By: RoseAnn Sapia
Katie Gwinn Hewitt at the 2019 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
Credit: Michigan Athletics
The questions flashed through Katie Gwinn Hewitt’s mind. Do I want to do this forever? Am I happy? Should I stay in the industry? What would life be like without it?
Gwinn Hewitt didn’t have all the answers. She was 23. How could she be expected to?
She was only a year into her first full-time job in the industry at her alma mater, Saint Leo University, which she'd graduated from the previous year.
But this wasn’t what she had originally planned. Florida was where Gwinn Hewitt called home for most of her life. Graduation was her chance to leave.
She wanted to live in a big city, and was as close as two weeks away from getting her wish.
When Gwinn Hewitt graduated Saint Leo in 2013, she was offered a job in a big city. At Temple University in Philadelphia. But just two weeks before she was set to make the move, she was offered a full-time role at Saint Leo. She decided to take it.
Her dream of living in a big city was put on hold for a little while longer. But she would see it come to fruition at Temple University just a few years later.
“Everyone has their own path, so it’s crazy this is mine”, reflects Katie Gwinn Hewitt, who just accepted the role of Assistant AD for Branding and Digital Strategy at Temple University earlier this month.
It’s been six years since Katie Gwinn Hewitt was presented with a job offer from Temple University, yet she found herself in the exact same position earlier this summer.
“When I took the job at Saint Leo, I didn’t count out going back to Temple. But it never crossed my mind that I would go back to Temple.”
This time, she’s really making the move. The Associate Director of External Communications and Public Relations at Michigan University for the last four years, Gwinn Hewitt was drawn to the attractive duties and appeal of working full-time in the Digital and Social realm when considering this position at Temple.
While working in athletic communications, digital and social were just a fraction of Gwinn Hewitt’s day-to-day responsibilities. Her previous role at Michigan was “a jack of all trades and master of none” type position. She was looking to move into digital and social full-time. This position with Temple satisfies that desire.
So how does Katie Gwinn Hewitt find herself going back to the place her career was almost guaranteed to start? She describes her journey back to Temple as “crazy”, but a closer look at her career shows there have been several “full circles” completed throughout her years in the sports industry.
At first, an eight-year-old Katie Gwinn Hewitt wasn’t too fond of the idea of playing softball. Her parents requested that she make the switch from baseball now that their family had moved to an area with a Little League that offered the sport.
But it wasn’t long until she fell in love with softball. It became her life. So much so, that she pursued a softball career. She continued to play all throughout high school, and in college at Saint Leo University, a DII program, on scholarship for three years.
It was a tumultuous three years of college softball for Gwinn Hewitt. She suffered three rough injuries and endured a coaching change before deciding it was time to hang the cleats up. She quit. But that was only the start to her career in collegiate athletics.
Gwinn Hewitt began college wanting to pursue a career as a sportswriter. She hoped to follow in the footsteps of her favorite writer, Rick Riley of Sports Illustrated and ESPN, and become a writer for Sports Illustrated herself.
The Communications Management program she was enrolled in required her to complete a pre-internship and a full-time internship. Still a student-athlete at the time, she approached Michael Farrant, her Sports Information Director, to see if she could fulfill the pre-internship by working with the Athletic Department.
For three hours a week, Gwinn Hewitt would write feature stories as part of her pre-internship. But she’d spend much more than three hours a week in that office. She was learning so much. It was where she wanted to be.
“The more time I spent there the more I realized all the things that went into Communications and PR”, recounts Gwinn Hewitt of her real start in the sports communications industry.
From 2011 until graduation in 2013, she never stopped coming into the office. She became a student-worker who would work all the time. She was a fixture, and her worker bee ethic was on display from the start.
There wasn’t one single moment that signified to her that this was the path she would take in her career. It was the accumulation of the experiences she had during her pre-internship that solidified it.
“I started doing something and kept doing it.”
When she graduated Saint Leo in 2013, Gwinn Hewitt knew she wanted a career in collegiate athletic communications. That’s when she was first offered a position at Temple University. She instead accepted a full-time position at Saint Leo University as the Manager of Athletic Communications and eventually took on an additional role as Co-S.A.A.C. Advisor.
As part of these roles, Gwinn Hewitt had the opportunity to partake in the tasks that initially reeled her into athletic communications. She was the primary contact for seven of Saint Leo DII programs, including baseball and softball. She had a hand in redesigning their athletics’ website, worked on social media strategy, coordinated interviews, wrote press releases and game notes, and filmed and edited videos.
