Personal Pathways to Success: Taking Opportunity by the Horns

David Weingarten, Manager of Community Affairs and Engagement at the Los Angeles Rams, on creating your own ‘right’ timing by taking a chance, and what being a graduate of the University of Washington Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership Masters’ Program can look like.
Mim Haigh
Sports Writer – Athlete Assessments

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In 2016, David Weingarten found himself uncertain of what to do next with his career. After five years’ experience in working at the collegiate football level and completing his master’s degree in Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership, David found himself out of the sports industry and in the corporate world working for Amazon Web Services. Thinking he’d lost out on a career in sport, despite his efforts and education, it only took eight months for David to know corporate wasn’t for him. And then, an opportunity presented itself. In September of 2016, David packed up his apartment and life in Seattle, Washington and moved over a thousand miles to Los Angeles, California. The rapid move and even faster immersion into the culture of a very different city was just part of the deal if he was to take the chance on an internship with the Los Angeles Rams Community Affairs and Engagement team.

Six years on that chance became a career. David remains in the same department, but now as a Manager of Community Affairs and Engagement.

Back in 2016, the Rams were a small organization, rebuilding itself following a move back to LA from its previous home ground of St Louis. The internship saw David working across the organization; at times he was ordering merchandise, planning community service events, or managing ticket and donation requests. In his ‘can do’ style, there were also days when he was being the photographer for an event or running a social media handle.

After a season and a half as an intern, he quickly rose through the ranks to become a coordinator, specialist, and then manager, the role he holds today. David’s leap of faith paid dividends, the depth of which he could never have imagined while packing up his life in a matter of days in Seattle. In February 2022 the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams won Super Bowl LVI. While some people spend more than 30 years in sport before winning a championship or the Super Bowl, David and the rest of the team at the Rams saw it in six, a phenomenal testament to the powerhouse the organization has built, not just on the field, but across it’s departments.

Reflecting on making the decision at the time to where he is now David said,

“You might think that I was ready to move on, I’d just completed a master’s program, which many people would consider as a one-year internship itself. But even though I had the graduate degree and five years’ experience working in collegiate football, the opportunity to work for a professional sports team was too good to pass up. Now, when I talk to people who are interested in sports or who are in a sports management degree program, I think the best piece of advice I usually have for them is just to take advantage of the internship experience as much as they can, and use it to network with other people.”

Following the Super Bowl win, the awareness and extra ‘eyes on the team’ has translated into increased opportunities for David and the Community Affairs and Engagement team to deepen the LA community’s connection with the organization and to continue to build on and develop the range of outreach programs they offer. David added,

“The win brings another level of excitement to each and every event.”

One of the programs underpinning the Rams’ community outreach addresses access issues surrounding students from the inner city of LA. David’s team have come to understand the network of inequities confronting high school students on the cusp of entering higher education or their careers. Bridging the gap with their resources and ability to help, the Rams designed and delivered the Pathways to Success Program to develop students facing these challenges in a holistic way. The program includes workshops targeting financial literacy, the ability to set goals, and self-awareness, which all lead into a phenomenal job shadowing experience that sees students team up with their mentors at a Rams game in SoFi Stadium. The ultimate goal of the program is to provide students with core development skills, while highlighting the breadth of roles that exist within a sporting organization beyond those that we see on the field.    

Athlete Assessments was engaged to guide the students through the self-awareness piece of the program, and each participant and their mentor completed a Sports Manager DISC Profile in preparation for a workshop session with 4x Olympian, Founder and Director of Athlete Assessments, Bo Hanson. If you’d like to learn more about the Pathways to Success Program, we’ve dedicated an article to it. We are constantly reminded of how connected the sporting world is, and moments like the one that led us to our work with David and the Rams on the Pathways to Success program just reinforce that fact!

Eight years ago, David completed his Masters in Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership at the University of Washington, you might recall our recent article on the program and Teaching Professor, Sara Lopez, Ph.D. The pioneering course that aims to bridge the gap between sport coaching and administration career pathways, includes a self-awareness component that sees students complete their Athlete Assessments DISC profile and learn to apply it within the broader sporting context. Once students have completed their DISC Profiles, Athlete Assessments provides an online live guest lecture to work with the cohort on understanding the purpose of DISC profiling and how to best utilize it, gain a deeper insight into their preferred and non-preferred behaviors, while harnessing the fundamental characteristics which help people build better relationships and interact with one another.

Fast forward to early 2021, when the Rams were piecing together the core foundations of the inaugural Pathways to Success Program and wanted to include a piece on self-awareness, David recalled the DISC Profile component of the course and reached out to his university contacts who in turn connected him with us at Athlete Assessments.

The University of Washington’s unique master’s program sees students majoring in administration and coaching sharing the classroom and completing their chosen strands concurrently and in collaboration. Students in the program quickly learn to appreciate the principles which ground each other’s role, as together they learn about their own leadership capabilities and develop a capacity to use tools, manage collaborations, and facilitate different perspectives.

Looking back on his time in the master’s program, David said,

“The program was definitely beneficial for me. It gave me an extra year of job experience and some more guided, structured work to do during that year. For example, it allowed me to take the work I did at the University of Washington football team and relate it back to the coursework that we’re doing.”

One of the most valuable takeaways for David from his time at UW was the network of connections he gathered around himself, he added, “Oftentimes, it’s going to be the people that you network with on your teams and your vendors, that are going to help you get that next opportunity, or even be able to connect you with somebody. That’s what is ultimately going to give you the leg up you’re looking for.”

