Amy Scheer GM of the Connecticut Whale heading into Season Six!

AMY SCHEER: IF YOU BUILD IT, SHE WILL COME


“Here where the blood is spilled, the arena's filled, and giants played their games”. Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen

On July 2, 1981 Bruce Springsteen opened up the now defunct Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ. featuring his signature cover of “Jersey Girl”. Twenty-eight years later, he sung “Wrecking Ball” in the final concert at Giants Stadium next door, shortly before it was to be demolished. And twenty minutes away, a certain Jersey girl from Fairlawn had watched the Meadowlands rising from the literal “swamps of Jersey” as the complex was being constructed. This is of great significance to Whale fans, because the genesis of sports in the Meadowlands is what has led our new GM Amy Scheer to the Pod, via that venue. When we chatted with Amy recently she told us

“I saw the Meadowlands being built. So I’m aging myself a little bit, but nevertheless:) I saw the Meadowlands going up, and honestly it was a dream of mine to work there one day. And I was able to do that! First with my internship, and then with the Nets for fifteen years. Watching the Meadowlands be built, watching Giants Stadium be built, was pretty cool. It was the first time New Jersey had big-time sports come to their backyard. Just seeing the Meadowlands be built, that’s what I wanted to do. When I saw the Meadowlands going up, more than anything, I wanted to work there.”

Amy joins the Pod with an impressive career in sports in a wide range of front office positions with the NJ Nets in the NBA, the NY Liberty in the WNBA and Madison Square Garden. She also worked with soccer teams, the Red Bulls in the and the New York City Football Club, both in the MLS. Prior to that Amy began pursuing her career in sports in earnest, with her decision to attend UMass Amherst. She explained

“I specifically went to UMass for Sports Management because I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I did research, and was fortunate enough to get accepted to UMass. From a career perspective it’s really the one thing I wanted to do, the one thing I had interest in. They have a lot of great programs, Sports Management isn’t the only one, but I specifically went there for that. When I was with the Red Bulls we did a project with Will Norton, one of their professors. We had the students come on to the Red Bulls and we worked with them on a project, If they ask for help, I’m always happy to help them, and we stay in touch with them. I’m a proud alumni, so if a Sports Management student needs help, if the Sports Management Department needs help, we help. “

Amy continued talking about the internship program “We had to give them direction on a case study. When you bring them in and they work a project with you, you have to give them a reason on why they’re doing it. So they were working on a membership model verses a season ticket. What would the monthly sports membership model look like with the team versus the traditional season ticket? The idea was because the younger consumer is very big on memberships. Whether it’s Netflix, whether it’s one of the box companies whether it’s Stich Fix, there’s so many companies out there that have monthly subscriptions. So we brought them into explore that option, because as we get younger, maybe that would be an option for the fan to engage with the club.”

In terms of the Whale ticketing, Amy said

“We have to wait and see from a Covid perspective. Every day we’re looking at things changing in Connecticut. The league has been great about staying up-to-date and putting policies in place, even though it’s changing all the time. We’ll see how it impacts us. I don’t think we know today. We are not quite selling yet because we don’t know, but we will get there and obviously at the end of the day it’s about keeping everybody safe. I can’t speak to anybody or anything that was done before me, I just know what I’ll bring to the table and look to accomplish. With the help of the fans, the coaches the players and the two members of our staff, we’ll see if we can get some people in the stands and create a great home ice advantage for the club. And move ahead to try to continue to elevate this league to the place that it should be and to what the women deserve”

Cetacean Nation commented that the Whale reminded us of the old Lay’s Potato Chip “Bet You Can’t Eat Just One” advertising campaign. You can’t just come one Whale game, you will come back for more. Amy agreed, saying “We said that with the Liberty all the time. If you can get somebody out for that initial time, they are going to come back. Because the experiences is fun, it’s authentic, and there’s so many great things about access to the players. And really, they are role models in a lot of ways and so how can we expand that.”

