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Posts by NASSM Blog

Sport, Twitter Hashtags, and the Public Sphere: Curt Schilling Case Study

Instantly, the hashtag #CurtSchilling became a flashpoint for debate about the issue on Twitter. Thousands of users deployed the hashtag over the following 24 hours, either criticizing Schilling for his homophobia, or castigating ESPN for political correctness. Capturing 10,000 of those hashtags revealed fascinating findings.

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Challenge accepted: Why women play fantasy football

As expected, women play fantasy football for similar reasons as men, but also play for unique reasons. A total of five motivation factors were uncovered.

Three factors (Enjoy, Enhance, and Socialize) are similar to motives previously found by sport management and communications scholars, and two factors (Challenge and Connect) are unique to female participants.

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Laissez les bon temps rouler à la Nouvelle-Orléans!

Written by: Chris Yandle, Doctoral student, Mercer University
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You might not know this, but New Orleans is more than French Quarter and Bourbon Street. However, 700 words aren’t nearly enough to share the wonderful things this beautiful city has to offer.

After moving my family all across the southeast from Louisiana to Waco, Texas, to Miami to Atlanta, the melodic jazz notes of New Orleans were calling us home. We moved home to Louisiana in 2016 after I gave up my college sports career to focus on my Ph.D. studies.

Moving home to New Orleans was the best decision we made. Whether the NASSM 2019 Conference is your first visit to New Orleans or your fifty-first, bienvenue! There is so much this city has to offer, and once you’re here, New Orleans feel like home. You may never want to leave.

Start applying your sunscreen and bug spray now because the end of May is around the time New Orleans becomes hotter than the surface of the sun.

By the time you arrive in New Orleans for NASSM, you’ll be greeted by our new Louis Armstrong International Airport (set to open in February 2019). It’s a much-needed facelift for the city, and if the renderings are any indication, then you’ll be greeted with a great first-impression. Expect about a 25-30 minute ride from the airport to the Sheraton, but it means you can be a tourist and take in the scenery on the ride into the city.

The Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, your home for four days in the Crescent City, is located in the heart of the CBD (Central Business District). You’re a five-minute walk from the winding banks of the mighty Mississippi River, but you can hear the steam calliope of the Steamboat Natchez as she rolls up and down the river.

As someone who’s been to many conferences in cities where I don’t have a car, the first question I always ask: What’s near the hotel? You’re in luck because you have your choice of more than 100 restaurants, cafes, and a myriad of entertainment options within a 10-minute walk of the hotel, including:

New Orleans is the city that never sleeps…and that never stops eating or partying. No matter your entertainment preference, there is something for everyone in New Orleans. Since you’re five blocks from the river, take a stroll along the Mississippi in Woldenberg Park or evade the heat with the intoxicating air conditioned Aquarium of the Americas. Don’t want to walk back to the hotel after a great visit to the aquarium? The Canal Streetcar line terminates at the base of Canal Street at the river. Buy a five-day pass Jazzy Pass for unlimited streetcar rides through the city of New Orleans – trust me, it’ll come in handy in a later blog post.

Who can forget the French Quarter (the oldest neighborhood when New Orleans was founded in 1718)? The French Quarter is 0.49 square miles of history, food, drinks, fun, and- well- other things.

Every morning when you walk out the hotel, a city of endless possibilities awaits you. All you have to do is wear sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and “pass a good time”.

Let the good times roll in New Orleans!

P.S. If you want more local info for your visit to New Orleans, send me an email or a tweet. Hope to see you here!

Preparing Consciously and Socially Aware Students: The Benefit of a Diversity in Sport Club

by Ben PereiraFlorida State University, MS, Sport Management, ‘18, University of Massachusetts Amherst, BS Sport Management, ‘17

The industry of sport lacks diversity, and that’s not a radical claim. The executive offices and top positions in athletic departments are overwhelmingly likely to be run by males, typically white. For example, in NCAA Division I programs, only 12% of Athletic Directors are female, and it is not due to a lack of qualified applicants. For persons of color in sport, they are often type-casted into certain roles, mainly with athlete management or recruitment. In the NCAA, 87.5% of athletic directors are white. Shockingly, this year, Florida State University became the only institution with a black director of athletics, black head men’s basketball coach, and black head football coach.

