CSL Daily

October 30, 2013

Faculty Forum – Sport & Inclusion

By Brendan Dwyer, Ph. Ddwyer

Ok, I was late to the party. I fully admit it. I didn’t hear the amazing story of Eric Dompierre and the Ishpeming (MI) Hematites until this past August. How did I miss it? I am not really sure, but I suppose that is beside the point. I was late to the party, but like so many who have caught wind of this remarkable tale, I was inspired.

I am not going to retell the story. You can watch it here: 

Now, I was not inspired by the unlikely run to a state championship. It wasn’t even the family’s courageous struggle with a state legislature to overturn an outdated participation mandate that made it so impactful. While both stories are impressive, I was truly inspired by the story of inclusion.

Believe it or not, Eric was a typical high school senior. He didn’t ask for headlines or national awards. He didn’t even expect a winning football season, much less a state championship. He just wanted to play one more year of football with his friends. All the accolades that occurred after the state legislature made the decision to allow him to play were simply icing on the cake.

While Eric’s courage and infectious attitude should obviously be commended as footballshould his loving and supporting family, a great lesson comes from the actions of his head coach, Jeff Olson, the coaching staff, and his teammates who used the game of football as a vehicle for social inclusion. In return, each of them probably learned a great deal from Eric, including lessons about courage, perseverance, and determination, and they would need it. The eighteen months leading up to the State Championship were gut-wrenchingly hard for the football team in Ishpeming, MI (Here is the whole story).

The power of sport on our young people has been well documented, and for the most part, I agree with the general sentiment. Sport builds character. However, it is not a given that every sport experience and character-building moment will be positive. Character, by definition, can be both positive and negative. And for every Eric Dompierre story, I can unfortunately find twice as many stories of a Ryan Braun or Aaron Hernandez or the star athletes in Maryville, Missouri, where sport provided a platform for lying, cheating, abuse of power, hubris, greed, and in the case of Aaron Hernandez, even worse.

Sport does not occur in a vacuum. Sport, by default, is not powerful. People are the Power-of-Sport-Stencil-Title-(1920px)true inspiration behind sport. The head coach that suspends his whole football team for the betterment of human development, the supportive parent that teaches his/her child to put the team first, and the hard-working academic adviser that stresses the value of earning a college education over perpetuating one’s professional prospects. These principled individuals are the ones who take a simple game and make it life altering. Too much credit is given to the sport as the change agent, when it is often the actions of sport people that take a common occurrence and make it a life lesson.

Hopefully, we all know the statistics by now. With roughly 35 million youth sport participants and over 3 million high school athletes, the chance of receiving a full college scholarship is about 1.1%. The chance of making the NFL is about 1 and 6,000. That is double the odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime.

I am not saying we should crush a young person’s dream to be a professional athlete. Dream big and work hard, but perspective is also required. Our sons and daughters will be decision-making adults MUCH, MUCH longer than they will be sport stars. We must be sure we are using sport to prepare them for the tough choices ahead. Sport is a fantastic vehicle for socialization and personal development if opportunities are capitalized upon. Moments where temperance is needed, teamwork is valued, hard work is commended, and most importantly, integrity of our choices is required. Make it count.

The story of Eric Dompierre is an example of all the attributes we should be teaching. Competition is fun and it is inherent in all sports. You don’t have to be an economist to know it brings out the best in people, but sport is not about competition, preparation, and winning, it is about people and it is about lasting relationships.

ishpeming hematites

When I coached, I used to tell this to my players often. As you get older, you rarely remember the scores of the games you won or lost, you definitely do not remember all the practice and training, what you remember are the people. More specifically, you remember your teammates. So often, as coaches, players, and parents we get caught up in game tactics and winning and forget it what is truly important, relationships, friendship, and personal development. An athletic career is often fleeting the bigger scheme of things, but the potential life lessons are cumbersome. Make it count!

You can email Brendan Dwyer at and
follow him on Twitter at @brendandwyer

October 30, 2013

Today’s #CoreValues Thought

October 29, 2013

Alumni Profile-Anthony Henderson

by Nick Georges, CSL Graduate Student

“It is true that when we take chances, we stand to lose. But it is also true that we will never win anything if we never even enter the game.” ~ Max Gunther.
This is exactly what inspired Akron’s Director of Athletics Development Anthony HendersonAnthony Henderson to apply to the Center for Sports Leadership at VCU ten years ago.

