Internships give sport management students a foot in the door — and on the sidelines
Mizzou student Cory Steinman (right), a senior studying sport management, prepares for an Atlanta Falcons game with fellow intern Sam Friedman. The eight-month NFL internship is designed to prepare students for careers in the business of sports.
The Atlanta Falcons are one of the NFL’s top teams this season. Former Tigers football standouts Sean Weatherspoon, William Moore and Chase Coffman are contributing to that success on the field.
Behind the scenes, another Tiger is doing his part. Cory Steinman is in the midst of an eight-month internship with the team’s ticket sales office, an opportunity made possible through MU’s Sport Management Program.
While the program is in only its second year, students already are making their marks throughout the sports world in internships with professional teams.
Steinman, a senior at Mizzou, began his internship in July and will remain with the team through March. He is taking online courses while gaining a real-life work experience in his field of study. He plans to graduate in May.
During a normal week, Steinman is busy selling tickets and making preparations for the next Falcons game. Game day duties consist of escorting season-ticket holders to the field to watch pregame warm-ups and making sure all ticketing issues are addressed.
“I try to help out in whatever department I'm needed so I can gain the most from this experience,” Steinman says.
Steinman isn't just gaining experience; he's also networking in a profession he hopes to join.
“The connections I'm making are going to help carry me to whatever job is next,” he says. “The more connections I can make, the better.”
He has become accustomed to staying late and working hard, a common theme for those employed in the sports business.
“Cory has always been someone who would volunteer to help wherever it is needed,” says Nick Watanabe, assistant professor of sport management at MU. “An experience like he is getting in Atlanta is a perfect way for him to polish his skills and prepare himself for a career in sport management.”
Steinman and his brother, graduates of Liberty High School near Kansas City, grew up playing hockey, which has led to an interest in the business of hockey.
“I would like to maybe own an ice rink,” Steinman says, “and be able to provide what I had growing up to others.”
For now, he is enjoying Atlanta and his internship with the Falcons. He says that if given an opportunity to stay with the organization following the internship, he would take the offer.
The Falcons are just one sports organization that employs Mizzou students as interns. Other NFL teams, such as the Kansas City Chiefs, have MU students on staff. Mizzou is also represented in the front office of Major League Baseball and with several Minor League Baseball teams.
Venues such as the Sprint Center in Kansas City also have MU sport management interns, as does Mizzou Athletics and several sports organizations in the Columbia community.
“We want to provide an educational environment for future sport management professionals through these authentic experiences,” Watanabe says. “Internships are a great way for students to put their knowledge and skills to work and learn what they need to do in order to succeed in the sports world.”
In just its second year, the sport management emphasis has more than doubled, to 430 students, since August 2011. The program is offered through the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and covers topics such as the business and economics of sports and the governance and legal aspects of the industry.
Like father, like son
While Steinman is in his last year at Mizzou, freshman Derek Koetter is just beginning his experience with the Sport Management Program. The connections between Mizzou and the Atlanta Falcons extend to Koetter, whose dad, Dirk, a former assistant coach for the Tigers football team, is the Falcons’ offensive coordinator.
Dirk Koetter coached for the Tigers from 1989 to 1993. Derek was born in Columbia during his dad’s stint with Mizzou, but the family moved when he was just two months old, after Dirk took a coaching job at Boston College.
Derek Koetter chose to attend Mizzou because of the opportunities that were available. The sport management emphasis area at MU may give him the chance to follow in his dad’s footsteps.
“I am obviously interested in the [sport management] industry because of my dad,” he says. “I have grown up being a part of different universities through him. I don't exactly know where I want to focus my attention, but as of now I just want to learn about all the different parts of the industry.”
MU is providing that opportunity and, as other students before him have seen, will give him the chance to work with professionals in the field while he works toward his degree.
“Already, I have learned that a big part of this industry is networking and the connections you make with people,” he says.
The Mizzou connection
The success of the Falcons is obviously positive for the Koetter family. The same can be said for Weatherspoon, Moore and Coffman.
Meanwhile, Steinman has enjoyed the benefits of working with a winner. “Winning makes all of our jobs easier,” he says.
Earlier this year, Steinman ran into Moore in the team offices and couldn’t resist and shouted ‘M-I-Z’.’ Moore followed with the customary reply.
“He was more than happy to talk with me and trade some Mizzou stories,” Steinman says.
Now, they both have stories about being with the Falcons they can share, along with those stories about MU.