Eight Olin students recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles for the annual “sports trek,” part of WashU’s minor in the business of sports program.
In addition to bumping into major sports celebrities like former Los Angeles Lakers starter Magic Johnson, the students joined Olin Senior Lecturer Pat Rishe for an intensive four-day immersion into numerous aspects of sports business—from venue management and talent representation to sports marketing. Students visited companies such as Fox Sports, Wasserman sports marketing, the CAA talent agency, the AEG sports and entertainment presenter, the NFL Network, and more.
The students returned March 12. We asked for their perspectives on the trip. Taylor Cohen, BSBA ’20, shared a video she put together looking back at the experience. Bryant Powell, MBA ’19, and Michael Weisman, BSBA ’20, responded to several questions about the trip (see below).
What drew you to the sports business trek to L.A.?
“One of the most profound things that drew me to the LA trek was the power and influence of the companies and people we were visiting,” Powell said. “Just having an hour to speak with and network with the true power players in the sports industry was a pleasure and honor to be a part of.”
Weisman said he’s been a lifelong sports fanatic, so when the invitation to apply for the immersion trip came from the Weston Career Center, he quickly abandoned his plans to return home for spring break.
“I never thought that I would necessarily have a career in the sports industry, but my dream has always been to work for the New York Yankees,” he said. “After convincing my parents to let me apply, I went through the process and got accepted to the program. Still not knowing exactly what to expect, I was ready to take Los Angeles head on.”
Powell said he was also drawn to the immersion experience. “While our days were very busy, meeting many individuals and companies, the ability to have our nights free to truly immerse yourself in the city of Los Angeles—its culture, attitude, and atmosphere—was just as valuable an experience as the day’s events.”
What surprised you about the trip?
Powell was most surprised by the openness of the firms. “They gave us access, advice and guidance about what we wanted to do in our careers,” he said. “From Evan at Exit 39 describing his vision in the future of content to Gabe at Wasserman, with advice on how to make it as an intern at his firm. They welcomed the chance to learn more about us, give advice, and were completely open-minded for students to help them on consulting projects that they felt the talent at WashU could provide.”
After a lifetime of devotion to professional baseball, basketball, football, and college sports, Weisman was surprised to learn how far off the court, off the field, and off the diamond the sports business industry extended.
“From the expansion of MLS to media to agencies, my eyes were opened wider than I ever expected,” he said. “Also, I was surprised to learn that there are infinite paths to enter the sports industry. It was an interesting anomaly that the industry is so small, yet not one person took the same path to get to where they are today. One person was a mascot for a minor league baseball team and used that as his ‘in’ to the industry.”
What were your three most important takeaways?
Powell kept his takeaways very simple: The power of networking and creating lasting relationships; always hustle for opportunities you are passionate about; and data, data, data.
Weisman was a bit more expansive. “I realized that the reality and behind-the-scenes experience within the industry is not exactly the same outside view,” he said. “There is a tremendous amount of work and collaboration between sub-sectors required to create this experience for the outside world.”
Passion, he said, was evident among the people he and the other students met during the four-day visit. “If you show your passion, people will recognize it and want to help you pursue it,” he said. “The main takeaway is to never settle and keep striving towards your dream job.”
What do you wish you’d known before you went? Any advice for students on the next trek?
Powell said he wished he had known more about the e-sports segment of the industry. “After touring Riot Games, I gained a whole new understanding and respect of the sport and its presence in popular culture and its business potential,” he said.
“If I’d were to give advice for students on the next trek, I would first tell them to leave yourself open for all opportunities that this industry has to offer,” Powell said. “You might walk in wanting to be a general manager of a baseball team, but end up loving the chance to be a sport agent.”
Weisman echoed Powell’s point. “It is important to keep an open mind. You will definitely learn something you didn’t know before,” he said. “The CEO of Oak View Group, Tim Leiweke, could say something so influential that you end up changing your career goal.”
Plus, Powell said, L.A. is a pretty cool place to visit. “Traveling to Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu, Inglewood, or Hollywood just makes you feel like you’re a part of the city so you can really get a chance to see if this is the right place for you.
How do you see this trek influencing your career decisions going forward?
“Before coming to get my MBA at Olin, I was in the sports, media, and entertainment industry,” Powell said. Now, he’s committed to gaining the analytical, marketing, and project management consulting background to re-enter the industry better equipped. “Taking this trek to L.A., where the industry basically lives, was an ideal opportunity for me.”
Weisman is also heavily interested in learning more about data and analysis: “I am unsure if my career goals or major/minor combination will change due to this trip, but it definitely has me thinking and expanding my options.”
Pictured above: Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers point guard for 13 seasons, stands with WashU students and staff at the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo, CA, on Monday, March 12, 2018. Said Rishe: “This was totally unexpected, and Magic couldn’t have been any nicer or more gracious.” Visitors with Magic include Michael Weisman, Taylor Cohen, Bryant Powell, Rishe, Issac Kaufer, Allan Bekerman, Magic Johnson, Kelly Minster, Teresa Iadevito, Katie Sissler, Oscar Vasco, and Konnie Henning.