I attended the 4th annual Applied Sport Management Conference last week at First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds. At this point in my career, attendance at conference tends to provide diminishing returns, but I left this conference more excited about the future of sport management academia than ever.
Here are four reasons why:
1. There are faculty who want to engage in applied research.
Academia gets knocked by industry for focusing on the theoretical and not the practical, and rightfully so most of the time. But an organization like ASMA is a great way to smoke out researchers who want to get their hands dirty solving problems in industry. I saw outstanding presentations and posters at the conference, like
- How optimization modeling can be used to generate revenue in sports organization by Elizabeth Wanless at Ohio University
- Best practices in retromarketing by Brian Gordon at Kansas University
- How to responsibly market rivalry in sport by Cody Havard at Memphis
- Who to hire when there’s a coaching change by James Johnson at Ball State
- How data envelopment analysis can be used to assess the performance of college athletic departments by Faizul Huq and Elizabeth Wanless at Ohio University
- Better recruitment strategies to find sports referees by Lynn Ridinger at Old Dominio
If you work in the sports industry, reach out to a sports business professor at a local university and grab a cup of coffee – they might be more helpful in solving problems than you previously thought.
2. Innovation in sport management education is slow, but progress is being made.
Chad McEvoy delivered the keynote address and challenge us to consider new and innovative curricular models. His fundamental question was:
“Why do most programs have sport management curricula that looks like curricula from 25 years ago, given how much has changed in the world?”
This is a great question for sport management educators to chew on. Several presentation sessions addressed classroom innovations:
- Work-based integrated learning by the Natalie Smith and the faculty and East Tennessee State
- Study-abroad program development by Adam Pfleegor at Belmont
- How Title IX applies to the internship setting by Michael Odio at Cincinnati
- Developing sustainable service learning programs by the faculty at South Alabama
At IUPUI, we have invested heavily in using human-centered design to provide students with the innovation and creativity skills needed to be successful in today’s economy. Our senior capstone class asks students to be bold in solving important problems facing today’s sport organizations.
3. Innovative session formats are desperately needed at conferences
I was asked to facilitate a “Works in Progress” session organized by Erianne Weight. Attendees submitted three pages about a paper they are currently working on, and a small group of 3-4 people gave them feedback. It was a low-pressure way to get feedback from other people about your research ideas.
I also attended “Faculty Professional Development” sessions at Sport Marketing Association in October. These sessions were designed to provide faculty skill sets that can keep them current in the field, like learning how to visualize data in Tableau. These presentations accounted for 5 of the top 10 most-attended sessions.
These are two examples of what could happen with our academic conferences using human-centered design to innovate the conference experience for attendees. Better understand what people want by focusing on empathy should deliver a better conference experience in the future. All faculty should consider getting trained in the Event Canvas methodology to design better events.
4. Case study competition is a high impact practice
Competing on a case study competition team doesn’t make the AAC&U’s list of 11 High Impact Practices, but it should. I watched our students Anthony Treash, Rachel Lohman, Jack Habegger, and Michael Tocco work incredibly hard over 3 weeks to submit high quality work. While they did not win any awards, they learned what high quality work looks like. They learned how to put a pitch using our storytelling arc framework, which will help them in coursework later in their academic careers. If they push their fellow classmates to meet this new personal expectation, our program will improve overnight.