Episode 027- Claire Lessinger, Director of Special Events – Tampa Bay Sports Commission

Claire Lessinger, Director of Special Events for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission

Claire Lessinger

Bobbi-Sue has another local woman in sports pop by her apartment for this week’s episode. Claire Lessinger is the Director of Special Events for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. TBSC is the organization that attracts and puts on major sports and entertainment events in the Tampa Bay region such as the Super Bowl, Final Four, and College Football Championship. Prior to TBSC, Claire was head women’s volleyball coach at USF (and assistant coach before that). She was a student-athlete at UF where she met her mentor, Mary Wise. This episode is chock full of information as it relates to coaching, being a former student-athlete, health and wellness, and coffee shops in Tampa!

Big thanks to Florida International University Online. If you’re thinking of going to grad school, check out their online graduate programs!

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Additional Show Notes:
  • Claire constantly played sports throughout childhood. Played competitively on travel teams for volleyball and basketball.
  • Beach volleyball is apparently a MUCH different sport.
  • When she graduated from the University of Florida, she started coaching at Boston College.
  • During college, she coached at camps which meant she had a great network upon graduation.
  • After 6 months in Boston (let’s be honest, it’s super cold), she had the opportunity to move closer to home and be the assistant coach for women’s volleyball at USF.
  • Bobbi-Sue asks Claire about the “Claire Lessinger Show.” And shouts out Erika Brennan.
  • When Claire left USF, it was due to a combination of circumstances. First, she was getting that fire in her belly for the next season as usual. Second, her mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.
  • Around the same time, Rob Higgins of TBSC reached out to Claire and they talked through a potential position which would allow her more flexibility to take care of her mom.
  • Her mom has recovered from cancer and her scans are clean! Big thanks to Moffitt Cancer Center for helping her through.
  • Mary Wise, volleyball coach at UF, is still one of her mentors
  • Claire has a group of people who she’ll go to individually for different things from a mentoring perspective.
  • She also makes sure that she’s actively involved with other alumni of all years from her team.
  • Bobbi-Sue has no idea what conference UMass is in now. [It is the Mid-American Conference, she will surely forget this fact.]
  • Claire met her husband while coaching. He used to coach for Ohio.
  • What is the Tampa Bay Sports Commission?
  • It took Claire a while to start to feel confident in her role at TBSC.
  • Before these major events, Claire has to literally, physically, get in shape. She works with a personal trainer and does some juice cleanses.
  • Part of this pre-event training helps bring out her inner athlete, with the event being “game day.”
  • From an endurance perspective, these are more like marathons than volleyball.
  • Claire also changed up her diet a bit during these times. Eating clean helps her with sleep and energy.
  • One of the most important skills Claire has developed is self-awareness of how different things affect her ability to perform and be the best version of her.
  • With the Women’s Final Four in 2015, they began the “Beyond” series – events geared towards women’s empowerment and advancement.
  • Alyssa Milano’s “Touch” brand sponsored the last “Beyond” event and BSDH wants her to be a guest on the pod!
  • Claire tells us about USF’s Women in Leadership and Philanthropy. They both express how much they love the Tampa community.
  • For large events like the Super Bowl, the host city actually pays to put the whole thing on… not the event itself.
  • Claire shares about how they go about fundraising and getting the community involved. The NHL All-Star Weekend is a great example of how this all works.
  • Bobbi-Sue asks Claire about her involvement with the Positive Coaching Alliance which seeks to positively impact youth sports. It focuses on training coaches and parents.
  • It’s an interesting scenario when your kids play sports and you used to be a collegiate coach… Claire talks about how her husband and she act on the sidelines.
  • Self-care: breakfast by herself [this devolves into a discussion about local Tampa joints – good recommendations here!], sitting out on the screened-in patio, taking a “time out,” and laughing/having fun.

Claire Lessinger at the 2015 Women’s Final Four in Tampa

Claire Lessinger next to the National Championship Trophy at the 2017 College Football Championships in Tampa

(Left to Right) Elizabeth Frazier, Sara Walsh, Claire Lessinger, and Heidi Browning with the Stanley Cup at the 2018 Beyond the Blue Line event during NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa

Quotable moments:

  • “The dynamics of the sport are just changing so fast… It’s because the athletes are changing. The game is played at such a higher, faster, physical level.”
  • “The only thing I really knew up until that time was coaching.”
  • “I continue to want to be a role model for female coaches.”
  • “The second that you start to not love this, then you just need to get out.”
  • “In coaching me, there was definitely a potential of a love-hate relationship. Just going to put that on the record.”
  • “Our dates were on recruiting trips.”
  • “Meet you at court 13.”
  • “This goes back to Rob, potentially seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
  • “The other thing I did was sit in rooms and listen and take a gazillion notes.”
  • “For me, the learning opportunity was off the charts.”
  • “Coaching and my job at the sports commission have been perfect for my need to move.”
  • “Game day every day.”
  • “I need to go back into preseason, double day training.”
  • “I’m a beat up, injured athlete. And washed up.” [BSDH gave a side eye to this.]
  • “We all know that balance doesn’t really exist, right?”

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