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Sport Management students learn from the pros

In mid-October, Dr. Jess Dixon’s graduate Strategic Management class, and a few other students within the graduate Sport Management program travelled to Toronto to learn more about careers in sport and the sport industry in general. This trip gave students an opportunity to hear from industry professionals in prominent sport organizations, and network with alumni of the University of Windsor’s BHK and MHK programs. Most importantly, it provided students with valuable information to consider in determining their own career paths after graduation.

            Through his extensive network, Dr. Dixon was able to arrange for two University of Windsor alumni who are currently employed at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) to speak with students on the first morning of the trip. In addition, there were a number of other speakers that spoke about working in sport, and their own unique employment journeys. The speakers had a wide range of experiences, from the marketing department for the Toronto Raptors, to fan experience, and the MLSE Launchpad. Students also had the good fortune of hearing from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Assistant General Manager, Laurence Gilman, who shared his unique story about working in sport. These speakers provided invaluable insight into what to expect when starting their careers in the sport industry. Following these intimate discussions, students took a tour of the newly re-named and re-branded Scotiabank Arena, which allowed them to see many of the marketing and sponsorship practices learned in class being applied in a practical setting. Students were also able to watch some of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ morning skate, which provided a unique and exciting opportunity.

            In the afternoon, students had the opportunity to visit the MLSE Launchpad. Part of the MLSE Foundation, the Launchpad encourages young people to reach their full potential through sport. The facility features a professional-scale basketball court, a rock-climbing wall, additional court space, and a large teaching kitchen. Youth from the community are able to access physical and mental health programming offered by the staff, free of charge. Counselling services are integrated into the programming in an attempt to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health assistance. Visiting the MLSE Launchpad enabled students to see what goes on in the not-for-profit sector of sports, and learn how major professional sport organizations are giving back to the communities in which they operate.MLSE Launch Pad

            After a quick lunch break, students ventured over to the Mattamy Athletic Center (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens), which is now the home of Ryerson University’s Athletic Department. There, students received a quick tour of the facility, including the fitness centre, varsity gymnasium, and the re-purposed ice surface, which now hosts the Ryerson Rams men’s and women’s hockey teams. For those who had never been to Maple Leaf Gardens, it was interesting to see how this historic landmark has been reborn and repurposed.

            Students then had some free time to go explore the city or meet up with friends before the evening’s scheduled alumni networking event. This event, held at Real Sports Bar & Grill, allowed students to interact with alumni from the sport management program and provided insight into some of the careers that are available to them after graduation. Many alumni, representing a broad range of sport industry sectors and job classifications were in attendance.

            On the second morning, students traveled to the Rogers Centre, where they met with a number of executives from the Toronto Blue Jays. The speakers ranged from those who worked in baseball operations, including Assistant General Manager, Andrew Tinnish, to those working in youth development, and the Jays Care Foundation. Again, the wide range of speakers provided insight into different careers, and the many paths taken to get there. It was another opportunity to learn and to see the practical applications of the knowledge gained from our classes in Windsor. The question-based format allowed the discussion to be guided by what students were most interested in. Students also got to tour some of the suites inside Rogers Centre.

            Following a delicious lunch at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant, which was filled with memorabilia from the hockey star’s playing career, including sticks, jerseys, and pictures, students drove to Liberty Village to meet with executives from the Toronto office of Wasserman, a sport marketing and talent group based in Los Angeles. Students toured their new office, and met with speakers who discussed their jobs, which ranged from representing professional athletes, to sport properties such as the Bell Canadian Open, to brands such as the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). These presentations gave students meaningful insight into some lesser-known career opportunities in sport, while the question and answer periods further enhanced students’ understanding of the industry.