I’ve spoken to many of my peers about the discrimination they experience in and outside the classroom. Female students have told me they choose not to speak up in class due to fears of not being taken seriously. LGBT students comment on the ignorant statements made by their peers when sexuality in sport comes up in discussion. Students of color complained of feeling isolated and tokenized as the sole or one of a few students of color in a field still dominated by those of Caucasian descent. Sport management programs serve as the pipeline to the industry, and the culture change needs to start within our own institutions.

Issues related to sexism, racism, homophobia, or any other discriminatory behavior need to be addressed before students start their careers in this industry. We are doing a disservice to our minority students if we allow them to graduate with ignorance towards the discrimination they’re likely to encounter and with no awareness of their legal rights and how to combat it. For our students who are not minorities, it is just important for them to be apart of the conversation because they hold a responsibility to change the industry for the better as well. If we allow for areas where students can have open and honest discussions on the issue, where common empathy can be shared, then we’d be graduating a cohort of consciously and socially aware students ready to change the industry for the better.

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This past year, I started the Foundation for Diversity and Inclusion in Sport (FDIS) at Florida State University. The organization is based on a club I served as Vice President of at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Association of Diversity in Sport. A core goal of FDIS is to hold events related to diversity and inclusion in sport. The mission of FDIS is to create a space where a group of students who see both the ethical and fiscal responsibility a diverse organization holds, are impassioned to enact change. A place where students can come, feel welcome, to aspire and connect with peers, as well as hear from distinguished sport professionals, on how to succeed in the industry regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

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During the Spring of 2018, my team of fellow students and I were able to recruit distinguished sport professionals, who come from diverse backgrounds, to talk about their career trajectory and some of the obstacles they’ve encountered throughout their careers based on their minority status. Some of our speakers included: the University of Virginia’s Athletic Director, and first African American Female AD of a Power 5 school, Dr. Carla Williams; and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Sr. VP and Chief Legal Officer, Megha Parekh. We were able to recruit top caliber speakers, only paying for travel expenses, because our speakers understood the importance of the conversations we were having.

NCAA Inclusion Forum

FDIS has only existed for one semester, but our work has been profound. Our organization received a $1,000 grant from the President of the university, press coverage from our local ABC News and NPR affiliates, and a write-up from OutSports. Our events were attended by students from all walks of life, faculty (both sport management and non-sport management), local sport professionals, and members of Florida State’s athletic department. Our events have featured speakers talking about their sexuality in a public presence for the first time, talking about instances of sexism that brought them to tears, and racial profiling in the application process.

These conversations are not easy to have. But it is imperative for our growth as an industry to have them now, before our students enter the field.

If you’re a sport educator, a club like FDIS might be a worthwhile addition to your program. Consider how you’re talking about issues related to racism, sexism, and homophobia in sport. Have these conversations with your students in the classroom, consider adding a “diversity in sport” course into your curriculum. Sport management programs serve as the pipeline to the industry. Let’s make sure our students are aware of the issues their peers will face, and aware of the fiscal and ethical benefits of a diverse workplace so they can ready to be the change the industry needs.

If you’re interested in chartering an organization like FDIS on your campus, email FDIS.FSU@gmail.com for tips on how to get started.

Crossing the great divide between academics and practitioners: The application of autoethnographies in sport (event) volunteer research

By Erik Lachance, Doctoral Student, University of Ottawa

Since my volunteer experience at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, I have been passionate about sport management and, more specifically, sport (event) volunteers. At the end of the undergraduate studies I took an interest in studying sport (event) volunteers, and conducted an autoethnography about my volunteer experience in a small-scale para-sport event.

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To date, the recruitment of volunteers for the pilot study phase of my thesis, and some of my additional independent research projects, has been challenging as I have been repeatedly asked to volunteer in exchange for being able to interview participants. It appears as if once the targeted organization or event becomes aware of my research topic, they assume that I am more likely to be interested in volunteering. I believe this creates a trade-off in the sense that I would collect data from the volunteers, and, in exchange, I would volunteer for the sport organization or event. Some sport organizations and events have actually declined to participate because I could not volunteer, and when speaking to some of my colleagues, it appears as if this is not a normal request or occurrence when recruiting participants. Although the request to volunteer could present some challenges (e.g., time commitment), it also brings a great opportunity to bridge the gap between academics and practitioners. But, how can this be achieved? The answer is with the incorporation of autoethnographies.

