Has sport had its #MeToo moment? Women’s experiences of sexism and sexual harassment in the sport industry

By: Lauren Hindman lhindman@umass.edu | @laurenhindman

Lauren is a doctoral candidate at the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst, where she studies gender and other diversity-related topics in sport organizations. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D., she spent nine seasons working in professional sports.

Following both the January 2021 firing of New York Mets general manager Jared Porter over sexually explicit text messages he sent to a woman reporter and the July 2020 reporting of the sexism and sexual harassment experienced by women working with the Washington Football Team, women working in sport organizations took to social media to share their own stories. Moments such as this highlight how common sexism and harassment are for women in the industry, yet their stories quickly fade to the background until the next big scoop arrives, exposing a singular sport organization and attributing the problem to internal issues of organizational culture and leadership (see also: The Dallas Mavericks circa 2018). 

The issue of sexism in and around the sport industry is widespread—“commonly overt yet simultaneously unnoticed,” as Dr. Janet Fink said in her acceptance address for Earle F. Zeigler Lecture Award at the 2015 NASSM conference (Fink, 2016, p. 2). Recent research in sport management reveals how women managers, athletes, coaches, journalists, and educators experience sexism and harassment. Some highlights from these studies include: 

Administration: Women sport managers working for men’s professional sport organizations face both intellectual diminishment and physical objectification, causing emotional and professional consequences. Women adopt several strategies, such a minimization and reframing of their experiences, in order to continue working in the industry (Hindman & Walker, 2020).

Athletes: An analysis of media coverage and academic literature demonstrated how these sources subject women athletes in the United States to gendered microaggressions, a subtle form of bias, through assuming that they are inferior to men, objectifying their bodies, and restricting them to certain roles based on their gender (Kaskan & Ho, 2016). Another study deemed media coverage of women’s sports “gender-bland” sexism, avoiding overt sexism while still presenting women’s sports as “lackluster” compared to men’s (Musto et al., 2017).

Coaches: A recent study found that women swimming coaches in the NCAA face sexism that limits their career mobility, creates job dissatisfaction, and contributes to women’s underrepresentation by pushing them to leave the field (Siegele et al., 2020). In addition, research reveals how women of color coaches must navigate multiple barriers created by the intersectional issues of racism and sexism (Carter-Francique & Olushola, 2016).

Journalists:  Research has shown that sexist views lead people to judge women sport journalists as less credible (Mudrick et al., 2017). Meanwhile, women journalists are pressured by their employers to wear revealing clothing to appeal to male audiences, but then face “slut-shaming” for dressing too provocatively (Harrison, 2019).

Academics: Women faculty members in sport management programs too report sexism and sexual harassment from both men and women colleagues, ranging from subtle discrimination to hostile harassment (Taylor et al., 2018). Women faculty members also experience “contrapower” harassment (harassment from individuals in positions of less power), facing comments about their appearance and assumptions that they don’t know anything about sports (Taylor et al., 2017).

Studies such as these and others demonstrate the wide-reaching effects of sexism and sexual harassment across sport. Industry leaders should be proactive in addressing this issue, as our recent Journal of Sport Management study revealed that women often do not report sexism to supervisors or human resources personnel (Hindman & Walker, 2020). Instead, leaders should be cognizant of watching for such issues and focus on promoting inclusive organizational cultures, rather that simply striving to increase gender diversity and waiting to respond when crises emerge. While women in our study reframed their experiences with sexism as a demonstration of their personal strength, they also reported leaving jobs—and considering leaving the industry—due to sexism. In order for the sport industry to achieve sustained gender diversity, then, leaders must confront the need to eliminate sexism and sexual harassment from their organizations.

References/Further Reading:

Carter-Francique, A. R., & Olushola, J. (2016). Women coaches of color: Examining the effects of intersectionality. In Women in sports coaching (pp. 81-94). Routledge.

Fink, J. S. (2016). Hiding in plain sight: The embedded nature of sexism in sport. Journal of Sport Management30(1), 1-7.

Harrison, G. (2019). “We want to see you sex it up and be slutty:” post-feminism and sports media’s appearance double standard. Critical Studies in Media Communication36(2), 140-155.

Hindman, L. C., & Walker, N. A. (2020). Sexism in professional sports: How women managers experience and survive sport organizational culture. Journal of Sport Management34(1), 64-76.

Kaskan, E. R., & Ho, I. K. (2016). Microaggressions and female athletes. Sex Roles74(7-8), 275-287.

Mudrick, M., Burton, L., & Lin, C. A. (2017). Pervasively offside: An examination of sexism, stereotypes, and sportscaster credibility. Communication & Sport5(6), 669-688.

