CSL Daily

April 30, 2018

CSL in Europe – Day 2: Ireland’s National Sports

Each year, our graduate students have the option of enrolling in European Model of Sport, an elective which features a trip abroad to meet with sports organizations, learn from sports professionals and tour world class venues and arenas in Western Europe. This year’s trip includes stops in Dublin, Liverpool, London and Paris. Our students are blogging about their experience.

by Gillian Abshire, Andrew Brandt & Kayla Watts

Our second day got off to a great start. The Irish play many non-olympic sports and are native to the country, such as gaelic football which is a combination on football, soccer, and rugby and hurling, a combination of lacrosse, soccer, and second-degree murder. We were fortunate to get to see their stadium, Croke Park, which is actually larger than their nations soccer and rugby team stadium. Upon arriving at Croke Park, we really had no idea what to expect. Quickly we learned what it really meant to be an Irish athlete. We were brought up to speed about the history of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and then we were lead through Croke Park by our sweet Irish Tour Guide, Rory. One of the most impressive things of the whole tour was hearing that the athletes of the GAA are all “volunteer” athletes. They work normal day jobs and do not receive a paycheck even though they play in front of close to 60,000 fans almost every game.

Croke Park holds 82,300 people making it the third largest stadium in Europe. It is mostly meant for GAA sports, but they also hold concerts including performances by Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and U2. Currently, they’re preparing to have the Rolling Stones come this summer! Unlike the United States, locker rooms are known as dressing rooms here. The stadium dressing rooms are structurally the exact same as well as how they are decorated. There is no dressing room that is labeled “away” or “home” and both teams are treated the same. This is because most of the club teams are Irish and they want all the teams to feel comfortable and welcome. Another aspect of sport that is a lot different than in the U.S is that there is a player lounge inside the stadium where both teams get to go after the game to enjoy a meal and a Guinness. Obviously, something like this would probably never happen in America.

Another interesting thing about the stadium is that the field or as the Irish say, “the pitch” is treated like the most important grass in the world. Because of the weather climate in Ireland, Croke Park uses machines to give the field artificial sunlight. Every time the machines are plugged in, it costs 2,000 Euro. We had a wonderful time at Croke Park and learned a lot about Sport in Ireland.

After touring Croke Park, we sat down with Julianne McKeigue who oversees the Gaelic Athletic Association Museum within the stadium. She provided an in-depth background of the GAA, which is the governing body for all major Gaelic sports in Ireland. These sports include both men’s and women’s hurling, men’s and women’s gaelic football, handball and rounders. All of these sports have individual chapters within Irelands counties, as well as regional and national teams and competitions. The GAA is completely amateur, which means that none of the athletes are paid. It also means that the referees, coaches, and staff are all volunteers. The reason for this is that all of these sports are so ingrained in the culture of Ireland. Every Sunday the fields all over the country are filled with fans and players enjoying the sport.


Our next stop was Aviva Stadium. The stadium was designed to be a multi-purpose sports venue with an athletic track, a cricket pitch, rugby pitch, as well as facilities for both archery and tennis. Today, the main sport played in the stadium is rugby plus soccer. The first rugby international was in March of 1878 between Ireland and England making the world’s oldest rugby international test venue and the oldest sports stadium in Europe. In 1927, the first international soccer match was played against Italy. Back in 1988, the stadium hosted a really unique sporting event, a college football game. The game was Boston College vs. WestPoint which was the first American Football game in Ireland and is often considered the “Emerald Isle Classic.”

The Aviva stadium that is standing today is considered the new stadium because in 2007, the old stadium was demolished and Aviva Stadium was reconstructed over a three period, opening in May 2010. The total capacity in the stadium is 51,700. The first match played in the new stadium was rugby in July of 2010. The stadium hosts about 30-40 events a year and after all the sports seasons, it hosts concerts which all the staff workers look forward to because it’s a change of scenery and all the operations are a bit different from the sporting events. Aviva is an insurance company in Ireland and paid 40 million euros for ten years to have their name on the stadium and that was recently extended for 44 million euros.

The crowd dynamics between rugby matches and soccer matches are very different. During a rugby match, spectators are mixed in the crowd regardless of which team they are cheering for but that’s not exactly how it works for soccer matches. Due to the tremendous passion and competitive spirit that comes with a soccer match, spectators are spilt amongst the crowd, home team on one side and visiting team on the other. This prevents any kind of violence breaking out amongst spectators during the matches.