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Compared to traditional ethnographies, autoethnographies can be considered as a combination of autobiography and ethnography in which the researcher’s personal experience is described and analyzed to understand a phenomenon (Ellis, 2004). Recently, autoethnographies have been applied to investigate the sport (event) volunteer experience in large-scale sport events, such as the Olympics (e.g., Kodama, Doherty, & Popovic, 2013; Sadd, 2018), and small-scale para-sport events (e.g., Lachance & Parent, 2017, 2018). Speaking from personal experience, my first taste of research in sport management was an autoethnography, which enabled me to appreciate the value of subjectivity in research, and shaped my current epistemological stance. Investigating my own volunteer experience at a para-sport event also gave me the opportunity to learn more about myself, such as the importance of establishing relationships with others, developing an interest in para-sport, and fostering my passion for volunteering in sport.

The application of autoethnographies benefits both academics and practitioners. Perhaps the greatest opportunity is to bridge the current gap between academics and practitioners. However, a benefit for academics is to gain an understanding of a phenomenon from a front-line perspective. As Ellis & Bochner (2006) explained, this approach seeks to put the researcher back into the study, and values subjectivity (e.g., emotions) in order for rich insight to be yielded from a front-line perspective. Therefore, the incorporation of autoethnographies would benefit academics with rich insight and a greater understanding of the sport (event) volunteer experience (Kodama et al., 2013).

The benefits of autoethnographies are also present for practitioners. More specifically, the collaboration between academics and practitioners during autoethnographies would allow for the transmission of knowledge to occur. For example, the researcher, who is an “insider”, could pass on knowledge from past research, relevant theories, concepts, and cases during the volunteer experience. Having the presence of an academic as an “insider” would also enable practitioners to have access to a valuable resource. Thus, autoethnographies would benefit practitioners with the transmission of knowledge, and having access to a valuable resource (i.e., knowledge and experience of academics) in an effort to enhance organizational capacity, and possibly the ability to succeed (e.g., achieve goals).

This post was inspired from my personal experience doing autoethnography, and of recruiting participants for research on sport (event) volunteers, and discussed the win-win situation that is created for academics and practitioners through the application of autoethnographies. The incorporation of such an approach could increase collaboration, and bridge the existing gap between academics and practitioners. The hope for this post is to spark discussion and interest among academics and practitioners regarding the application of autoethnographies for sport (event) volunteer research.

References:

Ellis, C. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Ellis, C., & Bochner, A. P. (2006). Analyzing analytic autoethnography: An autopsy. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography35, 429-449.

Kodama, E., Doherty, A., & Popovic, M. (2013). Front line insight: an autoethnography of the Vancouver 2010 volunteer experience. European Sport Management Quarterly, 13, 76-93.

Lachance, E. L., & Parent, M. M. (2017, June). The volunteer experience in a local para-sport event: An ethnographic approach. Paper presented at the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) Conference, Denver, Colorado, USA.

Lachance, E. L., & Parent, M. M. (2018, June). Two phases, two tales: Planning and implementation phase experiences of a para-sport event volunteer. Paper presented at the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Sadd, D. (2018). Proud to be British: An autoethnographic study of working as a games maker at London 2012. Event Management, 22, 317-332.

Issues: Discussing Diversity

Discussing Diversity at NASSM 2018

by Kristy McCray, Co-Chair, NASSM Diversity Committee

In today’s political and social climate, it is increasingly important to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion. This is particularly true in sport, as issues related to diversity intersect at every level of sport participation. Even a cursory glance at the front-page headlines shows that diversity and social justice issues are everywhere in sport.

Just recently, we’ve seen two NBA teams seriously considering a woman, Becky Hammon, as their next head coach, which would earn her another ‘historic first’ title. We’ve also seen the announcement of a $500 million settlement in the Larry Nassar sexual assault case. Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed because of his protests. One of the largest sporting events on the planet, the World Cup, is being held despite the anti-LGBTQ policies of the host nation, Russia. In short, issues of diversity and inclusion are everywhere!

Thus, in the context of sport, it is critical to continue having important discussions about the role of diversity and inclusion. People, organizations, and public policy all have roles to play in the development of a more inclusive sport landscape. Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela famously acknowledged the power of sport to transcend human difference and bring people together.

From an organizational standpoint, diversity is related to improved performance and creativity. Further, sport consumers come from all walks of life. Thus, increased attention on the ways that we create inclusive sport and physical activity environments is good for both the consumer and organizations’ bottom lines.

