Over the last few years, the Michigan Sports Business Conference BIG Initiative has become one of the premier awards to win as a student looking to work in sports. This year, MSBC awarded 10 amazing students with this honor. After the conference, we were able to catch up with the winners to find out how they felt when they found out they won and what their advice is for people looking to follow in their footsteps.
Bradley Wolff, The University of Texas at Austin, Junior
This award was a tremendous honor. My life has revolved around sports and, to be recognized for the years of work I have spent on sports-related work, this award allowed me to reflect on what I have been able to accomplish and what more I have to do going forward.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone! People are here to help.
Kevin Socolow, University of Southern California, Junior
I am extremely grateful to the MSBC for accepting me into the BIG Initiative class of 2016. It means a lot to me to be recognized in the field of sports business since I first began studying the industry as a high school student attending the Wharton Sports Business Academy. This honor will serve as a constant reminder that I can accomplish any of my goals in sports business as long as I continue to grow as a leader, make lasting relationships, and work hard.
I believe in saying yes because we never know where opportunities will lead us. Accepting challenges and stepping out of the comfort zone is the best way to learn. This is the philosophy I follow as a student and I believe it can be applied across any career path. In sports, there is as much to learn from failed experiences as successful ones.
Jake Asman, Ithaca College, Senior
Winning the award is a tremendous honor. To be associated with some of the brightest young minds in sports is an incredible feeling. I'm thankful to MSBC for the great honor.
Never stop working hard. Be prepared to make sacrifices to accomplish your goals and always be prepared for the next big opportunity.
Anita Nham, Penn State University, Senior
Winning the award meant a lot to me because it was completely unexpected. I never really thought about applying for it until my friend told me to. I didn't think I would actually win, but I was so happy when I found out that I did. It was that confirmation that sports is the industry that I want to pursue in my future. It was also really exciting to be the first Penn State student to win the award.
Make sure to never spread yourself too thin. Get involved, and be part of organizations and clubs that you're passionate about, but make sure you have enough time to truly put your all into them instead of minimum effort. It's better to be great at something and make an impact than just to do something small. Being a woman in the sports industry can also be tough and hard at times, but never give up on your dreams and just know what there is always someone out there supporting you.
Joshua Klein, Cornell University, Junior
For me, it was really special. As someone who has tried to follow my passion both on campus and in my internships, it was quite validating to be recognized as a student leader in the sports business industry. Especially given how impressive the applicant pool is for a meaningful award like the BIG Initiative, I felt extremely grateful to be chosen as one of 10 winners.
Network. Network. Network. The sports industry feels so small because everyone knows everyone. I think it's important to establish relationships and make meaningful connections early on in your career for several reasons. First, growing your network is surely going to present you with more opportunities. But second, and perhaps even more crucially, having conversations with people in the industry can really help you understand what exactly you want to do within the sports industry. There are so many different ways to enter the industry, and I think by getting a variety of perspectives, you can really narrow in on how you can add value to the business.
Yash Gupta, Junior, University of Southern California
Winning this award is extremely inspiring and motivating. Being in the company of so many great individuals from around the country was incredible and the conference itself was a phenomenal look into the sports world. When I first won the award, it was a bit hard to believe, but it felt like my experiences in the sports world had finally paid off. I'm hoping this award is just the beginning for a career of success in the sports business world.
My advice for others would be to get experience, not brand name. I think people often get stuck in trying to work for a big brand, but they don't actually learn technical skills they can apply later in their careers. Getting the experience matters more than the name.
Haiya Kofler, UC Berkeley, Junior
This award means the world to me. I feel so blessed to be recognized alongside such bright and ambitious individuals who I know are going to be the next faces of the sports business industry. The scope of MSBC's network is nearly unparalleled, and I'm grateful to be a part of it's lineage.
I firmly believe that with opportunity comes opportunity. Maximize every interaction with those whose backgrounds differ from yours, and educate yourself on how we discuss sports and its practices in general. Invest not just in teams or MVP's, but in the progression of society via sports.
Alyson Gill, University of Florida, Senior
Winning this award was an honor. The BIG Initiative and MSBC gave me a platform to network with students from across the country with aspirations and determination similar to my own.
Never be afraid to reach out to people and ask for advice and to talk about experiences. The worst they can do is say no.
Daniel Oh, University of Toronto, Senior
Winning this award is a confirmation of my accomplishments up to this point - and I got to see a great conference to boot. When I initially received the email, I felt elation, since it was so unexpected.
Follow your dreams - while life is short, you have a tremendous opportunity to try new things at a young age.
Taha Shaikh, York University, Senior
For me when something good happens, I tend to look back to what brought me here. There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do. 13 years ago I was told that just because I couldn't play sports I wouldn't be able to work in sports. It took some time for me to accept the fact I had won but I knew that this was just the beginning. Great moments are born from great opportunity, and that's what I have right here.
In my personal view, sports jobs require passion. Listening, hard work, performing under pressure – these are all incredibly important, but passion can take you the distance in sports. It pushes you to go just that little bit further, because your job stops being a set of tasks thrust upon you by some malingering boss. When you have passion, your tasks become moments of joy where you are thrilled to have the challenge before you.
Congratulations to all of the BIG Initiative winners! We can't wait to see where their careers take them!