As part of Women’s History Month each March, Mavs Gaming joins the NBA and the Dallas Mavericks to promote the values of equality and inclusion across the world. We especially champion and celebrate female pioneers in the game of basketball and recognize their contributions to the game. Mavs Gaming Esports Content Manager, Jourdan Kerl, is breaking barriers for women in esports and leads the efforts to build the brand. With her voice, she serves as a role model for female gamers in a in a field traditionally dominated by men. She represents a diverse set of women across the Dallas Mavericks organization who continue to leave their mark on the professional sports world.
“When I first started there were people who told me that as a woman of color I wouldn’t succeed because there are so few women in esports that look like me,” Kerl said. “Outside of this job, I am also a freelance host and streamer, but when I first started there were people who told me that as a woman of color I wouldn’t succeed because there are so few women who are in esports that look like me. Now I thank God that my community has grown significantly in only a year and a half, and I was even featured on the front page of Twitch for Black History Month.
I am proud that I took a chance on myself at each step of the way. There are still many doubters about women having success in sports and gaming, but I don’t really think about that. I focus on my family and those people that genuinely support my vision for my life.”
Mavs Gaming is committed in our pursuit of gender equality, diversity and inclusion and we celebrate the future generation of young girls who will one day follow in Jourdan’s footsteps or become professional gamers.
Jourdan offers this advice: “There is plenty of room at the table for you, but don’t just aim to have a seat at the table. Shake the table. If necessary, build a new one. More than anything else, always remember your why.”
Q: You have an incredible background and have worked hard to reach this level of the sports profession. Before we dive deeper into your career, let’s go back to your childhood. Did you have a dream of working in sports journalism or news from a young age? When was the idea first birthed?
Jourdan: One of my first dream jobs was to be a meteorologist! As a child growing up in Dallas, my mom and I would watch WFAA with Greg Fields, and I really wanted to be able to read the radars and predict the weather like him. I always had an interest in working in news, but I’m also a huge basketball fan. My friend’s parents would take us to Dallas Mavericks games at the old Reunion Arena and the AAC when it opened. As I studied for my bachelor’s degree, I started working with the sports information department under athletics at Prairie View A&M University. The team would let me work as a color commentator and writer for our website, and that really began my journey in sports journalism.
Q: You earned your master’s degree from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, one of the top journalism schools in the world. What was your education path before this and how did the experience at Northwestern impact your life and craft as a journalist?
Jourdan: Before I studied at Northwestern, I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in computer science at Prairie View A&M University. As a lifelong gamer, I really wanted to develop video games, but during my time there I fell in love with sports journalism. As I prepared for graduation, I added a minor in communications but didn’t believe I could earn a job immediately. It’s a funny story, but I originally planned to apply to five graduate schools. Instead, I only applied to Northwestern because after meeting the staff there I knew that was the university for me. Although only applying to one school worried my family, I ended up being admitted.
Northwestern molded me into an incredible journalist. I believe the sports program there is one of the biggest reasons why I have had so many opportunities to date. When I told my professors and mentors, J. A. Adande, Melissa Isaacson and Cassidy Hubbarth, that I wanted to focus on esports writing, they were very receptive and encouraged me to do so. Although esports isn’t new, covering it as a beat reporter at the time was – and continues to be in some parts of the country. I believe that their support really pushed me to want to be the best in this field. I’m very happy to see more opportunities in esports come.
Q: How did you end up in Dallas and with Mavs Gaming?
At Northwestern, I focused my beat reporting on esports in Chicago. I started a series called “On The Sticks” in 2018, which focused on console esports news on YouTube from my studio apartment. I pitched the Medill staff with two of my peers to see if I could use the space for my show, and they approved, allowing me to build a reel. While I was building a reel, I freelanced anywhere that would accept my esports stories. I covered the first NBA 2K League Draft and Finals for ESPN Esports; multiple Chicago esports events, including the Red Bull Conquest, for The Shadow League; and I served as the floor reporter for Microsoft and The Coalition’s Gears esports scene.
At my final quarter in Northwestern, I had an internship with Monumental Sports and Entertainment. I worked as a production assistant and helped directly with Wizards District Gaming in season one. After that ended, I moved back home to Dallas and saw Mavs Gaming was hiring a street team in November 2018. In that role, I assisted with some content as needed until I became full-time.
Q: Can you share what your career is like from day-to-day during the season and during the off-season?
