Tag: Sport Management

Engage U.S. ready to launch with trip to Olympic City USA

Brandon Male

Brandon Male

All of the world’s eyes – Brandon Male’s included – are on South Korea.

But the instructor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE) is looking at the Winter Olympics through a different lens, one that understands that the games are far more than athletes, medals, national anthems and must-watch TV.

Male is preparing to select and accompany a dozen NIU College of Education students this May to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, also known as Olympic City USA, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Stop One on the trip, coming at the half-way point of the drive, is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where the Engage U.S. students will visit the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory.

It’s among the first ventures of Engage U.S., a new addition to the Educate and Engage Program and tailored for students who are not in teacher-licensure candidates. Thanks to generous funding from donors to the college and the department, students selected for the trip will pay almost nothing.

“This is a big opportunity for our Exercise Science and Sport Management students to gain a little insight and to get their own Olympic experience,” Male says. “This is going to be the start of something cool.”

team-usaHuskies chosen for the trip will engage with, and learn from, coaches and other practitioners and administrators who work at the U.S. Olympic headquarters. Male also hopes his travelers will meet current Olympic athletes.

USA Swimming and USA Shooting also house their national headquarters on the complex, which covers 35 acres and can provide housing, dining, training facilities, recreational facilities and other services for more than 500 athletes and coaches at one time.

NIU students will stay in the training center’s dormitories and enjoy use of the fitness facilities and swimming pools, he adds.

Field trips are planned to the Air Force Academy and the headquarters of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

“Colorado Springs is kind of the fitness, strength and conditioning capitol of the United States,” Male says. “It’s kind of like Silicon Valley is for the technology industry.”

KNPE Chair Chad McEvoy was instrumental in bringing Male’s vision to life.

“Dr. McEvoy had a couple contacts there, including a former student who’s moved on to the USA Triathlon. He still knows some folks there, though, and did a little networking, made a few phone calls – business development is his title – and they ate it up,” Male says.

“Every once in a while, the Olympic Training Center has a university tour that comes out, but they’re trying to get more experience with more young people, with more up-and-coming professionals, and they’re really trying to push the Olympics to help grow and cultivate Team USA. They’re very on board. They love the idea.”

Chad McEvoy

Chad McEvoy

“Our Kinesiology program at NIU provides exceptional opportunities for students to pursue their passion for working in fitness and exercise related professions,” McEvoy says. “This Engage U.S. experience with the Olympic Training Center will allow our students to immerse themselves in sport performance at its peak.”

Past the invaluable lessons of the industry lie the kinds of experiences that are only available outside the classroom, Male says, including new skills, greater confidence and the inspiration to “better themselves to become the highest level of professional.”

“I hope these students realize that it’s a big world out there with a lot of really great opportunities. I hope they come back with a more global perspective, and that it’s important to reach out, to make contact with people and to take a chance,” Male says.

“I want them to think about those employers, those graduate schools and those jobs that might seem too good to be true, or too much of a big fish, and to go for it,” he adds. “At its core – at its root – what this is is a networking opportunity, to just go out there and meet people, and this is an opportunity to go out there and meet the best of the best. Who better to talk to you about that than Team USA?”



Exercise Science Club students shine at Abominable Snow Race

Caitlin Paxton (right) and Dave Benner work with a child in the Winners Circle.

Caitlin Paxton (right) and Dave Benner work
with a child in the Winners Circle.

Caitlin Paxton’s journey to the foot of a snowy Lake Geneva mountain drew her into the heart of the Abominable Snow Race.

But amid the frigid cold and friendly competition, the senior from Plano found affirmation of her dream to teach Physical Education to elementary school children.

“I helped with the ‘Little Yeti’ race, which was a kid’s version. It was so fun; they were so cute,” says Paxton, who will begin student-teaching in the fall.

More than 100 children from ages 4 to 12 participated in the Jan. 27 event, she says.

“We had six different obstacles. They had to go and run the obstacles, sled down one hill and run up another, sled down another and run across the finish line. They got medals, just like the adults did,” she says. “I was really surprised. It was cold and slippery, but they were determined to do it.”

Paxton joined a dozen classmates in NIU’s Exercise Science Club in making the trip to “The Midwest’s Premier Winter Obstacle Race,” which each year attracts up to 2,700 runners eager to tap into their “inner Yeti.”

Tony Calderala, an academic advisor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, arranged for the dozen club members to volunteer along the course and in the “Base Camp” area.

exercise-science-club

After arriving Friday evening in Wisconsin and grabbing some dinner, the Huskies made their way to the Grand Geneva Ski Resort to begin assembling their pegboard obstacle, which challenged racers to go up and over in a test of their athleticism.

