The Experience of a Sport Management Instructor-Practitioner

A common practice among sport management programs, having practitioners as adjunct instructors are opportunities to provide particular expertise or more offerings than the current pool of professors and lecturers can provide on their own. This interview with Nikki Stewart from East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Athletics provides insight into that experience as a practitioner-instructor.

What is your current role, both as a practitioner and as an adjunct?

Currently, I am the Assistant Athletics Director of Academic Services at ETSU, and Issues & Trends in Sport Management adjunct instructor for both the graduate and undergraduate ETSU Sport Management programs

What do you most enjoy about having both of those roles?

As an assistant AD of Academic Services, I enjoy having a direct line to kids, my previous role (as a professional academic counselor), I only saw my advisees twice a year, but in this role, I see kids all day long. I enjoy investing in those students on a daily basis. In my role as an adjunct, I enjoy being able to teach again. I taught sport management at my previous institution, and while I’m currently teaching only online, it has allowed me to get back to teaching. I love having conversations with students. I get to hear their perspective on what is going on in sport. Every four or five years, the ways students think about the issues changes. I enjoy listening and discussing those issues with each group of students.

How do you see being an adjunct intersecting with your role as a practitioner?

It allows me to give first-hand, real-time, fluid opinions on what’s going on, because I deal with it on a daily basis. The students respect that. It’s great also to speak to non-student-athletes as well. A lot of the issues in sport are happening in college athletics. Whether it is TV rights, getting people through the gate, the different ways inventory is created, the laws being created in California, to all the crises in sport. All of that affects me day to day. While they can read an article about what’s going on, I also can say, “this is what happened to my team yesterday, this is what I’m dealing with right now.” I think that brings a unique perspective to the students.

What efforts do you make to bring your knowledge in as a practitioner to the classroom, and vice versa?

Like I said before, bringing in that real-time knowledge helps inform a class such as issues & trends. There is that insider real-time understanding I have that can help students understand how these issues are affecting the sport industry, because I’m living in it. In terms of the classroom to my role as a practitioner, I have to say I get really excited about to talk about these issues. I am a big nerd, so the classroom is a fantastic way to engage with these issues. It’s an avenue I don’t get as a practitioner, to have the time and space to discuss these issues with an engaged audience. We can get very narrow-focused on the athletics side, but by being both a practitioner and an instructor, I can see both ends of the higher education and athletics perspective. And by doing that, I think it helps our ability to best serve our student-athletes.

What do you wish sport management programs knew better or more about in regard to the sport industry?

That programs would understand how fluid everything is, how much things change. Week by week, things can change substantially. How quickly you have to adapt. It’s hard to convey until you are in it. Any opportunities to have field experience, even in each class, some opportunity to experience how adaptable you have to be. Experiencing failure, and learning how to grow from it while in the field can really help students. Articles and books are great, they give a great foundation, but taking that knowledge and “getting your butt kicked” in the field is what will help in the long run.

 

The interview was conducted by Dr. Natalie L. Smith, Assistant Professor in the Sport & Recreation Management Program & Graduate Programs Coordinator at ETSU. You can find her on Twitter @NatalieLSmith. She is always looking for blog post ideas and writers for this blog.

Leading With Vision and Values: An Interview With Richard Peddie, Former President & CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

By Frederik Ehlen, Dr. Jess Dixon, and Dr. Todd Loughead (University of Windsor)

Richard Peddie is the former president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and Toronto Football Club. We had the privilege of chatting with Peddie, where he shared some valuable leadership and career lessons that he learned along his journey.

“I managed to get my ticket punched in every area of professional sports, except for running a team itself.”

Peddie’s journey started with an honors bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Windsor and a dream of leading a professional basketball team. In our interview, he listed branding, market research, sales, general management, and financial management as attributes that he had developed during his time as a student and throughout the early part of his career in the consumer packaged goods industry. Joining SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) in 1989 was his first step into the sport and entertainment realm. Peddie credits his experience in selling hospitality suites and sponsorships, as well as running food and beverage operations to his time with SkyDome. Next, Peddie joined Labatt Communications, which later became NetStar Communications, as President and COO. While there, he oversaw the operations of TSN, among other specialty Canadian cable television channels, and the launch of TSN.ca—one of the first online sports media websites in Canada. Adding television and digital media expertise helped make his case to be hired as President of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors in 1996.

Throughout the interview, Peddie drew clear examples of how his experience in these various roles helped him as president and CEO of MLSE – his learnings from SkyDome when overseeing the construction of Air Canada Centre (now Scotiabank Arena) and Maple Leaf Square, as well as his digital media knowledge from NetStar Communications when launching Leafs TV and NBA Raptors TV and acquiring GolTV. Although his pathway cannot be seen as a blueprint to success, indeed there are many different avenues to achieving a senior leadership position within professional sports, it reinforces the importance of developing a broad set of skills and experience.

 “So, do I believe vision and values work? Absolutely, but only if you are committed to them, only if you make your decisions based on them, only if you constantly reinforce them.”

Peddie, who retired from MLSE in 2012, has always been invested in leadership and leadership education. When we met with Peddie, he shared insights and personal experiences with his approach of choice – leading by vision and values. Having spent the early part of his career in the consumer packaged goods industry, he offered a prime example of his company’s commitment to vision and values. Specifically, he followed the advice of a young brand manager, who was living the company’s values, to discard a low-grade batch of creamed corn rather than distribute it to the retailers – leaving shelf space unused for nine months. This commitment to the company’s value that ‘quality is essential’ paid off for the company in the long term. Peddie also told us how he defined and implemented his vision and values approach to leadership with MLSE, and how he ensured staff buy-in.

Asked about his leadership style and approach to running an organization, Peddie acknowledged meritocracy as a principle that he practiced throughout his career. He explained how Jack and Suzy Welch’s (2005) Winning inspired him to focus on the growth of the top-performing 20% of employees, while parting with the bottom 10%. He drew the natural comparison to sports where players get cut and unsuccessful coaches are fired.

Closing the interview, Peddie emphasized that leadership is a lifelong journey that never ends. He believes that “the moment you stay still as a leader, you are going to fall by the wayside.” For him, the only way to become a great leader is to keep learning and developing.

To read the entire interview, check out to the April 2018 edition of Sport Management Education Journal