Students in the NDSU Sport Management program recently had a learning opportunity of a lifetime: They volunteered at the 2019 National Football League draft.
A total of 23 students traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to help manage the NFL Draft Experience, located outside Nissan Stadium. Their assignment was to keep fans entertained through virtual reality stations, football target tosses, field goal kicking contests and autograph tables.
This is the second year in a row NDSU students have volunteered for the event.
“Sport management is a varied degree, from youth activities all the way to the professional level,” said Tyler Tracy, program coordinator and lecturer of sport management. “My goal is to get students into the industry while they’re still in school. They need to find out what they want to do, and trips like this are a great way to help them do that.”
The NDSU students saw first-hand how a huge event is organized; the NFL draft attracts more than 100,000 fans per day. In addition, the students had a chance to network with people from across the country.
“Volunteering with the NFL Draft has really prepared me for the sports world once I graduate,” said Mollee Byer, a senior sport management major from Frazee, Minnesota, who hopes to work in marketing or communications for an NFL or National Hockey League team. “I made connections with other volunteers, interacted with fans and learned of what it takes to put on a successful event. It was truly a trip and experience of a lifetime."
Students were responsible for providing a positive atmosphere for the fans, so there was a lot of contact with the public. They honed skills in customer service, learned about working in a sport environment and experienced the long hours many of them will have during their upcoming careers.
“The experience of volunteering for the NFL Draft the past two years is something I will never forget,” said Thomas McClenahen, a senior majoring in sport management from Mayville, North Dakota. His career goal is to be a high school or collegiate athletic director.
“Being able to witness the amount of time devoted to planning, organizing, leading, and controlling an event with a magnitude of this was beneficial to not only myself, but all of my peers,” McClenahen said. “My favorite part of this experience was interacting with football fans of all ages. Seeing the joy of young children and the smiles of their parents and family members made our efforts as volunteers well worth it.”
The Sport Management program is always looking for memorable, real-world learning opportunities. Tracy and his students are already considering where to volunteer next year.