And she got to work with the athletes. That’s what Gwinn Hewitt really enjoys. She was in their shoes once, a student-athlete at a DII program. She knew what they were experiencing.
Gwinn Hewitt appreciates the amateurism of college sports. Because for most of them, this is an opportunity to become better people and hopefully excel at a high level. The percentage of those who actually make it pro is rather small, but these men and women are dedicated anyway.
Katie Gwinn Hewitt (left) at the 2016 NCAA Volleyball Sweet 16 in Austin, Texas.
Credit: Michigan Athletics
Student-athletes are constantly learning and growing. Many of them are competing at the highest level possible for their sport while balancing things that make them better people. They juggle internships, classes, and volunteering within the community. She appreciates that added level in collegiate sports. It’s why it’s the place for her.
Gwinn Hewitt had another thing in common with the athletes she worked so closely with. She, too, was a student. She was continuing her education at the university by pursuing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. From the outside, it appeared that the early stages of her career were shaping out nicely.
She was working in the field of her desire right out of college, which is no small feat. But it wasn’t in a big city like she had dreamed. She was still exactly where she had been for most of her life. After about a year working full-time at Saint Leo, Gwinn Hewitt took one of the biggest risks a 23-year-old could take. She quit.
Katie Gwinn Hewitt knew that she’d have to trust herself. She knew she needed to take a step back to see what it was that she actually wanted to do with her life.
The only way for her to do that was by leaving the industry. So, she quit her job at Saint Leo to join the staff of another school. This time, a high school. Her role, English Teacher.
“It was a year of self-exploration”, reflects Gwinn Hewitt about that uncertain period of her life. She worked full-time with the School District of Hillsborough County for a year in hopes of finding the answers to some of her deepest questions. She enjoyed working with collegiate student-athletes, and thought she’d experience that same gratification working with students as a high school teacher.
She didn’t leave the sports industry all together, though. While teaching, she picked up a part-time Athletic Communications Internship with The University of Tampa, another DII school. Her daily tasks were similar to the work she had done at Saint Leo’s, but it was just part-time.
By day, she was teaching high school English. By night, she was doing what she originally envisioned for herself- writing press releases and features, and managing social media for a collegiate program.
It was the most challenging and rewarding year of Gwinn Hewitt’s life. She learned more about herself and society as a whole while teaching in the high school than she ever thought she could. Perhaps most importantly, she discovered this wasn’t the path she was meant to walk for a long period of time.
She couldn’t teach forever, and so decided to return to Saint Leo as the Assistant Director of Career Services after one year in the classroom. In this position, she was able to help students learn and grow in yet another way, while still sticking to her roots by managing Career Services’ social platforms.
In a time when she herself was still exploring the path she could take in her career, one of Gwinn Hewitt’s responsibilities in her new role was counseling and assisting students with their career exploration.
She was just three months into this new job when her next adventure would present itself. One day, her phone “randomly” rang.
It was The University of Michigan calling. There was an opening with their Division I Athletic Department as the Associate Director of External Communications and Public Relations. She hadn’t worked in athletic communications in over a year, but was offered the job anyway after completing the interview process.
Still searching for answers to the questions that boggled her mind, she decided to take another risk. Gwinn Hewitt packed up her life in Florida and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In the beginning, being a woman working in sports was especially lonely. There were so few women in the industry that Gwinn Hewitt personally knew. Whenever she needed advice, she didn’t know who to ask.
Katie Gwinn Hewitt first met Olivia Coiro when she was still working at Saint Leo. Coiro was then working as the Assistant Director of Athletic Communications at Lynn University.
Anytime Gwinn Hewitt encountered another female in the industry, she worked to build a relationship with them. Coiro was one of just a few women she crossed paths with. Although they didn’t live near each other, they both worked in the Sunshine State Conference, and got to know each other very well.
Once Gwinn Hewitt and Coiro started new jobs at the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro respectively, their bond grew even stronger.
Gwinn Hewitt had a situation at work, and believed she needed advice about how to handle it. She felt as if there was never anyone to guide her with decisions or to share perspective when she needed it. Coiro agreed. Where were all the female mentors?
That’s when the idea came to Gwinn Hewitt. They would become the mentors they so yearned for.
They knew they wouldn’t be able to do one-on-one mentoring for every young woman in the industry, so they decided to cover anything anyone could ever ask about the industry and put it somewhere.