Echoing his learnings from the UW program, David also encourages those involved in the Pathways to Success Program to build their own network. He shared that the Rams will create an alumni network for students who have participated as a foundational component in the continuation of the program so that students not only get the experience while they’re in the program, but they can also build a cohort to network with once they leave the program.

Liz Masen, CEO of Athlete Assessments, plays a critical role in our involvement in both programs and shares in their passion for people development,

“Both programs are offering students in different stages of their lives, education levels, and career pathways, the opportunity to develop and build on core foundational skills required in any context. It’s so inspiring to see programs like the UW Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership Master’s and the LA Rams’ Pathways to Success leading the way in shifting the focus in sport to the people within it. In their own ways, the programs offer insights into career pathways in sport that people may otherwise never get a look into, allows students to build connections outside of their direct circle, and build awareness and understanding of how to better connect with others. We are huge believers in both of these programs!”

Looking to the future of the Pathways to Success Program, David shared that in the coming seasons, the Rams will open the next round of the program to new groups of students throughout the off-season and during competition, which will offer insights into all aspects of the organization’s operations. David added, “Not only do we want to see Pathways to Success grow in terms of the numbers of mentors and mentees, but we also want to see a deepening of that connection to the Rams.”

David is involved in both internal and external engagement for the Rams and the Pathways to Success is just one program he works across. His team deliver many in-school programs including Play 60 which encourages students to be active for more than 60-minutes a day. They are currently involved in literacy initiatives using Rams Readers and have just launched a children’s book. David also coordinates staff volunteer days which happen every month and see the Rams front office team involved in every corner of the community, providing more than 6,500 hours of support so far. These initiatives are by no means an exhaustive list of David’s responsibilities, they just give us a brief insight into the breadth and depth of his role. Even David’s own expectations of the role has changed drastically over the years, “I came in here as a blank canvas, just thinking Community Affairs is where we go to the schools and do assemblies or work with non-profits to host events, but there’s so much more that goes into it!” 

David’s career trajectory demonstrates the value of believing that anytime is the right time, and to take learning and development opportunities when they present. But David also took a chance on himself to create a positive impact on the community, sharing this insight with us into the way he thinks,

“My attitude has always been to jump in, learn along the way, improve my share, and make programs a little better each time.”

And if that wasn’t enough food for thought, David left us with this,

“I think looking back at the program there was one quote from Greg Greene of the Seattle Mariners, it was about branding; ‘A brand is a product of a thousand small gestures.’ So, I think that was one of the impactful lessons that stays with me from the program, it’s about the team’s brand, but it also applies to your personal brand and just keeping that in mind when you’re thinking about the team in the community and the messages we’re relaying to the students. It might be a small gesture to go to an event with Rampage and cheerleaders, players, or alumni but when you’re doing it week after week, year after year, it starts to really create an impact in these communities, year after year it all adds up, and it’s really created this brand that we’ve now established here in LA.”

Looking at the lasting impact and opportunities that both the LA Rams Pathways to Success Program and the UW Master’s Programs have created for their participants, Liz added,

“Through the UW Master’s and the LA Rams Pathways to Success Programs, we are able to see the breadth of our DISC Profiles in action. These programs are proof that it’s never too early or late to provide people with the opportunity to learn about themselves, develop self-awareness, and an understanding of others, and that no matter your age, life stage, or where you come from, DISC is an effective tool to do just that. We also appreciate the meaningful and valuable experience it provides to those who complete it, and that the learnings will stick with them throughout their life to the point where when presented with the opportunity to pass on the benefits to others, they do.”

We greatly appreciate David sharing his personal experience in his role with the LA Rams and his time as a Masters Program student at the University of Washington. We could only capture a small amount about the LA Rams community and engagement team in this article, so if you would like to learn more about their Pathways to Success Program we encourage you to read our article on it.

Where to from here?

If people depend on you to bring them information and tools which facilitate their best performances, whether you work in the classroom, as a professor or on the sporting field as a coach, we encourage you to look through our online library of free resources. The articles and information detail the way our self-awareness tools can improve your students’ and athletes’ outlook and performance outcomes. We would love to help you be your best, so if this generates any questions that we can help with just reach out and contact us.

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Athlete Assessments'

DISC Profiles

Get the ‘People Side’ Right in Sport

The primary purpose of DISC profiling is to develop self-awareness and provide a framework for understanding others so you can build effective relationships. Athlete Assessments provides three different types of DISC Profiles, one specifically for coaches, one for athletes, and one for sports administrators and other professionals.

Each assessment provides a personalized DISC Profile Report based on the results of a 12-minute online survey. The individual report details personal styles, strengths, limiting behaviors, communication preferences, and the ideal environment to enhance performance.

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Bo Hanson

Senior Consultant & Director

Bo Hanson’s career within the sport and the business sector spans over 25 years, delivering leadership, management, and coach development. In addition to his own athletic career comprising of four Olympic appearances and including three Olympic medals, Bo has worked for many years with coaches and athletes from over 40 different sports across the globe. Bo was also the winner of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) 2023 Award for L&D Professional of the Year, for his dedication to L&D and transformational work across various industries.

After a successful career in sport including four Olympics and three Olympic Medals, Bo co-founded and developed Athlete Assessments in 2007. Bo now focuses on working with clients to achieve their own success on and off ‘the field’, and has attained an unmatched track-record in doing exactly this.

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Now, watch us interrupt him for a round of quick fire questions.