As a former WNBA All-Star, NCAA Champion, Final-Four participant, ACC Rookie of the Year, and two-time All-American and FIBA gold medalist, Marissa Coleman was a force to be reckoned with before she ever stepped off the court and into the gaming industry.
Having learned the importance of hard work, sacrifice and adaptability in her athletic career, Coleman alchemized these skills into a new career in gaming, becoming the vice president of business development at Gaming Society.
“Playing basketball for 20-plus years taught me how to not only operate and build in team settings, but what a successful team’s makeup is,” she explains. “I’ve learned how to lead and also how to follow—and both are necessary in senior management.”
Coleman understands the need for athletes to prepare for their post-playing careers and works to pave the way for others, especially those in marginalized communities, to follow in her steps.
“As I continue this journey, I become more of a firm believer that opportunity is everything,” she says. “I have never been naïve to the fact that if I was not a great basketball player, many of the doors that opened for me would likely have been a lot harder to knock down. It is important to me to create opportunities for other Black women in senior management roles and in business.”
One of the ways Coleman has worked toward this goal was through her role as the chairwoman of the “Vote Yes on Question 2” campaign to legalize sports betting in Maryland. As chairwoman, she was able to lobby for provisions in the legislation, which included prioritizing minority and women-led businesses and ensuring that part of the tax revenue generated would go toward education. Coleman was integral in gaining sufficient voter support to pass the referendum, which was signed into law in June 2021.
“In the industry, I am most proud of the work we did in Maryland to ensure that there was diversity and inclusion language in the sports betting legislation to ensure that women and people of color could meaningfully participate in the industry,” Coleman says. “As it is important to me and a motivating factor to create opportunities for others, this was the first big step in doing so.”
Currently at Gaming Society, Coleman continues to promote diversity and inclusion by leading the company’s Bet on Women initiative, spearheading their official partnership with the WNBA to create a first-of-its-kind prediction game, and co-hosting the company’s digital show, See You in the Lobby, which celebrates the world of women’s basketball. In addition to pursuing her MBA from Georgetown University, she is also working at her company to form a council for women athletes and executives in sports and business to facilitate networking, share resources, and create opportunities for growth.
To other young professionals working their way up the corporate ladder, Coleman warns that success is a journey, and pushing for too much too fast can lead to burnout.
“I believe that in trying to achieve success quickly, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment and stress,” she advises. “Trust and enjoy the grind of growing your career. Be ready to do the work and make the sacrifices—because in the end it is absolutely worth it.”