Amy has been busy in her first few days as GM, and she jhadvust hired those two staff members she mentioned. She said

“So I brought on a woman by the name of Amanda Zanghi, and she is going to focus on revenue for us. Really the day to day of bringing in sponsors. And once we understand from a Covid perspective what we can do in terms of ticket sales, she’ll focus on ticket sales as well. Amanda did some work for the Whitecaps, so I feel like I won the lottery in getting her. I am beyond excited! We’ve had a couple of great meetings already, all of us trying to get to know each other under these bizarre circumstances (Covid) Amanda brings just such wonderful experience to us, we are so lucky to have her. The other woman Juliana Nikac will oversee our social and digital media for the club. So two great young professionals who will add a lot to the team this year. I Couldn’t be more excited than to be working with these two young ladies. It’s going to be a fun year and they are going to contribute at a high-level for sure. They are both professionals, and are very good at their jobs” 

I saw the Meadowlands going up, and honestly it was a dream of mine to work there one day. And I was able to do that! First with my internship, and then with the Nets for fifteen years.

She added “I think it is important for women to support women for sure,but by the same token I also want to work with people who are qualified. And I’m very lucky that the two women that we have are exceptional and they both bring a lot to the table. You know, women in sports have come along way. When I started there was almost no one, very few. It wasn’t quite where it is today. And the great news is there’s a lot of really smart women out there across all sports, and you just have to hope that everybody continues to support the cause and we continue to move forward. I think now with a lot of the social justice conversations happening, hopefully will continue to see more of it.” Fins Up to that!

Amy had mentioned Covid a couple of times, so as has been the case in the 2020 offseason, Cetacean Nation asked how she was dealing with that. She stated

Well, just trying to get by like everybody else. It’s not an easy time, right? You wake up every day and you try to keep the most positive mindset you can. I’m thankful I have a gym at my apartment so I can work out every day. For me that’s my space to sort of find myself everyday. I try to work out for at least an hour so I’m grateful that I have that. But listen, when this whole thing started I was working at MSG and how I’m not. But it is providing me some other opportunities which I’m grateful for. So you’ve just got to get on with it, this is what life is today. So I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of people that I love, my family and friends, so I don’t have anything to complain about. Every day you get up and you do the best you can everyday. Everybody is capable of plowing through. Just try to be there to help other people and do what you can. it’s a crazy time it’s unprecedented, right? Who thought that we would be lining up for food? "

Amy added “I don’t know what kind of label I put on it, but for sure life is different and it’s an adjustment for everybody. And everybody goes about it their own way. I know for me, I’ve been very conscious about not judging anybody. I mean I want everybody to wear a mask, but I know some people are comfortable going inside of a house or a restaurant and some people are not. Everybody has a different way of going about things. And I just feel I’ve been very conscious to not be judging anyone about what they do and don’t do. That’s been the biggest thing for me, just trying to be non-judgemental of people. Because I don’t think anybody knows it all, and I don’t think anybody expected to be doing this.”

Amy mentioned working out and we asked if she was still an athlete, and about her early years in sports back in Fairlawn. She laughed and said

“A weekend warrior, I would use the word athlete loosely! Now it’s more about just staying fit:) But, I think I came out of the womb swinging a bat, she laughed, or a tennis racket. I loved sports growing up, I played sports my whole life, and I had parents who were very supportive of my athletic endeavors, I just loved sports. My Dad grew up in the Bronx and was a big Yankees fan, and I’ve been going to Yankee games since I was one year old. My Dad was very much a big influence on me, my Dad was a good athlete. And when he took my brother out to play baseball, he took me out too. My brother and I still go to Yankee games with my Dad. I’ll get weekday day games, because my Dad’s retired, and my brother and I will take the day off, and we all go to the game together. So hopefully we can continue that next year.”

