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The Sport Management Cultural Connection is a celebration of sport management professionals and their success and diversity in the sport industry. These particular individuals have a special relationship with MSU Denver sport management, whether that be alumni, internship coordinators, faculty, etc., and believe in the program’s hands-on, academic, real-world approach. The Cultural Connection is updated monthly via the MSU Denver Sport Management website, Twitter account, Facebook page, and LinkedIn page. If you would like to be featured for MSU Denver’s Cultural Connection initiative, please email Dr. Kelly Evans at [email protected]
Director of Marketing, Sponsorships, & Fan Engagement – MSU Denver Athletics
I grew up surrounded by sports. My dad and my aunt played basketball all the way through college (my aunt actually played at MSU Denver in the 90s), I watched all of my sisters’ games when I was little, I played competitive soccer until I went to college, and I still continue to try and get out and play sports and stay active as much as I can today. Every job that I had while growing up revolved around sports, whether it was coaching, scorekeeping, making graphics for upcoming games, etc., so I always knew that I wanted a future working in sports since it was basically all I knew. While I didn’t major in sport management, I’ve always enjoyed writing, so I minored in sport media. The cool thing about the sport management program at MSU Denver is that there are paths for a ton of different careers within sport that students can take, so you really get to find your niche and the things that you really enjoy doing.
When completing my degree, my favorite classes to take were all in the sport management program, and even though I was focusing on sport media, I had the opportunity to take classes that covered a wide variety of topics. I really enjoyed my sport venue management class, because that was an area of sports that I really didn’t have any knowledge in, I didn’t really think about the work that went into preparing facilities for games/fans/different events.
I think my favorite class, though, was my sport media operations class. Like I said, I’ve always really enjoyed writing and I’ve always really enjoyed sports, so I figured the best future I could have would be a mix of the two. The sport media operations class taught me a lot about all of the different things that the media goes through during games, crisis situations, the time leading up to and following events, etc., and I was really able to push myself out of the box into what would be tense, potentially uncomfortable situations to see if this was really a future that I wanted. By the end of the semester, I learned that there were things I really enjoyed doing as a member of the media, as well as things that I’d never ever want to do professionally, but that’s the really cool part about these sport management classes, you figure out exactly where you want to go.
I think one of the biggest ways that the Sport Management program prepared me for my job was by not pigeonholing me into taking classes revolving only around sport media. Like I said previously, even though I was a sport media minor who wanted to go into college athletics, I was still taking classes that talked about facility operations, professional sports, coaching, sport law and more, along with all of my media classes.
During my internship with MSU Denver Athletics, I went into it wanting to focus on the social media side of things, which was about 90% of my responsibilities, but I also got to do things like be the technical director at basketball games, run music, call stats for soccer, share photos with all of the media people at the NCAA Softball Championships and grab players for press conferences. Because I had taken so many different classes through the Sport Management program, I had some level of familiarity with all my responsibilities – even if they weren’t completely in my wheelhouse. I’ve come to learn that even if you specialize in one thing, or your job title specializes in one thing, you’re going to be wearing many different hats when you work in sports, and I think the Sport Management program really prepared me well for that.
I think the first piece of advice I have is don’t be afraid to try. Before I had my internship, I was terrified of putting myself out there because of how intimidating the sports industry can be – especially being a woman. Once I got rid of the “Am I going to be good enough?” thoughts that kept spiraling through my head, I realized that I had nothing to lose but everything to gain.
That goes for trying new things too, not being afraid to say yes to something that you may not be an expert at. I have absolutely zero skills or knowledge in video production, but I still helped out as technical director because that’s where I was needed at the time. If you’re always willing to help, no matter what it is, people will take notice.
I would also say to just keep showing up. Sports are intimidating, nobody is perfect, you are GOING to make mistakes, but you can’t just give up if one thing goes wrong. Teams aren’t looking for people who are perfect and know everything there is to know about sports, they’re looking for people who work hard and who want to be there no matter what.
