Friday, June 19, 2009

May 23, 2009

Who would have thought that a few little steps could signify so much?

Countless hours of tireless work, an infinite spectrum of irreplaceable memories and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment met in a synchronized crescendo on May 23, 2009 as Cohort 27 completed their graduation ceremony. It was a conscious goal that was set from the start – keep going, fight through it, find a way to get it done and make it to May 23, 2009. Completing such a challenging objective welcomes a flood of emotions that are best discovered through reflection, introspection and dialogue with the special group of people who forever will be `Cohort –mates’.

Looking back on my tenure at USF there are several dominant themes that come to mind. The first would be how quickly time passes by – although the program took 23 months to complete, it is eerie how fast the pages on the calendar seemed to be turning. It feels like we just started the program yesterday and somehow two years have passed. This serves for a broader life lesson of appreciating each moment and taking advantage of opportunities while you have them – because everything in life will at some point move forward.

Perhaps a less cognisant theme that was prevalent on May 23, 2009 was the general sentiment of growth. As students, individuals and professionals, we are all VERY different people from the group who walked into that orientation meeting on a foggy evening in July 2007. We had all entered from different walks of life – Tokyo, Taipei, Budapest, Montreal, Trinidad and Texas were just some of our starting points, but we all ended up together in San Francisco. There, in one of the most special cities in the world, we learned about an industry in textbooks and with our own hands. We absorbed our professors, studied with each other and worked with industry leaders. Ask anyone from our cohort and they would proudly tell you about their variety of experiences and how much they grew during their time at USF.

Lastly and most importantly, the dominating theme on May 23, 2009 was fun. I started out my USF Sport Management Blogs by writing about the benefits of working in this industry – chiefly that one can really enjoy and be passionate about their work. It was comforting and reassuring to see on our last day together that each person was equally (if not more) passionate about working in sports than when we started our Masters degree. This could easily be measured by the smile index on all of our faces.

And so, I bid you adieu with a proud heart and my head raised high. I have enjoyed writing these blogs as it has served as a great platform to share my experiences and hopefully encourage anyone interested that it is possible to start from nothing in the sports and make an impact right away. With that being said, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Brittany Merchant to continue the Sport Management blog. I know she is doing some incredible work and I really look forward to following her adventures in this roller coaster ride we call the professional sports industry.
One door closes and another opens. The end has no end.

- Cory Sterling, M.A Sport Management ‘09

Monday, April 27, 2009

Master's Project

It’s been such a long time since my last blog-post, all I can do is present a sincere apology and move forward. Life as a Sport Management student has been quite busy and challenging over the past few weeks as my class, Cohort-27, is entering its final phase before graduation.

For the second-half of our program, students have a choice to take three elective classes (subjects of which are democratically chosen but the group as a whole) or one elective class and the Master’s Project in Sport Management. As an aspiring writer, slave to academia and curious student, it seemed only logical to embark on this educational endeavor.

According to the course syllabus, the “Master’s Project is the culminating experience for Sport Management students during their last semester in residence. Students propose, develop, and write a Master’s Project that demonstrates research skills and an integrated understanding of sport management.”

At this current juncture of time, my ‘MP’ is still incomplete and as a result, I can not paint a complete picture of what the entire experience is like. Instead, I can share some honest feelings I have about my final course as a USF Sport Management Grad student as I am in the midst of completing it.

I am very pleased that this final project is a total culmination of the different curricular experiences that each student has enjoyed individually. Part of what makes this field of study so unique is that although classmates all study the same courses and complete the same projects, they can easily tailor their efforts towards areas that practically apply to their own career or interests.

This description of Master’s Project topics explored by Cohort-27 students serves as a perfect testament to the diversity of our individual interests as students, and the wide-range of areas under the sport management umbrella:

• An assessment of the importance of parks & recreation and the specific offerings of P&R to the community of Los Banos, California by utilizing survey research and focus groups of stakeholders. The student is a member of the Los Banos City Council and is generating an understanding of what is most valuable to the community’s parks and recreation budget.
• An evaluation of the demand for Roller Soccer as a youth sport offered at local YMCAs and in physical education courses at school by utilizing multiple survey instruments and in-depth interviews. The student and her husband are the inventors of this game which is sweeping the globe, with World Cup tournaments held internationally every year. (
• A study of the sponsorship effectiveness at the Beijing Olympics utilizing survey research of Chinese residents and sophisticated data analysis techniques including ordered logic.
• An investigation into the differences of consumer behavior at baseball games in the Nippon Professional Baseball League and Major League Baseball through the distribution of mass surveys and a critical study of professional literature on the subject
• An in-depth analysis of several international soccer teams’ public relations departments. Through in-depth interviews and evaluation of overall departmental objectives and behavior, the student will compare each case to a ‘best-practice’ background, learning about global trends in the industry and the most effective means to carry out public relations for a professional team on the global stage.

