How To Nail Your Summer Sports Internship - Work in Sports podcast e092

Listen in We're Digging Deep into Your Approach for Your Summer Sports Internship

Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast –

Quick update, this past Wednesday after releasing our latest podcast with Dr. Samuel Todd a researcher on the subject of sports job seekers, (i.e. all of you) we had our best day for podcast downloads ever.

This podcast is growing, and it is because of you. So thank you. I can’t tell you enough how humbled I am to have you all listening and engaging with our content.

For those of you who like what we are doing, and are new to the podcast, a couple more ways you can engage with our community.Brian Clapp Host of the Work in Sports Podcast

We have a private facebook group – there are about 500 members in the group and they are sports passionate people around the country of all ages and experience. College students looking for the answers to their questions, career changers looking to start fresh in sports …and many of our talented experts guests like Andrew Howard Communication Manager for the NFL.

It’s a great group, and if you haven’t joined yet, you should, just search for the Work in Sports podcast on facebook, answer three easy questions and you are in!

Another way you can be involved is through our site – since 1999 we’ve been the number one job board for the sports industry. Sports employers tell us constantly how much they like , value and respect our members, because they are serious, talented, ambitious people willing to do what it takes to work in the sports industry. If you are here listening to this podcast, you are more than just a sports fan, you are sports ambitious, and that is why employers love our members. You are legit.

Looking right now there are over 7500 available jobs – here’s one for a performance marketing manager for a major sports lifestyle brand… another for a marketing coordinator with a major pro sports league… and another for an associate director, social media for the athletic department of a major west coast university. And that was just the first three listings of 7,500!

And if you like me personally, I respond to everyone in the facebook group, I accept linkedin invitations from people who aren’t creepy and I’m pretty darn responsive to questions…which gets us to today’s question:

This is from Bobby in Springfield, Massachusetts – home of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hi Brian, big fan of the podcast, thanks so much for all that you do. I just finished my sophomore year of college, I’m a sports management major and I have an internship with a local minor league baseball team this summer. I’m very excited, this is my first big internship and I want to make sure I nail it. Do you have any advice for the way I should approach my summer sports internship?

Bobby – this is awesome, what a great question. Before I jump into it, for all of you newbies to the podcast, you can send in a question to me at – if you have your question answered on the show, I’ll give you a free month of access to our site! So bobby – you are getting this hook up.

Now on to your question –

There are three major things you should get out of every internship, and I’m going to break them down in great detail. Summer internships are special, you can usually dedicate more time to them, you are less distracted and can really give your entire focus… so I’m glad we are talking about how to take them really seriously.

1: This is your time to be proactive –

Here’s the honest truth about internships – many organizations view them as a way to get cheap labor to do the jobs no one else wants to do. They call it an internship which sounds really beneficial to you the student, but in reality you are a benefit to them.

Not all internships are created the same, I did some internships that were awesome, and others where I didn’t do squat.

But here’s the straight truth. You have an opportunity.

If you were working at this mall this summer there is literally a zero percent chance you are going to learn anything of value in regards to your sports career. Sure, you may meet some cute girls, see a bunch of movies, get some discounts on clothes…but you are doing nothing to push your career forward and you are going to regret that in the near future.

If you spend every summer working at your dad’s insurance agency, no matter how great the money is and no matter how many rounds of drinks you are able to buy for your friends,  when you graduate college you will look back and this , oh shit, I should have gotten some experience.

Now, circling back to my original point, many of the internships you get you may star them up and think “what the heck is this crap, I’m getting coffee and pulling the tarp, and emptying trash at the stadium – how will this help me in my career?”

Well, you are right, but you are thinking too shallow.

I want to go back to Andrew Howard Communication manager for the NFL, he said something in our podcast interview that has really stuck with me – he said “you have to put yourself in the position to have opportunities”

By getting an internship you are in position. You are around the right people, you are in the environment…now you need to make something out of it.