In 2016, Sparkles and Sports was born. A resource for women in the industry seeking advice, there are articles about everything from what to wear and how to quit your job to tips for building the perfect resume and cover letter. The official podcast, launched just last year, provides advice and discussion via a different medium.
In just three years since its creation, the site has evolved so much. The internet has evolved so much. There are a lot of women out there of all ages and stages of their careers who work in the industry. And they’re all going through the same thing.
The all-female staff of Sparkles and Sports has grown from two to 14, and includes a diverse group of women who currently work or have worked in the sports industry. Mirroring the community of women in sports that has formed on social media, the staff includes everyone from freelancers and college students interning in sports to industry vets and professors.
The more experienced women share their insecurities and the challenges they’ve faced as a way to help guide the next generation of women in sports. They’re the ones who have seen the industry begin to take a step in the right direction.
“From my perspective, there’s a renewed sense of commitment to hiring minorities and people of all ages and abilities”, remarks Gwinn Hewitt. Although her perspective is “skewed” from the places she’s worked, she does believe that many organizations are more committed to building diverse workplaces and staffs.
Several professional organizations have begun hiring female coaches, and more women are blazing their way to positions higher up on the business side of sports.
It’s been a slow change in diversity, and there has been progress made since she began her career as an intern in 2011, but there are still opportunities for improvement.
As a new mother, she’s realized that working in the sports industry does serve as a “roadblock for motherhood”.
Katie Gwinn Hewitt while pregnant at the 2018 NCAA Volleyball Regionals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Credit: Michigan Athletics
The position at Michigan Gwinn Hewitt bid farewell to just two weeks ago wouldn’t have been possible as a new mother. It’s not for lack of trying or support. If she was going to continue at Michigan in her former position, they would’ve figured something out. However, the solution would’ve made some people unhappy.
“We can’t change people’s minds about a lot of things”, Gwinn Hewitt concludes, “It’s easy day-to-day to get frustrated, but eventually, we’ll [women] have a bigger voice in sports”.
That day may be approaching faster than she thought.
Katie Gwinn Hewitt thrives in her alone time. She’s likely to skip the huge company gatherings. The atmosphere is exhausting.
Gwinn Hewitt is an introvert, but she’s not shy. In fact, if you get her into a personal one-on-one conversation, she might not stop talking.
She views herself as being a very open and honest person. She’s always been the type of person others feel comfortable around. Her confidence is genuine, and that radiates in each conversation she has.
What you see on social media is an accurate painting of Gwinn Hewitt, whose Twitter profile is filled with tweets of inspirational quotes and words of encouragement. Her DMs are open, and she doesn’t shy away from letting her followers know she’s just a quick message away. But sometimes, that’s a lot of added pressure.
She often finds herself having the same conversation over and over again. Many women in the sports industry just don’t seem to have any confidence in themselves or their abilities. The days are long. They feel undervalued.
The women who seek Gwinn Hewitt’s perspective are usually strangers. She doesn’t know many of them personally, but speaks to each as if they’re her best friends. She listens to their stories, and can’t help but see how amazing each of these women are. They’re good at their jobs, too, but they don’t seem to see it.
“I want to lift people up”, explains Gwinn Hewitt. “Even if you don’t think you’re doing a good job, if you’re working in sports, you’ve already tilted the scale.”
She doesn’t like to focus on the negatives when women come to her for advice. If she can make someone smile or feel better about themselves, she counts it as a success. She doesn’t demand they stop the way they think about themselves. Rather, she tries to get them to start believing in themselves.
“I’m very proud of who I am, but I’m not perfect”, she says, “You have to believe in your value to make others believe”.
Gwinn Hewitt prides herself on being positive in a sea of negative voices. She saw just how commanding that quality of hers is when she sent a tweet the morning of August 13, 2019.
It started like any typical day. Hewitt was chatting with Jen Heisel and Hannah Bradley, two of the women on the staff of Sparkles and Sports. They were brainstorming topics for upcoming posts.
They wanted to do more interviews and feature more Q&A’s on the site. In hopes of finding some leads and to get a better sense of who they should be interviewing, Gwinn Hewitt sent out the tweet that wound up being heard around the world of women in sports.
The moment she sent the tweet, she had no idea it would become as big as it did. She was expecting to get five responses. She wound up with over 1,000.
It became a driving force of conversation on Twitter for days after she originally tweeted it. More and more people, both women and men, continued to drop the handles of the most inspiring women they knew in sports.
As more people were tagged, more conversation was created. The women began responding to each other. Gwinn Hewitt couldn’t keep up.
