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Sport Management Major Gains On-Field Experience at Tournament in Alabama

A sport management student practicing on field

Connor Haines ’23 spent several days in Alabama for the NIRSA Soccer Championships, where he sharpened his media skills and learned how to be a better club soccer coach.

Connor Haines ’23 has played, coached, and refereed soccer for more than 15 years. And even with his many years of experience on the field, he’s still finding opportunities to go to the next level through York College of Pennsylvania.

“Everyone at York College just wants to help you succeed,” Haines says. “They look for ways that you can challenge yourself. They find opportunities you might not know about otherwise.”

One of those opportunities came in November 2021, when Haines applied for and was accepted to attend the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) Soccer Championships in Alabama—not as an athlete, but as a staff member.

For Haines, the benefits seemed two-fold: He’d be able to see what it was like to run a four-division event with 95 teams and up to 2,000 athletes playing 110 games over three days. Secondly, as one of the founders of York College’s Men’s Soccer Club Team, he’d learn how other colleges approach their club sports.

“I was looking forward to an opportunity where I could submerse myself in a variety of club sport perspectives,” he says. “I knew this would be unlike any other experience I’ve had so far.”

Learning to adapt

When Haines arrived in Alabama, he was fully prepared for his assignment as field marshal only to learn he would not be doing that. Because of some last-minute cancellations by other workers, he was reassigned to media relations.

He admits he didn’t have a plan for how to execute things at first, but he was confident in the skills York College had taught him. Haines runs the Instagram account for the Men’s Soccer Club and knew he could quickly get into the swing of things.

Haines also was surprised to learn he wasn’t just the only undergraduate worker at this year’s event, but the only undergraduate they’ve had working on the field in almost 10 years. “I thought anyone with an interest in college recreation would be at this event,” he says. “It was great to learn they’re actually very selective about who gets to be part of it. It makes it an even more valuable item to add to my list of experiences.”

While he hopes to pursue a master’s degree in the future, Haines believes his experience also helped prepare him for a future career in college athletics or campus recreation. Working with students from a variety of backgrounds and athletic levels at the event allowed him to see all the opportunities in which he can use his degree.

A team perspective

Haines was not only one of the founders of the newly formed York College Men’s Soccer Club, but he’s a student-coach and head of public relations. In his three days at the tournament, he saw club teams who had a similar, student-led setup to those with professional, paid coaches.

“The range was really fascinating to me,” he says. “I didn’t realize how much we could learn from seeing how other people approach their club teams.”

While they already have a season under their belt, Haines recognizes that they’re still a new team in need of growth and continued development. Mastering that “kick-start phase” will still be part of their approach going into their next season, Haines says.

“I look forward to knowing we can build from where we are,” he adds. “There are a lot of opportunities ahead of us.”