Learn how to prepare for a worldwide event: Advice from Meredith Scerba
By: Megan Meisse, Prodigy Sports
Candidate placed: August 2015
More than 1,700 Olympic-caliber athletes, from more than 60+ countries, and to be broadcasted to a worldwide television audience of nearly 130 million people. This 9-day period from September 23 to October 1, 2017 is estimated to have over 40,000 spectators. The 2017 World Rowing Championships mark the first time the International Federation of Rowing Associations, or FISA, has selected the United States to host the championship in more than two decades.
Prodigy Sports had the privilege to work with the 2017 World Rowing Championships and Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, better known as SANCA, along with Sarasota and Manatee Counties on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where the competition will be hosted in Nathan Benderson Park (NBP). Leading up to this global competition, the Championship was seeking an Executive Director, in which Prodigy Sports placed Meredith Scerba into this role. Scerba brings a background with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers.
When arriving at SANCA, Scerba started from scratch, taking what she’s done in Cleveland and applying that to something new, learning about the sport of rowing itself. Having been in one place for over 10 years in Cleveland, Scerba had to quickly learn the dynamics of working with a nonprofit with close government ties, for a county-owned park.
In her first three months, she was a “one-man shop” but shortly worked with a local organizing committee and staff workers, to bring all ideas to life through their key relationships nationwide. When building her staff, Scerba mentioned the over-arching principles in regards to hiring a proper event staff is fitting the mix culturally. “This is a family, our team is a family. We may not see eye-to-eye but we have to have each other’s backs” she said. Scerba explained how the philosophy is important as there are “lots of people with lots of skills and experience, but have to bring a passion to do so.”
When she came on board, her goal was to connect the local community to the event, by having all prior programs that are happening leading up have one purpose: The Championships. “99% of my job is managing my team and the success of the event – sponsorship calls, marketing plans, communicating with the counties and creating strategic planning to hit goals,” said Scerba. When putting on an event, her internal tagline is “what is their internal journey?” “Plan as if you are a visitor and that you don’t speak English. Step out of your typical mindset and you can better plan as an outsider and think through an event,” said Scerba.
Scerba loves the spirit of working in nonprofits because of the sense of passion and commitment to a cause. She now enjoys educating the community, bringing something new to Sarasota, getting them excited but also eliminate any fears of something new. Scerba described Sarasota as a very artsy community, in which she used to her advantage, involving local live art projects, film festivals, and amazing companies to show them why NBP is the only Grade-A course in the United States, and now it is their chance to shine not only locally, but attract new business to these chambers and counties.
When asked about the steps in preparation for the Championship, a chuckled “where do I began” was the reply. Most teams arrive 13 days prior to the event in Florida, training, adapting to time change and weather. The full buildout of grandstands and tents, teams take over the facility by the weekend of the Championship, Scerba defines it as “one big puzzle made up of pieces but that’s what makes it fun.”
Scerba’s advice for those looking to get into a role within the sports industry was to never step away from an opportunity and volunteer. “Be engaged. Different types of events help expand knowledge and make you more marketable.” Scerba suggests “that if it doesn’t come right away, don’t send out resumes sitting home. Get out there and volunteer in events and seek out people on the staff to learn from.”
Prodigy Sports is proud to have placed Meredith Scerba into her role with the World Rowing Championships and look forward to an incredible event in 2017!