Connor Vanin is a Sport Management major at Widener University in Chester, PA. He's planning to graduate in May 2016. Thanks to Connor, we got an inside look at what it's like to be a student in the Sports Management program at Widener. Here's the interview:
What has your experience in the program been like at Widener? Were there other schools you were considering, and if so, why did you choose this one?
The experience here has been wonderful. I came to Widener knowing that I wanted to work in sports, but I did not know what that really entailed. In this program, sports management majors take all the same courses that a general management major takes, so I was able to get a good base knowledge in accounting, finance, management, marketing, operations, and other subjects. This allowed me to be able to see what specifically I was good at and what I liked to do best, so I knew what kind of internship positions I wanted to look for. In addition to the classes, the faculty helped me to secure internships in a variety of areas in the industry, furthering my experience and zoning in even more on what area of sports I wanted to work in. The other schools I was looking at when I chose Widener was Alvernia University and Villanova University. I chose Widener because the Sports Management program here seemed more established than the other schools.
What influenced you to pursue a major/career in management?
Choosing to work in sports was easy for me. Just like many kids, I wanted to grow up to become a professional athlete. Somewhere along the line, I came to the conclusion that I was not good enough to make that happen. From there, I decided that if I couldn't play sports for a living, I was going to work in sports. I had ideas of being an athletic trainer, a coach, even a physical therapist, but eventually I realized that my skill set and interests were pointing me in the direction of business.
Have you participated in any internships? If so, how many, how were they, and did you find the schools resources to be helpful in helping you find this opportunity?
I've done a few internships, and almost all of them are because of the connections that Widener has with people in the industry. I worked in the Ticket Office at La Salle University Athletics, the Marketing Department of Villanova University Athletics, Event Management at Comcast-Spectacor, and Outing Coordinator at Locust Valley Golf Club. On campus, I get some spending money by working with the intramural program, helping to plan and run the leagues and tournaments. Each one of these opportunities came along because of the people who are in management positions in sports, and also are heavily involved with the Sports Management program.
What are your future career plans and aspirations?
Out of school, I want to find a job in sports that allows me to learn a wide range of skills and abilities, as well as climb the corporate ladder quickly. Eventually, I see myself starting my own business in the sport industry.
What has been the most challenging aspect of this area of study, and was this something you had originally anticipated?
Getting a job in sports is all about making yourself stand out. For each open position, there are hundreds of applicants. I recently applied to an internship with over 700 applicants. To stand out, you have to constantly be looking for opportunities that would put you in positions to learn and meet as many people as you can. It can get tiring at times to always to looking for ways to stand out in a crowd, but it is well worth it when I can say I work (or intern) in sports!
What advice would you give someone else trying to break into this field?
Do as many internships as possible! Doing internships gives you a better idea of what you want to do or don't want to do, as well as teaches you skills you can't learn in a classroom. Maybe most important is that you grow your professional network so much faster when you do internships, which is a vital part of working in sports. Also, it is important that you pick a college that has great relationships with people in the industry. This will give you a leg up on the competition to getting those internships. I can't stand when people say it, but the saying is true: "It isn't what you know, it's who you know".
Is there anything you wish you had known about this major ahead of time before choosing this career path or anything else you would like to share?
The sport industry is so big that someone with a degree in sport management can do so many different things, from working in an athletic office or for a professional team, and even work for a camp or clinic (and those are just a few choices). I think that anyone who has a desire to work in sports should not be turned off by not knowing exactly what you want to do. You can figure that out in your internships. Even if you find out you don't want to work in sport, most schools have you taking core business classes anyway so it is super easy to switch majors!