The NASSM Diversity Committee provides a number of resources for those interested in diversity issues in sport. At this year’s conference, there are several opportunities to meet and discuss diversity-related issues with your NASSM colleagues, including:

Diversity Breakfast – Saturday, June 9th – 7:00 AM

Come enjoy a free breakfast with the Diversity Committee! This informal gathering is a great place to meet and connect with others interested in diversity and inclusion as it relates to research, teaching, service, and more. (Nova Scotia D)

Workshops sponsored by the NASSM Diversity Committee

Saturday, June 9th – 11:00 AM
The Consistently Diverse Institutional Stakeholder’s Devotion to Diversity and Inclusion: A NASSM Diversity Committee Sponsored Workshop (Acadia B)

This workshop will discuss the role of diversity and inclusion policies in Sport Management university programs. In particular, the breakout sessions will discuss strategic management of diversity and the role of faculty and administration in promoting inclusion across campuses.

Breaking Down Silos: A Professional Development Workshop on Methodological Diversity in Sport Management Research (Sable B)

This workshop will discuss the increasingly segmented research landscape in Sport Management and encourage attendees to explore new ways of approaching their research work. Top researchers in the field will lead small group discussions and answer attendee questions related to research methods.

The Diversity Committee also maintains several resources for those interested in various issues related to diversity in sport.

Diversity Resources

List of Diversity Related Presentations at NASSM 2018. This list was compiled by a keyword search for “diversity” in the program, plus includes any presentation (keyword diversity or not) with an author from the Diversity Committee’s self-identified list of Diversity Scholars.

List of Diversity Scholars in Sport Management. The Diversity Scholars are self-identified. Please contact Kristy McCray to be added to the list or have your information updated.

Student Corner: Student learning and participation

What is WWE World Heavyweight Champion of Jeopardy Review? Creating a sport-oriented approach to student learning and participation

Written by: Farah J. Ishaq, Doctoral student, University of Kansas

As a 2nd year Ph.D. student and graduate teaching assistant (TA) at the University of Kansas, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a full instructor in two sections of sport finance and economics. While this was my first semester teaching, the opportunity was there to create and craft a unique, fun, and engaging course, especially on a topic like finance and economics. This blog post will specifically address my experience teaching, while also illustrating specific initiatives that have worked well to increase overall participation and engagement in my classes.

Overall, as a first-year graduate TA, I was nervous about the thought of teaching two sections of over 80 students in the sport management undergraduate program. While I have never taught a class before, I was prepared with the resources to succeed, including weekly advisor meetings, past course materials, and a supportive cohort. Initially, my biggest struggle was finding a balance between a class size of just 13 students, who meet three times a week, and a class of 70 students, who meet twice a week. However, as the class progressed, I learned that there was an opportunity to provide the same course material while establishing a positive classroom environment through discussion, complimentary audio-visual materials, and participation initiatives.

Ishaq blog 1The single greatest help to me was using my own personal undergraduate experiences to develop positive learning initiatives through resources that I found helpful and engaging during my time. As I am not much older than the students I am teaching, I appreciated the opportunity to apply my own undergraduate experiences to my class. One specific undergraduate experience that stood out to me was the use of participation “certificates” that were handed out during class and allowed for extra credit opportunity at the end of the semester. I decided to adopt a similar strategy by applying a sport-oriented twist to this approach by utilizing baseball cards as an incentive for participation.Baseball cards are handed out during participation opportunities for students who positively contribute to the discussion. The baseball cards are then kept by the student throughout the semester and handed to the instructor during the last week of classes in an envelope with their name on it and ultimately returned for the student to keep. Collecting 20 total baseball cards results in 10 points of extra credit added to their final grade. Needless to say, the students have loved it so far and it has created a way to be more involved in sport finance, which is a class that typically does not have a reputation of being the most interesting to students. The baseball cards only cost six dollars for 500 cards from Amazon and were each signed by me on a little removable sticker in order to control that the cards returned to me were indeed the ones I had handed out.

Ishaq blog 2Furthermore, in an attempt to create motivation to do well and create a sense of competition for my students for an exam review session, I surprised them with an opportunity to win a WWE World Heavyweight Champion belt. Jeopardy review has never been this fun! While the Jeopardy-style review offers a classic way for students to be engaged in friendly group competition, adding a sport-oriented prize created a greater sense of competition among the groups as well as willingness to learn and participate. Although my past experiences in my undergraduate did not play a role in the implementation of this initiative, teaching this course has allowed me to exhibit my own teaching style and play a role in the overall positive classroom environment for my students. While at first, I struggled to find a balance between my classes and was nervous to be responsible for more than 80 students my first semester teaching, this opportunity has allowed me to be creative, while contributing to the overall enjoyment and learning of sport finance and economics.

