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Published: March 01, 2023

Sport Management Majors Gain Firsthand Experience With Lightning

For students looking to work in professional sports, opportunities abound in Tampa.

At least three University of Tampa students are learning this first-hand by interning this season with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Sport Management Majors Gain Firsthand Experience With LightningBrendan Toole ’23 (left) and Jake Schaefer ’23 (right) are interning with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season. Photo by Andrew McDougall '23

Jake Schaefer ’23 and Brendan Toole ’23, both sport management majors, are working for the professional hockey team’s analytics department in jobs they learned about from assistant teaching professor of sports management Michael Flynn.

Flynn sends a weekly email to his students that lists sports job openings. 

The email “totally changed the course for the future,” Schaefer said.

He initially had an interest in marketing and market research, Schaefer said,  but his overriding goal was to obtain an internship with the Lightning, so he jumped at the chance to work in the analytics department. 

Toole, too, shifted his focus when the Lightning opportunity came up, dropping another internship he had previously secured in favor of working in one of his favorite sports.

Both Toole and Schaefer said they have played hockey their whole lives, which comes in handy now. Their day-to-day includes watching game film and breaking down things that happened. They also do video analyzing and video tracking, marking certain things for statistical analysts.

They can’t speak in too much detail about the processes, they said, careful not to give another team an advantage.

“You don’t want to give away what you’re doing well,” Toole added. 

Their time with the Lightning is giving them real-world experience in a specific field, yet both Toole and Schaefer have big-picture outlooks on future opportunities. 

After graduation, Schaefer hopes to either remain doing analytics for hockey or work in project management for an outdoor company.

“I don’t want to limit myself to sports or hockey,” he said.

Schaefer would tell other students to “try to find something meaningful to you.” If you want to work in sports, he advises not to shut down any opportunity, whether that be ticketing, volunteering or interning.

Over At The Arena

Lauren Johns ’23 started interning at Amalie Arena in January, where the Lightning play, as a part-time sales associate intern.

Sport Management Majors Gain Firsthand Experience With LightningLauren Johns ’23 started interning at Amalie Arena in January as a part-time sales associate intern. Photo by Andrew McDougall '23

She’s learning about buying processes, warehouse operations, e-comm operations, staffing, store operations, merchandising, inventory, sales goals and concert operations.

At first, she didn’t think this was the exact job she wanted, but she knew she wanted to work in professional sports. She talked to Flynn about it.

“He reassured me that this may not be a direct path to my future, but it is a side road that I should take to acquire new skills and make connections that will help me in the future,” said Johns, a sport management major with a business administration minor.

“I knew how amazing the Lightning organization was and their reputation in the industry that would help my resume stand out.”

Through her position, Johns learned she works well in a team and likes to be creative.

“I like when goals are set and there is a supportive team to motivate me to reach those goals,” she said.

After graduation Johns hopes to work for a professional sports team in Philadelphia. She doesn’t have a specific team in mind.

For those hoping to gain an experience like Johns’, she said to make sure the connections that you make while networking are meaningful.

Speaking to someone who does the job every day really helps you get an idea of what a “day in the life” is like, she said.

“I feel that informational interviews have really helped me decide what I want to do.”

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