Merchandise Warehouse Coordinator, USATF
Brad: The Sport Management program at MSU Denver prepared me for my career by offering coursework directly related to the types of work required for sports professionals. The curriculum, classes, and projects are crafted to mimic the kinds of issues sports professionals regularly have to evaluate and resolve in the industry.
Brad: My proudest accomplishment while at MSU Denver was taking the educational tools and knowledge that I acquired and applying them to my internship with the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee, allowing me to attend the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Brad: Since graduating, I have been able to take all of my experience and work with USA Track & Field to contribute to and expand the organization’s merchandise and retail operations. I have been able to travel around the country to several events and help connect fans to the sport both at events and through our online marketing efforts.
Brad: The pandemic forced us to completely change our thinking in how to keep our members and fans engaged. However, it created an opportunity to connect with people by offering virtual races and competitions to keep people engaged and create value for both members, fans, and sponsors. Our department relies heavily on sales at events, so we had to focus more on our e-commerce business over the last year since we canceled most championship events and Track & Field Trials. Overall, I think many sports properties realized the value and importance of connecting with people digitally and in person.
My advice for current MSU Denver students is to approach coursework as if you’re already a sports professional. The projects and assignments are meant to replicate real-world experiences and issues, and professors are there to help you and want you to succeed. Also, be curious about other aspects of the industry. As cliché as it sounds, sports professionals wear many different hats in many organizations and need to be able to tackle a variety of problems and work with various departments. Lastly, take advantage of experiential learning and study abroad opportunities if you can. Learning from others that actively work in the industry is essential in creating valuable connections outside of education.
Promotions Team Member, Colorado Avalanche & Colorado Mammoth (Kronke Sports and Entertainment)
James: The MSU Denver Sport Management program prepared me for my career in multiple different ways. First and foremost, through the program I was able to develop a great understanding of all of the different but essential roles and branches that contribute toward the overall success of different kinds of sport organizations. I can’t even count the number of times that I benefitted within the professional hemisphere due to my understanding of organizational structure and which problems or tasks are to be handled by certain departments.
Additionally, aside from the functional knowledge that I developed, the most effective benefit that I took from the department was my transition from educational experience to professional experience. So many professors and faculty such as (but not limited to) Troy Morgan, Nicole Furuiye, and Dr. Colleen Colles were always more than willing to take time out of their busy days to sit with me and give me guidance on how to land internships, and how to conduct myself when approaching the professional world. I am extremely grateful for that. Prior to switching my major to Sport Management, I felt like I was on my own and never understood the significance of volunteering for opportunities and actively pursuing experience. I credit the Sport Management faculty for the strength of my resume today.
James: My proudest accomplishment while I was in school was NOT leaving my last final exams, but specifically GOING INTO my last final exams. I specifically remember being incredibly proud the weekend before finals week of my last semester because it was the first time that I had complete confidence in my future. With this field of study, I found so much sincere enjoyment in the content and had a passion for the work, that preparation was just implied nature. Therefore, when approaching my last finals week, I knew that I had the information and willingness to execute because of the fact that I was fully invested for the entire time.
James: Although I have had many proud moments and great experiences since graduating, I would have to say that my proudest moment so far has been when I got the call from the Game Presentation department of the Colorado Avalanche offering me a position. In hindsight, that call opened the door for so many things both professionally, and in my personal life. This has been the greatest, most fun, and most fulfilling job I have ever worked and it is work that I find myself constantly craving and missing on my days off. It is an amazing role, and it is just the beginning so I can’t wait to see where I grow into from here!
James: This pandemic has affected so many things within the sport industry that it is difficult to put into words. I am saddened by the amount of people that have had to leave their roles within the sport industry to pursue different professions. Although I know it will eventually return, these events have lifelong implications on the careers of individuals. As a young person that has not been in the industry for as long as others, it was initially discouraging that the timing of my emergence in the industry was put on pause. However, when connecting with other professionals and seeing their stories, I am confident that this provides opportunity to those who are fortunate enough to stay involved. Although this time with the lack of full fan attendance provides less work responsibility, it does provide more time to pursue further education which I have done. This pandemic has the opportunity for all of us to adapt and innovate, not only within the sport industry but also for ourselves and our own development. There is always room to improve, and this will strengthen our approach toward many different elements moving forward.
