“Aim small, miss small.”
Keynote speaker Ric LaCivita mentioned this line from The Patriot a couple of times throughout the day at the first-ever Sport Management Symposium, held in the Gallagher Center and St. Vincent’s Hall on April 23. Organized by the Niagara University Sport Management program, this event aimed to engage undergraduate students in a creative way to get them excited about their future professional goals.
The day began with roundtable discussions where students had a chance to interact closely with local sport professionals, many of whom received sport management degrees from Niagara. The Buffalo Bills and Sabres, HARBORCENTER, the Boys and Girls Club, Time Warner Cable Arena, the University at Buffalo, and Syracuse University were all represented at the event. Niagara’s own athletic director, Simon Gray, joined the program as well.
Students got to hear about the day-to-day responsibilities of each of these 10 professionals, learn how they successfully found a job in the sport industry, ask questions about some of the more specific nuances of the job, and make connections that could lead to internship and job opportunities in the future. After more than two hours of networking, all in attendance joined for lunch and received a lesson in dining etiquette from the renowned John Bourdage.
Following lunch, it was time for the keynote speaker portion of the event. A teleconference was set up with St. John’s University so that students from the two Vincentian schools could share in a joined experience.
Each school hosted one keynote speaker. LaCivita, a native of the Niagara region and Harvard University alumnus, visited Niagara University from Atlanta where he is currently the chief creative officer and managing partner of R Imagination Station Entertainment (R.IS.E), a strategic sports content company specializing in media and marketing solutions for sport content distribution. St. John’s was visited by Dr. Keith Strudler, the director of Marist College’s Center for Sports Communication. The speakers interacted with students at both universities for about 30 minutes apiece before a question-and-answer session concluded the event.
Here are some of my own takeaways from the experience at the Sport Management Symposium:
- Most sport management students know that working in the industry can be difficult, but getting to learn that firsthand from people who are in the industry already helps provide perspective. Working nights and weekends is an incredibly regular thing. Offseasons are not entirely “off” seasons for employees of teams and universities; for many people, the offseason can be more frantic than the season itself.
- In the sport industry, moving around to get the best experiences possible is often a wise move. Building a diverse resume working with a wide variety of organizations builds perspective and allows you to learn how to solve problems and develop solutions from many different angles.
- Developing strong relationships with your superiors and peers as an intern or early professional goes a long way. If your coworkers have a favorable impression of you, they will be glad to help you on the next step in your career much more often than not.
- Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and challenge norms. LaCivita pointed to a quote from Albert Einstein, which states, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
- In that same vein, if you have an idea that you want to develop but cannot find a job or role in which to do it, build your ideas on your own. Volunteer to coach a team, start a blog or podcast, or find a way to do anything you are passionate about. Technology has opened the floodgates for young people to hone their talents and prepare for future success.
- Perhaps most importantly, remember to “aim small, miss small.” Find a highly-specific goal and then do everything in your power to chase it. Either you will achieve that goal exactly, or you could end up finding something else you enjoy doing in pursuit of that goal.
Although the sport management programs at Niagara University are very young, including a graduate program that is preparing to send its first graduates out into the working world, the foundations of an alumni network are growing. Students can look forward to tapping into that support and jump-starting their careers.
The Sport Management Symposium was a wild success, and there is every reason to believe that the department will expand upon those successes in 2016.