On March 22nd, a panel of six Nichols alumni shared the sundry routes they have taken to notable positions in the sports industry, from the National Basketball Association to the New Balance athletic footwear company. For an attentive audience of Sport Management majors in Daniels Auditorium, the evening provided a crash course in making their own way into a highly competitive field.
The panelists—Jessica Burke Vassall ’03, Jesse Plouffe ’03, Meaghan Larkin ’07, Eric Foster ’08, Chris Santoro ’08, and Will McClaran ’08—all noted that they were propelled by high-profile internships while at Nichols and the “stick-to-it” approach that’s required in the sports world.
McClaran and Santoro both interned with the New York Knicks basketball team at Madison Square Garden, a location where more than 40 Nichols Sport Management majors have found internships over the past decade with either the Knicks or the Rangers hockey team.
“I landed a job afterwards with the Miami Heat in inside ticket sales,” Santoro continued, adding by way of advice, “You have to do what you can to get your name out there. Ask yourself what will make you stand out. You’ll be competing with thousands of people for jobs in this industry.”
“Don’t be afraid to relocate,” urged McClaran, who was hired as a communications associate working with the media for the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets. “Moving down to New Orleans was a very big car ride for me. You might not be willing to move thousands of miles across the county, but someone else will.”
“I would do a million internships if I could. Take as many as you can get,” added Larkin, who did just that as an undergraduate—ranging from the Worcester Sharks hockey team and the DCU Center, Worcester’s main sports arena, to the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Boston Red Sox (where she helped plan owner John Henry’s wedding).
An Array of Career Options
Larkin went on to her current position as Catering Sales Manager at Aramark, which provides food services at Fenway park and major league stadiums and arenas around the country. She and other members of the panel pointed to their present jobs as evidence that there is more than team-based employment available in the sports world.
“There are skills you can transfer to other industries,” McClaran emphasized, including his own marketing/communication work for an orthopedic medical group specializing in sports medicine.
Plouffe and Vassal, meanwhile, have established themselves at Boston-based New Balance, he as a footwear developer responsible for new models and she as a marketing manager working with the company’s online advertising and creative services.
The panelists also took questions from the audience and met afterwards with groups of students at round tables in the back of the hall. Vassall—who interned at Sports Illustrated magazine while an undergraduate—reminded the students clustered at her table about a tried-and-true approach in almost all professional fields: “Networking is the best thing you can do,” she emphasized. “I still stay in touch with my boss from Sports Illustrated.”