Integrity When Working in Sports

On February 7th and 8th, I accompanied three Trine seniors to Atlanta, Georgia for the 2022 National Collegiate Sports Sales Championship – Nicole Maroney (Sport & Recreation), Hayden Jones (Sport Management), and Caleb Gonya (Sport Management). The NCSSC is a nation-wide sales competition for graduating seniors and graduate students who are actively looking for jobs in sports, specifically sports sales. The first round of competition was held virtually in November and Trine finished twelfth out of thirty-eight teams, beating out two other Indiana schools (IU Bloomington and IUPUI), and all other NCAA Division III teams. This past week was the individual portion of the championship where the top sixty-four sellers faced off in a March Madness style, single-elimination tournament. Although Hayden and Caleb put in solid performances, Nikki continued to beat all her opponents and finished second in the tournament. An amazing accomplishment for Nikki and her teammates that were there to support her the entire way! 

Professor Podgorski and his students at the NCSSCAs part of the competition, we were treated to various speakers including Eric Platte, Vice President of Global Partnerships at the Atlanta Hawks and Dr. Lane Wakefield, Baylor University professor and Director of the NCSSC. Eric and Dr. Wakefield presented on the topic of integrity in sales and explained that the lack of integrity is the largest limiting factor in those looking to land a job in sports. That is not to say that all students looking to work in sports lack integrity, it just means that it needs to be developed through professional practice. Dr. Wakefield laid out a three-step process to increasing your integrity:

  1. Pick a path – Find what you’re passionate about and go for it. If calling 100 people a day sounds terrible, then don’t go into sales just to “get your foot in the door”. Talk to professionals in the industry, professors, and your mentors to find the right fit for you. Never be afraid to try something new, because we grow outside of our comfort zones, but be diligent and find your right path.
  2. Ask for advice – The people you go to for advice will change as you enter different seasons of your life, but don’t walk your path alone, ask for help. This is a sign of strength, not weakness. Many people in the sports industry are willing to help, but you have to make the ask. Who do you know, right now, that can help you?
  3. Face your fears – A goal without a plan is a wish. What is limiting you from your dream job? If you’re afraid of public speaking, then seek out opportunities to speak in public. The confidence you gain from overcoming your fears has a tremendous affect in other areas of your life.

According to Dr. Wakefield, integrity is simply the courage to meet the demands of reality. Although his three steps may not, necessarily, deal with the topic of integrity directly, his broader point is that the mastery of these three steps will build the foundation of integrity. It will then be forged through the fires of everyday work. As part of the NCSSC, an All-Integrity Team is announced and Trine has placed three students on the All-Integrity Team over the past two years, including Nikki this year. That is something to be proud of!

Brandon Podgorski is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Trine University and the Director of the Trine Center for Sports Studies.

Last Updated: 02/08/2022