Jill Geer's cool sports job: chief public affairs officer for USA Track & Field

USA Track & Field

Jill Geer says her job with USA Track & Field has never been boring.

Growing up, Jill Geer wanted to be a professional football player. But she chose track and field because she could control her own destiny -- she could depend on herself to win a race.

The former sports writer is now the chief public affairs officer for USA Track & Field. Under her leadership, USATF has navigated the evolving world of digital media, marketing and sponsorship. She's worked with many champion athletes and witnessed competitors break more than 30 world records.

As she prepares for the Olympics in Rio next month, Geer is managing to remain calm, particularly amid the the disparaging headlines surrounding USATF's long-term sponsorship agreement with Nike. Geer, who is married and has a 10-year-old son named Hayden, opens the door to her busy life. 

Coolest moment?

In 2014, several members of the 1968 Olympic track and field team returned to Echo Summit, California, where the 1968 Olympic trials were held, and we had a ceremony honoring them.

I had the opportunity to speak in front of the one group of people I would refer to as truly my heroes. They were men who were important to society, to the Olympic movement and to human rights as well. When I spoke, I saw my hero, bronze medalist John Carlos -- who raised a black-gloved fist during the American national anthem at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City -- nodding his head and telling me to preach. And at that moment, knowing that these men whom I thought were so important felt understood and appreciated almost moved me to tears.

Focus to overcome obstacles 

The correlation between distance running and any job is the ability to focus and overcome distractions, overcome pain and discomfort, whether it's personal, physical or professional, to get something done. The things I am most proud of at work are often times where we face a great challenge and figure it out.

Running the world

While traveling is a great way to get out and see the world, the fact is that once I reach my destination, I'm working. I don't run on treadmills; I go out into the city and run. At various cities, running has become my sightseeing because there is too much work to be done to be doing any vacationing.

Have perspective

Don't take anything personally, and then you can deal with whatever the issue is in a professional way. The most important thing in dealing with a sensitive issue or a crisis is to first take a step back. When it's a sensitive topic, especially in the social media world, you have to step back and see: Who is it coming from and how many people are really contributing?

In the social media world, very few people get very active on social to say positive things. It's important to keep perspective with any issue. Acknowledge concern while pointing out factual basis.

Courtesy of USATF

Jill Geer is the chief public affairs officer.

Positive thinking is key

The great thing is that whether it's the Olympic trials -- which last for a week and a half in Oregon -- or the Olympic Games or any of our events, regardless of if you are ready for them, they arrive, they start, they happen, they finish and they go great! It's just something that we manage. We do what we need to do to succeed, just like our championship athletes.

'Anything a guy can do, I can do'

When I was an athlete, or even as a professional, whether it's right or wrong, I've never self-identified first as a female. I never thought of myself as a female athlete or a woman in sports. I've been an athlete and a person in sports first. For me that was a good thing because it meant that in no way I limited myself throughout my whole life. Anything a guy can do, I can do. That was never even a question.

Sisterhood in sports

I'm really appreciative of the sisterhood I've always had with female journalists. Women in sports just have a different kind of experience than men in sports.

Be grateful

No job is cool every day, and every job has days where you wonder what you're doing. But if you're fortunate enough to get a cool job, it is so important to be grateful for the job you have and to the people who helped you get there.

Always try new things

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is how you grow and really stay engaged in your job. I've been here for 16 years, and this job has never been boring to me. That is one of the highest compliments I can give a job because to not burn out after 16 years is saying something for me.

Byron Linnell Edwards is a run coach, marathoner and triathlete. The former entertainment executive spent his formative years working in public relations and event logistics at Viacom (BET Networks), Roc Nation, Huff Events & PR, and Urban League while doing social media and digital consulting on a number of projects within entertainment and creative properties. Follow him @ByronLinnell. 

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