“Overall, it went pretty well,” Calderala says. “On Race Day, we got there about 6:30 in the morning, set up our last-minute items, helped in the volunteer tents and at the starting line. All of the students were course marshals for the competition heats; if racers failed an obstacle, we took away one of their three wristbands.”

For an hour after the race, he says, NIU’s pegboard proved a popular and favorite attraction. Many of the racers called it “a great way to practice,” he says.

Bill Wolfe tackles NIU’s pegboard.

Bill Wolfe tackles NIU’s pegboard.

“Racers coming off the course wanted to challenge themselves more,” he says. “We had a timing competition – how fast could they do it? Or how many times could they go up and down without touching the ground? Bill Wolfe, the owner of Abominable Snow Race, said, ‘I gotta try it.’ He went for it and did pretty well. We had kids and their parents.”

NIU’s students were able to do some teaching of good race technique – “It’s not all upper-body; it’s about core,” Calderala says – and get first-hand looks at some aspects of sport management.

Among the issues: up-and-down temperatures froze the course overnight from Friday to Saturday; bright sun Saturday morning melted the ice and turned parts of course into mud and slush, snagging ATVs and requiring the distribution of water by foot; some volunteers failed to show.

“We met gym owners and were able to discuss what goes designing these courses: ‘What did you think about when you put it together? Why did you put it together this way?’ They learned that in the construction of these obstacles, they actually think through what this is going to look like and how it’s going to affect an athlete.”

Students also saw some injuries – “ankle sprains, bumps, bruises, nothing serious” – and learned how to help athletes keep going if they need some medical attention.

basecampOwners of the Abominable Snow Race were impressed by NIU’s contributions, which including “filling the void” caused by missing volunteers.

“The feedback from ASR was great,” Calderala says. “They want to do more here at NIU, so we want to see what they looks like and see what we can offer.”



And now … Sport Management grad students sell Chicago Bulls ticket packages for class project

Katie Reifurth

Katie Reifurth

Students in an NIU College of Education graduate class in Sport Management are asking an unusual question this semester.

Wanna buy some Bulls tickets?

The class, LESM 551, teaches the practice, strategies and art of ticket sales in the sports industry.

And if part of sales is who you know, or the ability to convince hesitant buyers to say “yes,” then Katie Reifurth is the perfect instructor. Her fiancé, Anthony Horton, works for the Chicago Bulls.

“I said, ‘I’m teaching a ticket sales class. Would there be any potential to have us partner with your sales department?’ ” says Reifurth, an instructor in NIU’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

“He was skeptical at first because the Bulls have never partnered with a college program before,” she adds. “I tried to sell him on the idea that I could give him the opportunity to feel out potential future employees, to get to know the caliber of our students and how they sell.”

Horton, who manages Inside Sales for the Bulls, soon liked what he heard. He then pitched the concept to his boss, but initially was met with similar reluctance.

Undeterred, he also forged ahead in making the case that giving students hands-on experience in selling for a powerful brand would allow the Bulls to continuously find and hire local talent.

Swish!

The Bulls have created two unique ticket packages for Reifurth’s students. One includes a Celtics game in December and a Cavaliers game in March; the other includes a Knicks game in December and a Clippers game in March.

Packages are perfect for individuals, friends, date nights or group outings, Reifurth says.

bulls-logo“I pushed to get one of the games in each package to be a high-profile game and have at least one game on a weekend so the students would have a better chance to sell the tickets,” she says. “If people buy from our students, they get a deep discount they couldn’t get on the secondary market.”

She began the class project by allowing students to sell the tickets in any way they wanted, which could include to their personal contacts on social media.

“We know as salespeople, and through the class, that this is very ineffective,” she says, “but it gives the students some hands-on experience with a little bit of failure. They need to be actively selling and using their skills as a seller. They learn to fail, and then they learn to succeed through sales tactics they’re learning in the class.”

Chicago Bulls ticket packages provide an additional lesson, she adds.

“I want my students to understand that selling really does take skills, even selling for a large and popular brand like the Chicago Bulls,” Reifurth says. “I hope they will have a new appreciation for sales, not just how difficult it is but also that it’s not something that comes naturally. People who are in it have to work hard.”

Final sales reports are due Dec. 4.

“They’ll make a presentation, just to me, summarizing all of the things they did in the project, telling me about the sales tactics they used, the number of tickets they sold and what they learned,” she says.

Sales managers at the Bulls “will get a write-up more on the basics of the numbers so they will know what contribution was made by whom and through which package,” she adds. “They will know who has the talent to possibly move into this industry.”

Reifurth, who is new to NIU this semester, is currently completing the dissertation phase of her Ph.D. in Sport and Entertainment Management from the University of South Carolina.

basketballA former intern for the San Antonio Spurs, she moved to Chicago to join Horton – and smartly placed a call to NIU in search of work as an instructor.