Musto, M., Cooky, C., & Messner, M. A. (2017). “From Fizzle to Sizzle!” Televised sports news and the production of gender-bland sexism. Gender & Society31(5), 573-596.

Siegele, J. L., Hardin, R., Taylor, E. A., & Smith, A. B. (2020). ” She is the Best Female Coach”: NCAA Division I Swimming Coaches’ Experiences of Sexism. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport13(1).

Taylor, E. A., Smith, A. B., Rode, C. R., & Hardin, R. (2017). Women don’t know anything about sports: Contrapower harassment in the sport management classroom. Sport management education journal11(2), 61-71.

Taylor, E. A., Smith, A. B., Welch, N. M., & Hardin, R. (2018). “You should be flattered!”: Female sport management faculty experiences of sexual harassment and sexism. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal26(1), 43-53.

Sticking Together as We Move Forward

Ehren R. GreenLinkedIN

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Ehren is a second-year doctoral student at the University of Louisville. Before returning to school for her PhD, Ehren worked in intercollegiate athletics for ten years as well as in training and development in both the private and public sector. 

The challenges of Covid-19 have pushed us out of our personal and professional comfort zones. We have learned a lot about ourselves and about others during this time. As we enter 2021, we face the challenge of helping lead our industry through the transition – from the way things were, to the way things are, and to who we want to be moving forward. To be successful in this transition, a continued investment in ourselves and in each other is necessary. We can no longer just be experts in our field, but need to invest in ourselves, as people leaders, to build productive and healthy teams. 

In the sports industry we rely on other people, from faculty members collaborating on research projects to practitioners working together to make sure a game happens. However, how do we ensure we are effective team members? As contrary as it sounds, it starts with self-understanding. We must be grounded in who we are and understand what we bring to the team. There are numerous self-assessments and personality profiles available, including CliftonStrengths, DiSC, and Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to name a few. While there are differences in the assessments, what each of them brings is a level of self-awareness for individuals and an understanding of differences in others. As a certified MBTI practitioner, I’ve learned a lot about myself through the MBTI. For example, I know that I innately need to see the big picture in projects (this is identified as the intuition preference for MBTI). I also recognize that others see projects as steps in a sequential order (this is the sensing preference in the MBTI). This difference can be a major source of conflict when not understood. Team members can talk around each other, not understanding what the other is explaining, leading to frustration and a negative emotional response. However, when teams know each other’s preferences it becomes shared language and a strategy for utilizing each other’s strengths. By using a tool like the MBTI we can gain self-awareness and create a unified understanding of others as a first step in creating successful teams. 

Considering most events in the sport industry occur under high stress, it’s important that we recognize the role of emotions, both in ourselves, and in our interactions with others. Emotional intelligence is an important skill required for productive teamwork. Defined as, “the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990, p. 189), emotional intelligence recognizes the behavioral element of human interactions and the role emotions play in those interactions. Goleman and Boyatzis (2017) developed an emotional and social intelligence leadership competency model that identifies four domains of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. The table below defines each domain and lists strategies to develop competencies in each. 

EI DomainDefinitionStrategy
Self-awareness“Here is what is going on”Tune into your senses
Recognize your triggers
Get feedback
Self-management“This is what I need to do”Count to ten
Pause before you respond
Social awareness“Accurately recognizing other’s emotions”Practice empathy
Be present
Relationship management“Utilizing my awareness to build relationships”Have the tough conversations
Acknowledge individual strengths

One of the simplest and most effective emotional intelligence strategies is the power of pausing before responding. Pausing engages our thinking brain, forcing us to respond consciously rather than emotionally. Additionally, pausing increases your ability to recognize your triggers and your emotional responses to those triggers. To build effective teams, we must acknowledge the role of emotions in our environments.  

As an industry we will continue to face new challenges in 2021, but one constant will be the need for effective teamwork. Self-understanding (e.g., MBTI, etc.) and emotional intelligence can guide our industry as we continue to build effective teams. 

References: 
Goleman, D., & Boyatzis, R.E. (2017, February 6). Emotional intelligence has 12 elements. Which do you need to work on? Harvard Business Review, 2-5
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J.D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211.

Meeting NASSM Series: The NASSM business office

In the Spring of 2020, the NASSM Blog will be highlighting different individuals with NASSM leadership roles. We hope you enjoy getting to know them and learning more about NASSM. (Note: These interviews were conducted in early February.)

Robin Ammon is the Business Office Manager for NASSM and the Chair of Kinesiology and Sport Management at the University of South Dakota.

