RealJobs: Nancy Gonsalves

I work for the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The division I work for is called International Games and essentially we do all the planning, logistics and operations for the US team at the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American, Parapan American and Youth Olympic Games.  In a four-year quad (which represents an Olympiad), we are simultaneously working on eight Games across the world.  Of course the Olympic Games get the most attention, and rightly so, but the other Games are equally challenging.  Right now we are prepping for the Pan American and Parapan Games to be held in Guadalajara, Mexico looming in October-November 2011.  Five weeks later we have the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.  And then just six months later we are on the ground in London for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.   The Olympic World is full of acronyms and we have coined the term 5G11M, which stands for “5 Games in 11 months”.  If I stop and think about it I almost get nauseous! We usually have a bit more “recovery” period between events to recharge, physically and mentally.  Oh well – 2013 is looking pretty good for an extended Cape Cod vacation!

I fell in love with the Olympics when I was a child.  I was 13 and in awe of Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Montreal Games, since she was just 14 herself.  In 1980, I remember exactly where I was when the US beat Russia in hockey (skiing in New Hampshire).  The Olympics became “my thing”.  My sport in high school was field hockey and I am so lucky that BC happened to need a goalie.  I would have gone to BC just to go but being able to play a sport was even better.  Most of my friends were on the field hockey, soccer, lacrosse and football teams since we spent a lot of time together at Roberts Center (the “old” Conte Forum).    BC launched itself into big-time athletics during my time and my senior year was incredible  – the men’s basketball team were in the Sweet 16, the men’s hockey team played in the Frozen Four and Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie and team played in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day, and won!

It was during this time that I had my “aha” moment and realized that while sports were fun, they were also a profession!  Lots of people worked in the athletic department, worked for the television crews, worked at the Bowl games.  My senior year we had a new field hockey coach, Charlene Morett, who came to BC straight from the Los Angeles Olympic Games, and my passion for the Olympics was renewed.

Once I knew I wanted to work in the sports field, it took some time to actually get there!  I was finance major and worked for a few years in sales.  I hated sales!  Despite playing sports, I am not that competitive!  I sent out letters to all sorts of teams in the Boston area and got the standard rejection letters.  Finally, through friends of friends, I heard about the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) in New York City and moved home to my parents in Connecticut to commute and do a 3-month internship.  At the end of my internship I was offered a job and continued working and commuting for another two years.   It was actually fun to work in the “big city” and reconnect with other BC friends who had headed to Wall Street.  But after missing one to many trains back to Connecticut on Metro North, I thought about making a change.  One of the interns at the WSF at that time was finishing up her master’s degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts.  I had never even heard of a sports management major before and was intrigued.  I studied for my GMAT on the hour plus daily commute, applied, was accepted, and started at UMass the fall of 1990.  Ironically, of the 30 students in the program, two others were BC grads.  The Department Chair (and renown sports lawyer), Glenn Wong, was also a BC alum.  We introduced a lot of classmates to proper tailgating in Chestnut Hill that fall!

The masters program consisted of two semesters on campus and then an internship to graduate.  I interned with Golf Digest and spent a fun summer conducting a Wilson golf ball-driving contest around the Midwest that was featured in the magazine.  I was actually offered a job to stay on at Golf Digest when we finished.  However, I still had the Olympic bug and since I had actual sports experience under my belt, I applied for another internship at the United States Olympic Committee.   One of my references clinched the deal for me – Col. Micki King, Olympic Diver, WSF Board member and on a couple of committees at the USOC.  I started the fall of 1991 as an intern at the USOC in the International Games division.  Once again, the internship led to the job!

Key Things I learned:

  • Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door.  I got involved in long-term projects so that when my internships ended, they sort of still wanted me around!
  • References can make a difference.  It all comes down to personal relationships.
  • Love what you do and most days it won’t feel like work.


3 responses to “RealJobs: Nancy Gonsalves

  1. Nancy, thank you! This is a fascinating read, I always dreamed of working for the Olympics so I loved reading your story. Best of luck surviving 5G11M.


  2. Nancy, I LOVE this post! What a terrific post and solid advice for those on the job hunt. Please send me your story of where you were during the 1980 Olympic hockey frenzy, I will pass it to Jim Craig. He is compiling a book of stories that people have shared with him over the years.

  3. Hi Nancy, I’ve also had a sort of obsession with the Olympics, especially the last summer games in China. I found myself wanting more and more to be a part of that. So I guess my question is how can I get involved? Internships? Will they need college kids in 2012?

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