In a rapidly changing, ultra-competitive job market and sports industry, a University of Massachusetts professor told students yesterday about the importance of not only finding what one is passionate about, but exploring a broad variety of avenues and taking the necessary steps in order to bridge goals to reality.
That was the theme of the night on Tuesday as UMass sports management professor Glenn Wong spoke to about 250 prospective sports professionals and students alike at the Flavin Auditorium in the Isenberg School of Management in a presentation titled “The Future of Sports Management,” sponsored by the Association of Diversity in Sport (ADS).
A graduate of Brandeis University, Wong has been involved at UMass since 1979 when he was hired as an assistant professor in the sports management department. His roles at the school have included Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA and Interim Director of Athletics briefly in the early 1990s.
During the talk, Wong spoke mostly from experience about what it takes for students to reach their goals in management and professional positions in sports.
With more than 200 sports management programs in the country, Wong said, the field is as competitive as ever as graduates compete for available positions across the nation.
That’s why, Wong said, it’s important to start taking an initiative now more than ever. He talked about how imperative applying and grabbing internships are, building up expertise and a list of networks and not being afraid to step out of comfort zones in order to ultimately find a career one is happy to have.
“I’m oftentimes surprised that seniors don’t have any plan and don’t have any idea where they’re going,” said Wong. “The things I spoke about tonight can’t be done overnight. In terms of planning academic schedules and getting various experiences, applying for internships and jobs, it takes some real time. And the earlier they’re able to start that, the better the result will be for them.”
In 2008, Wong published a book called “The Comprehensive Guide to Careers in Sports” from which he drew much of his advice during Tuesday’s presentation. The second edition of his book is due out in mid-March.
Ranging from topics such as designing academic plans and filling up resumes to gauging risk and reward, developing relationships and having mentors, Wong discussed the opening sections to his book by drawing upon experiences he’s had over the years in the field.
To provide examples of what he was talking about, Wong used some of his former colleagues such as Boston Celtics Vice President of Media Relations Jeff Twiss, President of TD Garden John Wentzell and Vice President of Marketing of the NBA Carolanne McAuliffe – all UMass graduates who found ways to get where they wanted despite obstacles.
Wong even reached out to John Martin, the managing director of Digital Media at NASCAR, who joined the presentation via a Skype conversation.
Martin, a 1991 graduate of UMass, spent seven years at Turner Broadcasting as part of the business development team for the Turner Sports Digital division. He shed some light to the students via webcam on the experiences leading to where he is today.
“If you understand sports are a business and how you can help other businesses promote what they need to do, that’s when you become valuable,” said Martin. “Understand what you’re getting into, understand how you can help the organization you’re going to interview with and how you can help them achieve their business goals and you’ll be someone people want to talk to and someone people will want to offer a job to.”
Due to technical difficulties, Wong was unable to start another Skype conversation with David Wright, another UMass graduate who currently serves as the vice president of Global Partnerships for Major League Soccer, but his message was not lost in the end.
“The entire job market is very, very competitive,” said Wong. “The sports industry has always been one of the most competitive, and as a result of the economy, it is even more so at this time, so I’m just trying to help the students in any way I can so that they can compete in a very, very competitive market.”
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Hewitt.