The Business Office Manager for the North American Society for Sport Management is one of the oldest positions in our organization. Since NASSM’s inception in 1986 there have only been two individuals in this position. The first was Garth Paton, from the University of Brunswick, who was the Business Office Manager from 1986-2002. I have held the position since 2002 and at the current time it is housed on the campus of the University of South Dakota. The Business Office Manager has a number of responsibilities, but they fall into three general categories: membership, financial and legal issues.

Membership
The duties pertaining to membership issues are far and away the largest and most complex of my responsibilities. Processing membership dues and conference registration for each attendee, as well as producing receipts for both, takes up the majority of my time. Once the membership registrations have been processed, membership information is forwarded to Human Kinetics, the publisher of the Journal of Sport Management and Sport Management Education Journal for members to receive access to their included copies. The relationship between Human Kinetics and NASSM dates back to the organization’s inception, so nurturing that relationship is vital. Membership information is also sent to TeamWork online, which provides a weekly industry update for current members. Finally, I produce membership lists and figures, as well as contact information, for the NASSM Executive Council as needed.

Since I am the only Executive Council (EC) member with almost 18 years of service, it is often my duty to provide a historical perspective regarding past decisions and background information about the society to current EC members. In addition, I am continuously communicating with NASSM members, prospective students, industry contacts as well as other interested parties to ensure that they receive accurate information pertaining to all matters related to the organization. The majority of member questions pertain to their membership, conference matters that include conference receipts and disputed charges, universities requesting membership information, plus other miscellaneous questions received by telephone, email, and surface mail (yes, I do receive at least one letter every month!) that is directed to the Business Office.

Designing and purchasing the main conference honors such as the Earle F. Zeigler Lecture Award, the Garth Paton Distinguish Service Award, the Distinguished Sport Management Educator Award, the Diversity Award and the Research Fellow Awards is part of the services provided by the Business Office Manager. Finally, I am responsible for providing payment to the Student Research competition winner, the NASSM Service Learning award winner as well as the Janet B. Parks NASSM Research Grant and the NASSM Doctoral Research Grant awardees.

Finally, in order to ensure seamless transition of member benefits as well as questions regarding the NASSM web site I communicate with the Web Administrator on a continuous basis.

Financial
The Business Office Manager pays all NASSM bills (membership and conference) and acts as the liaison between the society’s bank and the organization. I am responsible for reconciling NASSM’s accounts and consult with the NASSM Treasurer regarding our investment portfolio (certificates of deposit). I provide any financial information requested by the NASSM Treasurer or other Executive Council members. Another duty of the Business Office Manager is to deposit all NASSM revenues from members, outside agencies and conference sponsors.

Legal
Finally, the Business Office Manager serves as the liaison with NASSM’s intellectual property attorney and work to ensure the viability of NASSM’s name, trademark, and logo in the US and Canada. I provide support for the efficient operation and payments for NASSM’s General Liability, as well as Directors and Operators insurance policies.

The North American Society for Sport Management has evolved tremendously over its almost 34 years of existence and the Business Office Manager’s duties and responsibilities have evolved as well.

Meeting NASSM Series: Executive Committee Student Member

In the Spring of 2020, the NASSM Blog will be highlighting different individuals with NASSM leadership roles. We hope you enjoy getting to know them and learning more about NASSM. This week, we asked Dominique Kropp to answer some questions about her role as NASSM Student Representative:

My name is Dominique Kropp and I am a Ph.D. Candidate in Sport Management at the University of Kansas. I am from Kearney, Nebraska. As the student representative on the NASSM executive council, I am the voice of NASSM students. As a voting member, I do my best to represent the interests of the students as we are an integral part of the society and annual conference. I also oversee the student initiatives committee, which plans the student events at the conference. In the coming months we will be sending out some information about the exciting plans for NASSM 2020 in San Diego!

I wanted to get involved with NASSM because of the society’s prominence in the field of sport management. I love planning and organizing initiatives, so I applied to be a student initiatives member in charge of the student social for the 2019 New Orleans conference. Because I enjoyed the process and learning about the inner workings of the conference, I decided to run for student representative on the executive council during the 2019-2020 year and I was elected!

By serving on the NASSM executive council, I hope to contribute by providing input from a student perspective and developing exciting opportunities for students at the conference and throughout the year. Perhaps the biggest challenge students face regarding NASSM is the cost of membership and conference attendance. I hope to encourage students to continue attending the annual conference because it is an important investment in each of our futures.

My dream NASSM destination is Hawaii!

Be sure to say “Hi!” when you see Dominique in San Diego!

