Lab forward, Angela has adopted a new astonishing goal: fierce inclusivity. “Too many of us find ourselves without a perceived network and think we have to build a company or an existence that looks just like ourselves. It’s a natural instinct, I think. I encourage everyone to be aware of their own implicit bias. Build diverse teams. Round out each other’s experiences and skill sets with those of others that are unlike your own. Don’t stay comfortable. At the same time, keep opening doors for people who are like you, who do identify with you—it’s the only way we’re all getting to where we’re all going,” Angela concludes.