By Chris Gionta
Experience is an immeasurable value to a student looking to advance in their intended career. Sports management major and Springfield College junior, Gus Saint-Fort, knows that very well. He has already been involved with Fenway Sports Management and the NBA Future Sales Stars, and he is currently doing an internship with USA Football.
However, this was not always the plan for him.
Of course, everyone has their dreams and aspirations early on. Saint-Fort grew up in Hyde Park – a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. He played football throughout high school and had a dream of going pro in the sport.
“When I was in high school, I think I thought I was going to be a professional football player,” said Saint-Fort, smiling. “So I guess that was my aspiration for sport, But I never really knew I wanted to work in sports until I got to Springfield College.”
He came into Springfield College undeclared as a first-year student. Despite not knowing the exact direction he was going in, Saint-Fort made sure to make a good impression for himself.
“Gus is someone who leaves an imprint everywhere he goes,” said Heather Gilmour, a professor in the sports management program. “He always came to class early. Every single class he showed up early. He sat right in front, he would take notes, he was actively engaged, he was always laughing and smiling, and he introduced himself to me on the very first day of class with a handshake.”
When Saint-Fort finally declared for a sports management major, he had goals in mind to ensure his direction.
“I kind of thought that I wanted to end up working with the football team, maybe in operations or sales, and I kind of still have those interests,” said Saint-Fort. “Those kinds of industries; operations and sales were the two that I kind of wanted to end up in.”
And so he got to work, and he has been able to land many opportunities because of his work within the program. In terms of sales, he was outstanding enough to be involved with the NBA Future Sales Stars.
After finding the program simply by scrolling through LinkedIn and being able to join, Saint-Fort has now developed connections within the industry and learned valuable skills.
“We all come together usually on Thursdays,” said Saint-Fort. “It’s a big call where we’re learning about partnership, sponsorship and ticket sales from sales professionals within the NBA.”
What Saint-Fort has especially appreciated in his time at NBA Future Sales Stars is delving into areas he has yet to explore in-depth.
“It’s been really cool just learning about sponsorship and partnership. It was something that I wasn’t really too knowledgeable about before starting that program, but through that program, I’ve been able to network with a lot of professionals within the NBA, and also network with my peers – seniors and people that have already graduated college that are still young and hungry, and going into entry-level positions in their careers.”
Of course, Saint-Fort has a lot to be thankful for as well, and he knows that whole-heartedly.
“I think just all the professors at Springfield College, especially Dr. Gilmour (have been particularly helpful). She was the first professor I ever had in sports management. So when I was coming in as a freshman, she was always talking to me after class. And that’s why she’s my advisor, because when I was declaring my major, she was already with me and we were already having these conversations.”
Gilmour is not the only influential professor in the sports management program. Each of them are focused on providing their students with the best possible opportunity for advancement in the field.
“[Dr. Borland] was very influential as well. I had him last year for a couple of classes and we had a lot of conversations about the future, and him challenging me as a student is something that I’m really grateful for as well. It kind of made a better student and a person as a whole,” Saint-Fort said. “Professor Accorsi as well, I feel like everyone says this, but he really is someone I’m grateful for. All he’s done for me and all he’s done for the different students within the major is just something really powerful.”
Saint-Fort would not be able to advance this quickly in the industry without his determination and skill-set, of course. But, the Springfield College sports management program made sure to put him in a great position to succeed. Heather Gilmour talked about what the sports management program does to ensure that people like Saint-Fort are able to succeed.
“Students in sports management are really introduced to the program early on with experiential components,” said Gilmour.
She talked about how first-year students take an event management course in their first semester, and contribute to Hoophall, which is an event that is normally hosted annually by Springfield College that brings some of the best high school basketball teams to Alden Street.
“First-year students in the program are really introduced to a high level of professionalism pretty early on,” said Gilmour. “And they get to see what some of their colleagues have started doing within the program in that very first semester.”
Hoophall is often the launching pad for students in the sports management program as it leads to more experiential opportunities.
“We talk through the advising model here within the program about how the students need to really start to get involved, volunteer, and get as much experience as they can to build their resumes,” said Gilmour. “So that by the time they apply for an actual 12-credit internship, they have some relevant skills and job experience to help them get that internship that they want.”
Saint-Fort clearly followed this model and went beyond it. His ability to work in the program has landed him some great opportunities. Additionally, the attitude of getting involved and volunteering spoken about in the advising model translated into Saint-Fort’s efforts. Just by him scrolling through LinkedIn, he found a way to network with professionals within the NBA.
Through these experiences, he has been able to learn a lot. Not only has he learned about the business, but also how to conduct himself within the industry.
“I think the biggest takeaway – and I kind of heard this from every internship that I’ve done – is just be yourself and be natural,” said Saint-Fort. “Especially with sales, I feel like when I was first thinking about sales, I thought you had to turn on a sales voice or something like that, and try to be someone you’re not. But, what I’ve learned especially from the NBA Future Sales Stars, is that it’s better to be authentic, and being authentic will lead to authentic sales.”
Already taking the lead in managing his own future, Saint-Fort looks forward to how he will be able to translate all he has learned through experience and in the classroom into the world of sports.
Photo Courtesy of Gus Saint-Fort