Student Corner: An international student experience

From London to London: My experience as an international student in Canada

Written by: Swarali Patil, MA Candidate, Western University

My journey as a graduate student is unlike my peers. I was born in India. I grew up near Mumbai (Bombay) before moving to New York. This was followed by a move to the United Kingdom for my undergraduate degree, and a year each in Malaysia and the Philippines. Presently I’m a second-year master’s student in Canada. Here are some of my tidbits as I navigate my journey in graduate school as an international student.

Choosing a School – Graduate school can be daunting, and with the incredible choices available, how can you choose the school that’s right for you? Research! I spent almost a year researching schools online, spoke to my lecturers at Coventry University, and contacted various schools before making my choice. It is a time consuming task but if you plan to spend two or more years taking on rigorous academic work, you should be well prepared to do it. The NASSM website is a great source of sport management programs available in North America. Identify the schools and programs that appeal to you, make a list of potential supervisors and read some of their work, contact the department for additional information about funding and other pertinent details before making your choice.

Choosing Classes – Your classes are meant to help you gain a deeper understanding of concepts you’ve previously learned, and introduce you to some new ones. Your classes can be a fantastic means to meet your fellow graduates, learn about interesting research happening in your department or faculty, participate in an exchange of ideas with your peers, and work on projects that can help you hone your presentation and writing skills. Classes are also a great medium to explore your interests that may lead to a potential thesis topic. Choose wisely but don’t overburden yourself.

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Professional Development – Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you, whether it is volunteering, attending conferences, presenting at symposiums, or being a teaching or research assistant. I have volunteered at conferences on campus, presented at symposiums run by different faculties, participated in 2-minute and 5-minute presentation contests, and more. I have also been a teaching and research assistant, which has helped me add to my repertoire of skills and experiences for my CV.

Teaching and Learning – If your school has a Teaching and Learning Resource Centre, utilize their workshops to add to your knowledge base. Most programs will also provide a certificate of completion. Grab every opportunity you can to augment your CV. I’ve found several workshops to be incredibly helpful, particularly when I was a first-time TA. Several workshops provide video recordings of your presentations, which can be a great tool to showcase yourself to a potential employer.

Swarali at SCRINetwork – If you attend conferences or volunteer at social events on campus, take the time to meet faculty and students from different universities. This can lead to interesting contacts, friends in new cities, collaborations and other opportunities. Conferences are also a great way to discuss your research interests with experts in the field. Register early, utilize the student rate, and plan your schedule with ample time to socialize.

Appreciate and Have Fun – Take the time to appreciate where you are. Appreciate different perspectives, new experiences, new friends, new food, and new places. Graduate school provides unique opportunities, which can not only help you identify your future avenues but also provide a sense of accomplishment. Yes, time management is key, and work-life balance needs to be achieved but there is a feel-good factor in accomplishing what you have set out to do.

Graduate school is incredibly daunting and time consuming but it can also be very satisfying. As an international student, whether you plan to stay in your new city for a long while or move back home, you can enjoy the journey and the discovery. I have found my first year to be quite different from my expectations but I’m happier for it. I’m moving full steam ahead in year 2 but deciding if I want to sign up for 4 more!

Industry: Forging New Partnerships

NASSM and the Aspen Institute Announce Partnership

by Dr. Brianna Newland, Chair, NASSM Marketing & Communications Committee

The new NASSM strategic plan calls for NASSM to build alliances and partnerships with Aspen1jpegother organizations that share similar foci and goals. One of the first to have been completed is a partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program. You may recall, that Tom Farrey, who heads that program, was the keynote speaker at our recent conference in Denver. As a journalist, Mr. Farrey’s contributions as an ESPN reporter have been thought-provoking and innovative. His book, Game On, numerous articles, and work at the Aspen Institute have explored sport and societal issues and have been used by universities and organizations alike to shape strategy around issues facing sport, especially youth sport. As such, Mr. Farrey founded the Aspen Institute’s Sport and Society program to assemble the industry’s top thought leaders to shape future policy around sport.