Henderson is grateful to The Center for Sports Leadership for leading him down his career path.  He noted that he could not have done it though without support from his parents and former CSL administrators Leslie Sander-Winston and Mike Ellis (current Minnesota Senior Associate Athletic Director), who always encouraged him along the way.

Since graduating from CSL, Henderson’s path has taken some interesting turns.  It began with an internship at Disney in the marketing department, where he was responsible for the promotion of multiple events, including Atlanta Braves Spring Training, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp, Pop Warner Super Bowl, The FUNAI Classic PGA Event, The Disney Marathon and all other Disney Created Endurance Events. In this role, he acted as a liaison between Disney and multiple creative agencies to manage the brand and produce collateral materials to promote these events.  Because of his excellent work, Disney kept him around for an extra month after his internship was over while he was still searching for full-time employment.

Disney wasn’t the only group who paid attention to Henderson’s work ethic.

“You never know who is watching.  People take notice of what you do and how you carry yourself in certain situations.  In my opinion, networking isn’t just getting to know people; it is making sure that people know who you are as well.”

Richard “Doc” Sander, the former VCU Athletic Director and founder of the Center for Sports Leadership, definitely took notice of Henderson and opened the door for his first full-time employment opportunity by recommending him for the Director of Marketing and Corporate Sponsorship position with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

After a couple of years working for the MEAC, Henderson decided it was time to try his hand at event management.  His new role took him to Charlotte, North Carolina where he accepted a position with The Event Authority as the Senior Account Executive for the Jordan Brand Classic.  In this role he was the main contact to facilitate day to day operations between the Jordan, a division of Nike, Inc., the city of New York and Madison Square Garden on new business development, the execution of all elements of national partnership agreements and detailed coordination of multiple high-profile events and game day experiences.  However, he says the most challenging part of his job was keeping track of the seventeen and eighteen year old blue chip recruits running around the ‘greatest city on Earth’.

Despite the invaluable experience of working at TEA, Henderson missed the atmosphere and environment of college athletics.  He ultimately landed a development position with Old Dominion University, helping to build the most successful start-up football program in NCAA history.  Then, two years ago, an opportunity to work at the University of Akron became available and today, he couldn’t be happier.  The position at Akron has allowed him to take a larger leadership role in the athletic department and the university community.  Henderson believes he is gaining the valuable insight and experience that will help him reach his ultimate goal of becoming an Athletic Director at the Division I level.

Over the last decade, Henderson has developed a more clear understanding of what it takes to be a successful leader in sport.
“Leaders don’t just tell people what to do: real leaders provide direction by leading others through example.  They are also decisive in their actions not always making the popular choice, but the best choice for their organization at the time that decision is made.  If they happen to make a decision that turns out to be wrong, which we will all do at some point in our careers, the best leaders learn from those decisions and turn them into positives moving forward.”


October 29, 2013

Today’s #CoreValues Thought on #Collaborative

“Stop. Collaborate and listen.”
Vanilla Ice

vanilla ice

October 24, 2013

Charlotte Trip Recap- UNC Charlotte Football Tour & Alumni Panel

by Tiffany Shell, Steele Thompson & Brandon Hodgins, CSL Graduate Students

Not often do students from one university get the chance to exclusively tour another university’s athletic facility. The Center for Sport Leadership at VCU graduate students received the unique opportunity to tour the new McColl-Richardson field and Judy W. uncc uncc 2 Rose football center at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Throughout the tour, our guide answered questions and gave insight to facility management for their newest and most high profile sport

McCall-Richardson field, the first stop on the tour, finished completion in 2012. It can seat about 15,300 people and has already sold out of season tickets for the 2013 football season. The turf field took over 20 days to put in, including the black and gold Charlotte end zones and numerous 49ers logos. Not only does the stadium look good, it is environmentally friendly.  Charlotte’s “green” initiative includes no trashcans, only recycling bins.  It was also interesting to learn that their football stadium is the first stadium to provide free cold water to fans every game through the bottle filling stations. In addition to the numerous recycling bins, the university also sorts through the trash, separates it from recyclable items, and sends it to the proper facility.