As a young woman starting in the industry, Gwinn Hewitt didn’t have any female mentors. Now, it was clear that was no longer a problem. There were too many inspiring women in sports to count. The tweet had gone viral.
Baseball is Katie Gwinn Hewitt’s first love. The affair began when she played her first game of t-ball at the ripe age of four. She grew up playing baseball. For four years, she played ball with all the boys. Her local Little League didn’t offer softball. She liked it that way.
Along with volleyball, baseball was the sport she worked most closely with at Michigan. Up until her final season with the Wolverines, the baseball team had never made it past the NCAA Regionals. That was 2017. The team didn’t qualify for the tournament in 2016 or 2018. The 2019 season would be much different. It was going to be a “weird” year.
Katie and her husband Matthew welcomed their first child, Tyrus Hewitt, into the world on February 15 of this year. They named him after Tyrus “Ty” Cobb, “the greatest baseball player ever”, Katie adds.
Katie Gwinn Hewitt and her son, Tyrus Hewitt.
Baby Ty is very special to her. He’s the couple’s first child after two miscarriages. Fittingly, he was born on Opening Day of the college baseball season.
Gwinn Hewitt missed a lot of the 2019 season while she was on maternity leave. She knew from the beginning that being a mother would be a huge difference. She took things day by day.
Being the worker bee that she is, Gwinn Hewitt struck a deal with her boss at Michigan that allowed her to help out while she was on maternity leave. She would’ve been bored if she was completely away from the game during those months.
The new mother had worked her entire life prior to her leave. She felt like she was missing something without it. Even though she wasn’t able to attend the games, she was still following along. Still contributing by doing a different kind of work.
She was scheduled to go back to work soon after the team made the Post Season. She admired their staff. The Seniors started at Michigan when she began her tenure there. It meant something for her to be there for them during one last Post Season run, especially once they qualified for the College World Series.
Then the text came in. It was her boss, asking if she wanted to fly out to Omaha for the College World Series. She wouldn’t be able to leave Baby Ty home; they had never been apart for so long as a day. So, Michigan figured out a way to get Katie, her mother, Lisa Gwinn, and Baby Ty all to Omaha. Her husband would drive there to join them for a weekend towards the end of the tournament.
On June 13, Gwinn Hewitt returned to the baseball field. And on June 15, just four months after giving birth to Ty, she worked her first College World Series Game.
The Wolverines made it all the way to the Championship Series against Vanderbilt. They won Game 1 in a convincing manner, 7-4, but would lose the next two. Even though her team didn’t wind up winning the tournament, going to Omaha was a dream come true.
“I’m so thankful for what Michigan did. They made all these things available for my mom and Ty.”
As she says goodbye to Ann Arbor, she continues to look back on those two weeks in Omaha. She spent all four of her years in Michigan working with that team. She loved the players and the coaches. She still has to take a moment. Did that happen?
The Hewitt family is making the move to Philadelphia this week. It’s a dream come true for Katie. She’s finally going to live in the big city she almost moved to six years ago.
A lot has happened since then. A lot happened in Michigan. It’s the place where Katie Gwinn became Katie Gwinn Hewitt. It’s the place where the couple grew stronger after experiencing two miscarriages. It’s the place where their son Ty was born.
The Hewitt Family: Matthew, Katie, and Ty (left to right)
Credit: Andrew Woolley
Gwinn Hewitt became who she is during those four years in Michigan. But now it’s time to leave. It’s the right move for her, both personally and professionally, to start a new adventure at Temple University.
This is the second big move in Gwinn Hewitt’s life. Her move from Florida to Michigan was much easier. She and Matthew were engaged, but they were not yet a family. There’s a lot more to consider now that they have Ty.
They can’t just up and move. A lot of thought went into the decision of accepting the job at Temple. They had to consider daycare locations and health coverage. It was much more adult this time around.
When the Hewitt Family does arrive in Philadelphia, they’ll have the comfort of knowing that family is nearby. Matthew’s brother lives less than an hour from where they’ll be living.
The couple didn’t have any family in Michigan. Both Katie and Matthew are from Florida, and both sets of their parents still live there.
“The family aspect wasn’t the deciding factor, it’s the icing on the cake.”
Follow Katie Gwinn Hewitt on Twitter @kfgwinning.
RoseAnn Sapia is a Features Writer and Co-Editor of Lifer for All Heels on Deck. Follow her on Twitter to discuss all things baseball (basketball, too) @_RoseAnnSapia.