Play Ball: Stepping Up to the Pro Sports Plate: Preparing Students for Careers in Professional Sports

Article excerpt

SO HERE WE ARE, SAME OLD story, stuck waiting for our NBA and NCAA colleagues to fly in to O'Hare for our planned press conference on a dreary winter afternoon in Chicago.

Kicking back at the newsstand, we eye this week's tabloid revealing the latest expose facing pro sports, college athletics and the fans who love to watch their favorite teams live and on TV. The headlines spotlight Congress's fascination with performance doping--Who knew what? When? Will Clemens and Bonds make the MLB Hall of Fame or at least, as some have suggested, make the Hall of Fame with asterisks placed next to their names?

Below the fold is another story on Belichick's "Spygate" blues. One wonders more and more what impact these scandals will have on the next generation of sports management students, faculty, and future pro sports leaders.

A POSITIVE CURVEBALL ON SCANDAL

Paradoxical though it may seem, our baseball background intelligence tells us this latest rash of scandals has had a significant positive impact--stimulating a constructive conversation on campus about public integrity, reputation, and real-life lessons learned by both pro sports teams and college and university sports management programs across the nation.

For many within the ivory tower, history will record the performance-enhancing drug culture depicted in the Mitchell Report as the Enron of contemporary pro sports ethics. Just as the Enron scandal still reverberates in business school case studies and curricula around the globe, we predict that the steroid scandal will likely influence the way sports management students learn to conduct business in the new world of professional sports and collegiate athletics.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

On campus, sports management curricula will place a heavy emphasis on ethical values, corporate behavior, and fiduciary obligations. Carol Barr, past president of the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM), suggests, "These real-world examples will no doubt invigorate discussion and enrich the learning possibilities for students' future careers in sport or anywhere." Dramatic changes will not occur overnight, as a new cadre of sports management students will debate these ethical dilemmas and bring their fresh perspectives into the classrooms--while learning the business of sports through internships, seminars, and assigned research projects.

The other upside of the current conversation focuses on the important new role of PSI--you heard correctly, PSI and not CSI--that is, Pro Sports Investigation. Already, the evolving athletic trainer curriculum will contain new didactic and clinical learning experiences in the fields of pharmacology, forensics, and bioinformatics.

NEW LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

Pro sports are witnessing an economic rebirth. As a result, new pro sports career employment and marketing opportunities have grown exponentially. Today, college and university sports management programs are proliferating--and creating more meaningful opportunities for students to engage in all aspects of professional sports management, athletic training, and sports medicine.

Consider the University of Massachusetts Lowell, located in an industrial city on the banks of the Merrimack River and the co-developer of LeLacheur Park, which the Lowell Spinners, a Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, call home. Nearby Tsongas Arena is host to an American Hockey League affiliate, the Lowell Devils.

The institution's love affair with hockey and baseball extends well beyond seats in the stadium. At the UMass Lowell Baseball Research Center, students and faculty are using highly specialized science and engineering technologies to improve baseball bat performance and durability. The center, located within UML's Department of Mechanical Engineering, also serves as a bat testing and certification center for professional and collegiate baseball. …