Meeting NASSM Series: Executive Committee Secretary Role

In the following months, the NASSM Blog will be highlighting different individuals with NASSM leadership roles. We hope you enjoy getting to know them and learning more about NASSM.

This week’s highlight is NASSM’s current Secretary, Dr. Leeann Lower-Hoppe.

Current faculty position: Assistant Professor a The Ohio State University

How long have you been at this institution? 3 years

Where are you from? Cincinnati, Ohio

What are your primary responsibilities in your role as EC Secretary? The NASSM Operating Codes provides a helpful comprehensive review of the Secretary role. To summarize, my primary responsibilities include: assisting the NASSM President, maintaining records of all Society meetings and Constitutional and Operating Code changes, recording Society meeting minutes, and serving as a voting member on the EC.

What made you want to get involved with NASSM? Servant leadership as a philosophy guides my research, teaching, and service. I believe it is a responsibility of the membership to serve your national association. Through supporting the internal operations of NASSM I seek to advance our field, professionally develop, and expand our network.

How do you hope to contribute to NASSM through serving? NASSM has a wonderful legacy of leadership. It is a privilege to serve on the NASSM EC with outstanding professionals in the field of sport management. I hope to embody the professionalism of the EC, contribute new perspective and ideas, promote the voice of the membership, support the NASSM President, and increase the efficiency of the Secretary role.

What do you think are the biggest challenges NASSM faces? As NASSM President Bob Heere outlined in his recent holiday message to the NASSM membership, we are in the process of exploring a new governance structure. This has been a significant topic of discussion within the EC and has the potential to produce positive change within the organization. However, I anticipate the process of proposing a new governance structure and potentially moving forward with restructuring the board will be a challenge – howbeit a worthy challenge.

Dream NASSM Destination: Chicago, IL – great city!

Meeting NASSM Series: The President Role

In the following months, the NASSM Blog will be highlighting different individuals with NASSM leadership roles. We hope you enjoy getting to know them and learning more about NASSM. Our first post highlights our current and past-presidents. Presidents are elected for three year terms, where they serve as President-Elect, President, then Past-President, each with their own roles and responsibilities.

 

Lisa Kihl, Ph.D., Past-President NASSM

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Dr. Lisa Kihl

 

Current faculty position: Associate Professor, School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota

How long have you been at this institution? 17 years

Where are you from? Australia

What are your primary responsibilities in your role with NASSM? Past president roles- conference manager and chair NASSM governance working group.

What made you want to get involved with NASSM? Networking, learn about the field, colleagues encouraged me.

How do you hope to contribute to NASSM through serving? Mentoring students and junior faculty; assisting with the implementation of the strategic plan, and aiming to create a more inclusive and supportive association.

What do you think are the biggest challenges NASSM faces? Current governance system and addressing the wide array of membership needs.

Dream NASSM destination: Turks and Cacaos

 

Bob Heere, Ph.D., President of NASSM

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Dr. Bob Heere

Current faculty position:  Professor, Department of Management & Director of Sport Entertainment Management

How long have you been at this institution? About 20 months

Where are you from? The Netherlands, I received my PhD at Florida State University

What are your primary responsibilities in your role with NASSM?  To represent our society in our interactions with our stakeholders and oversee the governance of our Society

What made you want to get involved with NASSM?  Sport management is a small niche, and our boats rise and fall together with the academic tides. Supporting our Society is a crucial component of our service and directly benefits our own careers. I never saw it as a choice, but as a necessity.

How do you hope to contribute to NASSM through serving?  As the president, first and foremost, I try to make myself available to everyone engaged with NASSM, answering any questions they have, or supporting the initiatives they bring forward to our Society. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is stay out of the way of the people who champion certain initiatives. On my end, I have been focused on increasing our transparency in decision making, increasing the engagement of our members, help our committees refocus on their primary responsibilities, and building or modifying the relationship with our partners. For example, we just signed a new partnership with the International Association for Venue Managers (IAVM), and were able to renegotiate our contract with Human Kinetics, which will alleviate the financial burden of our members to carry on that relationship.

What do you think are the biggest challenges NASSM faces? Right now, NASSM is at a crossroads, and its biggest challenge is adjusting its governance structure to the changing demands of scholarly life. The implementation of such a change impacts everything and holds back other initiatives. This restructure has been advocated for, for over a decade, and we are finally able to explore its implementation because of increased sponsorship revenues, and decreased journal subscription costs.

