Game-Changer Alumni Profile – Joey Wenning

Associate Director of Advancement – LaSalle High School, Cincinnati, OH

Tell us a little bit about yourself? What you were you like in high school, and what sports did you participate in?

I am a LaSalle Graduate from 2015 and I was 2 sport athlete.  I played basketball and baseball here at LaSalle.   LaSalle is a very service-oriented school, so I did a lot of service hours here with our canned food drive and other industries such as Matthew 25 and things like that. But overall, kind of looking back on it, I can say that I was maybe a little immature, just not ready when I thought I was. And so now, being in an environment to help kids in the school setting, it’s nice to be able to shed some light to some of the students here and help them where I could have gotten a little bit more help in my development when I was here.

Here at the University of Cincinnati, in graduate school, you multitasked, as both a graduate student as well as a graduate assistant at Saint Xavier High school. And so, what was that like in terms of having to balance the demands of being both a master’s level student and a grad assistant? Also, what were some of the things that you learned about yourself in that process?

The key words are balance and time management. Balance is very important. It’s a cliché saying, but it’s very true and important for what you’re doing.  At the time of my Graduate Assistantship at St. Xavier, I got my personal training certification as well so, it runs in my family, so I kind of got into that as a means to help me get through school and with rent and all those things that go along with maturing and becoming an adult. But balance was important. I had some long days. I was at the gym from 5 to 8am, heading to Saint X, where I worked from 9am to 1pm. and then I would have class at UC around 3pm and head home around 7, and then back to the gym and ultimately getting back home at 10:00 0’clock at night, and so that balance was important.  I also felt that it was something where I definitely had to learn to be a proactive communicator. That’s another cliché, saying, but it’s very true. And so, being able to communicate with Brian Rinehart, who is the athletic director at St. X. and Dante Jenkins, who at the time was the assistant athletic director and going through all of that experience was definitely important.  Learning about myself, I think I really started to kind of unlock my potential and really and learn what it takes internally to get to the next level. Essentially, find your first job or find your next job or find your ‘Grail job’, and ultimately find what it takes to develop those skills. Overall, I realized time management and communication are on the top of that list.   In addition, having support is important. I also realized how important that was, and in my life, whether that’s family or my fiancée, Jess or even with Brian and Dante at St. X, they were all very great at supporting me. It was just an all-around good experience. It was a long day. It was a grind, but it was definitely worth it.

So now, you successfully complete your requirements for the Master’s degree in Sport Administration at the University of Cincinnati. You did it a fantastic job at St. X as their Graduate Assistant and so the next stage was that you were hired as the client’s success manager with Hometown Ticketing.  What were your main responsibilities, and what were some initiatives that you accomplished during your time there with Hometown Ticketing?

I tell people all the time I was very lucky to fall into that as a first job. Definitely a home run of a first job in terms of what I’ve learned and got from it.  Hometown Ticketing is the new digital ticketing provider for pretty much all of the high schools in the surrounding area and growing across the country. I was an employee with probably like 15 to 20 employees and of a now, it’s a 400-employee organization.  I really got lucky and hit a home run on that job.   In my role as a client success manager, what I did was basically serve as an account manager for all of the schools in the area. When we signed on a St. Xavier or a LaSalle, or Madeira High School, or even Cleveland St. Ignatius etc., I was that person that they would go to in order to help them with the ticketing system.  I would also help them with their operations and give them my insight on what I think would work best for them. It was definitely an interesting time as well. That was right at the start of COVID-19.   I graduated in May of 2020, and I started at Hometown Ticketing in June of 2020. So, it was right in that peak of when athletics and the world changed as a whole. This was a great opportunity for me because I was essentially an assistant athletic director for like 300 schools. So, what I mean by that is a lot of operational or duties that an assistant Athletic Director is tasked with involves ticket operations, game operations and the logistics of ‘how are we going to keep the ship moving’? As a result, being able to provide insight and a completely new way for schools to ticket was something that was unique to me.   Additionally, it was a great networking and relationship building experience for me as well.   All of the relationships I built from Hometown were irreplaceable to where I am now.  Overall, I was able to help them grow their company, but also grow the surrounding areas and schools and conferences so they all get aligned and make their operations more efficient as a whole.

Athletic Director at LaSalle High School
Your ascent/rise in education-based athletics has really been substantial. After you left Hometown Ticketing, you had a brief stint with Archbishop Moeller High School as their assistant Director of Athletics. Then, you made a game changing move back to your Alma Mater at Lasalle, where you were named the Associate Director of Advancement in August of 2022. So, what goals do you hope to accomplish in your first year as associate director of Advancement. And are there any noteworthy things that you’ve already accomplished?

What’s really important about what I’ve gone through, and I’m still going through currently is that opportunities are always going to be in front of you. I’m very thankful for all of the folks at Moeller HS such as Justin Bayer, Marshall Hyzdu, Frank Russo and Barrett Cohen. You know, all of those people that helped create an opportunity for me. With my opportunity, I like to say it’s a lot like being the offensive football coordinator at Ohio State. I was the assistant athletic director at a very well-known high school that is prominent in the athletic scene, especially in Cincinnati, but not only in Cincinnati, but nationally as well.   Overall, I was not blind to the opportunity that I had in front of me and what that could have led to. But I’m very thankful now, looking back on it and my current role now, and how it actually is helping me now even more than I realized at the time.  So, what I’ve learned at LaSalle is that advancement and athletics are very similar and the operational scheme of what they do are very similar. So, my duties here are all of our annual giving, but I also handle all of our sponsorships and advertisements.  I work with our alumni director on alumni relations. I work with companies in regard to our internship academy with our local businesses, but the corporate sponsorship and the growth of how we are advertising companies is an integral part of what I do.