Another pretty cool aspect of the stadium was the control room. It was surprising to me how advanced it was in terms of the technology, cameras, PA system, etc. The stadium has cameras everywhere and during matches, they are able to have eyes on anyone no matter where that person is in the stadium. Well of course not restrooms, I would assume.

Following the tours and lectures, from Croke Park & Aviva Stadium, and lunch in the town, the CSL cohort loaded up on the bus to go to the final destination, the National Sport Campus. This 5 acre land was once owned by a British aristocrat but is now home to an athlete’s wonderland.

Upon arriving, we first got a quick lecture on the history of the building and then the tour began with us overlooking a gymnasium that was hosting the National Badminton Tournament for those 16 and younger. The CSL cohort was fascinated by an 11 year old girl, who was warming up, because of her incredible ability to play the game. It was during this time in the tour that we learned the gym has three basketball courts and can hold 3,000 fans in their high tech mobile bleachers.

From there we moved onto the third largest gymnastics facility in Europe. We were thoroughly impressed by the automatic adjustable windows, which moved based on the temperature. However, the real highlight of this facility was jumping on the trampoline and into the foam pit. While some students, and faculty, struggled to regain their footing, the remaining members were completely entertained. It was also here that we learned about their commitment to inclusiveness, especially for those with disabilities.

The National Sport Campus is also home to an amazing indoor track and field facility, an olympic swimming pool, and a stable with a horse training arena. The track and field facility impressed us with its adaptability. The Olympic swimming pool was not only heated, but carefully designed to be divided into 4 smaller pools to be versatile. The Horse stable area proved to be a great place for selfies, as well as for Thomas Keller to disprove the myth about the length of the gravel area being double that of the grass area.

The National Sport Campus, voted best Sport facility in the country for wheelchair users, shows a commitment to child development and inclusivity. The thing that impressed us the most was that they allow children athletes, starting at age 5, the ability to train with local Olympic athletes. This location was definitely an athletes dream, and we had an amazing time on this tour.

After getting an exclusive tour at the National Sport Campus, we got the chance to play the worlds fastest game on grass, also know as Hurling. Hurling is an outdoor team sport of ancient Gaelic and Irish origin. The game has been played for 3,000 years and is part of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The sport is a combination lacrosse, soccer, and “second degree murder,” as described by our instructor. The object of the game is for players to use a wooden stick, called a “Hurley,” to hit a small ball, called the “Sliotar,” in the opponents goal post for one or in a net guarded by a goalkeeper for three. We had the opportunity to run a few drills and take a few practice shots for an hour. After a few drills, some relays races, and being natural born athletes, we all got the hang of the Hurling and had a fantastic experience learning how to play a new sport.

April 29, 2018

CSL in Europe – Day 1: Welcome to Dublin

Each year, our graduate students have the option of enrolling in European Model of Sport, an elective which features a trip abroad to meet with sports organizations, learn from sports professionals and tour world class venues and arenas in Western Europe. This year’s trip includes stops in Dublin, Liverpool, London and Paris. Our students are blogging about their experience.


by Thomas Koller, Adam Richardson, & Evan Nicely

After traveling over 4,000 miles at 33,00 feet above the ground with a favorable 90 mph tailwind across the Atlantic, the CSL Network has touched down in Dublin. Our group is diverse with seasoned travelers, first time flyers and everyone in between. If you ask me—a relatively frequent flyer—this 7 and a half hour flight across the ocean blue was nothing more than a healthy nap and two in-flight meals. If you ask our first time flyer on the team, this trip was an exhilarating voyage with speedy take-offs, swift descendants to landing, great in-flight service and a wonderful movie entertainment choices.

Our trip began in the Richmond International Airport where our non-traveling team members wished us goodbyes and congratulations to a job well done this semester. Students turned almost-graduates overnight after those final comprehensive exams, our group was buzzing with excitement to be done with the class work and begin our global minded journey through Europe.

