By Ryan Clark
For Taylor McCarthy, coming to Xavier University was a home run—a no-doubt, straight-to-center field, game-winning shot.
“Personally, I knew someone who went through the same program, and he has a great job with Ironman in Florida,” says McCarthy, a 20-year-old Chicago native. “Before I decided where I wanted to go, he talked very highly of the professors and the resources that Xavier has to offer.”
She’s majoring in Sport Marketing, part of the Department of Sport Studies in the College of Professional Sciences. The department just happens to feature some of the fastest-growing programs at Xavier.
“Xavier gives you the smaller school community with access to a big city,” says McCarthy, who plans to graduate in 2020. “There are many sport and event opportunities in Cincinnati for volunteering, internships and even jobs.”
This fall, McCarthy is taking advantage of the location by volunteering with the Cincinnati Reds. On weekdays, she shows up at Great American Ball Park two hours early to distribute raffle tickets to fans.
“You get to interact with people from all over who share one common interest—baseball!” she says.
The Department of Sport Studies offers undergraduate degrees in Sport Management, Sport Marketing and Exercise Science, as well as master's degrees in Sport Administration and Athletic Training, and an online program in Coaching Education and Athlete Development.
The programs require students to work in the sport industry, which helps them network and build relationships. To this end, the programs seek to maximize student contact with industry professionals and enhance understanding of the business of sports through academic preparation.
Professors say it is the type of employment one can find, as well as Xavier’s experiential learning opportunities, that attracts students. Three programs—Sport Management, Exercise Science, and Coaching Education and Athlete Development —are especially driving enrollment, says Doug Olberding, chair of the department.
“Between Exercise Science (38) and Sport Management (60) we probably have about 100 freshman students,” Olberding says. “It’s the kind of degree you can do a lot with—like athletic training, or physical therapy school—or you can go get an advanced degree. Or go to medical school.”
Olberding says department officials originally thought they would have about five students in the Exercise Science program. Then 20 students changed their majors to Exercise Science, and another 20 signed up.
“We’re thinking we may have to cap our enrollment,” he says.
In Sport Management, it’s about the alumni finding jobs, Olberding says. “Just look what they’re doing,” he says. “It’s competitive to find a job, but our students do well.”
Classes can also be diverse, ranging from topics like the History of Sport, to Legal and Ethical Issues in Sport, says Associate Professor Linda Schoenstedt, who took a recent Sport Studies class to Australia.
“I taught the International Sport class,” she says. “Given the growing popularity of different sports in the world including soccer, cricket, rugby etc., and the ability to consume sport in real time through electronic media, sport managers are finding opportunities to participate, market and sell sport worldwide in multiple career areas.”
With internship opportunities in the Cincinnati area, students like McCarthy can work for colleges and professionals, often leading to full-time employment. Xavier alumni include high-ranking officials with professional basketball, baseball and soccer teams, as well as universities and colleges across the country. The Alumni offer many of the internships and networking opportunities that are critical for student to observe and apply their new knowledge and skills.
“This gives you the opportunity to network and learn about the field, while still in school,” McCarthy says.
“So far, I’ve been able to get very involved with Xavier Athletics and the surrounding Cincinnati community while only in my first year. I’ve volunteered numerous times with the Cincinnati Reds Urban Youth Academy, Girls on the Run Greater Cincinnati and the Flying Pig Marathon in May. And Xavier has a Sport Business Club where the focus is career preparation, networking and volunteering—another great opportunity.”
Coaching Education and Athlete Development, Xavier’s first graduate online degree program, was the brainchild of Associate Professor Ron Quinn, who created the first cohort two years ago.
“Coaching is much more complex today, and coaches are held to a greater level of accountability at all levels,” Quinn says.
“Just because you have played a sport does not mean that you can coach it. Coaches today must be familiar with sport physiology, appropriate sport pedagogy methods, leadership development, coaching ethics, social-emotional-physical-psychological athlete development, and socio-cultural aspects of sport.”
Tyler Hopperton is a 28-year-old Walton, Ky., native who says the online coaching program is helping him right now. Hopperton is currently serving as the interim head football coach at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati.
“The course descriptions interested me the most,” he says. “The program has been great, as the online set-up allows for flexibility with my crazy coaching schedule, while engaging the classmates together through discussions and a residency course that allows us to network at a national coaching conference.”
That kind of networking has allowed Hopperton to brainstorm with coaches across the country, he says.
“And the coursework is always directly applicable to my everyday job. Especially as a young coach, I value the daily lessons of the courses as their applications add to my experience.”
That’s what it’s all about, the professors say. They want to teach, while also adding to the student’s experience.
McCarthy knows all about it. She will keep arriving early to the ballpark, ready to volunteer. She’ll wear her Reds T-shirt and a huge smile, because it’s another opportunity to work in a place she loves, and to prepare for a career she’s always dreamed of.
“It is so much fun to talk with Reds fans,” she says. “Great American is such a beautiful ballpark, and I love to volunteer while being surrounded by a baseball atmosphere. At Xavier, we get to learn these things in the classroom as well as the industry itself.”
Featured Image: Athletic Training senior Jesseka Ritchie stretches former player Malcolm Bernard before a men's basketball game last season.