The mission of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program is to “convene leaders, foster dialogue, and inspire solutions that help sport serve the public interest, with a focus on the development of healthy children and communities.” An aim of the program is to provide a venue for thought leaders to explore strategies on a range of issues. One such issue is the state of youth sport. In 2013, the program launched Project Play, a multi-year and stage initiative to develop sport for all and inspire lifetime play for our community’s children. Several key leaders have participated in events and a series of roundtables led to the January 2015 publication entitled, Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game 

On January 25, the Aspen Institute will kick off a new quarterly “Future of Sports Conversation Series.” The first in the series is the “Future of Football: Reimagining the Game’s Pipeline.” Speakers in this discussion include Chris Borland, former San Francisco 49er linebacker, and Dr. Robert Cantu, co-founder of the CTE Center at Boston University, among others. For more details and to RSVP, click here.

NASSM and the Aspen Institute have agreed to find ways to work together and to promote each other’s work.  Both parties expect this relationship to be of substantial benefit not merely to NASSM, but also to the development of the sport industry. As Dr. Laurence Chalip, NASSM President recently noted, “Project Play has become the most significant policy initiative for sport development that the United States has seen in many years. It demonstrates the leadership that the Aspen Institute and its Sports & Society Program have taken in our field. The partnership we have formed will be good for NASSM, good for our members, and very good for sport.”

For debate: Is communication the key to student preparation?

The NASSM Blog would like to introduce the ‘debate blog.’ The following is a call for unity among sport industry and sport educators. We welcome your thoughts and comments! And, please, if you have an idea for a ‘debate post’, please contact us!

A Call for Unity: Sport Educators & the Sport Industry

By Carl Manteau, Senior Director of Group Sales, NBA Milwaukee Bucks

With response from Brian Mills, Assistant Professor, University of Florida

The most abundant positions with professional sports teams are in usually in sales. Sadly, the majority of sport management graduates hired into sales positions FAIL to make it through their first year.* They fail as the direct result of their own actions, however, several are almost predisposed to fail because their sport management programs didn’t adequately prepare them for a sales career.

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This is evident in the resumes that hiring managers like me receive, the interviews we conduct, and the actions of some of the sport management students we hire…and ultimately fire.

Recruiting sport management students can be challenging because many are not educated in the art of selling, nor are they provided many opportunities to experience selling or learn from people that sell sports for a living. This lack of a foundation leads students to apply for positions they aren’t suited or prepared for and teams to hire on perceived abilities instead of proven experience. In the end, these students fail to achieve their dream of a career in this incredible industry, the teams lose the time, money, and effort spent on recruiting and training, and the reputations of academic institutions are tarnished.

So how do we, educators and industry practitioners, come together to address this?

There are a multitude of ways but one of the best places to start is with better communication.

The more knowledgeable professors are on the ever-evolving roles and responsibilities in this industry, the better equipped they will be to prepare students for successful careers. First-hand knowledge is the best. To this point, there has been a pretty sizable effort in recent years of sales managers proactively seeking working-relationships with local educators…but we still have a long way to go. Our outreach will continue but we also encourage professors to contact us. It really can be as simple as picking up the phone or connecting on LinkedIn. Even sitting down for a cup of coffee can open up a new world of understanding and possibilities!

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A fantastic development has been teams and sport management professors/programs collaborating to host one-day sales events (the Mount Union Sport Sales Workshop is widely regarded as one of the best). Over the past few seasons, my team (the Bucks) has implemented a one-day Sales Academy, a Night Sales program, a more robust internship program, and a couple of the sales managers now serve on advisory councils with local universities. Programs like these expose students to the sales cultures of professional sports teams and the chance to network with industry executives. They also allow professors to observe the inner-workings of a professional front office. Finally, they provide teams with the opportunity to find the next generation of sales superstars and leadership development experience for aspiring sales managers.

Better communication doesn’t have to result in large projects or events. At the very least, honest discussions will greatly reduce some of the common misconceptions that continue to be shared with students (one of the most prevalent being, “Sales is a good way to get your foot in the door”).

Other simple collaborations can include sales projects being integrated into curriculums and inviting sales reps and managers to be guest speakers. It was a guest speaker in one of my classes that ultimately paved the way for my career. I’ve also been very humbled to have a few people say that one of my guest lectures had the same effect on them. These experiences would not have been possible without educators and practitioners having solid relationships.

My fellow sales managers and I have the utmost respect for educators and the awesome responsibility you have in shaping the futures of your students and the entire industry. Thank you for what you do and we look forward to working with you soon!

