Sports Management students gain valuable game-day experience

Natalie Bender ’17 (Akron, Ohio) got to touch the “Play Like a Champion” sign at Notre Dame.

Brett Mattson ’18 (Parkersburg, West Virginia) ran the fog machine as West Virginia’s football team entered the field for a home game, and Kristina LaRocca ’18 (Strasburg, Ohio) escorted the singer onto the field for the National Anthem at a Steelers game on Heinz Field.

These are just snippets of what eight Marietta College students in the Sports Management program recently did during job shadow programs during the fall semester.

“The opportunity to job shadow for students takes the learning experience from the classroom to the playing field, the court of competition, and the stadiums and arenas these students will be working in one day,” said Rick Smith, Assistant Professor of Sports Management. “It’s important they not only gain practical, real-life experience in these job shadowing experiences, but they also begin to build and develop their professional network for future internship and job opportunities.”

Kaitlin Klinchock ’17 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and Emily Sabatino ’17 (Morgantown, West Virginia) joined LaRocca at Heinz Field, while Robert Hennings ’20 (Marietta, Ohio), Jack Hirschfield ’20 (Marietta, Ohio) and Brandon Larsen ’20 (Newport, Ohio) were with Mattson at WVU when the Mountaineers played Baylor.

“I’m a huge WVU fan, so I go to a lot of games and visit friends there,” Mattson said. “But I have completely different perspective now of how everything on game day comes together. The folks at WVU said they would invite us back for a basketball game, and I will definitely do that as well.”

Mattson wants to work on the financial side of athletics, but he took advantage of the opportunity so he could peak behind the curtain and see all of the moving parts.

“There were more than 500 people working that game,” he said. “The best part of the day was seeing how a lot of the things I learned in class happened right in front of me. I was dealing with it as it came, and not just talking about it in a class.”

Bender was at Notre Dame during a 34-31 loss to Virginia Tech on Nov. 19. Her two-day experience was packed with activities, ranging from the pep rally on Friday night, men’s basketball and hockey.

“It far exceeded any expectations I had,” she said. “Everyone at Notre Dame was awesome and fun to work with, and I’m going to apply in January for their internship program that I hope to do next year.”

Bender said in class at Marietta, Professor Smith worked with the students on a software program that helps develop a schedule for game-day events. Notre Dame used the same system.

“It got so frustrating in class, and I couldn’t figure out why it was necessary,” she said. “Then I got to the football game and they were using it and I saw how beneficial it was to keep everyone on schedule and in the right place.”

LaRocca’s experience with professional football was rewarding, and she hopes to get other opportunities in the future.

“I had never been to a professional football game before, and they had us working in guest services,” she said. “We didn’t know what to expect, and we learned a lot about how busy it is on game day.”

Smith said he has spoken with all of the students, and he is satisfied that the experiences were all valuable.

“Hands-on experience is an important part of doing sports management work,” he said. “We have plenty of opportunities at Marietta, but it’s also important for them to see and hear from other professionals in this industry.”