GladiatHers® is an organization dedicated to inspiring, connecting and empowering women, especially women in sports. In an effort to fulfill our mission, we’ve started a new series that highlights the everyday stories of women who are making their mark in the world and the sports industry. Welcome to the GladiatHers® Spotlight, the series where you get to meet and connect with amazing women in sports. Meet Tracy Sandler, Founder & CEO of Fangirl Sports Network.
Where did Fangirl Sports Network (FGSN) begin?
I’ve been a sports fan since I was a little girl and became a huge Lakers and San Francisco 49ers fan as a kid. I fell in love with Joe Montana and I grew up going to games. I got to be around sports and just naturally loved it because it brings people together.
I went to the University of Michigan and I wrote about sports for the Michigan Daily. The summer after my freshman year, I interned at Fox Sports in Los Angeles where I worked at the MLB on Fox. After college I worked at Fox sports with the broadcasters on things like highlights and really anything that was needed. I took a little bit of a break from sports to start my own personal shopping company, and then I worked in politics and philanthropy.
For the fun of it I started a blog called The Trials and Tribulations of My Love/Hate Relationship with the San Francisco 49ers and people started reading it. I would engage with people and fans and those that covered the team. Then I thought, you know what, this is what I want to do. That’s when I changed the name at the time to 49ers Fangirl and 2015 was my first season doing that. Then in 2016 it became FGSN and I added Rams fan girl and we grew from there. I created Fangirl Sports Network as a place for female sports fans to follow their favorite teams with content and coverage that speaks directly to females. We now have 32 NFL and 15 NBA Fangirls.
Why was it as necessary to create a space for female sports fans?
I felt like there wasn’t really content that spoke to women. I’ve been a lifelong fan, but I’ve always also been very feminine and I think both can go hand in hand. I think there’s been this idea that maybe they do not. So I wanted to create a space and essentially a community around female fans where they could go to find content that was interesting for them and maybe looked a little bit more at the lifestyle part of sports and the story behind the story. That is how Five Fun Facts was born. I created it as a way to help fans learn about their favorite players’ lives off the field. Analysis is analysis, what happens in a game happens in a game. There’s not necessarily a male perspective versus female perspective, but I think women also really enjoy the lifestyle aspect of sports and the community part of sports that brings people together and that’s what I wanted to create.
You’ve been able to significantly grow a woman’s centered business in a male-driven industry. What sort of setbacks have you experienced and how were you able to really manage and navigate them?
I think as far as setbacks go, I look at them more as challenges. It’s a lot to manage to go from 1 team to 62, so it’s finding that ability to manage everything. I have an incredible team that works with me. There’s a challenge even in that because this is my baby and I can’t do everything. There’s a reason I have a team. Being able to be a little more hands off and delegate and trust that things are going to get done I think is a challenge in itself.
I think the other challenge is that I do see myself as a mentor to the fan girls and I want them to be able to come to me whether they’re having an issue professionally or personally with the FGSN or anything else. I want to be a support for them. I also have to be careful because I am friends with many of the women and I am still their boss. If they’re not performing and they’re not keeping up, then I have to put on that boss lady hat. That can sometimes be a hard thing to manage. I want the girls to have fun because I think if they’re having fun, they’re going to do a better job and enjoy it, but we are running a business and so there does have to be a degree of professionalism and of getting work done and doing it well, not just checking off your list but doing it in a way that’s appropriate for the brand.
How did you go about recruiting so many qualified Fangirls?
Most of them do have a sports background and had been doing similar things. A lot of girls have reached out to us via social media or the website and were interested in becoming Fangirls, so we haven’t had to recruit a ton. I also have a couple of very close friends that work in sports broadcasting who are being sent resumes and reels all the time and when they find someone that they think is a good fit, they often send them my way if it makes sense, which has been so helpful. I’ve met a couple of one-on-one recommendations. Some of the Fangirls will say I have someone that I think would be great and that has worked out really well. Those are the three main ways.
What would you tell your younger self or someone who is up-and-coming and trying to establish themselves in sports?
It’s funny because when I was 11 this career path never existed. This would never have been an option. It’s also funny because when I was 11 I wanted to play for the 49ers or I wanted to coach the 49ers and I was very determined that there was no reason that couldn’t have be a possibility.
I think I would tell my younger self and others that there are so many avenues for working in sports. I think a lot of people, not just women, don’t necessarily know what those are. I would encourage people to look at a sports team, to look at a media company and look at all the different positions that are there. There are so many amazing opportunities within the leagues within the teams, within media companies to work in sports.
We are launching a podcast this fall called Get My Job and I’ll be talking to different women in the sports industry about their career paths and how they got there. I’m really excited for it because I think it is going to open up a world of possibility for people that want to work in sports but don’t necessarily know what they want to do or what opportunities are available.
I would also say you just got to do it. I opened a WordPress website and just started it, and then I called a friend who was a graphic designer and asked him to make a logo for me. That’s really what you have to do. I think it is cool we live in a world today where you can just do it. You can take your phone and do a one minute/10 minute post game recap and put on Youtube and tweet about it and that doesn’t really cost anything. Don’t make the excuse not to do it. You can do it while you have another job and see what happens. I think that would be the big advice right now.
What else do you want our readers to know?
We are creating a community of female fans. I want it to be a community of empowerment and support, and of people who love their teams. It should be a very positive place. If you look at our Instagram, we are sharing all kinds of content that is informative and inspirational and funny. We want women to be there and to enjoy it.
I would love to give one plug to something we have launched on Instagram stories that will also be going on our site. Every Friday we do The Friday Five. It’s been really fun to do and I’m really proud of it. It is sort of like the things you need to know from the week and it goes off every Friday at 4:00pm/PST. I think people really enjoy it.
I feel like that is kind of a great thing for your water cooler conversation, your cocktail party conversation, your brunch conversation, because it will really sum up the top five things that you know and that give you some facts and some fun little tidbits that you can take into your weekend.
Thank you for creating a space for women who are fans of the game, Tracy! We can’t wait to see where FGSN goes next. For our readers, keep up with FGSN on social media!
Youtube: Fangirl Sports Network