So here is your plan – do your assignments to the absolute best of your ability. Smile a lot. Make eye contact a lot. Shake hands and introduce yourself a lot. Look someone in the eye and say Hi I’m brian Clapp I just finished my sophomore year of college in sports management and I’m interning this summer…they’ll say something like, oh that’s great welcome…and you say, hey can I pick your brain sometime and learn more about what you do with the organization?

Boom. Now you are being proactive.

When you know who you want to be --- i.e. I want to work in marketing, or I want to work in sales or scouting or whatever, you can target specific people and get to know them.

So to recap point #1 – you can just go through the motions, doing the job you are assigned and then go home. Or you can be proactive, do the job great, but focus extra time on being visible, getting to know people and volunteering to do more.

The organization has given you a chance to put your foot inside their door – now you need to make someone of it, the pressure is on you to leverage the opportunity and turn it into something, whether that is knowledge, networking, connections or experience… don’t expect the organization to do it all for you.

2: This is your time to meet people

I can’t emphasize this enough – in many internships it won’t be about to the skills you learn, it’ll be about the people you meet.

I personally hate the saying “It’s not what you know it’s who you know” because I see this as a made to order excuse – I don’t know anyone, so that person over there will get a job and I won’t. To me that is BS, if you have the skills, work your butt off gain experience and can sell yourself – you’ll get chances, and the person who just knows some people, but has no skill set, doesn’t work hard and expect everything to come to them easy… wont.

So to me that line is crap.

BUT, during your summer internship, you need to be focusing on both. Learn as many skills as you can, and meet as many people as you can.

As I outlined above, make eye contact share hands smile, be kind, be excited – passion sells.

When I was the news director at Fox Sports northwest, we had interns who would look away as I came in the room, or would be talking about their plans for some party that night, or would be flirting …anything but their job. Anything but networking. And I’d walk away thinking – what a waste. They just had a chance to make a great impression on me, the person who would be hiring them if they applied for a job, and they crapped the bed.

I get nerves, I get trying to be cool, and I get trying to flirt with girls. I’ve done all of those things… but when you are in position to get something you can’t get anywhere else… you focus!

You can flirt and make plans and goof off anywhere – there is no where else you’ll be able to make lasting sports industry connections than at your summer internship.

Get to know people – if your task is a crappy one, we’ll do it to the very best of your ability become known for getting the job done with a good attitude, and then be sure to connect with the people 1 2 and three steps ahead of you.

I’ll say this too – don’t forget the middle people. Sometimes assertive proactive interns only focus on getting to know and network with the executive level employees – don’t skip the middle people.

They are often the ones with a direct line to the executives, and are the ones delegated choices by the executives. Get to know people at all levels, because honestly, the entry level employee today or the middle manager today…could be the executive in charge when you graduate, or could move on to another organization and be looking to hire people they trust.


3: This is your time to learn new skills and observe

I think I’ve made it pretty clear you’ll get tasks you don’t love as part of an internship. But here’s where you win. As Scott rego head equipment manager for the Philadelphia 76ers just shared on our podcats a few weeks back – you can learn a whole lot by observing the way people do their job.

And that is the truth.

Watch, observe, be a sponge…and then when you get a chance, ask the person a smart question.

“Hey I noticed last night 20 minutes before the show you were going through scripts and making notes on them…can you tell me a little more about your preparation process”

“Hey, I’ve been watching the way you interact with clients as you bring them into our office – do you have any tips for how you build trust in a business relationship?”

 “Hey, I noticed when you talk to the media, you know everyone by their first name… does that help?”

Observe, pick up on things, and when the time is right ask questions.

I had an intern come into my office once and say “I saw you last night in the newsroom debating the importance of a story we were going to cover – can you tell me more about how you decide the value of a story?”

I loved it. They wanted to know my craft, and I was eager to share.

As an employer the hardest thing to do is hire people. Building your staff is tough. But there is also no greater victory than making a great hire.

If someone presents themselves as a winner during the internship phase – it makes the eventual hiring process exciting, because you know you have someone in mind.

Be that person in mind – by following these tips.

Bobby great question --- next week on the podcast international marketing superstar for Nike – Karl Keating!

See you guys next week have an awesome weekend!

By Brian Clapp | June 15, 2018
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