In class, Sport Management students learn that it’s nearly impossible for everything to go to plan at an event — and the key is making sure those participating or in attendance never know something has gone wrong.
Marietta College’s Dylan Risola ’24 (West Chester, Ohio) learned this lesson first-hand while working four days at the 2024 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
The championships were held from January 22-28 and fans from around the U.S. packed the arena. With two full days remaining in the competition, Risola switched from customer service to crisis communications when they sold out of programs and nearly sold out of merchandise.
“I was told they ordered more than last year, but by Saturday afternoon the people attending the event were not happy,” Risola said.
Despite the setback, Risola was excited that he got the opportunity to job shadow Kelsey Parker Gislason, Senior Manager of Marketing Projects with U.S. Figure Skating.
“This opportunity was so amazing,” he said. “Kelsey was an amazing person to shadow and one of the nicest people you could meet. She was helpful in every little way and introduced me to everyone she worked with, and that helped me network with people. The experience helped build my résumé tremendously as the event was a high-profile and respected event.”
Risola’s résumé was already impressive.
He completed job shadows with the Savannah Bananas’ merchandise department, the Cleveland Guardians premium ticket sales, the Columbus Blue Jackets promo team, and the Lakota East High School Athletics Department. He was also the Head Intern of Public Space and Security at the Western and Southern Open (now Cincinnati Open) and was part of the game-day personnel at Marietta College.
This most recent experience has helped shape his view on the type of work he’d like to do after graduation.
“It helped me understand that I liked the merchandising side of things,” Risola said. “I hope to either go into something similar, the operations side of things or be a baseball coach.”
Rick Smith, Chair of the Business & Economics Department, was pleased that Risola volunteered at the event.
“It’s important that our students get not only a well-rounded education but have experience working in various areas of sport and a variety of sports,” said Smith, who also heads up the Sport Management program at Marietta. “Figure skating is out of our ‘normal rotation’ of bowl games, Savannah Bananas, and college athletic events, so I’m happy Dylan took advantage of this opportunity to broaden his scope.”
Another lasting impression was meeting past Olympic medalists and possibly future winners.
“It was cool to meet and talk to Gracie Gold, who is a 2014 and 2016 National Champion and a 2014 Olympic Medalist,” Risola said. “I have never really watched figure skating before other than when it was on TV for the Olympics. I have to give credit to the skaters. What they do is not easy, and it was a very cool experience to see them do their routines live.”