VOL. 133 | NO. 139 | Friday, July 13, 2018
Leslie Finch’s Desire to Unite People Leads to Sports Career
Anna Cox Thompson
Memphis stands at the threshold of incredible possibility. In this series, we introduce innovative Memphians who are driving our city forward and forging its future success.
Growing up playing sports didn’t necessarily mean Leslie Finch, Partnership Development Manager for the Memphis Hustle and Grizz Gaming, dreamed of a career in sports stadiums and arenas. The irony of it isn’t lost on her that she was rarely allowed to play video games as a child. Now, she connects brands to the Grizzlies eSports team as part of her day job.
“When I went to college I didn’t know that you could have a career in sports,” she said. “I was talking to my English professor, and he encouraged me to pursue something that I loved — not just something that had high job placement, like business school. I knew I loved sports. I knew I loved the way sports connects people from all walks of life. All fans have that passion and that love that draws them to a greater purpose, no matter if they could ever actually step into an arena. I always want my work to draw people to a greater purpose. [My career aspiration] wasn’t because I’m the biggest sports fan ever. I care about the people, and that’s what drives me. How can we unite people? And sports and entertainment have a unique way of doing that.”
Her passion for paying it forward is clear in the way she spends her free time as well. A native of North Carolina, once she moved to Memphis from Atlanta in 2016, she felt embraced and encouraged by the city. She saw an opportunity with youth, and got plugged in at Memphis Athletic Ministry as a mentor and volleyball coach.
“When I came to Memphis, everyone was asking how I started a career in sports or how I got to work with the Grizzlies. And it really is a combination of a college education — with parents who prioritized that and put me through school — and connections that I’ve made. And of course working hard, but that’s just one component of it. I saw that just because you work hard doesn’t mean you have the same opportunities. I think that everyone talks about Memphis as having an opportunity for access and impact, and that is true. But it’s not true for everyone. So I really wanted to get involved in an organization that wants to level the playing field. Athletics is how they get kids in the door, but once they’re in, they have a holistic approach with a focus on academics, athletics and spiritual growth.”
The connections she mentions are colleagues and managers she’s had the opportunity to work with along the way, from the Atlanta Braves and Falcons to those at the Grizzlies organization.
“I thought I would be in Atlanta for a long period of time,” she said. “But moving to Memphis and working with my boss at the Grizzlies, Anthony Macri, has been incredible. He has been my biggest advocate. I’ve felt a lot of support. Having leadership and mentors who advocate for you is so important. I also think that we’re surrounded by so many strong, powerful women at the Grizzlies organization, and uniquely, we all build each other up. I know they are going to change the world, and I’m going to be right alongside them because they’re going to lift me up and I’ll do the same. As women, that’s what we have to do for one another. You have to have a seat at the table, and once you’re there, you have to speak up. Once you’re at the table, it’s your responsibility to bring others to the table, too — whether that’s women or marginalized communities. Whoever wouldn’t normally have a voice in that setting, you need to bring, because there is room.”
Her heart for others is transparent, and her knack for effortless conversation lends itself to strengthening both her professional and personal relationships. As she continues to impact the Mid-South, her hope is to provide fresh perspective and inclusive thinking with every interaction. “It’s all about people,” she says with a smile. “People are your clients; they’re who work for you and who hire you. They’ll remember a kind interaction just like they’ll remember an unkind one. So why not be kind? Let people help you and help other people as well.”
Leslie Finch is a graduate of New Memphis’ Embark program. Learn more at newmemphis.org.