With that being said, at many places, athletic directors do that on their own. Here at LaSalle, it is just a little different where Brian Meyer, who’s our athletic director, all of those duties fall onto me, and so I get to work with him, day in, day out, on the execution of how we are providing sponsorship and advertisement. But, in addition, having that connection between us is helping me grow into what I eventually want to do. I still want to be an athletic director someday and that’s my long-term goal.   What I’m doing now with my advancement work is really helping me get to that point.  Additionally, the two things I want to accomplish are to make a better B2B relationship between LaSalle and our Corporate Sponsors whether they are large or small or in-between.  Also, I want to help them get the most out of their sponsorship dollars with us.  Often, many sponsors are LaSalle Alumni who, essentially write a check to support our school as a good cause and they would get a banner advertisement out of it or publicity in our game programs or even on our website.  I am trying to create a ‘partnership’ that ultimately gets more business for them. So down the road, as that partnership and relationship continues to grow, I want to modernize it in a way that can be more interactive for our community.

Can you discuss and tell us about your relationship with LaSalle Director of Athletics Brian Meyer and how you approach making that a win-win situation between both the Athletics Department and the Advancement Department?

Relationships and Networking and this area of work that we work in is very important.  I met Brian when I was working with Hometown Ticketing, and my relationship with him is great, and he is awesome at letting my ideas and thoughts and plans, long-term goals really be brought to life. So, I work directly with him pretty much every single day, like, I said, on all of our sponsorship and advertisement.

I also work with him even with our annual giving campaign as well as our alumni relations. Therefore, all of the events that we do that tie advancement on the school side to athletics, and so my title may not say athletics, but I’m still getting a lot of good experience and knowledge from what I’m doing now and working with Brian to hopefully become a better athletic director when my opportunity arises.  I like to say that there may be years where there’s not an assistant athletic director job that pops open in the area that you would like, or an athletic director job that pops open in the area you desire. But, being an advancement, this is something that is helping me in the long run.

What’s important to understand in education-based athletics and the profession in general is that I’m in advancement, doing sponsorship and advertisement and working with companies. But I also have an opportunity to contribute to the growth of the school and working with other individuals in our building to provide opportunities for our student athletes. So, overall, my relationship with him is great and I’m excited to see where the sponsorship and advertising grows, and he’s awesome at what he does.  The stakeholders in our athletic environment include our sponsors, current parents and all alumni. So, for example, Brian is dealing with the stakeholders of the athletics program and their experience at the game, and I’m helping support him through sponsor and advertisement, but also being present to communicate and build relationships, and vice versa.  What I’m doing from an advancement side, he’s doing the same thing from the athletics side. So overall, our day-to-day duties might be different, and our titles might be different, but what we’re doing individually and then collaboratively it is really important to understand.

What advice would you give to our undergraduate, or even our graduate students that are matriculating through the University of Cincinnati Sport Administration program?

Personally, I’m more of a kind of behind the scenes, Guy. I just want students to understand that I am a resource for them, whether they are networking or looking for potential jobs, or just even for advice or conversations. I want to be a resource for people in the program.  So, I’m very much honored to talk about my experience, because I think it is relevant and important for them to understand, and it kind of leads into my first point of be sure you know your initial scope or your initial plan.  What you want to get to is going to change, and, like I mentioned before, opportunities are going to arise where a decision will have to be made, and ultimately you want that decision to be for the long-term goals.  I had a conversation with you Doc (Kelley), at orientation, and you know, as you got to know me, you found out I wanted to be in education based athletics, and so I figured I’ll go be an assistant athletic director for a couple of years, and then I’d be an AD, and then here we are. But my plan was completely different, and I started on that track at St. X, but you know COVID happened, and there weren’t a lot of jobs out there. So, I fell into Hometown Ticketing, which led me to Archbishop Moeller, and now here in Advancement at LaSalle in a short period of time.  I’m in three different areas, and I’m nowhere close to knowing it all, or getting to my dream job.  But what I’m going through and learning is really helping me for that next opportunity when that arises.  Also, I would suggest to students, go beyond that scope and don’t be narrow-minded to opportunities when they when they happen, and that ‘fit’ is very important.  Like I said I’m very lucky that my fit with Hometown, Saint Xavier, Archbishop Moeller, and LaSalle were all great ‘fits’ for me personally and professionally and to truly understand that is important. So, when you’re evaluating a decision like I went through, whether that is to leave a job or to take a new one, analyze that fit. Is this a good fit for me? Is this a good fit for my long-term goals?  A saying that I have is ‘really be where your feet are’ and what I mean by that is I had some long days at St. X. It was a grind and there were times where I’m like saying to myself ‘I don’t know if this is for me, I might go into nursing or something’. But be where your feet are.  In the end, I was so thankful for my opportunity at St. Xavier and my opportunities at Hometown Ticketing.  I was in that moment of learning and growing and building a network, and in my short time at each position, I was trying to get 1% better at what I did each day. So overall, just keep growing, and don’t be afraid to take that opportunity when it arises.

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