Up to this point, my experience with the Master’s Project has been challenging, demanding and educational. I can’t offer my full perspective on the subject, as I am still in the midst of completing my work. Somehow, though, I still manage my treks to library with a smile on my face, with each step bringing me closer to completing a major assignment not to mention a multi-year project; a Masters degree.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two Hats, One Experience

Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by Irwin Cotler, a member of Canadian parliament and former Canadian Minister of Justice. A gifted orator and bright mind, Mr. Cotler spoke for a little over an hour and exposed some of the contemporary issues confronting global human rights.

I’m confident that each member of the sold-out crowd in attendance were able to grasp something unique and personal from the lecture. Personally, the most important lesson I drew from the event was a point that Mr. Cotler made during the question and answer period. Someone asked about effective methods to prepare for an academic debate or discussion.

Mr. Cotler replied with a cute anecdote. He explained that during his tenure as a Law professor at McGill University, he would often tell his students to prepare for a mock trial. Right before the opening statements, he would stop the students and inform them that the case would continue as normal, except that they would be switching sides. For example, the students who had prepared their case as the prosecutors would now be presenting as the defense and vice-versa. Professor Cotler continued this exercise for years until one student fainted upon hearing of this sudden switch.

The simple lesson behind the law student’s role-reversal is that one should always have a full understanding of both sides of an issue before engaging it. It’s a simple, yet important and practical lesson that can be applied to all facets of an individual’s life.

As a sport management graduate student and sports industry professional, I was able to find a way to apply Irwin Cotler’s lesson to my experiences in Bay Area sports. For 19 months, I worked with the Oakland Raiders Internet and Media Relations Departments. During that tenure, I interacted with members of the media on a daily basis as a representative of the organization. Whether it was during press conferences at the team’s facility, open locker rooms following practice or drafting press releases, I learned how to interact with the media from the organization’s side. On game days, I had grown accustomed to meeting the media’s every needs and ensuring their game day experience was as positive as possible, lending a helping hand whenever needed.

Currently, I am helping out KGO (810am) radio covering the San Jose Sharks. I attend Sharks home games at HP Pavilion and interview players following the game, sending the audio bytes and a general summary script to the station. The audio clips and textual information go live on the air during the next morning’s broadcast.

Aside from an incredible opportunity and childhood dream job, this new opportunity places me on the other end of the media spectrum. I used to make a concerted effort to take care of the media, but suddenly find myself as one of them; picking up (instead of copying) game previews, statistics and up-to-the-minute news before heading up to the press box.

I was inspired by Mr. Cotler’s lecture to make the most of my new opportunity. Just as he spoke about learning as much as possible from an opposing position, I will look to take advantage of the next few months as a member of the media. Hopefully, throughout this experience, I will always keep Mr. Cotler’s interesting lesson in my mind and absorb as much as possible from my professional surroundings.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An Inspiring Story...

Kim Stiefer Yngland was born on September 27, 1985 on a snowy morning in Oslo, Norway. He enjoyed a comfortable and healthy upbringing, chiefly centered around academics, sports and Norwegian folklore. Naturally, he excelled on the ski slopes but his heart always lay on the soccer field. Dreams and ambitions of walking on the pitch at Wembley Stadium, donning a number seven kit for the Luxembourg national squad (his mother is born in Luxembourg entitling him to potential citizenship) eternally lingered in his mind. It was his goal.

In an attempt to improve his less-than-adequate English speaking abilities, Kim set sail for the blue seas of America. In San Francisco, he pursued a Masters degree in Financial Analysis and graduated with honors at the top of his class. Any objective Kim set to his mind, he was able to achieve.

Naturally, our Norwegian friend grew comfortable with his San Francisco lifestyle, inhaling culture (and prawn burritos) at every possibility, never wasting a moment indoors. The weather in California is drastically warmer than his native land. A desirable climate coupled with a solid group of friends comfortably placed Kim in an environment he could easily call home.

Something changed.

That deep and burning desire to pursue what he called, “Iglesia Maradoniana” took control of his mind and body. Almost instantaneously, he understood that a return home was imminent and in a moment of pure decisiveness and confidence, Kim purchased a one way ticket to Oslo, packed his bags and said farewell to a life he dreamed of for so long.

“It was never a choice really,” Kim explained through a translator. “I had to go home and pursue my dream. When one looks back on their life, the worst feeling is to say you never went for it. So, I am.”

