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Designed for Action: Senior Sport Management Major Puts Pursuits Into Perspective

January 03, 2023
DJ Rohrbaugh winning Wrestling Award

Senior Sport Management major DJ Rohrbaugh, who graduates in December 2022, is making changes on the wrestling mat.

For the past few months, he’s been completing an independent study at Mayfield Mat Academy, a youth wrestling club in Emigsville, Pennsylvania, that offers wrestling practices, strength and agility training, and other events for local school-age athletes.

“We have athletes from five years old to seniors in high school that come to us,” he says.

The goal of his study, DJ says, is to improve the ways Mayfield Mat Academy operates. He’s been conducting surveys, gathering broad research, and implementing feedback from the students themselves into improving their athletic experiences at the Academy. Since Mayfield recently moved into a new facility, his research has partly focused on the best ways to use the space.

“The main idea behind all of this is to improve what we are doing on a daily basis, make everything more inclusive and enjoyable for anyone who wants to participate, and at the end of the day, get more people through our doors to join our family,” he says.

DJ, who is on the York College of Pennsylvania’s Men’s Wrestling team, is the Assistant Coach for the Academy. He started coaching at Mayfield two years ago. When the opportunity to continue working with the Academy presented itself in the form of academic credit, DJ seized it.

“It’s a way for me to learn and gain knowledge from this class while still helping the Academy,” he explains.

Giving back locally

DJ's independent study is a direct result of his dedication to hands-on learning and desire to improve the sport industry.

Working with his academic and independent study adviser, Dr. Molly Sauder, Associate Professor and Department Chairperson of Sport Management, DJ decided to explore ways to make improvements at Mayfield Mat Academy through action research.

During his time at Mayfield, DJ has completed a variety of duties. He’s mainly in charge of running practices for the athletes, showing them various techniques and tips for wrestling. Teaching often requires him to put together a lesson plan.

“We’re teaching a class, so you're going to write down what you want to do, but then you might see things right where they need help, and so you can change it up a little bit,” he says.

DJ also goes to tournaments with the team and helps facilitate events the Academy hosts.

“We just did a trunk-or-treat event where we had a bunch of kids come out and trick-or-treat at our new facility,” he adds.

He finds the most rewarding part of coaching is meeting all the new people he encounters.

“I've met a lot of people that would give you the shirt off their back,” he says.

During his independent study, he’s treasured the opportunity to give back to his team, and to the local wrestling community at large.

“I try and give back at practice, but this independent study is a way to do that even better, because we're looking at the things that we can improve to give the kids the best possible outcome,” he explains. “We want to give them the best possible practice, the best events, and also make sure the parents feel like they're safe and that they're getting what they're paying for.”

Fostering independent growth

Throughout his independent study and entire YCP experience, DJ has felt supported. He credits the Sport Management program for preparing him for the type of work he’s doing now, by getting him out into the field. He credits his Sport Management Practicum for helping him do that.

“The first semester I worked Practicum, which makes you learn that there is no ‘I'm just not going to turn in that assignment. Or maybe I just won't go to class.’ You're there, you're working, you’ve got to do your work,” he says. “I've only been at York for three years. I went to Lock Haven for two years. And I haven't seen that anywhere else.”

That field experience is what helped DJ get used to being involved with sporting events, instead of waiting on the sidelines.

“You're used to being an athletic fan and being an athlete. You're used to going to the games and just watching them,” he says. “But it helps. It helps you build leadership skills, communication skills, initiative skills, everything that we focus on with the Practicum.”

DJ also credits Dr. Sauder with helping him through his independent study.

“I love working with her. She's very good at giving me suggestions and building off things that I bring up,” he says. “Every time that we meet about a different assignment I've done for this study—because I never come in with an idea and leave with that same idea—we always build upon it and add more.”

“It's been fantastic to see DJ take so much ownership of this project,” Dr. Sauder says. “He has gone above and beyond to gather information that will be really valuable to him in his own professional understanding, and also in its application to an organization that can use these insights. This is a terrific example of action research—the work DJ is doing is helpful to the real world.”

As to what’s next for DJ, he’ll be starting with an internship at his former high school in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania. He’ll be shadowing the Athletic Director there, in the hopes that he’ll eventually be an Athletic Director himself one day.

“I would love to continue coaching, and if my time allows me to, I definitely will,” he says. “But I've got to look at my own goals, too, so I'm going to pursue what I need to pursue. And hopefully, wherever I land allows me to continue coaching still.”