Sales Associate/Authentics, Colorado Rockies
Erica: The MSU-Denver Sport Management program gave me the tools and knowledge to succeed in a career in sport. I left well-rounded with knowledge in many different aspects from promotions, to financial planning and issues, to venue management. All of our professors bring their wide array of experience and a “you can do anything you set your mind to” attitude.
Erica: My proudest accomplishment while in school was being asked to be the student coordinator for the Women in Sport Management event. I learned so much from this opportunity and gained confidence in myself. Also, the opportunity to be the President of the Sport Management Club and take a group of eager students to New Orleans for a conference was an honor.
Erica: Since graduating, I have networked with numerous professionals in our industry. I was able to interview for and obtain an internship with USA Triathlon through my connections with USA Football. I also have began a master’s program at ASU in Sport Law and Business.
My advice is to take in every moment! Get to know your peers and professors, volunteer for an opportunity you’d usually avoid, be involved in the club, study abroad if possible; just put yourself out there and be confident! Us alumni are always here to support you.
Co-Owner & President, Mile High Collegiate Baseball League
Specifically, I loved the social media projects we did working with local sport businesses and the project we did mitigating risk for a sport venue in my Sport Government class. Each professor has real world experience working in the sport industry and were all able to contribute to the reality of working in sports which was incredibly helpful. I also feel like the program is incredibly supportive of their students, constantly providing resources for us and connecting us with the right people in the industry to serve as mentors.
Amanda: Since graduating, my proudest accomplishment would be becoming the owner of the Mile High Collegiate Baseball League; a summer development league in Colorado. I got involved with the league after interning with them my senior year. I then stayed with the league the following summer helping out however I could, and before my third season I was offered ownership to be the President.
I truly think the reason I was blessed with this opportunity is because I put in so much effort into my time as an intern. Whether it was field work, running the scoreboard, planning the all-star game or figuring out the website, I put in 100% all the time. Luckily it didn’t go unnoticed and when the current owners were ready to take a step back, I was still involved and had learned the intricate details that go into running a successful summer baseball league.
Amanda: The best advice I can give is you never know who or what will lead you to your future career or opportunity. I had no idea that becoming owner of the MHCBL was a possibility; especially just three years after I began an internship with them. It is very important to always be showing your best work as you never know who may be in need of your skills and expertise. The sport industry is a large industry, but a small network. There were often times that the industry professionals I knew were very involved in multiple teams, leagues, or business ventures. I learned quickly that if you had a good relationship with someone they would help connect you with someone they knew to support your career and goals.
Which shows again how important it is to always be prepared to meet business professionals as you never know who they may introduce you to and where those opportunities can lead. It is also important to note that hard work does not go unnoticed in the sport industry; when I hire interns for the league I value those who are willing to go the extra mile and always offering to help. It can be a very physically demanding job with long hours but the reward of being able to work in an industry with the excitement and competitiveness of sports is an incredible opportunity!
Owner, Wagner Sports Marketing
Best Selling Author, Speaker, Podcaster; Creator of Chip Baker – Character Development Program; MSU Denver Internship Supervisor
Chip: I always feel that it is important to find ways to create in crisis. Covid has definitely been a crisis for many. What I have chosen to do is control what I can control. I have worked very hard at getting better on some things that I have always wanted to learn and felt that I typically never had time for. It has been a time of growth and reflection for me. Professionally the time during Covid has been good for me.
Esport Team Owner & Social Media Content Creation
Lorenzo: The MSU Denver Sport Management program allowed me to embrace the field of sports in so many different and creative ways. Denver truly is an underground sports town that MSU Denver puts you in the frontlines to truly grow as a person and industry professional. The program puts you in situations that takes you out of your comfort zone to truly make you a better sport manager in whatever route you take!
Manager of Business Development for Beaver Sport Properties at Oregon State University