Sport Management grad works his way up to job with Memphis Grizzlies
When Justin Hart was an intern in York College of Pennsylvania’s Sport Management program, he’d help organize various sporting events while performing what he thought were seemingly miniscule tasks, like getting there early to pull out bleachers or set up tables.
“I’m never going to need to know how to do all of this,” he remembers thinking.
What he didn’t know then was how organizing events for a few hundred attendees would pay off down the road. Today, the 2016 grad handles events for up to 20,000 people as an activation coordinator with the National Basketball Association’s Memphis Grizzlies.
His York College experience
After deciding to turn his love of sports into a career in sports, Justin chose York College to further his education. He was drawn to the proximity to three major markets in the industry – Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. – and was impressed by the facilities and positive feedback he received about the college.
Justin started with on-campus internships and worked events at the Grumbacher Sport and Fitness Center. Fresh out of high school, Justin says he was “timid and didn’t want to come out of my shell too much,” so he reveled in the opportunity to experience what happened behind the scenes for events such as intramural sports and swim meets.
He also credits his favorite York College professors, some of whom he still communicates with regularly.
One professor, Dr. Molly Sauder, helped to advance Justin’s professional development skills. This included his job interview skills, which he says made him stand out when competing with his peers for internships.
Continuing the journey
Justin steadily stepped beyond his comfort zone as he gained experience off campus. As an assistant athletic director intern at York Country Day School, he helped manage all aspects of a small athletic program (fewer than 150 students grades K through 12).
He got his feet wet by performing various duties, including planning schedules, working with referees, helping to manage payroll, setting up fields and more.
Soon after, Justin moved into the professional sports realm. Thanks to a connection with York College, he snagged a six-month stadium and event operations internship with Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC in Kansas City, Kan.
He filled many roles during the team’s home games, from assisting with the chief of security to shooting off confetti cannons. He assisted with corporate events and conferences held in the team’s stadium.
Through his connections with Sporting KC, he scored a role as a team liaison during Copa America, an international soccer tournament held in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“My job was to be the point of contact between the national teams and the tournament, getting the teams to their training, press conferences and games on time, communicating constantly with the team and tournament,” he says. “On game day, I traveled with the team to the stadium to help get them set up.”
Walking in Memphis
After graduation, Justin started an event and operations internship with the Grizzlies. In this position, he worked 41 regular season Grizzlies games as well as University of Memphis Tigers basketball games and other various events, concerts and meetings held in Memphis FedExForum.
After graduating from York College in spring 2016, he parlayed the internship into his activation coordinator role. He works with 18 of the team’s corporate partners to ensure the team delivers the various assets and benefits in their contracts, such as signage and events at the arena as well as TV and radio commercials.
For students looking to break into the sports management industry and considering attending YCP, Justin says that the college and the professors do a great job of pushing students and helping to create opportunities.
“They really set you up for success,” he says. “Whatever effort you put in, that’s what you’re going to get out.”
Justin still looks back at his humble beginnings and credits the baby steps he took at York College that allowed him to grow personally and professionally.
“You have to be willing to move and try some opportunities that might be uncomfortable for you,” he says. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”