S2 | E12 | Haleigh Blocker, Texas State University
How did Haleigh Blocker break into the hyper-male field of football, and what career advice does she have for other women wanting to do the same? Hear her story from Texas State University and her rise from small town athlete to big time role model.
Erin King: [00:06]
More people than ever are questioning the value of higher education. We're here to explore why they're right, why they're wrong, and which institutions are rising to the challenge. I'm here with our analytics consultant, Dr. Jacob Bonney, and the football director of operations at Texas State University, Haley Blocker.
Welcome. It's so nice to have you here.
Haleigh Blocker: [00:30]
Thank you all for having me. I'm so excited to be on this.
Dr. Jacob Bonne: [00:32]
So we noticed an article from Corridor where you said you'd always wanted to work in sports. Would you share a little bit about your career pathways, that college to career pathway, and what guided you along the way?
Yeah, so I'm from a really small town in South Texas, and so like any other small town in Texas, football was always life. And so I grew up, my mom was the principal, and so I was stuck at school whether I wanted to be or not.
So I would literally go out to football practice every single day, and just I was around the coaches 24, seven So I just grew up in that environment. And then I played sports my whole life. I played basketball, ran track, and so just I really, truly feel like being involved in sports.
You're just those characteristics of leadership and work ethic, and teamwork. Those are all instilled and you at such a young age. And so I've always I've always had that in me and been able to reflect back on that.
So going into college, I knew I wanted to work in sports, specifically football. I just didn't know at the time, like many young women these days, like if that wasn't even an opportunity. And so I had gotten to college, and I just started sending out a few emails, and they let me come up here and start work.
In the front desk. And I'm telling you like I thought that was the biggest deal ever, was just answering the phone, and I took that job so seriously. And then they let me help out with more recruiting. And then I kind of got into the operations world and realized that's what I wanted to do.
But again, it was just getting that opportunity with my undergrad, and I was literally up here every minute that I wasn't in class, but that's when I learned that. That's what I wanted to do, you know, and I loved it.
So again, I think it was just showing my work ethic and what I could bring. And then a few, a few months before I graduated is when our head coach had gotten hired. And so I just kept doing my thing and working up here, and then I ended up getting an interview with him.
So that was kind of my quick story, and I know that it doesn't work out like that for everyone, but that's why I think it's just so important for our generation. Like if you can figure out what you want to do, like get involved like specifically in college, you know, and start making those connections and try doing.
Things outside of school that are more towards your career.
Dr. Bonne: [02:39]
Yeah, that idea of, you know, high impact practices, whether that's internships or, you know, work or, you know, student leadership positions, is really critical. You know, nowadays I think there's a lot of students who are looking for those opportunities.
And so anything that you can do to get involved in engaged early in your college career certainly seems to be.
Yeah, I tell like, and I think it's so important. Like, obviously your education is very important, and you need to do all that, but it's about who you know as well. Right? And especially in this profession. And I think the more you reach out to people, and I'm doing my part now because I was in a lot of these younger people's shoes of just trying to get an opportunity.
And so I talked to at least two or three people a week that have just emailed me and trying to get an opportunity and just advice. And that's what I tell them is just continue to reach out to people like people want to help you, you know like you're going to have some that don't respond, but those.
Few that do reach out to you like you're going to get some of the best advice, and then you're going to have that connection with them. So that's why I always and just encourage people like the worst stance you can get is no, you know. So I think you just keep asking questions and learning and just showing them that this is what you want to do.
Dr. Bonne: [03:50]
Can you tell us a little bit, maybe from the inverse, what are some barriers that you experience along your path? And perhaps how did you rise above those barriers?
Yeah, for me specifically, I've been very fortunate enough that I haven't had anything just outstanding that's happened to me. I've, I've had friends that I've heard different stories of just being the woman in the room and things like that.
But I know that in my situation to coach, I have it all because I've never had ever felt like the women in the room or felt different or that my opinion didn't matter. And I think that that's that leads from him and just the staff that he has here.
But I just think in general, right, like I think, of course, you're always from some people you're going to get, oh, she's young, oh, she's a woman. She can't do this, or she doesn't have the experience like some of these other people do. Right. But I think for me, that's always, like I said earlier, just what my parents instilled in me and what sports did right. Like life is not going to be perfect, and you're always going to have obstacles, and you're always going to have people telling you no or doubting you.
And it's just how you respond to it. And I think the more that we as students just prove to them. Right. And I think that if you show your work ethic and you show what you bring to the table, and you show that you can provide something that's beneficial to the team, then they're not going to question you. And you can. Accomplish all you want to do. But I think it's just, again, how you carry yourself. Like I went to the Women's Football Career Forum in Indianapolis. The NFL puts it on, and I thought it was like the second year that they did it.