Directly behind one end zone stands the two-story Judy W. Rose football center. The uncc 3upper level of the facility is more for meetings than game day preparations. It hosts the coaching staff offices in addition to other meeting rooms. There resides an academic hall for all athletes to study, not just football. This hall contains about 20 computers and several academic coordinators’ offices. There is also a film room for football, with each athletes getting his own desk and name plate. When not used for football, the film room has the capability to be used as a classroom. Outside of the upper level is a deck that overlooks the football field.

The lower, ground level of the facility is mostly for football operations like the weight and training rooms, equipment storage, and locker rooms. From the weight room, one stands at field level and can watch the game from the window or while working out. The weight roomDSC_0227 includes more than 25 weight machines on 6500 square feet, sets of dumbbells that reach 150 pounds, a section for stretching, and access to the locker rooms. The facility boasts a hydration room with approximately 50 cold tubs and several hot tubs. Near the hydration room is the training room with 2 on-site doctor’s offices, 3 whirlpools, 6 different types of bikes, and 9 training tables. It was interesting to see how new facilities operate and how to mix state-of-the-art technology and equipment with collegiate athletics.


CSL alum RaShaunna Hobbs (middle) with some of our graduate students

Following the tour, four CSL graduates took part in an Alumni Panel: UNC Charlotte Associate Director/Events and Programming Zach Rutledge. UNC Charlotte Events Services Coordinator Jonathan Billings, RaShaunna Hobbs of GMR Marketing and Peter Stuart of Taylor PR. The panel offered great insight on their experiences at the CSL, advice on what to expect in the “real-world”, and descriptions of their positions in the sporting industry. It was funny to hear them recall the challenges they had with the same projects that our class is currently working on. Hobbs explained how those projects benefitted in her current job.


Zach Rutledge (left) talks with grad students Jason Schilling & Danish Saadat

Listening and talking with people who have been in your shoes is a powerful learning tool. This experience was helpful as we try to determine our career paths and what careers we may want to pursue.

All four alumni preached the importance of networking.
RaShaunna Hobbs said, “If you don’t know the guy, then know the guy who knows the guy.”

The CSL students were appreciative of the alumni for offering advice and guidance. The class of 2014 hopes we will have the same opportunity to give back to future CSL students.

Check out a video of our tour of Charlotte’s football facilities.


October 23, 2013

Charlotte Trip Recap-Time Warner Arena

by Kerry Gannon & Nick Georges, CSL Graduate Students


Trista Langdon leads CSL students on a tour of Time Warner Arena

Time Warner Cable Arena, the home of the Charlotte Bobcats, is also home to two CSL alumni who served as hosts for our recent visit there.  Alan Wheeling (Class of 2009) is currently a Senior Account Manager of Premium Seating and Trista Langdon (Class of 2004) is a Director of Arena Events and Operations.

Time Warner Arena is a world-class venue with all the amenities. Our tour started off with an insider’s look at the basketball arena, which was in the process of being transformed into a hockey rink in order to host the Charlotte Checkers’ game.  We were then led to the on-site training facility for the Bobcats, a unique feature that sets Time Warner Cable Arena apart from other NBA arenas. The Bobcats were practicing while we were on-site but a policy was set in place about two weeks prior requiring shades to cover all windows in order to reduce distractions for the players.

Next stop on the tour: Bank of America Suite, where we had the privilege of sitting in style while listening to Langdon and Wheeling elaborate on their daily duties and job responsibilities. (You can read more about Langdon in this week’s alumni profile).


CSL student Kerry Gannon (left) with Alan Wheeling

As a Senior Account Manager of Premium Seating, Wheeling testified to the importance of the ability to sell oneself.  In doing so, he highlighted and reiterated many key concepts that our class is learning about in our Sport Marketing course.  Wheeling oversees approximately 200 premium seating accounts and needs to continually ensure the satisfaction of his customers, from the beginning of the ticket buying process to the game day experiences in hopes of yielding renewals of packages the following season.  Wheeling says his favorite part of his job is building relationships and trust with customers.  The trust you build with your customers with turns into referrals.  This helps bring the fans back to the fill the stadium. Wheeling attributes much of his success to the real-world, hands-on experiences that he gained during his time with CSL.

In concluding the tour, Langdon and Wheeling shed light on one last key to success within the sport industry: passion.  The sport industry is a competitive field that can be grueling at times, but passion is what will ultimately pull you through and keep you on track to succeeding within the industry.

Check out a video of our tour of Time Warner Arena