You can take Ashleigh Bachert out of Durham, North Carolina, but you can’t take the Duke out of her. Bachert, whose move to vice president of sales at Tulsa Regional Tourism was officially announced on Friday, admits she will not so secretly still cheer for her beloved Blue Devils.
The former executive director at the Durham Sports Commission is part of a major influx of sports tourism talent to the Oklahoma destination, which also recently lured Joel Koester, formerly of the Chicago Southland CVB, as director of sports sales. Both Bachert and Koester have been named Connect Sports Game Changers.
A former softball player at the University of Connecticut, Bachert expects to hit it out of the park with her new team. Bachert talks to Connect Sports about why she’s leaving her hometown behind for this new challenge in Tulsa, where she will move beyond sports to manage the CVB staff.
Why make the move from Durham to Tulsa?
While Durham is my hometown, the opportunity to grow professionally and step beyond sports was a huge pull. Tulsa is a great community, and the philanthropic nature of the community, support of sports tourism, phenomenal facilities and more ultimately won me over.
What are your early impressions of Tulsa? Any surprises?
Spoiler alert: It’s not flat! Beyond that, the community is a hidden gem with so many great places to eat, play and be entertained. But above that is the genuine kindness of people and their desire to get to know you or help you have a great experience. I’m brand new to the community and it’s already feeling like home.
What sorts of facilities does Tulsa have to offer? Any cool events you are looking forward to already?
From Mohawk Sports Complex, which has 17 long fields, to the BOK Center and Cox Business Center, I’m confident event owners will be excited to see what we have and be part of the city. As far as events go, I’m excited to see the events that our local community members put on. Tulsa Tough (a cycling event) is high on my list.
USA BMX is moving its headquarters there in 2021. Was that a factor in your move or a selling point?
Anytime you can be in a city that has a national headquarters, it means a lot and is an absolute draw. However, I would have moved no matter what because Tulsa is on the verge of a huge breakout and I’m excited to be a part of it all.
You come at the same time as Joel Koester from Chicago Southland. What do you make of the staff?
Wow! When I found out Joel would be joining on the sports side, I knew immediately that the team would be incredible. Joel has hit the ground running and has made an impact within his first couple of days. I’m looking forward to drawing on his strengths and supporting him on the sports side. On the CVB side, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of rock stars with extensive backgrounds in the business.
What’s your leadership style?
A supervisor of mine used to say that her job was to remove the BS so she could be brilliant, and my style is very similar. I want to develop a strong frame to work within and let team members determine how they get the work done within that frame, while I knock out the barriers that may be holding them back. I’m also the “cheerleader” and feel it’s my job to help the team celebrate successes and find creative ways to tackle new opportunities.
You remain unique as a somewhat rare woman in a leadership position in sports tourism. How have you risen the ranks and any advice for the next generation?
It’s weird to be thought of as unique for being a woman in a leadership position of sports tourism, as there have been many others paving the way before me. I have an interesting background between college athletics, hotel sales and then sports commissions, but it’s been my desire to continue learning and growing that has helped me rise through the industry. I’ve also been lucky to be in the right place at the right time in a couple of instances and been willing to step out of my comfort zone to take advantage of those opportunities. My advice for the next group of exceptional women is to take a seat at the table and not wait to be invited and be confident in your strengths and unapologetic for your weaknesses.
Are you still going to cheer for Duke?
Best question yet! They are my hometown team, so I’ll cheer for them until they are playing a partner of ours and then I’ll cheer in private for them.