With so many professional sports teams in Boston, it is no surprise that Boston University students oftentimes work for these teams. How can these part-time jobs translate into future careers in the sports industry?
Kyle Rohde, a sophomore in Boston University’s College of Communication, slathers both jiffy and jelly on two pieces of bread – just the way Kevin Garnett, power forward for the Boston Celtics, likes it.
For the past two years, Rohde has been a ball boy for the Boston Celtics. While peanut butter and jelly artisan may not be the most glamorous of titles, he does it happily in exchange for a wealth of perks and experiences that most students could never dream of.
“Before every home game I get to play knock out with Ray Allen,” said Rohde. “Every day it’s a new experience because of my interaction with the players, whether it’s the Celtics or the visiting team.”
BECOMING A BALL BOY
A ball boy gig with the Celtics cannot be found on Craigslist; in order to be considered you must know someone in the organization. Rohde said that his father got him the job because he has worked with the Celtics for the past 20 years coordinating travel for various NBA and NHL teams.
“I’ve been a Celtics fan my whole life,” Rohde said. “A lot of people know I’m the ball boy and criticize me for not being from Boston. But growing up I got to interact with this team a lot and follow them because of my dad’s job.”
Despite his familiarity with the team, Rohde’s experience as the Celtics’ ball boy has given him new and interesting insight into the sports’ world of business and media.
Rohde began his career at BU intending to major in broadcast sports journalism, but after working with the Celtics, his career goals shifted.
“The media is on the outside looking in, while I’m on the inside looking out.” Rohde said. “I’m part of the organization. I would have a hard time dealing with it if I had to go to the other side. I’ve seen the media beg to talk to players, and it just feels really fake to me.”
After adding a minor in business administration from the School of Management, Rohde said that he sees himself continuing his work with the Celtics after graduation. He said he hopes that it will lead to a lifelong career.
“This isn’t something that I take for granted,” Rohde said. “I used to be that fan who would go to games and watch players walk out of the locker rooms and be amazed at how close I was. Now I see fans that cry when Rondo gives them a high five. In my head I think, ‘that’s weird, I know him personally,’ but then I have to remind myself that this is not normal.”
Having witnessed NBA play-off games milestones such as Paul Pierce breaking Larry Bird’s scoring record,and Ray Allen becoming the all-time leading 3-point shooter, Rohde has gotten to see Celtics fans in their element.
“I couldn’t believe how passionate they are for their sports teams. It’s through thick and thin. They criticize the team, but they’re always there to back them up,” he said.
COM Junior Christopher Walker can attest to the unique breed that is Boston sports fans.
“I am a Boston sports fan, but even I know how crazy they can be,” Walker said. “They’re ride or die, not bandwagon. That’s where the respect comes from, because even when the teams are bad, there is still a strong and loyal fan base.”
COM Junior Stephanie Madison said she has also experienced an unforgettable side of Boston sports fans.
“My first game that I worked I saw a fight at the T-station between two girls: a Bruins’ fan and Canadians’ fan,” Madison said. “People like to get rowdy at those games.”
As a sales intern for the Boston Bruins hockey team, Madison, a native New Yorker, says working for the team and experiencing the fans may have “tilted” her views in favor of her adopted city.
“I see them as very passionate, die-hard and loyal fans, which is all you can ask for from a fan-base,” Madison said. “That’s why they have so many people who dislike them—because they are so passionate and care so much about their teams. Before this internship, hockey was probably the sport I was least passionate about. Now it’s hockey 24/7 on all fronts of life, and I love it.”
AHEAD OF THE GAME
Like Rohde, Madison’s work with the Bruins has helped her to formulate a clearer idea of her career path. With an interest in event planning for home games, Madison sees her internship as a great stepping stone.
“It’s a very good aspect of having an internship at this point in my college career because you’re at their disposal. They know you, and they trust that you’ll do well at it if they choose to hire you. I’ve already met people in the operations department, and I’ve learned so much,” she said.
Madison’s responsibilities with the team range from fan relations, research, group sales and even hosting team events. Her working relationship with her fellow interns and her passion for the team has translated into an unforgettable working environment as they all share a love and dedication to the team in all aspects of their lives, she said.
“Since I’m not 21, everyone was wondering how I was going to drink out of the Stanley Cup trophy when we win,” Madison said. “It’s just the best atmosphere, and every day I feel like it can’t get better, and it does.”
Through her experience as an intern Madison, similar to Rohde, has discovered her passion for the sports business, which she hopes to turn into a future career.
“When you grow up you hear that if you like what you do you’ll be good at it. I can’t wake up for a class and get there by 1 p.m., but I manage to wake up and get to the Garden at 9 a.m. every Friday no problem, which is a really big sign that I love doing it,” Madison said.
COM Junior Christina Valle agrees that a love for sports translates into a love for your career if they are one and the same.
“It would be a sick experience. I’m a huge sports fan, so if I interned for one of my favorite teams, then I would enjoy coming to my internship every day,” Valle said.
It is exactly this “love” that COM professor of Public Relations Steven Quigley said is necessary to survive and succeed in the sports business.
“There’s a very limited supply of jobs in professional sports and there is a large demand for those jobs,” Quigley said via email. “As a result, competition is intense. If you think about it, there are very few professional sports teams as compared to other ‘industries.’ It’s a bit like wanting to be a movie star. There are relatively few major movies made every year and lot of people who want to be in them.”
While a career in sports PR is both rigorous and difficult to attain, Quigley said that those who are truly committed to the job should not be deterred. Marketing and publicizing a team with such a legendary sports culture surrounding it can be a blessing or a curse.
“New Englanders have an almost religious connection to the team and its history. A visit to Fenway is like visiting a shrine,” Quigley said.
Can’t get enough Boston sports? Check out our blog http://freepblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/how-to-say-no-to-nose-bleed/