After the quick flight to Atlanta from Richmond, we scrambled to grab food, recharge the personal electronics and find out who was sitting next to each other on the international flight. Some of our taller travelers tried to negotiate some seating upgrades in the group in exchange for valuable trades. In the terminal, I had the pleasure to meet an Ohio State Professor of sociology who was beginning his personal travel to Dublin with his family. We shared stories and opinions about the College Football landscape as I also inquired about some Dublin travel tips since he was no novice to Ireland. We also had him snap a picture of us before we took off. 

Although the flight was slightly delayed with routine maintenance checks, everyone was buzzing about our first day in Ireland and the healthy menu of in-flight entertainment. Most of us had a healthy nap and woke up to 9:00am Dublin, Ireland and a cup of coffee.

Looking back on our first day of travel, I know that we will have no issue being accountable for each other this week. Everyone stuck together in small groups, checked in with each other and ensured we were at each checkpoint. I know that this year we prepared for professional careers in the sport industry in the Center for Sport Leadership; however, I don’t think anyone could have prepared us for the sheer excitement and joy packed into this trip. We are all excited to learn about the European Model of Sport and use these experiences to enlighten our perspective on the world and our work ethics.

There may be no better cure for the yawns and body aches of a seven-hour flight than a bike tour on a slightly chilly but still sunny late morning.  Upon arrival in Dublin the CSL network strapped on helmets and reflective vests for a two-hour guided bicycle tour of Irish capital. 

After arriving at the airport and enjoying a plentiful buffet breakfast at a nearby hotel, we piled onto the bus and proceeded into Downtown Dublin.  We began our tour on the northern side of the city and proceeded to the Millennium Spire, a monument erected in 2003 to celebrate the previous 2,000 years of human existence.  The spire is technically the world’s tallest monument.  From the spire we proceeded to Dublin Castle and the original Viking landing site and founding point of the city.  The name “Dublin” is a combination of the terms “black” and “pool” about the murky water found by the city’s initial founders.   Our tour guides provided us with countless nuggets and facts about Irish history and culture as well as the city itself.

Several other interesting sites we saw over the course of the trip were the former home of legendary writer George Bernard Shaw, a monument to the great Oscar Wilde, and the green pastures of Merrion Square Park.  Perhaps the highlight of the tour came from our extended ride along the Grand Canal, a small but picturesque water front with accessible bike and walking trails.  Each of us will certainly take unique and different memories away from our first city tour stop.

After we completed the Dublin City Bike tour, we immediately headed to Aviva Stadium to take in a rugby home match of Lansdowne F.C. It was a great way to continue an unseasonably warm and beautiful day in Dublin and we were able to take in the match while enjoying the sunshine. Landsdowne F.C. easily outmatched their opponents on their way to a victory and we were able to watch a majority of the 40 minutes of game play. It was the first live rugby match I had ever seen and the first rugby match most of the group had ever taken in. It’s an incredibly physical game and it gave most of us a really good glimpse of what a professional rugby game  looks like.

After the conclusion of the rugby match, we again piled onto the bus and continue our busy day as we headed towards the Guinness Stockhouse. A few of us were able to take a quick power nap during the drive there but. Through a self-guided tour, we were able to learn about how Arthur Guinness founded beer and the process in which Guinness became one of the most recognizable beers in the world. We learned the general concepts of how they make their beer its signature dark color and flavor and where the ingredients come from, almost all of which are grown in Ireland.

A few of us chose to try our hand at learning how to pour the perfect Guinness. We had an instructor teach us the process in order to achieve the perfect pour and upon completion received a certificate confirming our abilities. The rest of the group was able to go immediately up to the bar that sits atop the building with sweeping 360-degree views of Dublin. We were able to see the mountains off in the distance as well as the low-rising city of Dublin itself, a blend of history, industrialization and a few modern touches. The clear blue skies allowed us to enjoy the breathtaking views while enjoying a Guinness of our own.

After leaving Guinness, we finally made our way back to check into our hotel after an extremely busy and fulfilling first day in Dublin.



April 25, 2018

#CSLnetwork Podcast – Episode 3: MK Geratowski

The #CSLnetwork Podcast featured alumni being interviewed by grad students about their journey in the sports industry.

Spring is a busy time of year for college administrators and coaches. This week’s guest is both. MK Geratwoski is the Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach at Randolph-Macon College. She is also the Senior Women’s Administrator and Director of Compliance. She was interviewed by Sean Dean, Tamika Jones, and Kayla Watts. This podcast was recorded at ESPN Richmond Radio Studios.