Bruce Arians were there, and there's probably five other games and head coaches in the NFL, and I think them taking a stand on women, being in football, and then starting to hire women. And some of my good friends, like one of my mentors, is Sophie, who's the director of football operations for the L.A. Rams now.
And I have another friend, Katie, who coaches in the NFL. Right. And so you see it more and more. And I think now that it's kind of grown into what it has, people don't question it as much. But it's definitely something that I think is, unfortunately, going to always happen.
But I don't think it's necessarily just because you're a woman. I think it's if you're young or your experience or whatever the case may be.
Hayley, In the same article Dr. Martin mentioned, you tell the story of when Texas State football head coach Jake Several asked you to take on the operations role, and you said that he believed in you more than you believed in yourself. So can you share with us a bit about this and perhaps why it was important for you to have that belief from your coach?
Yeah, that was a very surreal moment for me because that's coming from a head coach who's done it at the highest level. You know, and I, I think it was just for me, and maybe that was a time of myself doubting myself, which I didn't think I would ever do, you know? But to hear that come out of his mouth was like, Wow, like, he wants me to succeed, he wants me to be great.
And I knew that he wasn't going to let me fail. And that just shows the type of person, again, that he is. And just that's why I continue to learn from him on a daily basis. And I want to continue to do that because just to have that support or support from the head coach and knowing that you can do it, and me, I was like, Oh my gosh, I knew I could do it right.
But it was just hearing it from him and just to be put because I wasn't expecting to be put in that role that early, that was honestly like in my mind, that was my goal, my end goal at the time. So to just kind of get thrown into it, but like hearing it from him, like, I'm not going to let you fail. Like you can do this. It just really meant a lot to me. I mean, it gave me that confidence that I could do it.
And I think that that just shows a lot, and you got to find people like that, and that's the type of people you want to work for.
Dr. Bonne: [07:22]
So you mentioned earlier how you sort of helped mentor and coach others who are interested in pursuing positions like yours. Can you talk to us a little bit about career development during college and perhaps where there might be some gaps in terms of gender for students today?
Yeah, I think you got to get involved. And for me, I was like I said, I interned up here, but I also I was president of the Exercise and Sports Science Organization for Texas State. So I try to get involved as much as possible. Right. Like that wasn't that was my degree. That's what I studied in school. And then I became I made connections with professors. And to this day, these professors are some of my good friends. Right. And it's crazy how it all kind of works out to where some of these professors, the ones that come and talk to our student-athletes when we get them on campus. So and now I have that relationship with them.
But again, it's getting involved, and it's reaching out to people. Like I'm telling you, before I graduated before I knew I was going to get the job here, I had probably sent out like 200 emails, just the different people and operations. And I was not asking for a job. I was not doing any of that. It was. Strictly asking for advice, kind of what I studied. I'm about to graduate. Any advice kind of how you got to where you are.
And I'm probably 15 people out of the 200 who responded, but I was able to get on the phone with these people and then ended up we met at a conference or whatever the case may be. And now, I always have those connections.
I think that's truly what's helped me get my foot in the door because people talk, you know, and then if there's an opening, they're going to have your name in the back of their head. So I think it's just not being scared to reach out and try to get involved and don't ever feel like you're bothering people. Because like for me, like I want to help people, you know, like I will never be ever too big for that. Like, I, I was in their shoes, too, and everybody has to start somewhere. I would just suggest, like, try to get as much experience as you can under your belt, specifically towards what you want to do in the future.
What advice would you give to other women who want to break into male-dominated career fields like yours?
Hmmm... I would just say be confident, right? Like that's where I've always just had the mindset of, like, we provide just as much. You know, I never go about it as, like, oh, I'm the woman or, Oh, this is going to be weird or different. Like, I think if you just approach it and have that confidence about yourself, then you can accomplish anything you want to.
And so I just tried to encourage women to like to be confident, right? Like we bring something to the table that's very beneficial, and you can prove that, you know, there's no difference. And I think we bring or there is a difference.
I think we just bring a different mindset to different things and organization and things like that. But I think it helps to, you know, like getting in touch with other women. Like we have a group message, there's a group me that there are probably 200 women in the scrutiny, which is really cool that all work in college football, you know, and it's hey, we have an opening at this school.
There's going to be a directive on-campus recruiting opening coming up like Samir resonate, you know, so everybody's always trying to help each other out.
Dr. Bonne: [10:20]
Your story really speaks to a couple of key topics in workforce development right now. One is the power of networking and the importance of intentionally, you know, working on building those networks, expanding your networks, making connections, and then ultimately leveraging those connections, but in an authentic way. It sounds like you developed actual relationships with faculty members that you then can later utilize to help other students be successful.
So that's super cool. And then part two to that, I think, is what you talked about getting involved, the high impact practices, the internships, and the work experience in college. So those are both supercritical topics right now.
And I think your story really speaks to the importance of both of those.