I was struck yesterday with a glimpse at the somewhat forgotten plight of the young, aspiring sports business professional. While currently teaching an introductory sport management class through a partnership with a local high school, I have a group of 19 students, very bright, and very young, with dreams of working in the sports industry.
These kids are younger than young. They are still in high school! And they have given up a few weeks of their summer vacation to take a class for three hours a day while most of their friends are sleeping in, at the pool, or on the beach. I am not so sure I would be this ambitious myself when I was 15-16 years old.
Of course much of my daily discussion focuses on opportunity, how to create it, what is a network, what it means to build one, how to connect with people in the sports business, the importance of using social media the "right way" and all of the same things that many of us know, and tell others on a regular basis when given the chance.
Yesterday morning, one of my students came over to tell me that he had met Ed Snider, the Chairman of Comcast and the Philadelphia Flyers, at an event the night before. He was invited to the event based on his participation in Ed Snider's Youth Hockey Foundation in Philadelphia, and took advantage of the exposure to so many Comcast and Flyers executives to take some of my advice to heart, and work the room. This young man even told me that he already had business cards and passed them out to everyone he met. Extra points. He was beaming as he told me that some of the Flyers executives chatted with him, and encouraged him to "keep in touch". I do not think this kid's feet had touched the ground since the night before. He was elated.
And so, it made me think... Do we mean what we say? For those of us that have been fortunate to carve out careers that many others envy, in an industry that is entertainment for countless others, are we genuinely reaching back and supporting those that want to do what it is we currently do?
This young man, barely able to drive a car, is doing the right things. He is involved, engaged, already developing a clean professional brand on social media, taking advantage of opportunities, and confidently going up to anyone and introducing himself and asking to learn more about what they do. He is alert in class, thinks about the topics we discuss, and asks insightful questions. He is a sponge, and probably at times, a little naive, simply due to his age.
He showed me the business cards he had collected, and I noticed that he follows professionals on Twitter, and he told me that he plans to maintain the connection, as the professionals requested that he "stay in touch". And I paused to think about the younger version of myself, when I was just as eager and green, looking for any opportunity, any break to fall in my favor. I remembered those few people that really delivered on what they said to me. The people that gave me their card, and then answered a letter or phone call a few weeks later when I mustered the courage to reach out, ask for an informational interview, or find any excuse to contact them, just so they might remember me.
And then I thought about the professional that I am today. Would I be that person who fulfills those words "keep in touch", and does not just say them, in an effort to end a conversation and move on to something else? If I am fortunate enough to ever have that type of impact on a young person, who aspires to do what I have so fortunately been able to do, will I take it as seriously as I hoped others would, when I was just starting out?
This young man has no idea how he may have impacted me.