Dream NASSM destination: Frisco, TX, so I don’t have to travel and I can share with our members who amazing this city is when it comes to sport 😊

 

 

Stay tuned for future “Meeting NASSM” blog posts about other NASSM leaders…

Considering Taking Up A Cause? Here are some lessons

When American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos experienced and observed the plight of Black Americans, they knew they had to do something. So, on October 16, 1968, Smith and Carlos, winning gold and bronze in the men’s 200 meters, respectively, each wore black socks without shoes to the medal podium. They proceeded to extend one black-gloved fist over their bowed heads during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the U.S. “The boos were about as profound as the silence was when we raised our fists and bowed our heads in prayer,” Smith recalled (Zacardi, 2018, para. 36).

Disruption is hard. Some people succeed, able to transform their organizations or institutions in which they operate. Others are not so effective, incapable of unsettling the current situation that exists within their environment. One reason for such “failure” is because people often tend to oppose change that disrupts the status quo. We saw this in 1968. Interested in this story of disruption, we recently set out to better understand this essential yet poorly understood aspect of social change. We gathered and analyzed interviews with 59 members of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team concerning their reactions (see Agyemang, Berg, & Fuller, 2018).

In general, and as you may imagine, Smith and Carlos’ teammates did not approve of the protest. Based on the interviews, we identified four main reasons why teammates disliked their activism: (1) the sacred spirit of competition should supersede all else; (2) the Olympics should be apolitical; (3) the Olympics should be cherished as an entertainment spectacle; and (4) nationalism and representing the U.S. team is more important than any sociopolitical viewpoint. Building on this and other research, I address the following question: how do change leaders harness and manage the negative perceptions they encounter concerning their disruptive activity? Here are some takeaways and how they may apply to people working for change:

Become an expert in the area which you seek social change.

At the end of the day, change leaders cannot force people to believe in the same social causes they do. This is why people working for social change should focus on the things they can control. One way is to be an expert in the area in which you intend to disrupt and desire social change. Occasionally groups resisting may lack essential information and not understand the social cause. In other cases, those opposing the social change frequently attempt to obscure a change leader’s message. Based on reading and observation, sometimes this is easier to do because change leaders do not fully understand what they’re doing. As a result, they are unable to generate empathy from the broader public because their message is unclear. For instance, Colin Kaepernick said that he had considered taking a stand for a while, but before he did, he wanted to make sure he was well read on the subject matter. Though he has faced criticism for his actions and his beliefs, it is clear he is strong in his convictions and is able to back them up given his understanding of the issues.

Not all causes are seen the same.

In 2016, I spoke with a renowned sports journalist about the current wave of athlete protests. Comparing the likes of LeBron James to Colin Kaepernick, the journalist noted how there is a fundamental difference between calling for an end to gun violence (i.e., James at ESPY Awards) and calling for systemic change to social institutions that have historically wronged racial and ethnic minorities. He contended that the former is much more likely to gain consensus (or at least close to it) from the public than the latter, which is much more divisive. Regarding the latter, opposition may even dispute the social issue even exist. The biggest challenge here is to articulate how and why the change you are calling for will benefit those who are not yet onboard. Human nature is to operate from a “what’s in it for me?” mentality. If change leaders desire commitment from others, they should consider what these groups want and need.

Anticipate resistance.

Related to the point above, I think one of the more obvious takeaways is that change leaders should always anticipate resistance. This occurs for many reasons, including dominant groups are more prone to uphold the status quo and not champion change, because they benefit from societal norms. Contrasting to that, peripheral actors who are often less privileged members of society and are less favored by the status quo are more to desire change. We saw this in 1968 during Smith and Carlos’ time, and we see similar scenes today. For example, Colin Kaepernick’s silent gestures beginning in 2016 has received backlash both for his tactics (i.e., kneeling during the national anthem) and the causes he’s bringing attention to (i.e., police brutality against Black people).

Embrace the challenge.

Sure, people resisting a social cause you believe strongly in can be a frustrating and oftentimes agonizing experience. However, as cliché as it may be, it is important for change leaders to not withdraw from the resistance, but embrace it. One piece of advice I received was to think of resistance as strength training. We use resistance (e.g., dumbbells) to build muscle and endurance so that we can gain strength. The same could be said for the opposition change leaders face when attempting to bring attention to a social cause. So, keenly listen. Attempt to understand why they are resisting. This seems to be a lost art in today’s divided political climate. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to concur with every single criticism; but listening to opposition criticisms can open your eyes to blind spots you may have not considered, and serve to ultimately strengthen your cause when you respond to these blind spots.

Social position matters.

A person’s social position is based on various social groups they belong to (e.g., profession, gender, race, culture, relationships) and provides them consent to perform certain actions and enter certain spaces. One of the more interesting observations from the study is that Smith and Carlos’ protest may have been viewed differently if they had the support of their teammates and people in positions of power. Based on this, it would behoove change leaders to seek ties with people with access to resources and “clout” they need to make change. For instance, recently, professional athletes have established relationships and met with Congressional leaders about issues related to race and policing, among others. These relationships could provide your change effort more legitimacy.

