Isaac Washburn brings a varied career to his new role as sports market manager for the Chicago Southland CVB.
He joins CSCVB after nearly 10 years with the Michigan Celery Promotion Cooperative, and during that time he also graduated from Grand Valley State University, where he also wore hats for an arena, sports teams and events—assistant manager for a Grand Rapids arena that hosted an AHL Hockey team; internships for a Tier 1 junior hockey club and GVSU’s Division II hockey team; video coordinator and hockey operations assistant for an ECHL team; game operations manager for the high school hockey division of the State Games of Michigan; and head coach of the GVSU roller hockey team.
Washburn took some time to chat with Connect Sports about his path and lessons learned on it.
When did you become interested in this industry and how did you start?
Upon graduating from Grand Valley State University, I reached out to a professor and mentor of mine, Ron Baum, to seek advice on gaining further experience and Mr. Baum offered me an opportunity to work with him on the high school hockey division of the State Games of Michigan. That initial opportunity led to working on the State Games of Michigan for five years, assisting with the Transplant Games of America, and eventually the State Games of America. That initial conversation with Mr. Baum led to an opportunity which sent things into motion for more opportunities and connections and for that I will forever be grateful.
What have you learned about yourself along the way?
Throughout my journey, I discovered that while the highs and lows of competing are what I loved about participating in athletics growing up, it was actually something much bigger that got me hooked on working in the industry. In my opinion, I think athletics can be an avenue to provide opportunities for growth and development beyond what the outcome of any contest is. I want to help provide those opportunities for individuals and have a positive impact because I know how much athletics have helped myself and those around me. Sports are about so much more than deciding a winner; they bring people of all different backgrounds together, can be a form of fellowship for some, or just a way to be active and social for others.
What lessons learned do you bring from your previous roles, both negative and positive?
From working in a variety of different roles, I have learned a lot of lessons, but I know I have many more to learn. I think the biggest lesson would be the importance of relationships, the trust and respect you have within those relationships and how essential it is to every aspect of life. Another big lesson that I’ve learned is the importance of essential self and situational awareness; always maintain your authenticity as an individual and that means knowing who you are and what you’re about as well as when to hold on and when to let go. Another key lesson learned is that of timing and situation; something may not work out just because the timing is wrong while other times everything comes together perfectly because the timing is just right. Lastly, I would say I’ve learned that you must be open and willing to adapt and evolve as there is always room for improvement and growth.
What will you try to continue that past CVB Sports Market Mangers did and how would you like to make your own mark?
I think that I am coming into a great environment with a firm foundation that has been built between the CSCVB, those we represent and work within the Chicago Southland region, and events right holders. Starting out I plan to continue to build off recent momentum while finding ways to utilize the assets and resources available within the region, exploring opportunities for both traditional and non-traditional sporting events. Evaluating the past, what has worked and what hasn’t, is essential for continuing to capitalize on our region’s strengths while turning any challenges or obstacles into opportunities for growth.
What are the highlights of the area you will market and what are a couple goals event wise?
In my opinion, and through the early conversations with the team at the CSCVB, the Chicago Southland region was extremely attractive to me in the sense that it offers phenomenal accessibility for travel. In the greater Chicago area, we have two major airports and the Chicago Southland is within a five-hour drive of eight different states. One of my biggest goals is to try to attract more youth and amateur sporting events as I believe there is a tremendous opportunity with our inventory of facilities, accessibility for travel, and proximity to Chicago. The Chicago Southland has tremendous offerings as a family-friendly destination for events and entertainment.