Standing in front of a crowded auditorium in the new School of Kinesiology building, the Michigan Sport Business Conference leadership team kicked off its annual event Friday morning.
Founded in 2012 by undergraduates from the University of Michigan, the gathering aims to bring together students and industry professionals with the goal of inspiring innovators in the world of sports. For the first time on Friday, the conference took place in the building of the School of Kinesiology. Traditionally located at the Ross School of Business and strictly on Brella, a networking platform, last year organizers said Friday marked the start of a new era for the conference.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the student-only conference, Co-Chair Amelia Simonds, Senior in Kinesiology and Art and Design, encouraged attendees to consider this year’s theme: “What’s Your Next 10?” ”
âThink about your next 10 seconds, 10 minutes, maybe even 10 years,â Simonds said. âWhat choices will you make to pursue your goals and your passions? How are you going to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and grow taller? What impact do you want to leave on others? How will today and MSBC 10 help you get there? ”
During the conference, panel discussions focused on the future of sport and the sport business, addressing mental health, branding, social media, new name laws, image and the resemblance and emergence of blockchain technology. One-on-one talks and one-on-one conversations shed light on personal successes, future trajectories, and advice for students.
In a conversation with kinesiology junior Aeron Latham, responsible for producing creative content for the conference, Ariel Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor, one of the world’s largest sports and entertainment holding companies, said that he had gained mental strength by struggling in his youth and working long hours in a mailroom at the age of 26. He emphasized endurance and determination as success factors.
âIf you wither yourself easily in tough times, you’re not going anywhere,â Emanuel said. âI think one of the most important things I’ve learned is that there are all ‘why not’ reasons. And everybody will tell you “why this”, “why this”, “you can’t”, “no”. If you let that get in the way of your point of view, that’s a problem.
Danita Johnson, president of DC United business operations and the first black woman to hold such a role in Major League Soccer, was another keynote speaker at the event. Johnson detailed her early days in ticket sales and her work history in women’s sports, most notably as president and COO of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.
âWe’re all getting shy again,â Johnson said. âWe all still want to hide in a corner some days when we enter the big rooms. I still do. Know that it is good. But push yourself. Push yourself up to have this conversation.
Second-year kinesiology student Riley Day echoed that sentiment.
âIf you’re anything like me, you can be a bit of an introvert sometimes,â Day said. âThe biggest step is just to go out and do it. And once there, you will probably have a great experience. Everyone is really positive and really nice. Just getting known is what leads to jobs, internships and everything in between. ”
Attendees were able to do this in person on Friday, unlike last year’s fully online conference. Thanks to Brella, participation was offered both virtually and in person to maximize the benefits of both formats. Simonds explained that last year’s virtual format made networking easier for some students.
âYou can just book an appointment online rather than in person. I think some people get a little nervous sometimes to go to people and stuff like that, âSimonds said. âWe are now able to meet (the conference) both needs. “
Overall, Jack Moore, a junior at Simonds and Kinesiology, MSBC’s public relations director, said he was happy to incorporate an in-person aspect this year. Second-year kinesiology student Dylan Steele agreed, saying the in-person event made networking much easier.
âBeing able to contact (sports industry professionals) on LinkedIn is great, but also being able to contact them in person is an invaluable experience,â Steele said.
To enable students to get in touch, the conference included a one-hour networking session. Students and industry professionals were randomly assigned to tables in several classrooms. Every 10 minutes or so, the students had to find a new table so that they had the chance to meet and talk with a multitude of new people. LSA freshman Ava Peryam said the experience was overall positive.
âI really appreciate it,â Peryam said. “It’s very nice to hear all the advice that successful people in the industry have and the different roles they play.”
Peryam said she received some helpful advice and hoped to stay in touch with the students and industry professionals she met at the conference.
According to Bo Han, founder and CEO of Buzzer, a sports media company, and speaker at the conference, students can go as far as he does.
âIf Bo can do it, I can do it,â Han said. âI want everyone to understand that you can do this. I was not in this industry six years ago.
Han stressed the importance of a virtuous approach to business as opposed to an approach focused on money and success.
âWe all have this misconception that we’ll do good when we do it right,â Han said. âBut I’m willing to bet that will never happen. You do good because you do good first. Why? Because people want to be a part of it. Law? People naturally gravitate towards the goal. And if you can empower other people as well, that’s a great thing. “
Daily News contributor Dominic Manzo can be contacted at [email protected].