The opinions expressed in this article are my own and may not reflect those of any organizations mentioned. 

*I don’t have any industry data to support this statistic. The figure is taken directly from my 15+ years of experience in sales with two NBA teams, one NHL team, one WNBA team, one AHL team, one AFL team, and one NBA D-League (now the G-League) team. It’s also supported by some of my colleagues managing sales teams in the NFL, NHL, and NBA.

The following response was prepared by Brian Mills, Assistant Professor, University of Florida

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Let me start with 3 propositions.

Proposition 1: Sport Management (SM) programs – as with MBA programs – are not job-specific skills training mechanisms.

Proposition 2: SM programs have a responsibility to provide value to tuition-paying students, often related to expected future earnings potential.

Proposition 3: Industry has a responsibility to provide its workers with appropriate job-specific skills training to both support their employees’ career trajectory and increase their productivity in their current job.

None of these statements is specific to SM – indeed, higher education is dealing with this existential question as a whole – but applied fields are under particular scrutiny to meet these career-specific expectations. As academics, that can sometimes be a difficult proposition. We seek to ensure that our students are equipped with skills in critical and independent thinking, problem-solving acumen, the ability to find, synthesize, and communicate information, and to be intellectually flexible and work well with others. These skills allow them to learn other more specific training quickly and apply it in ways that contribute positively to the firm and society.

To exemplify where these skills are valuable, in consulting roles I have heard comments such as, “We know you have to be ethical in your profession, but we need your estimates to be higher,” and, “We’ll move forward with [that result we like], even though it’s probably spurious.” This is precisely what we want our students to avoid. In spite of the need for immediate action in a fast-paced business environment, a central part of our jobs as instructors is ensuring students know that making decisions with bad information can hurt your business. They should leave here as critical consumers of information.

By its nature, this foundational training is going to spend less time ensuring students know all the acronyms and jargon, proprietary sales operations processes, or be instant experts working specific sales software. Higher education will certainly not ingrain a “sell at all costs” culture in our students’ minds.

And so follows the indictment of our programs.

But is that the goal of higher education? If students leave our programs with the necessary skills to get an entry-level job, and no more, we have failed them miserably. Further, our student body ranges widely, and catering to this specific subset of our students would be an enormous disservice to the majority of them.

Academia certainly needs to think about the educational role it will play in society over the next 20 years. But criticism from industry often lacks an understanding of what faculty do on a daily basis, what universities expect them to do, or what challenges they face in getting students up to speed with many basic skills when they arrive on campus. There is also a need for accountability from industry with respect to training their own workforce, particularly as college graduates continue to be hired into short-term unpaid or extremely low paid positions that often skirt labor and minimum wage laws.

Further, industry sales professionals need to communicate to faculty not only that sales skills are needed, but what they are and why they will allow our students to meet future career development and advancement goals. Most faculty view education as a public good with a duty to prepare students to leave here with the skills to make positive societal contributions. Tie the profession to values it creates not just for your firm, but for others, too.

Without a quality sales pitch of the what and the why, faculty will likely continue to view sales as the art of convincing people to buy what they did not want in the first place: an activity rife with welfare loss and societal waste. We as faculty are of course quite familiar with the importance of revenue generation in the survival of a business. Many of us study how business structures and product characteristics drive revenue, and others study the psychology or economics of business in ways closely related to strategy and CRM through analysis of complex consumer data.

Most faculty in our programs are also social scientists, and therefore will be skeptical of the societal value of sales as traditionally viewed. I suspect this is not the version of sales you do, nor is it what you want our graduates to do. Rather, salespeople can indeed be a valuable resource in finding useful solutions to problems, and leading clients to these solutions using the tools available to them. Faculty have some work to do in communicating the value that some of our courses and programs provide to these goals. In particular, we need to be clear how these skills are more valuable in the face of technological innovation that changes what the most valuable specific skillsets are.

On the other hand, many departments are increasingly resource deprived. Industry professionals should understand the demands upon faculty that include research and other service, and be proactive in offering resources to create workshops and other opportunities on college campuses without treating them just as an easy way to find cheap labor. Industry would also be well served to increase investment in their own workforce, have some patience with very specific skill development, and find ways to take advantage of skills our students do gain while they are here. I suspect their ability to solve problems facing the sales team will surprise you as they grow comfortable with the basic tools of the trade.

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