Upon arrival to Norway, Kim instantaneously signed with “HUK FK,” a third division, quarter-professional soccer club. If the team plays well enough, they could see promotion to the second division, opening up Yngland’s opportunities to be scouted by the Luxembourg nationals. He is off to Croatia for a team training session at the end of March and will start club play shortly after.

Warm memories of Ocean Beach and Divisadero Street have been replaced with cold mornings on Norwegian public transportation systems. Still, Kim is proud of his decision.

“I woke up one morning and realized that it’s never too late,” Yngland said in a stern tone. “We each control our actions, every single day. Once I learned that I was the only one stopping myself from achieving this life long dream, I decided to change it. My favorite American President was Teddy Roosevelt, an incredible, active individual and a natural leader. He once said, ‘Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.’ That spoke to me. Finally, I decided to pack up my life to pursue my dream. After all, you only live once.”

Kim’s dedication and determination inspired me. It helped me realize that an individual’s potential is infinite; anything can be accomplished with the appropriate attitude. Sadly, society creates a lot of obstacles that often blind us from recognizing this. Every now and then, it is important to stand back, open your eyes and realize how much can be done in a single day, month, year, life.

On the surface it seems ridiculous – a 23 year-old with the world at his fingertips abandons years of study (and the opportunity to live in San Francisco) to eventually play soccer for a country that he is not yet a citizen of.

Sure, it’s strange and a bit weird. But – it’s Kim’s dream. And - he is pursuing it. These two facts alone place Kim with an elite group of individuals who truly maximize their experience of being alive.

Theodore Roosevelt, wherever he is in heaven, must be smiling.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Separate Ways (World's Apart)

In a drastic shift of scenery, culture and etiquette I now find myself in a complete different world of professional sports than I was in only weeks ago. Perhaps it was the immediate transition from one continent to another, one industry to the next that exposed so many differences and has revealed so many answers. Throughout the past three weeks, one conclusion has made itself unquestionably clear; working at the NFL Media Center in Tampa, Florida is about as far away as one can get from Seoul, Korea.

The Land of the Morning Calm is a quiet and majestic place, filled with beauty and shades of mystery. Understandably, part of its mystery lays in my inability to comprehend the language. Still, the professional etiquettes of Korean professionals are particularly polite and rooted in kindness and respect. One bows throughout salutations and exchanges business cards immediately when meeting a new co-worker or prospective client. Most importantly, Koreans will ensure that they act in a respectable manner, fearing an unintentional insult above all else. All conversations are mostly tranquil, divided by an equal set of give and take.

Then there is the Super Bowl, “Americas Game,” which is an entertainment anomaly in itself. Luckily, this is my second Super Bowl. As a result, I am not as star struck as I was last year, but I think working this game immediately after time in Asia has made a strong impact and has taught me a lot.

Here, we see the openness of the American sporting industry. Strolling through Radio Row, one can overhear a wide assortment of howls, laughter and screams. People are hugging each other, texting while talking and dressed to the nines. The NFL Network has televisions scattered all across the Tampa Convention Center providing coverage of every second of Super Bowl madness. Players are paraded in front of the media, asked questions for hours and followed like paparazzi.

A little bit different than Samsung Thunder’s “Free Hug” program that takes place after every home game, eh? It is truly overwhelming to see the blatant differences in sports through such a small time frame and large scale. The aspect I find most interesting about these differences is that each culture (and media culture for that matter), exists to naturally. In Seoul, the nature of a sporting event takes place in accordance with the country’s unique culture. Naturally, it is the same for Americans and the way they consume, celebrate and live with sports. Neither is better or worse, it is simply sporting cultural relativism.

As a disclaimer, I will acknowledge that this is not a truly fair comparison as the Super Bowl is a once-a-year extravaganza and this country’s highest touted event. On the flip side, it helps to observe and analyze extreme scenarios, as they can often expose differences the greatest.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed pondering the subject of cultural differences in sports, most of which have been influenced by our trip to Korea. As a result, I will seek to explore some of these questions and themes in my Masters Project, hopefully learning a lot about the world of sports along the way.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gamsa Hamnida...Hungu!

Right now, it is Sunday night and our trip is sadly very close to coming to an end. We have just returned on a long bus ride from the Paeju English village where we played sports with Korean kids, ate dinner with Korean interns looking to practice English and watched a local B-Boy dance performance. The bus ride home provided an ideal opportunity for introspection and reflection of the previous experiences in Seoul…some of which I am happy to share with you.

I am not sure how effective it would be to write about every place we have visited over the course of our adventures in Korea, as our trip itinerary serves that helpful purpose. Nonetheless, for those curious, the following list has most of what we have done this trip. With every organization we have visited, we were greeted with the utmost respect and admiration, always by an extremely important and active representative of the organization who gave us a lovely gift and treated us to a scrumptious and high quality Korean meal.

