By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
Photos by Tim Winzeler
Beginning a career in sports business is sort of like playing the role of utility infielder or sixth man off the bench. It requires versatility, according to those in the biz.
Key staffers from the Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury spoke Tuesday at GCU Arena as part of a panel discussion about working in sports aimed at encouraging career development.
From sales and promotions to communications and marketing, there’s a range of jobs in sports business, and experienced professionals say it’s important to be willing to work in unfamiliar territory to remain open to the best future opportunities.
The discussion, organized by GCU’s Colangelo School of Sports Business, emphasized the impact of volunteering for experience and developing relationships across a range of sports business focuses. Part of the concept is to link students into job opportunities and expose them to potential employers.
Speakers on Tuesday suggested working in minor-league or collegiate sports to learn about the detailed machinery that makes up a pro sports team.
“You get that taste for everything, especially for people who haven’t pinpointed that interest yet,” said Eric Little, group sales manager for the Phoenix Suns and US Airways Center.
Little was hired out of his graduate sports business program by an expansion NBA Development League franchise in Portland, Maine, in his native New England. The team, eventually named the Maine Red Claws, gave him the opportunity to do everything from ticket sales to social media and helping to run the fledgling box office.
“You can get ownership of things … and run with a project that’s essential to the organization,” Little said.
Lesley Factor, director of public and community relations for the Mercury, told students she majored in journalism but soon discovered she enjoyed PR and helping develop community partnerships. She is one of three dedicated, year-round Mercury employees. Most of the team’s employees split time between the Suns and the WNBA sister team.
“You never know what you’re going to fall in love doing in the sports world,” Factor said.
Little and Factor were joined by Carlissa Henry, director of local sales-marketing partnerships for the Suns and Mercury, and by Kyle Hudson, director for account experience for the Suns and Mercury.
Dr. Brian Smith, director of the Colangelo School, said he would like to organize more similar sports business discussions on campus. He added that he was pleased that the intimate crowd of students had the opportunity to ask questions and speak directly with the visiting professionals.
“Our big focus is putting people with experience in the sports business world in front of our students,” Smith said.
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or [email protected].