Landing an Internship in Sports
The Indianapolis Indians’ 2018 intern class started this month and most of the group of 14 will be with the team until mid-September. In the spirit of things, here are some tips that can help you land an internship in sports that often leads to that coveted full time career in the industry.
It’s always humbling when someone shoots me an email or gets a hold of me on Instagram seeking coffee or a job shadow to see a little more of what I do. I’ve recognized that I’m the product of the opportunity others gave to me, so when I’m in a position to pay it forward, I’m always happy to lend an ear or hand. A simple, straight-forward email asking for a quick conversation to pick my brain is never out of line and says a lot about the person sending it. Getting into sports can be tough, so those of us who have had luck doing it understand the process.
Get involved early
When I was a college sophomore, I found contact information for a member of my school’s athletics communications staff, so I reached out and asked how I could get involved. At a Big Ten university like Indiana, they’re always looking for students to help fill in; deliver stats to media, transcribe postgame interviews, proofread media guides, etc. The media relations office put me to work right away. The experience of six semesters in a college university athletic department exposed me to the industry in ways that are hard to find in a classroom. It was all volunteer, but it gave me the experience I needed to land my Indians internship in 2011 which in turn led to my full time role with them the following year.
Me in 2012 after my final IU basketball game as an intern.
Create a good resume and portfolio
I’ve been an advocate of making a career building class compulsory for college students. I’ve only hired a handful of people so far in my young career, but it still shocks me how poor some prospects’ resumes can be. I, like many people, find it awkward bragging about myself, but a resume and portfolio is exactly that. They’re vehicles to prove how much better you are than any other applicant, so do some homework. Figure out how to write a good resume with information about yourself that actually matters to your prospective employer. Discover what will resonate with the reader. If you’re in the creative field, spend some time crafting a portfolio that showcases your best stuff.
Know what you're getting into
Internships are what you make it. Most of them entail low, if any, pay, long arduous hours and little glory, but with the right attitude, can be an enriching experience and a launch pad to a career in sports. With late night/early morning tarp pulls, 70-plus games and events and three-fourths of all summer weekends spent at work, I’d argue that a minor league baseball internship program is toughest of all sports internships and many people let it get the best of them. Attitudes turn, people get negative and when all that goes, it’s hard to get hired. Contrastingly, when you choose to take on the hardship with your fellow interns and embrace it, it can be the best time of your life. I’ll always look back fondly at my ten months as an Indy Indians intern in 2011. Some of the friends I made there remain good friends today and a few were hired alongside me in the following years.
Keep at it
I never knew I wanted to work in sports until I found myself working in sports. I figured that every high school athlete aspires to get a job working in their favorite sport after college graduation, so I capitulated under the perceived competition. Only when I shot an email to a guy in the IU athletic department on a whim, started interning in the media relations office, and was getting real experience in the industry did I really think it was possible. And, even at that, there were plenty of other students around me trying to do the same thing. But, I tried to stand out among them working especially hard and volunteering for everything I could, often making sacrifices not many students were willing to make like showing up for 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning cross country meets or foregoing tailgating to work the early shift at football games. Very few people land that big opportunity without several small steps to get there, so being turned away from that dream internship isn’t to say that you’ll never land it. An athlete chasing his dream of making it to the big leagues isn’t much different than the washout chasing his dream of working in the front office of one. It takes a lot of dedication, hard work and sacrifice to get there.
My 2011 Indianapolis Indians intern class.