April 25, 2018

Richardson, Brenes Named Students of the Year

A pair of VCU Center for Sport Leadership graduate students were honored by faculty and classmates for their performance and dedication during the school year.  Adam Richardson was voted Student of the Year by the cohort. Reinaldo Brenes won the Student Achievement Award voted on by the faculty.

The Student of the Year award honors a full-time student who has displayed enthusiastic commitment, leadership qualities, and academic excellence to the VCU Center for Sport Leadership Program. Adam has spent the past year as a graduate assistant for VCU Athletics in Compliance. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Adam graduated cum laude from Wake Forest University in 2016 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Religion. While at Wake Forest, he worked with the football team as a student recruiting assistant for three years. He has also worked as a legal recruiter in New York City before making his way back home to VCU to pursue his master’s degree. He hopes to continue a career in compliance following graduation and ultimately plans to pursue his J.D

Each year the faculty of the Center for Sport Leadership recognizes one outstanding student who has demonstrated excellent leadership and service to the Center and/or university, and who has otherwise distinguished him or herself through  commitment and dedication to a particular area of sport leadership. Reinaldo has been the graduate assistant coach for VCU Men’s Soccer. A native of Costa Rica, Reinaldo spent his last two years of high school at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Florida. Later he went to The University of Akron where in 2015 he graduate Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s of business administration in International Business and a minor in Human Resource Management. Reinaldo was a member of the men’s soccer team at Akron from 2010 through 2013, where every year they won both the Mid Atlantic Conference (MAC) regular season title as well as the MAC tournament title, for exception of 2011 where they won the regular season but lost in the semifinals of the tournament. He was part of the 2010 NCAA Division I soccer national title team. In 2013 he earned NSCAA/Continental Tire NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer and Scholar All-America. Reinaldo was drafted by MLS Sporting Kansas in 2014, and went on to play professional soccer in Costa Rica for two and half years.

The awards were announced Wednesday by Dr. LeCrom. Both Adam & Reinaldo receive $250 and will have their names engraved on the award plaques which are displayed in the CSL Conference Room.

April 24, 2018

CSL, Special Olympics Partner on Big Feet Meet

A beautiful Monday morning at Sports Backers stadium, hundreds of energetic youth and volunteers, and months of anticipation and planning: The perfect formula for the annual Area 25 Big Feet Meet.  The day was filled with excitement, laughter, and intense competition and as a whole was a wild success.

“Big Feet Meets” are annual track and field style events put on by Special Olympics Virginia around the state for middle and high school students with intellectual disabilities.  Our event included over 240 participants from 13 area schools, and was helped to be put on by nearly 100 generous volunteers from both our class and the local community.  Athletes competed in five events including the 25, 50, and 100 M dash, the standing long jump, and the softball throw.  Middle school athletes also competed in an exciting version of the javelin throw known as “turbo jav.”  While the competition was very intense throughout the day the supportive nature and spirit of what Special Olympics is all about was certainly felt as well.

One of the biggest highlights came at the conclusion of the day.  Once running and field events had been completed students, teachers, and volunteers alike gathered side by side at the center of the field and danced the “Cupid Shuffle” as a celebration both of unity and their successes of the day.

We would like to thank our many donors and sponsors including AbleNow, iDanze Fitness, HCA Healthcare, CBS 6 Sports Anchor Lane Casadonte, Richmond Flying Squirrels, VCU Athletics, along with several individual donors.  We would also like to give a shoutout to Papa John’s pizza who in addition to providing lunch for all of our participants and volunteers provided five lucky volunteers with free pizza for a year.  We would also like to thank our Special Olympics contact Pam Mines who was instrumental in helping us plan and execute such a wonderful event.  Thank you to all of those involved – we would love to see you again next year!

April 19, 2018

#CSLnetwork Podcast – Episode 2: Pete Stuart

The #CSLnetwork Podcast featured alumni being interviewed by grad students about their journey in the sports industry.

It’s Race Week in Richmond so this week’s episode features Pete Stuart (’05) Director of Marketing Communications for NASCAR. He was interviewed by grad students Anthony Horn, Demitri Lahanas and Lee Wilson.  The interview was recorded at ESPN Richmond Studios