Sarah Horvitz, ’05: Law School Pushed Her Beyond “That Girl Who Skis”

Appeared in Record issue: 
Spring 2011

For Sarah Horvitz, ’05, coming to the Law School marked a major transition. “I wasn’t ‘that girl who skis’ anymore,” she recalls. “I was finding a new future for myself.”

She had been “that girl who skis” for most of her previous life, beginning competitive freestyle skiing when she was eight years old and continuing into her senior year at Wellesley in 2001. She was selected to the United States Ski Team, the training ground for future Olympians, and her sights were set on the 2002 or 2006 Olympic Games. Early in her career she competed in ski ballet, a choreographed performance set to music, much like figure skating on skis down a smooth slope. Although ski ballet was an Olympic demonstration sport in 1988 and 1992, its popularity waned and was supplanted by aerial freestyle skiing, characterized by sensational in-air flips and twists.

So as a teenager she learned to be a freestyle aerialist. The transition was not easy for her—“I’m an athlete, but not a natural acrobat,” she says—and it required intense training (and mastery of fear) for her to develop the move that brought her to a highly competitive level in international freestyle competitions, a double airborne back flip with a spinning twist on each flip.

Her training repertoire had expanded to triple back flips when her competitive career was cut short in 2001 by severe damage to her knee, suffered when she landed a simple warm-up training jump. The injury required multiple complex surgeries, ending her time as “that girl who skis,” but initiating a new, different foray into the world of sports that is likely only beginning its upward trajectory.

At the Law School she was active in the Sports Law Society and she served as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate course about sports law that was organized by Dennis Hutchinson. After graduating, she worked for a while at a New York firm but was lured away to the Colorado Springs office of Holme, Roberts & Owen, where she could focus her practice on sports law. She participated in representing the governing bodies of Olympic sports organizations, and was involved (because of the firm’s close outside-counsel relationship with the United States Anti-Doping Agency) in prosecuting cases related to the notorious Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) steroid laboratory and to the doping accusations against Tour de France cyclist Floyd Landis.

In 2009 she accepted the counsel position she now holds, at MLB AdvancedMedia (MLBAM), the interactive media and Internet company owned by the 30 Major League Baseball clubs. Among other things, MLBAM operates the official website ofMajor League Baseball, where fans can access a broad range of information and watch or listen to live game broadcasts. The site draws an average of eight to ten million visitors per day during the season. Horvitz’s work at MLBAM focuses largely on intellectual property issues and privacy and consumer protection matters.

Reflecting on her time at the Law School, she remembers, “I was drawn to Chicago because more than the other law schools I considered, it seemed congruent with values that had motivated me when I was combining skiing and academics—demanding expectations, a commitment to learning and growing, and a sense that you could choose what you wanted to become and aspire to become world-class at it. There were also great benefits that I hadn’t expected—for example, the quarter system really enabled me to become versed in a lot of aspects of the law that have turned out to be important to my career.”

Last year she achieved a major milestone in recovering from her knee injury when she completed the ING New York City Marathon. “I haven’t told my doctors yet, because they didn’t think my knee could handle it,” she reports. “But I guess they’ll be glad to know that their technology works better than they thought it would.”