Please share a bit of background about yourself.
My background – 1st generation in the U.S. with Greek roots, studied International Affairs at Loyola University and I speak 6 languages. FIFA World Cup 1994 in Chicago is where I started my career in sports, soccer specifically. I walked into the double wide trailer on the Soldier Field campus, which served as the office, and asked to volunteer. Four (4) hours later I was offered the position of Assistant to the Deputy Venue Director and by the time Opening Day came I had risen to Head of Communications Center for Game Day Operations.
The event ended and I was hired at U.S. Soccer, my first go around at the Federation, as the Assistant to General Manager of National Teams. A few months later I was named the Men’s National Team Administrator. After the MNT qualified for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, I left the Federation and embarked on the international portion of my career.
I was recruited by FIFA and appointed to 1998 FIFA World Cup in France and positioned at the Bordeaux venue as Head of Protocol for the venue. The experience of working closely with the teams, the venue managers and FIFA enabled me to build my skills and I became one of the first women to work in team logistics and stadium operations for FIFA.
1999 I was named Director of Venue Operations and Planning for the FIFA 1999 Women’s World Cup by the local organizing committee. Back to the U.S. with headquarters in Los Angeles I led the planning and development of the 10 venues across the United States. That event ended with the USWNT lifting the Women’s World Cup trophy celebrating their victory and I was in the Command Center of the Rose Bowl Stadium for that amazing moment.
After completing a successful 1999 event I continued to specialize in team logistics, venue operations and event planning. I advised on overall event operations for various FIFA and Concacaf events both domestically and internationally. I lead teams that organized the 2000 Rose Bowl Tournament, 2003 Concacaf Gold Cup, 2004 Athens Summer Olympic Games, 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, 2020 Olympic Bid Committee for Istanbul, 2016 COPA America, 2017 DoD Warrior Games.
My background in events, team logistics and venue operations was a beautiful path which led to the administrative, regulatory side of sports. This path began in 2014 as the Knowledge Manager of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Working in Glasgow and building the first compliance program for the Commonwealth Games is what piqued my curiosity and began the slow shift to the administrative side.
December 2017, I decided I wanted to return to the U.S. and came back to U.S. Soccer. Currently, I am the Senior Manager of Compliance for U.S. Soccer. Compliance is a new standalone department and is part of the overall Legal Department. The challenges to building a department from the beginning carry enormous responsibility and yet is an exhilarating feeling of creation.
How would you describe your job?
Soccer is a highly regulated field with reporting obligations to the U.S. Government, United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), FIFA and Concacaf. Those reporting obligations include but not limited to financial, audits, athlete safety, governance obligations, insurance, international agency requirements, legally binding agreements, member compliance reporting and player eligibility both amateur and professional. Compliance adherence is a Federation wide obligation; it is a partnership with all the functional areas and departments working together to mitigate exposing the Federation to risk - whether financial, legal or reputational – by timely and accurate adherence to reporting obligations.
Compliance is the department where all the reporting obligations are identified, prioritized and processes developed to ensure U.S. Soccer is complying with the requirements. I work with the various functional areas and departments to develop the reporting process if one does not currently exist or streamline current process if required.
Compliance also monitors reporting requirements due to U.S. Soccer as outlined in the U.S. Soccer bylaws and policies and other legally binding contracts. I prepare notifications, processes and timelines on which reporting is due to the Federation.
Compliance is precise and defined. Compliance is not like horseshoes, to be compliant you have to be 100% on point. So my job in a nutshell is detailed, regulated, complicated and challenging.
What skills do you use every day?
The skills I use daily are negotiating, translation, fact finding, analysis of data, reading documents and planning. The key is to stay organized and review from 30,000 ft. overview and then breakdown to manageable 5,000 ft. overview. Once each unique functional area is reviewed on compliance requirements the next step is develop processes and timelines in partnership with the department/functional area.
Partnership from the functional areas, departments and senior leadership is required for the effective execution of Compliance.
What is one piece of advice you wished someone had told you before starting this career path?
Identify your non-negotiables and set your boundaries. A career in sports can be all encompassing especially for a woman. The fantasy of travel, perceived power, working around and with professional athletes can be intoxicating and it is destructive for women in sports. The shift is happening but as a woman we work twice as hard to be heard, to be seen and be respected for the fresh perspectives we bring to the arena. Find your boundaries and stay true to yourself and your goals.