Dani Aravich Is Continuing To Work For Her Childhood Dream
by Al Daniel
Dani Aravich competes at the 2023 FIS Para Nordic Skiing World Championships. (Photo: Ralf Kuckuck)
Nick Mayhugh was in for a pleasant surprise when fellow Paralympian Dani Aravich reached out on Dec. 3.
The athletes had both represented Team USA in track and field at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. On this day, however, Aravich was messaging Mayhugh on behalf of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
Aravich has been working for the USOPC as a social media consultant since September. As a two-time Paralympian in track and Nordic skiing, she’s been able to use her connections to tell meaningful stories about American athletes like Mayhugh.
Dec. 3 was the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and Mayhugh was trying to set the record straight. He filmed a two-minute, 45-second video addressing trolls who questioned his eligibility.
Though Mayhugh was born with cerebral palsy, he wasn’t formally diagnosed until 2010 when he was 14. He first encountered U.S. Para track and field in 2019 and went on to corral three gold medals and a silver at the Tokyo Games. Aravich knew his story well.
“To have someone internally who understands the sport, understands disability in both the competition and in life is crucially important,” Mayhugh said.
Aravich has brought her competitive experience to the USOPC’s social media consultant job. Athlete engagement is one of the position’s pillars. As an athlete who has been representing Team USA since 2019, Aravich related to Mayhugh’s message. There is more to everyone than any biographic blurbs can say.
“People always want to try to put you in a box, and I think that I’ve defied that with my background,” Aravich said. “I never want to be put into a box.”
Aravich backed that determination in her athletic career, competing in two Paralympics six months apart — the 2020 Summer Games last year in Tokyo, then the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. She doesn’t put herself in any box and has managed a range of roles in various team offices. Those horizons come from chasing her childhood dream of obliterating a glass ceiling as an NFL general manager.
While studying and running cross-country at Butler University, she found a ground floor through the nearby Indianapolis Colts. The long-term goal was straightforward enough, though the means were murky.
“I didn’t know exactly what department I wanted to land in,” she said.
Matching her major at Butler, Aravich accepted a marketing and events internship with the Colts for the first half of her senior year. She also worked in game operations and entertainment for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.
Upon graduating, the Idaho native moved back out west and became a ticket sales and service representative for the Utah Jazz. After 15 months, that job gave way to a part-time title of community relations associate for most of the 2019-20 season.
Aravich left the Jazz one month after COVID-19 put their season on hold in March of 2020. But she maintained marketing positions with other companies while navigating the hectic athletic regimen she had begun.
Then the Paralympics took priority, and she shifted her focus away from marketing. Aravich was already training for Tokyo and had started delving into Nordic skiing by invitation that fall. At the Beijing Games, she reached new heights in her Nordic skiing career. Aravich finished eighth in the cross-country sprint event.
She followed that this season by winning her first world championship title, a gold in the team relay event at the 2023 FIS Para Nordic Skiing World Championships in Östersund, Sweden.
It was a proud moment for the 26-year-old. But she always wanted to stay involved in her marketing roles.
“My sport’s not going to last me forever,” she said. “I always want to be able to continue to build on my professional experience outside of sports.”
Accordingly, her resume has identified her as a freelance social media manager since August 2020. She was previously the social media coordinator for Kodiak Cakes, then held the same title for Mammoth Marketing.
Those sneak peeks into post-Paralympian life — which have also included work in casting and, most recently, as an athlete ambassador for the women’s sports marketing group Parity — enriched Aravich’s speech during Team USA Week in Washington, D.C. last May.
She was not even two months removed from her Nordic skiing breakout in Beijing when she represented Winter Paralympians among the quartet of keynote speakers at the White House. Barely eight months had elapsed since her Paralympic debut in Tokyo.
Hannah Miller, the USOPC’s director of digital and social strategy, subsequently approached Aravich. Miller had an offer for Aravich under Team USA’s banner.
“(I was) not really thinking it would result in a potential job,” Aravich recalled. “It’s been really rewarding to feel more a part of the community. We don’t always get to see XYZ sports like the speedskaters or see the gymnasts.”
Aravich’s role with the USOPC is an opportunity for an athlete to bring a unique viewpoint to the Team USA brand. Her experience as a runner and skier will help when telling the stories of American athletes.
“That’s the best way a marketer can sell a product,” Aravich said. “Marketing is all storytelling.”