Christine GodleskiCOO, WNBA 7/11/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
For Christine Godleski, leaving the
TV industry to run day-to-day operations
for a sports league is less of a challenge than
scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro—both of which the
WNBA’s chief operating officer has done.
Godleski spent 12 years at ESPN and the
Walt Disney Co. in various roles with ESPN
Outdoors, ESPN the Magazine and Disney
Consumer Products. After leaving her position
as VP/general manager for ESPN Outdoors,
Godleski took a brief hiatus to live in Africa
and teach elementary school.
Her travels took her to the foot of Kilimanjaro
in Tanzania, where she was volunteering.
Spending two months in the shadow of
the mountain pushed Godleski to attempt to
reach the peak—and she succeeded.
“I’ve always loved sports,” she says. “Passion
and enthusiasm in and around sports is really
what drives me. There are plenty of times
where you want to challenge yourself and try
That thirst for a challenge led Godleski to join
the WNBA as COO in January 2010, where she
experienced a “huge learning curve” while familiarizing
herself with league operations.
But her experience at ESPN gave her an advantage
when it came time for the 2011 WNBA
Draft, which was held at ESPN headquarters in
Bristol, Conn., marking the first time the network
hosted a pro draft. The partnership included
the draft airing on ESPN, which boosted
ratings 47% from the 2010 edition on ESPN2.
“Having the knowledge of ESPN and
knowing how they worked certainly helped,”
Godleski says. “It was a huge team effort.
One, they’re great broadcast partners, they
put out a terrific product. And two, we wanted
to figure out how to get their employees
and content executives to really push the
WNBA’s brand and understand the draft.”
As the league enters its 15th season, Godleski
is looking to promote the brand through
digital platforms, with games available on mobile
phones for the first time, and enhancing
the LiveAccess feature on WNBA.com under
a partnership with NeuLion. She has also led
the WNBA’s expansion internationally, bringing
the league to Europe for the first time in
the hopes of continuing its growth.
The league has made great advances in
Godleski’s first year; to her, success has less
to do with gender than with what kind of
leader you are.
“It’s about surrounding yourself with great,
passionate, smart and talented people,”