Written by Athletics Communications Student Assistant Casey Henderson
HARRISONBURG, Va., April 24, 2012- They dazzle on the field, court and track. They are elite athletes and among the top-ranked in Division I sports. They love the ins-and-outs of athletics so much that they have dedicated a semester or more to working the games they love.
Several James Madison varsity athletes are preparing to work in sports when their careers as athletes are over. In the offseason, they work in some area of sports, typically within JMU athletics, that interests them. It's not unusual since the sports environment is one they were surrounded by their whole life. And with opportunities for students to get involved in JMU athletics in a variety of ways, working in sports is a more viable option for student-athletes.
Often, athletes know even before stepping foot onto JMU's campus that the sports industry is what they want to do. Others aren't as sure. Redshirt junior Brian Barlow didn't know what he wanted to do when he signed on to play football for the Dukes, but was immediately drawn in by the sports and recreation management program. In four years, he has become an asset within the JMU athletics department. He spent a semester as an Athletics Marketing assistant and currently serves as a JMU Duke Club intern. He credits his professors for first sparking his interest in the business side of sports, specifically kinesiology professor Cara McFadden. All the professors in the program offered a unique perspective on the sports industry while keeping their curriculum congruous with each other. They were all influential on Barlow, but he did admit, "Alyssa Bosley would have to be my favorite!"
Like Barlow, senior track and field athlete Adrena May didn't know what she wanted to do when she came to college. She took a different approach and chose diverse fields of study that would give her more options as she sorted through her interests. She is a communication studies major and has a double minor in French and criminal justice. She says that track at JMU "has opened many doors for me as well as given me initiative to seek out different sports communication related activities." Dr. Stone's PR Writing I course first got her interested in athletics and she is currently pursuing admittance into JMU's sports and recreation leadership graduate program.
May will pursue her education further before stepping out in the work place, but others will rely on their experiences to set them apart in the future. "This was important for me to get experience working before I graduate so I have confidence and experience of working in a sports job before entering another," stated redshirt senior lacrosse goalkeeper Alex Menghetti. The kinesiology major hopes to work for a high-end sports company and is already seeing a lot of openings in the job market. After five seasons playing lacrosse, in which she's had 91 appearances in goal, along with working in the Marketing and Promotions department, Menghetti is excited to enter the workplace and share her passion for sports.
That passion isn't hard to come by considering the staff in JMU athletics. Although Danielle Erb has always dreamed of working for ESPN, she couldn't deny the contagious enthusiasm of her sports broadcasting professor and the Director of Multimedia Communications, Curt Dudley. "I highly admire Curt Dudley," she explained. "His knowledge and dedication is just mind-blowing. He is very passionate about what he does." Although only a junior, Erb is putting in the work now to be a top candidate for the nation's top sports network. She spent this past basketball season as a sideline reporter for MadiZONE and also co-hosts the Dukes Sports Center program. She says, "I feel the more experience you have, the more desirable you are for employers. The job market is still struggling and the more you do to distinguish yourself among the rest, the better your chances are for becoming successful."
For all these athletes, working in sports has been a very eye-opening experience. The sidelines are a web of activity that often goes unnoticed by athletes who are focusing on their competition. Senior tennis player Leah DeMasters was surprised when she first learned the complexities of her role in multimedia and marketing during events. "As an athlete, I never knew everything that went into a match or a game. All the planning and organization is remarkable. I now understand that without numerous amounts of people, athletes would not be able to do what they do. It really makes you appreciate everyone and everything that gets put into an event." DeMasters is a media arts and design major, with a concentration in digital video and cinema. She hopes to work with video production in the sports industry post-graduation. For her, the job search is arduous, but she maintains optimistic and confident that her education and experiences at JMU will enable her to find work. But she does hope "that it will never feel like work to me!"
JMU has provided many collegiate athletes with a greater perspective of the sports industry. From the classroom to the office, JMU athletes have spent time away from their already hectic practice, game and meet schedules to take a closer look into an athletics career away from the competition. Across the board, they all agreed that what made their time in JMU athletics worthwhile were the people. "The love and passion that the department put into their time is incredible. It really is like a growing family," said DeMasters. "You will never be able to find a better working staff then here at JMU." Barlow echoed this sentiment of the staff. "Everyone that works in JMU athletics works very hard to make it a top notch athletic program in the country, and I have a lot of respect for them." The experiences of these athletes were life changing and irreplaceable. And as they look to pursue their careers, these proud Dukes can always look back at the adventure they had on the sidelines of some of JMU's most exciting sporting events with good memories and gratitude.