Final remarks

When we consider what is necessary for social change to take place, it regularly demands some type of disruptive act. Change leaders can play an integral role in this process. The challenge is this is often complex, and will often entail resistance to both the change and the tactics a change leader will use. Yet, I’m reminded of what John Carlos recently told me: If anyone ever calls you a troublemaker, rest assured you’re in damn good company. Don’t let them [opposition] intimidate you and scare you away from doing what you feel is right.”

Click here for full research article in Journal of Sport Management Vol. 32, Issue 6.

 

 

Author note: another version of this blog appears at: https://kwameagyemang.com/considering-taking-up-a-cause/

Agyemang, K. J. A., Berg, B. K., & Fuller, R. D. (2018). Disrupting the disruptor: Perceptions as institutional maintenance work at the 1968 Olympic Games. Journal of Sport Management, 32(6), 567-580.

Zacardi, N. (2018, October 3). Tommie Smith, John Carlos remember Olympic protest on 50th anniversary. NBC Sports. Retrieved from https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2018/10/03/tommie-smith-john-carlos-black-power-salute/

Observations from the WWC Part 2: Interview with Current Sky Blue FC GM

By Dr. Natalie L. Smith (@NatalieLSmith)

Natalie is an Assistant Professor at East Tennessee State University, a former Sky Blue FC & MLS employee, and is currently recruiting a Graduate Assistant for Fall 2020.

A continuation from last week, we followed up with someone who has been dedicated to women’s sport, and women’s soccer specifically, for years. In a practitioner insight interview to compliment last week’s blog, I interviewed a long-time friend, Alyse LaHue. She is the current Sky Blue FC General Manager & Adjunct Instructor at East Tennessee State University. Here’s the interview:

How has the WWC in France impacted Sky Blue FC attendance, media and sponsorship interest?

I would suggest it’s less so the general World Cup and more so the USWNT’s success during it that has driven this interest. It always seems to become a national cultural moment when the USWNT plays in the World Cup. You see media coverage on all outlets: online, tv news, newspapers. Everyone covers it and with that comes enhanced interest in women’s soccer in general. The victory is the major icing on the cake in that you then have a long extension of the WWC through parades, talk shows, and general ongoing appearances via everything you could imagine.

We’ve certainly seen a surge in attendance with two sellouts and a third on the horizon out of our 6 post-WWC games. We even just moved one to Red Bull Arena to accommodate demand. Sky Blue has never played there before. It allows us to engage more media and sponsors by playing in a venue like that, a bit closer to NYC.

What questions do you and others who work in women’s soccer have that you can’t answer right now?

A major item for me is the measurables. There has been an instinct that women’s sports in general have that intangible emotional connection with fans, which I won’t deny. But as front offices we have to operate on data and numbers. Sponsorship ROI and impressions are areas that we typically have not been able to afford on the teams I’ve worked for. Those analyses can be very expensive but it’s something that would be intriguing to me. How many impressions on average does the jersey front get during the course of a season? How can we further measure the actual ROI for our partners instead of just treating their sponsorship like a donation?

What role do you see academics playing in women’s soccer? Have you collaborated with academia in your organizations?

I wish we had more collaborations! During my time in Chicago we had a group of students from Canada work on a semester-long project then come down and present it to us. It included many outside-the-box marketing ideas, many of which we actually ended up exploring

 

In conclusion, so many questions remain about how our current management theories relate to the realities of women’s soccer, and perhaps women’s sport more generally. Fortunately, this seems to be a growing area of interest for scholars. In the past year alone, we have seen a book published on the business of women’s sport (co-edited by Drs. Nancy Lough and Andrea Geurin), and a call for papers with the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing for a special issue on marketing in women’s sports (submissions due in December). This increased academic focus on women’s sport is needed and welcomed. Clearly those in the women’s sports space want more collaboration with academics, what an opportunity for us to provide much needed research.

Writing Case Studies to Engage with Industry (And Become a Better Writer)

By Aaron Mansfield

Aaron Mansfield is a PhD student at UMass Amherst and an Associate Editor at ESPN

This summer, Zion Williamson – whom legendary former Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro describes as “the most marketable person I’ve seen” – hit the sneaker market. A bidding war ensued.

While the No. 1 NBA draft pick was ruining rims for Duke, pundits speculated about which brand he’d select: Nike or Adidas? Late in the game, however, a dark horse emerged: Puma.