When she completes her Ph.D. in 2018, she hopes to continue teaching in higher education while keeping her professional contacts current and vibrant through consulting, an endeavor that will benefit her students.

“More schools and more programs need to focus on selling because that’s where most of the entry-level positions are in sports. It’s better to know the basics than going into these jobs not knowing anything,” Reifurth says.

NIU students have impressed her, partly because her previous experience has taught her that “a sales class is not something a lot of people want to do. It’s just a class they have to take.”

“The NIU students are very engaged, and I’m happy to see that. They’re very open to the possibility of working in sales, and they see the value in that right off the bat,” she says. “They’re also very excited about this project, which I’m excited about. Having passion for what you’re selling just makes it that much easier to do it.”



McEvoy, Frazier set to co-teach KNPE course in college athletics

trackOne is the chair of his academic department, a respected professional in his field and an active consultant to the industry.

The other is the tremendously successful director of Intercollegiate Athletics at a Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision university that has scored several conference championships in recent years.

Both are co-teaching a course this fall in the College of Education, providing students with a real-world, from-the-trenches, theory-meets-practice view of the business side of college athletics – and what these two have lived could fill more than any textbook.

Sean T. Frazier, associate vice president and director of NIU Intercollegiate Athletics, and Chad McEvoy, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, will team up to teach LESM 341: Administration of Intercollegiate Athletics.

“How many students can say that they have had a leading industry practitioner and a leading scholar involved in teaching their class?” says McEvoy, who previously worked in the “front offices” for the Iowa State Cyclones and the Western Michigan Broncos.

“I’m excited about that kind of dynamic classroom environment. I’ve wanted to carve out some time from my schedule to contribute to our teaching mission, and I have some background in college athletics,” he adds. “I reached out to Sean because I thought it would be an interesting way to deliver this class. We can rely on his wealth of experience and expertise.”

Sean T. Frazier

Sean T. Frazier

Frazier was game.

“This is a course,” Frazier says, “that fits right up the alley for potential sports administrators, and especially those individuals who want to know more about the collegiate side of things, from the standpoint of a practitioner who runs a FBS-Division I program. We have one of those programs here – and it makes sense that myself, our coaches and our student-athletes help out.”

Introduced last semester, the LESM 341 course introduces students to contemporary and important issues in intercollegiate athletics.

Among them: philosophies of athletics, the place of athletics in the educational curriculum, the relationship between men’s and women’s programs, budgeting, facilities, equipment, personnel, event operations management, fundraising, public relations, governance, compliance as well as other legal matters.

Guest speakers, including many of Frazier’s senior staff, department heads and coaches, and tours of athletics facilities pump up the syllabus.

“Students are really going to get the best of understanding the theory and research as well as the cutting-edge, industry best practices,” McEvoy says. “We have 20 students, a fairly small group that will promote lots of discussion and good engagement.”

Frazier expects those classroom conversations will include plenty of questions, from how he negotiates coaching contacts and multimedia rights to how he got his start and what he would count as his greatest moment.

Chad McEvoy

Chad McEvoy

NIU’s A.D. has taught before – courses in higher education leadership, policy and analysis, sometimes with a sport management component – during his stops at the University of Maine, the University of Wisconsin and Merrimack College.

He now finds himself eager to return to that vocation, even if for just one hour a week.

“When Chad brought this to me, it was something of a no-brainer for me. To sit in a classroom and facilitate a conversation about topics students are reading about is a passion of mine,” Frazier says.

Calling himself “not an old, but a seasoned administrator,” he believes the KNPE class will offer an exclusive peek inside college athletics operations: “This is what it took to get to Game Day, this is how it continues to evolve during Game Day, and this is what happens after Game Day.”

Some students might realize their career paths lies elsewhere, he adds, but others are equally as likely to grow even hungrier to follow his footsteps. Frazier knows he would have had he been provided a similar opportunity during his undergraduate days at the University of Alabama.

“Had I someone who was a sitting A.D. at any level come in and say, ‘You could do this. This could be an opportunity for you,’ I probably would’ve gotten into this earlier rather than stumbling backward into it,” says Frazier, who worked in health care and earned a master’s degree in social work to help people with substance abuse issues or developmental disabilities.

victor-e-huskieMcEvoy and Frazier are eager themselves to become students – of each other.

“I’m looking forward to understanding more about how Sean leads NIU Athletics,” McEvoy says, “and how some of the things we would pull out of a textbook, out of research or out of industry publications actually impacts NIU and other athletics departments on a daily basis.”

“Chad is a fascinating guy. I’ve learned a lot from him during our interactions,” Frazier adds. “I want to see how he articulates, communicates and runs a classroom of young people. In the future, that’s going to be something I want to pursue more. Sitting in the chair as A.D. is a passion but probably not a lifelong thing. I want to impart knowledge to the next generation.”