She learned about teamwork as a member of Princeton's powerful lacrosse program. Now Ann Rodriguez is applying those lessons as part of a team bringing a professional sports franchise to the Bay Area.
For Ann Rodriguez, the value of athletics at Princeton did not come from individual success on the lacrosse field.
"My athletic experience here was really unique," says Rodriguez. "I never really amounted to much other than a role player. But being a role player on a great team like that was an honor and a great opportunity for me."
Rodriguez, recruited by perennial powers Penn State, Duke, and Virginia, came to Princeton as a walk-on, joining the heralded class of 1999 -- a group long-time coach Chris Sailer calls "probably one of the best classes that we have ever had here." That class never won a national championship but they helped comprise some great teams, capturing two Ivy League titles ('96, '97) while advancing to two NCAA quarterfinals ('98, '99) and a Final Four ('96).
Today, Rodriguez looks back to those teams' success and commitment to winning as one of the many valuable aspects of her Princeton athletic experience. "It was great preparation for business to be on a team that aspired to be national champions every year," says the Annapolis, Md., native. "I just loved being on a team that had those kind of aspirations, and people who had the courage to commit to those kind of goals."
The four-year letterwinner, who majored in ecology and evolutionary biology while balancing lacrosse and a work-study job, says her time in Princeton also taught her valuable time management skills. "Majoring in a lab science is no joke but it was a good experience. Those time management skills, you'd be surprised how rare that ability to juggle is in the working world. It was really, really good training for me."
Coach Sailer, who remembers Rodriguez as a "great kid with a positive spirit and mentality," witnessed her disciplined nature in their very first meeting. "I remember her when she came to meet with me when she was a senior in high school and she had this whole list of questions," recalls Sailor. "I've had other kids who've had a list of questions, she's the only one who wrote down my answers."
Rodriguez carried over those organizational and time management skills, along with the winning attitude she became so accustomed to at Princeton, on to Stanford Business School, where she received her MBA in 2005. She is now well into a successful business career. After founding her own sports properties consulting firm Rodriguez moved on to accept an executive position with Earthquake Soccer, LLC, which is owned by the group that also owns the Oakland Athletics.
As Director of Business Development Rodriguez is involved in bringing Major League Soccer back to the Bay Area. She is in the process of building the marketing infrastructure for the franchise and has worked closely with A's co-owner and managing partner Lew Wolff in developing plans for a soccer-specific venue.
Starting up a sports franchise has proved to be no small task. "It's interesting," Rodriguez says with a smile. "You can only imagine."
"I enjoyed being an athlete so much at Princeton that I was always interested in the business side of sports and I committed to that path very early in my career," says Rodriguez.
"To be an athlete at Princeton and obviously the education that it afforded me was tremendous and the opportunities associated with being an alum from the school, I mean, it's still working for me."
— Wesley Harris