Though Zion ultimately chose Nike subsidiary Jordan, the German giant’s commitment to basketball was evident. Puma announced its re-entry into hoops in 2018, after its attempt in 1998 famously flamed out. Twenty years later, Puma – sensing an opportunity to play “provocateur” – gave it another go, launching an ambitious campaign with Jay-Z.

I recently broke down this situation from a sport marketing perspective for the McCormack Case Study Collection at UMass Amherst. In the case, I offer context, highlight opportunities and challenges, and outline teaching points and assignments. For students, the case offers the chance to engage with a story developing right now – the type of thing they’re already talking about. For instructors, the case offers relevant, vetted material and a ‘plug and play’ design.

UMass’ collection is one of several such resources for sport educators – for example, check out Case Studies in Sport Management, or search for your topic of interest on the expansive Sport Management Case Studies Repository. Academics often hear of the importance of bridging theoretical instruction with industry. This is especially significant in sport because of our discipline’s applied focus (Chalip, 2006; Irwin & Ryan, 2013). Further, because consumer sport is young and rapidly developing, the subject matter we explore is dynamic. Trends and talking points arise constantly. (Consider the emergence of esports, or how many jobs are now centered on sport analytics.) It’s difficult to make a meaningful contribution in the classroom without industry awareness.

Case studies offer such a bridge, invigorating the classroom. Students excitedly participate in discussions. Well-suited for either individual or group work, cases offer a refreshing supplement to tried-and-true approaches like lecturing and textbook assignments.

I also encourage you to consider writing a case of your own. For example, the leader of UMass’ collection, Will Norton, is searching for quality content. Unsure what to write about? Well, when it comes to building theory, sport scholars have alluded to the importance of personal passion for the subject matter (Chelladurai, 2013; Fink, 2013). That insight extends to case studies. What are you passionate about?

The similarities between writing for journal publication and crafting a case may not be immediately apparent, but there is carryover. As a scholar and journalist, I have learned this to be true: writing is writing. When I am attempting to make a theoretical contribution for a journal, I am becoming a better editor; when I am coaching a writer on an NFL season preview feature, I am becoming a better theory-builder. Writing is akin to training your central nervous system – it doesn’t matter which muscle group you’re targeting. Working on a case refines your voice and sharpens your editorial sense, which come into play every time you write-up research (or review a peer’s work).

The language and conventions are different, but constructing a case is much like constructing a journal article: you start with a big idea, narrow its focus as you peruse related literature and take notes, break it down into component parts, and slowly but surely – making exponential progress, adapting as you discover new sources –mold it into a cohesive product. Perhaps most importantly, you spend time between writing wrestling with the concepts. Doesn’t that sound like the process of theory building that Fink (2013) described?

I specifically recommend that PhD students consider this opportunity. You’ll bolster your writing ability, enjoy exploring a topic of interest, and feel satisfied knowing your work could impact leading sport programs. Oftentimes, such as with the UMass collection, you’ll also be compensated financially.

Case studies are a tool for scholars who aspire to shape the future of the academic discipline and the next generation of sport professionals. I encourage you to take advantage of such a valuable resource: consider using a case in your next course or writing one of your own.

 

Citations
Chalip, L. (2006). Toward a distinctive sport management discipline. Journal of Sport Management, 20, 1-21.
Chelladurai, P. (2013). A personal journey in theorizing in sport management. Sport Management Review16, 22-28.
Fink, J. S. (2013). Theory development in sport management: My experience and other considerations. Sport Management Review16, 17-21.
Irwin, R. L., & Ryan, T. D. (2013). Get real: Using engagement with practice to advance theory transfer and production. Sport Management Review16, 12-16.

How Do We Help Our Students Arrive, If We Don’t Know Where They Started?

by Chris Barnhill (research conducted with Andrew Czekanski and Adam Pfleegor)

Dr. Christopher Barnhill is the Sport Management Program Director and Associate Professor at Georgia Southern University. Dr. W. Andrew Czekanski is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Recreation and Sport Management at Coastal Carolina University. Dr. Adam G. Pfleegor is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Sport Science at Belmont University.

In the summer of 2005, not long after my wife and I moved to Manhattan, Kansas, we experienced what has to be one of the most frustrating conversations of our marriage. I was in my new office in the Kansas State athletic department while Amy was driving back from a job interview in nearby, Riley, Kansas. She called from her cell phone desperately hoping that I could give her directions home. Unfortunately, I was of no help.