Jourdan: Being new to this content manager position for 2020 season, I’m very excited about everything that is happening. This offseason my main focus has been to create a project management pipeline to keep us very organized. Our players and influencers streamed almost every day in the offseason, so I create clips and share them to highlight their love for gaming. As a team, we have spent a lot of time developing a new look for our graphics and brand this offseason as well. We had a huge tournament this year, so I played a large in our promotional calendar across digital platforms.
During the season, I will primarily focus on telling the story of our players and showcasing their skills on and off the court. There is a lot of stigma around being a gamer, but at Mavs Gaming we take pride in our players development as people, so we want to showcase that this year. I also make sure to do a lot of outreach through our social media to potential ambassadors.
Q: You have a close relationship with your players because you are with them every day. What is your favorite thing about this team?
Jourdan: My favorite aspect of this team is that it feels like we are a family. We have team game days, where we all just compete on different video games that many of us have never played. We go out to eat as a team when we travel, and we really help one another if someone is not at their best. It’s about more than just gaming, but I believe that everyone also understands that it’s bigger than themselves. It’s an attitude that is shared in my opinion from our leadership in Cynt Marshall and Greg Nared and passed all the way down to our entire office. It’s really special being her; working for my hometown franchise is truly a dream come true.
Q: Are there any memories that stuck out to you last year?
Jourdan: Travel days stick out the most to me. Flying to New York out of DFW, there were always one or two fans that would want a picture with the team. The players would explain who they are and how the NBA 2K League has impacted them. In a new industry, it’s important to be able to do that because it creates new fans of the organization.
Q: What are you most looking forward to this upcoming season?
Jourdan: Having the NBA 2K League in our building is the most exciting weekend for me. Hosting three teams in Dallas to show the world what we can do will be special.
Q: How did you gain a love for the gaming world? What is the back story?
Jourdan: I have always been a gamer. Growing up, there were two cousins that I was very close to that were both boys who played video games. My first game was on the Gameboy Color called Pokémon Blue. I fell in love with the story and the journey to “catch them all,” as the game says. For me, gaming is an escape. Video games are like movies in a way, where you control the narrative and what happens next. Esports stole my heart in many ways because I’m very competitive in gaming. I also believe that if you put in the hours anyone can be the best. There is something very special about this industry, and I want to be in it for as long as I can be.
Q: What is something about your job and position that other people may not know?
Jourdan: When it comes to creating content, everything is strategic and planned. Sometimes, people think social media is just whatever comes to mind or just “an intern” sharing a post. There are actual people behind these brand accounts that read the comments (occasionally). Before you send your witty response, think if you would actually say that to a real person.
There can also be some coding involved in my position for the website, so I’m thankful for that computer science degree.
Q: March is National Women’s Month. Who are/were the three most impactful women in your life?
Jourdan: My mother, grandmother and aunt. These three women have been my support system every single day. We almost do everything together still, and they keep me grounded. When days get tough, I look to them for advice. They always know what to say. My mother more than anyone has sacrificed so much for me, so anything that I do I give to her. She’s my everything.
Q: If there is a young girl out there reading this and they have a dream to one day become a reporter, what would you tell them?
Jourdan: I would tell her that you do not have to wait until you get in school to start reporting. There are more resources than ever before to make your dream come true. Start a blog, visit a local event in your beat interest, make a YouTube video; you can start today. Young people these days have more access than ever, and I only graduated about a year and a half ago. I would also say don’t be intimidated by the “male-dominated field” saying. There is plenty of room at the table for you, but don’t just aim to have a seat at the table, shake the table. If necessary, build a new one. More than anything else, always remember your why. Knowing why you worked so hard to get to where you are will keep you motivated to stay on the course.
Q: Finally, when you look back on your life, can share a time or two that you faced a challenge and how did you persevere and overcome that moment? As a woman in sports, what makes you the proudest?
Jourdan: Outside of this job, I am also a freelance host and streamer, but when I first started there were people who told me that as a woman of color I wouldn’t succeed because there are so few women who are in esports that look like me. Now I thank God that my community has grown significantly in only a year and a half, and I was even featured on the front page of Twitch for Black History Month.
I am proud that I took a chance on myself at each step of the way. There are still many doubters about women having success in sports and gaming, but I don’t really think about that. I focus on my family and those people that genuinely support my vision for my life. Passion is what carries me because I truly love what I do.