The University of Connecticut’s annual Sport Business Conference was held on Feb. 19, 2023 at McHugh Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The conference featured panelists speaking about name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation, which details on how students should receive financial compensation through promotional opportunities. Panelists also discussed Title IX, a law passed in 1972 which states that “no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any academic, extracurricular, research, occupational training, or other education program or activity.” Some panelists featured were ESPN investigative reporter Tisha Thompson, speaking on Title IX, and Eric Scatamacchia, director of NIL Business Operations at NBC Sports Group.
The event also featured a variety of workshops attendees could choose from. The two workshops I participated in were Communication and Operations. In the communication workshop, my group and I brainstormed how we could better promote sports teams and what the teams should post on their social media in order to increase their fanbase and fan engagement. In the operations workshop, my team and I visualized how we would create a new sports facility and what amenities and features it would have in order to maximize capital for that sports team as well as maximize fan participation.
I am a communication major studying to one day become a journalist. I thought I was positive in aspiring to be a newscaster or reporter for a news station such as NBC Connecticut. However, attending this conference made me realize that the field of journalism spans so much greater and that I have time to explore my possibilities before setting in stone what I want as a profession.
Prior to attending, I thought I was foolish in participating, considering that I do not follow or engage with any team or sports league/association. Brainstorming ideas on how we can better represent sports teams on social media with my peers, I was only able to suggest broad ideas, such as how the players could show more about their personal lives, hold charity events or even post their game highlights. My peers mentioned the Connecticut Sun basketball lineup and suggested that in order to increase their fan following, they should recruit graduating or graduated women from the UConn basketball team. They knew the players of the Sun in detail, how the team performed the prior season, what they can expect from this season and more.
It is fair to say that I did much more listening than sharing my opinion. I really did want to learn more about the tasks, thought process and day-to-day of those working in the realm of the sports industry, from branding, to operations, to journalism.
Ms. Thompson then discussed the history of the Title IX law, how she believes it impacted her in her career and what more work needs to be done regarding equal gender representation. She mentioned her transition from being an anchor and reporter at WPSD-TV in Paducah, Ky., and investigative reporter in Washington, D.C., for WTTG-TV to being an investigative reporter for ESPN. Listening to her story gave me information and inspiration that I can apply in my personal and soon-professional life.
Attending networking/workshopping events can expose you to new ideas and inspire you to explore new fields you might have never thought were an option. Not only did I receive words of wisdom from Ms. Thompson, this experience gave me hope that I am not limited to the one type of journalism I imagined myself doing. I can now apply the skills practiced during each conference to my classes as well.
Networking is absolutely detrimental for everyone no matter what field they are in or what they are studying for. You can never have enough knowledge and human connections, and networking is the building block for these two life assets. Through this, you may also find out what other strengths you possess, discover different experiences and make the best job selection for yourself. I entered the conference barely knowing anything about sports and left with an understanding of which teams are the most popular, what assets make them popular, what increases a team’s fan base and how operations work to create more effective and engaging facilities. All this was made possible through the power of collaboration, listening to professionals and workshopping to apply and experiment with those skills.