If you are familiar with this region, you know that most towns in the area are separated by a sea of wheat with no major highways. Smartphones did not yet exist and GPS was not common. She needed my help, but all I knew is that she was surrounded by wheat fields and a few windmills. Essentially, I knew she was somewhere in Kansas. I knew the destination she was trying to find but without knowing her current location, any advice was useless.

It’s impossible to draw a map to Point B without first knowing the location to Point A.

As faculty, it is our duty to be familiar with the knowledge and skills students must acquire to be successful in the sports industry. Many of us worked in the industry and regularly communicate with industry partners or advisory boards. Additionally, there is some great literature exploring industry and faculty perspectives of student outcomes (e.g. Barnes, 2014; Mathner & Martin, 2012; Schwab et al., 2013). We know the location of Point B. In Barnhill, Czekanski, and Pfleegor (2018), we attempted find Point A by gathering data from students at 12 undergraduate programs on their first day of Introduction to Sport Management.

Data About Sport Management Intro Students

Getting to know sport management studentsThe results of our study provided a complex picture of the students we are educating. Sport management students have high academic aspirations. More than half of the students surveyed desired to obtain an advanced degree and were heavily involved in their campus communities. However, their college GPA is lower than the general population. This might be explained by some of the demographic information in the sample. A majority of students identify as having a middle-class background, but many students come from lower or upper-class backgrounds. Graduation rates are significantly higher for students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds than for students who come from middle and lower socioeconomic classes (Snyder, de Brey & Dillow, 2010). This often stems from differences in resource allocations for K-12 schools, as well as less access to mentors with college experience (Institute for Research on Poverty, 2017).

When looking at racial and gender demographics, we found sport management programs generally have more White and Black students than the general undergraduate population, but few students from other populations (Snyder et al., 2019). Similarly, women are woefully underrepresented in our discipline. Literature consistently indicates diverse classroom environments improves learning outcomes (Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, & Gurin, 2002). While the current imbalance in representation represents an opportunity for growth by making our programs more welcoming to students from underrepresented populations, it also puts an emphasis on faculty to bring diverse viewpoints to the classroom.

The final section of our study explored students’ perceptions of their own abilities relative skills/knowledge. Scholarship consistently indicates sport management students are naïve to the realities of the field and have unrealistic expectations for their careers (Barnes, 2014; Mathner & Martin, 2012; Schwab et al., 2013). This may be because sport management students are primarily attracted to the discipline by their passion for sport. Participants in the study were generally unaware careers available in the sport industry. Our study also indicated students are overly confident in their own abilities. As a whole, the sample indicated beliefs that their skills and knowledge related to the industry were above average despite the fact that they had never taken a course related to sport management. Unrealistic career expectations not only impact student learning, they also have negative consequences after graduation (Bush, Bush, Oakley, & Cicala, 2014).

As sport management educators, we have a duty to prepare students for the industry to hope to enter. We must continue to be aware of and adapt to an ever-changing destination. However, we must also be keenly aware of the various jumping off points from which our students begin their journeys. We hope, if anything, this study provides a picture of the undergraduate student population and begins a conversation about curriculum design in undergraduate sport management programs.

Read the entire study here in the April 2018 edition of the Sport Management Education Journal

Barnes, J.C. (2014). What becomes of our graduates?: New employee job transition and socialization in sport administration. Sport Management Education Journal, 8, 27–34.

Barnhill, C.R., Czekanski, W.A., & Pfleegor, A.G. (2018). Getting to know our students: A snapshot of sport management students’ demographics and career expectations in the United States. Sport Management Education Journal, 12, 1-14.

Bush, A. J., Bush, V. D., Oakley, J., & Cicala, J. (2014). Formulating undergraduate student expectations for better career development in sales: A socialization perspective. Journal of Marketing Education, 36(2), 120-131. doi:10.1177/0273475314537831

Gurin, P., Dey E., Hurtado, S., & Gurin, G. (2002). Diversity and higher education: Theory and impact on educational outcomes. Harvard Educational Review, 72(3), 330-366.

Institute for Research on Poverty (2017). Poverty Fact Sheet: Falling Further Behind: Inequity in College Completion. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Mathner, R.P., & Martin, C.L.L. (2012). Sport management graduate and undergraduate students’ perceptions of career expectations in sport management. Sport Management Education Journal, 6, 21–31.

Schwab, K.A., Dustin, D., Legg, E., Timmerman, D., Wells, M.S., & Arthur-Banning, S.G. (2013). Choosing sport management as a college major. SCHOLE: A Journal of Leisure Studies and Recreation Education, 28(2), 16–27.

Snyder, T. D., de Brey, C. & Dillow, S. A. (2019). Digest of Education Statistics 2017 (NCES 2018070). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.