Here we go….SK Wyverns baseball team, FC Seoul, 2002 World Cup Stadium, Samsung Training Facility, Samsung Thunders game, Samsung Hi-Clear Badminton team, NEST, 1988 Olympic Museum, Chosun Ilbo Newspaper (biggest in Korea), IB Sport Marketing, Blue House Tour (Korean version of America’s White House and Canada’s 24 Sussex Drive), Peter Kim, CG Media – VP Program Sales and the staff and students of the Physical Education Faculty at Kyung Hee University. Tomorrow, we have our final meeting with Puma Korea before heading to the airport. My jacket is filled with business cards from people at all these places who are very enthusiastic and supportive of our studies and eagerly encourage us (all USF SM students) to reach out and find a way to work with them in Korea.

On top of all of this has been the rapid pulse of a booming city. With free time, both collectively and individually, we found ways to connect to Seoul. Whether it was through the interesting bathing at a Jimjilbang, tasty sips of Soju with Korean students or touring local museums, we will all have left this city with a much greater understanding for the Korean people and first-hand experience with their generosity and pride.

Of course, as with anything in life, there will be more emotions that will flow from this trip once it is over. I already know I will soon talk about Jason, a student who has joined us for every leg of the trip. This week has been part of his internship for a Korean Sport Marketing firm and he has been doing a great job. Relatable as an aspiring sport management professional and appreciated for his everlasting help in explanations and translations, he has infused the trip with incredible character.

Lastly, on behalf of all the students from this class, I would like to thank Dr. Choi. All of our lectures have been interesting and thought provoking. The networks extended to us, not even to mention all of the local experiences, could never, ever have been achieved otherwise. We all know how much effort he has poured in to this and are extremely grateful.

I look forward to updating this blog with some after thoughts of the trip. Right now, for our last evening, I am about to join some friends in the lobby and visit the famous Noryangjin Market which is a 24-hour Fish Market…a bit late for raw fish but one last attempt to make the most of such unique surroundings.

Thanks for reading. For any questions about our trip to Korea or the USF Sport Management Program email me at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Anyang Haseo...Ham-Samneda

A wise friend of mine once told me that he loved the first 48 hours of traveling the most. The rationale behind this bold statement was the pure love of being in a totally foreign environment and living by perception and intuition alone.

I had kept this philosophy near my heart before embarking on this great journey with my fellow classmates. After 24 hours of what feels like the longest day I’ve ever roamed, I am filled with smiles, a deep respect for the country I visit and still vast curiosity.

Our day started early, before the rise of Seoul’s sun. Living in San Francisco, I forgot all about darkness, gloom and cold weather. It didn’t take long to remember what it is like and to be partially honest, (despite my devout pride in being Canadian) I’m sort of excited to forget.

Our group boarded the bus with visible breath at 8:00am and headed to SK Wyverns stadium in Inchon, a suburb of the capital. The bus was filled with an inquisitive aura. We had landed late the night before and had seen very little of Korea and had few interactions with it's people. Suddenly, we were on a bus headed to meet and great the front office staff of the 2007 and 2008 KBO Champions. No one knew what to expect, yet after the visit, no one was disappointed.

At first, we were given a tour of the stadium by the team’s equipment manager, which included photo sessions on the field and a 1993 Joe Carter-esque running of the bases by yours truly (*note – all Torontonian boys born after 1987 will do this if presented the opportunity). They had explained some of the stadium’s planned renovations, which were very creative and interesting. After toying around the team’s gym and batting cages we were escorted to a conference for they day’s first lecture on the professional sporting industry.

It was incredibly well prepared, intriguing and interesting. The presenter had outlined SK Wyverns progression since their inception in 2000, outlining different marketing decisions they made and the corresponding results. All of this information was presented in the background of the nature of Korean professional sports, which is extremely different than those in North America. Understanding the blueprint motivations for creating professional teams in Korea as well as learning the ownership structure of these teams served as a great stepping stone to understanding this foreign culture and industry.

After the informative lecture and helpful Q and A session, the staff of SK Wyverns treated us to a delicious traditional Korean meal. Kimchi, Bulgogi and Bimbimbap, oh my! It was so delicious and served as a great opportunity to digest the information we just learned through casual conversation and culinary experimentation.

A great start to what will be an incredible trip. I have to stop now, as the Seoul nightlife is calling my name but I do look forward to sharing new experiences as the trip goes on.

All the best from Seoul. Wish the rest of Cohort 27 was here to explore.