 She added “I played tennis and softball ( in high school). For tennis I was first singles, and for softball I played shortstop and third, an infielder all the way! I was a fairly good athlete back in the day. As a hitter I batted lead off, I was short and quick. No power whatsoever, she laughed.  I bat lefty, so I got myself on base plenty of times with a drag bunt. I was a natural lefty hitter, and my Dad didn’t understand. He’s like: You’re a righty! But I was not really comfortable that way. So he would try to get me to bat righty. Subsequently, I became a switch hitter and I can hit either way. So he actually ended up doing me a favor. And I can do the same thing for golf. I golf lefty, but can also hit the ball righty. He helped me become a little bit ambidextrous, which is sort of a fun little fact Because people think I can’t do this, but I’m like: Yeah, I can. Lefty has always been comfortable for me even if you give me a hockey stick."

"I have a hockey stick sitting in my old office at MSG, It was from one of the Ranger players. It was of the only lefty ones they had so I took it. So even if you give me a hockey stick, I’ll play hockey lefty too. I can’t actually play hockey, but if you give me a hockey stick, I’ll hold it lefty” she chuckled. The only time we went skating as kids was just to go and have fun. The couple of times I actually tried to play hockey, I just went crashing into the wall and hurting myself. But Laura (Coach Laura Brennan) said she was going to give me a lesson! So I think I’m going to take her up on that, if I get brave one day! :)”

We mentioned previously, Amy’s wide range of experience. That includes some really  innovative work she’s done with young fans, equivalents of our Little Future Draft Picks. We asked Amy about how she sees that factoring in moving forward with the Whale, and she gave us this great explanation and context.

“I think that’s one of my top priorities. But understand, I am literally just a week into my job. I just started writing a business plan, I think I’m two days into it and I’m only on page 8 or nine. So a long way to go. But what I can tell you, is that even with with my experience with the New York Rangers and the person that does their fan development Rick Nadeau. He is phenomenal at his job and I learned so much from him. For me, the the youth is critical when you’re building a fanbase, right? You need a long-term plan and a short term plan. You have ticket buyers today and a ticket buyers tomorrow, and you need to develop the game for today and you need to develop the game for tomorrow. So you have two business verticals that go side-by-side. The moms and dad’s and the group sales that you’re talking to toda, but also building the sport out from the youth up. So at what age? The girls programs are now starting at five or six years old and you want those kids involved. You want them wanting to know who the Connecticut Whale is and who to the NWHL is. You want them to aspire to play in your league. So youth is critical. As I talk to more and more of the other GM’s and learn a little bit more about the hockey space, and work a little bit more closely with Colton and Laura, I understand more how we can make an impact in that space. But I have a little bit to learn on that side first, I think? Before I get going and really put something down pen to paper. But it’s definitely priority.”

Amy continued  “It’s been pretty lucky that I’ve learned From some really good people in this business. One of them being Rick as I mentioned from the Rangers, and another one is Dave Jervis, the guy that runs the Red Bulls youth program The Red Bull youth programs are by far the best of all of the MLS. And it’s solely because of his efforts. Everywhere I go, I learn a little bit and take away what I can. And I try to apply it to the next situation and that’s what I plan to do here. Again, once I learn a little bit more, because the hockey space is a little different, as is every sport. Every sport has it nuances. As soon as I start to learn a little bit more we’ll see how we can be out in the community and out on the ice with the kids.”

Some of the interactions that Amy mentioned, the places she goes, are through the company she founded: Game On: Scheer Insights & Strategy. We asked if she was still active with that initiative or if it had been put on pause. She answered

“No, I still work on that every day The Connecticut Whale are currently one of the clients that I am working with. The Connecticut job is not a full-time job. I mean it is in terms of the hours I’m putting in, she chuckled, but not in the terms of what it pays so my company is very much alive and we have multiple clients starting with MSG, and Rugby United New York. and I have a Spirits Company on board, Rita’s Distillery. So I’ve got a little bit of a start up, and I’ve got a network of people I can call in to help out so I’m certainly not in this alone and as I said I’m in it every day.”

