Photos courtesy of Jackie Rice.
While most students were trickling back onto campus last fall for yet another semester of classes, senior Jackie Rice ventured out to the City of Brotherly Love to embark on perhaps one of the most valuable and beneficial learning experiences of all: an internship.
Rice, a sport management major and Maine native, chose to do her 480-hour required internship from September 2011 to January 2012. With a passionate interest for a career in the professional sports industry, Rice decided to do her internship with the Philadelphia Flyers organization with a concentrated focus on marketing.
“I am interested in professional sports,” said Rice, “not necessarily hockey, but anything I can get hands-on experience with. I knew the Flyers organization is very well known, so I knew it was going to be my best bet to go with them.”
Although the Springfield College sport management department plays an instrumental role in assisting students with internship opportunities via their extensive network, Rice had a personal connection with the Flyers. One of her friends knew Peter Luukko, the President and Chief Operation Officer of Comcast-Spectacor. The company owns the Philadelphia Flyers and manages the Wells Fargo Center as well as several community skating rinks around the Philadelphia and New Jersey area, known as Flyers Skate Zones.
Rice, a marketing intern, had several responsibilities not only for the Flyers, but for the Flyers Skate Zones. One of her daily tasks was to design fliers that promoted events at the Flyer Skate Zones such as open skates, local youth tournaments and figure skating. Rice also had to upload these fliers onto the Skate Zone website, which was a brand new skill that she had to learn from the IT department. Surprisingly, Rice’s supervisor, who was the Marketing Coordinator for the Flyers, allowed her to learn and develop her skills on the fly rather than teaching them to her directly.
Rice, however, had outside guidance from Professor Kathryn Shea of the sport management department, who was assigned to be her internship advisor. Shea would call Rice at the beginning of every week to touch base and discuss how the internship was going.
“She figured it out,” said Shea. “That’s another advantage of an internship because you’re going to be asked to do so many different things that you’ve never been asked to do before.”
“I had full range of a lot of responsibilities,” said Rice. “My supervisor basically threw me in the deep end and said ‘go.’ I thought this was better, though, because I actually learned rather than sitting back and watching someone else do it.”
This empowering management style that Rice utilized provided a positive learning experience and seemed to have the same impact on the full-time employees in the office that she worked in.
“The organization culture of the office was pretty laid back,” said Rice. “I was surprised but not in a bad way. Everyone was very friendly and seemed like they were having a fun time. At times, they were stressed out, but for the most part, everyone seemed very relaxed.”
Despite this laid-back environment, Rice had a grueling work schedule that truly challenged her. In addition to working in the marketing office five days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., she worked Flyer game days running a table set up to promote the Flyer Skate Zone. She clocked in approximately 600 hours over her five-month internship period.
Another challenge that immediately arose upon her arrival in Philadelphia was her living arrangements. Rice found a 10-girl apartment that had an opening for one more right on the outskirts of the University of Pennsylvania. Adapting to these new living conditions was difficult at first, but Rice was able to settle in nicely and also explored the beautiful city of Philadelphia during her free time.
Among her favorite moments during her internship was training camp, autograph day and the 2012 Winter Classic, which took place on an outdoor ice rink setup in Citizens Bank Park.
“Training camp was the first week of my internship,” said Rice. “I’ve never been a part of training camp so it was awesome to see it from the beginning to the end.”
Autograph day, where Flyers’ players sign merchandise for each organizational department, was another tantalizing moment that Rice will never forget.
“I got to meet the whole team. All of them had to come to our table and sign at least one thing,” said Rice. “I got to meet Claude Giroux, which was unbelievable because he’s so well-known. I also met Danny Briere. It was amazing to meet them and see their personalities off the ice.”
Rice was also involved in some of the marketing facets involved in the 2012 Winter Classic. One of her best memories was offering the marketing department her own feedback on a commercial that was being produced for the Winter Classic game featuring the Flyers’ affiliate team, the Phantoms, playing the Washington Capitals’ affiliate team, the Hershey Bears.
“I got to see the commercial from the beginning to the end and I was able to give my input. We went down to the editing room, and I was actually able to see the whole thing before it was even aired.”
Without a doubt, Rice gained incalculable firsthand experience in the field that she wants to pursue. Although she would ideally like to work in the NBA, she understands how tough it is to acquire a job in today’s market.
“Now since I have the connection they know who I am,” Rice said. “I definitely would apply for a job because I already have my foot in the door, and it would give me a bump ahead of other people applying for a job there.”
Professor Shea also stressed the importance of having connections in the field upon graduating from college.
“With sport management, it’s not necessarily who you know, it’s who knows you. By being able to make an impression with someone in the field, you’ll have a better shot to be recommended for a future job.”
Matt Vaghi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org