 

The game at Radio City Music Hall: “ it was probably the thing I’m most proud of in my career, to be honest.“

While working at MSG with the Liberty, Amy was part of a historic event, an unique even by New York standards. WNBA basketball at Radio City Music Hall! So yeah, we sure asked about that! Amy revealed

“It was not my idea I will tell you that! Actually I don’t remember whose idea it was. It might have been my boss Carol Blazejowski. (that would be Carol “ The Blaze” Blazowski, basketball Hall of Famer) First of all, we had to vacate the building because it was a Republican National Convention, and so we couldn’t play in the Garden. We did a full range of the venues, we were all over the tri-state area. And I think ultimately it might have come down to the fact that we have to spend money on a facility, let’s keep the money in house. And it was alternately the craziest thing I’ve ever done, but probably one of the most fulfilling. Because I took a venue that was not made for basketball at all, and I think I made it about as good of an experience as it could’ve been for the players and the teams. But there were so many nuances and crazy things to think about from an operations perspective. Like the locker rooms being on another floor! So we had to have an elevator schedule to get the visiting team up and down without conflicting. So I don’t remember whose idea it was, but on top of my full-time job it took up a year of my life. Planning and making sure that it was going to be the best possible experience. It was great because the WNBA hopped on board, and before the Olympics they played their sort of equivalent of the All-Star game there as well. So it was great that the WNBA hopped on board with us and was an active member doing it with us."

"But it was crazy, it was positively the craziest thing I’ve ever done. It was amazing and in Sports Illustrated we were their centerfold. That’s never gonna happen again! It was very gratifying that it was done as a team, because I did not do this alone. But as a team we really put on a great show and every game was sold out? So it turned out it was a positive. Sort of. Like I said it was crazy at the time, it was probably the thing I’m most proud of in my career, to be honest. “

Cetacean Nation was also interested in how it came to be that Amy is now with the Whale. She explained

“I was lucky enough to meet Dani Rylan through a mutual friend over a year ago. I just reached out to her and said if there’s anything I can do for you to help you I’d love to have that conversation. Not necessarily looking for a job, but I’m passionate about women's sports and if there’s a way I can help in anyway I want to do it? We had a great conversation and we kept in touch. And then she said I actually might have an opportunity for you to work for the league for real. And so then we discussed this position. And so honestly It was a connection through a friend one of my best friends. The sports world is small and there’s probably 1 degree of separation, 2 degrees of separation. So if someone says do you know so and so, and I don’t, I promise you I know someone who does. It’s a little world, so we all know each other or know of each other.” 

As we wrapped things up with Amy, she had this great message and call to service for the fans, saying

"The most important thing in women’s sports is we need advocates And I can assure you that although I’ve been in this business for a really long time, I’ve done nothing on my own. I’ve always been part of great teams and I’ve always been able to build great relationships with our fans. And we need our fans. We need you guys at the games, and we need you to continue to bring more people to the games. So for me, I just want to implore to our fan bases to help us as much as you can. As much as you have in your heart. Because the only way that this game and women’s sports will continue to advance is if we are all in it together. We need help from every single person, from every single person’s family, every single person sphere of influence. So your family, your friends, where you go to school, if you play hockey, if you play soccer or any other sports, what is your sphere of influence? Who could you help expose the sport and our team to? So I would just ask for everybody to have an open heart, to be generous with their time and helping the Whale out. And help us continue to make strides in the Connecticut community. Let’s see how far we can go and see how many dreams we can inspire.”

Those sentiments provide the perfect closing to ths interview with our new Whale GM
Amy Scheer. Whether it's a sports complex or a hockey leagurpe, if upyou build it she will come. All of the fans in Cetacean Nation are happy about that, and excited about entering Season Six under Amy's leadership! Fins Up to that! 

Amy during her career with the New York Red Bull’s of the MSL!