Issues in Sport: Diversity in Sport Leadership

Issues in Sport: Diversity in Sport Leadership

Article written by Kimberly Armstrong, re-published courtesy of The Daily Campus

Earlier this year, the Buffalo Bills hired Kathryn Smith as the NFL’s first female full-time assistant coach. Despite the excitement surrounding Smith’s ascent into football history, the consensus among panelists Thursday morning at “Issues in Sports: Diversity in Sports Leadership” was that this is just the beginning for women on the sidelines.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.03.07 PM“Issues in Sports: Diversity in Sports Leadership” was part of sports management graduate student Wura Olusekun’s cornerstone project. Olusekun, who hosted the panel, said she chose to study sports management at UConn’s School of Education because of the program’s emphasis on diversity and social issues.

“I’m not an athlete but I was very interested in the connection between education and athletics,” Olusekun said. “The term ‘coach’ and ‘teacher’ can be interchangeable.”

In order for women and minorities to progress through the ranks of sports management, athletics organizations need to understand how diversity ties into the overarching goals of a successful franchise, said panelist Nicole Melton, an assistant professor of sports management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Melton said that her research into Division 1 programs suggests that the most diverse programs are also the most competitive.

“We saw that the ones that had the most diversity and the most inclusive practices, they out performed other D1 leagues, they made more money,” Melton said.

Making these changes across the world of athletics, however, has to be about more than just PR to be effective. According to the panelists, it requires a cultural shift away from “tokenism,” the pursuit of diversity for diversity’s sake, in exchange for ongoing support of inclusive workplaces that encourage employees to reach their full potential.

“It can’t just be, ‘oh we need to hire some diversity’,” Melton said. “It needs to really be tied to the message [of the organization] so that people understand why this is beneficial.”Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.03.21 PM

Fleurette King, director of the Rainbow Center at the University of Connecticut, likened this shift to the recent changes in how the NFL and other leagues handle concussions among players. No matter how supportive an organization’s policies surrounding concussions may be, King explained, players are still at risk if league culture values keeping them in the game over their long term health.

“If you don’t change the culture around how people feel about the concussion, and how they feel before and after the concussion, it’s not going to help,” King said.

Similarly, women, people of color and LGBTQ people can’t be fully appreciated in sports leadership positions if they are viewed as tokens of diversity rather than accomplished colleagues who deserve to be there. This is part of the reason why policies like the Rooney Rule, which requires the NFL to interview minority candidates for open coaching positions, can be less than effective even when they do result in a minority candidate getting the job.

Another issue with this type of hiring policy is implicit bias, the human tendency to be most comfortable with familiar people. As an example, Melton, a Texas native, admitted she would feel an immediate bond with anyone from the south even if she knew nothing else about them. The impact of this implicit bias can be as simple as who someone decides to start a conversation with or, in this case, as high stakes as who gets chosen for a head coaching position.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.03.35 PM“We see with research that we tend to think similar things with race, with gender, with sexual orientation,” Melton said. “If there’s only three old white dudes on the search committee, they might not recognize the implicit bias that they have.”

Laura Burton, an associate professor of sports management at UConn, said she believes exposing athletes to female coaching early on could help remove the barriers to women at the university and professional levels. While there remains a mix of male and female coaches for women’s sports, encouraging female coaches to stick with youth sports past middle school could help shake the idea that male players require a strong male presence to perform on the field.

“It could mean a mix of men and women at all levels, and I don’t know if I’ll ever live to see that but I’d like to move us in that direction,” Burton said. “We need to recognize that right now women only have access to one group.”

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UConn Hosts Women’s Olympic Basketball Training Camp

2016 U.S. Olympic Team to Train at Storrs Campus

Article Courtesy of UConn Today and UConn Communications

The USA Basketball Women’s National Team training camp on Feb. 21-23 will be held at the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center on the Storrs campus. Athletes taking part in the camp, which is expected to be the final training before the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team is selected, will be chosen from a pool of 25 of the nation’s top women’s basketball players, including six former or current Huskies.

Former UConn players among the finalists are WNBA players Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tina Charles (New York Liberty), Stefanie Dolson (Washington Mystics), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury). Breanna Stewart of the current UConn women’s basketball team is the only collegiate athlete among the finalists for this year’s official 12-member U.S. Olympic team.

“Because of the quality and talent in the USA National Team pool, every time we pare the list it is a difficult task,” said Carol Callan, USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director and chair of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee. “… This list of finalists is a mix of veterans, youth, international savvy, and USA Basketball experience.”

U.S. Olympic women’s basketball teams have earned a record seven gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal, and are 58-3 all-time in Olympic competition. Former Huskies on the roster who are also among this year’s finalists hold a total of eight Olympic gold medals, including Bird and Taurasi (three each), Charles and Moore (one each).

USA and Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, who previously directed the USA National Team to an overall 23-0 record and to gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Championships, said the committee will have a tough time choosing the team. “When I look at this list of athletes, we could split them down the middle and have two very competitive teams,” he said. “We have a great mix of gold medalists and players who are hungry to play in their first Olympics. … I’m just happy I don’t have to make the decision as to who will be playing in Rio.”

Feb. 18 SMP Virtual Open House Archived and Available to View!

Feb. 18 SMP Virtual Open House Archived and Available to View!

The UConn Sport Management Program (SMP) is pleased to announce that today’s Virtual Open House for graduate studies in UConn’s SMP has been archived for anyone who missed it or the February 15 edition of the Virtual Open House.

The online archive of the presentation and Q&A session featuring UConn SMP faculty and prospective master’s program students can be accessed by clicking the following link:

Archive of UConn SMP Virtual Open House – Feb. 18, 2016

Thank you to all who participated!

SMP Virtual Open House – LIVE from 6:45pm EST – Click here for the online link!

UConn SMP Virtual Open House Events – LIVE tonight from 6:45pm EST

The UConn SMP is pleased to announce that the link to the first Virtual Open House for graduate studies in UConn’s SMP will be LIVE as of 6:45pm EST tonight!

This live and interactive online presentation featuring UConn SMP faculty and students can be accessed by clicking the following link:

UConn SMP Virtual Open House – Feb. 15, from 6:45pm EST

This is a great opportunity to learn in detail about what the UConn SMP is all about, hear updated information about the application process, and ask anything you would like to know directly from the UConn SMP team!

We suggest that interested participants view and download the WebEx connection information sheet, which can be accessed by clicking here.

Not available to attend? Not to worry! A second UConn SMP Virtual Open House will hosted on Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 9:00am EST.

Not available for that one either? No problem! Both events will be archived as a video file that will be posted here on the UConn SMP website.

We look forward to welcoming potential UConn SMP students at one of our upcoming Virtual Open House events!

UConn SMP Virtual Open House Events – Feb 15 and Feb 18

UConn SMP Virtual Open House Events – Feb 15 and Feb 18

With potential students living all across the country and around the world, is not always practical for those interested in graduate studies in the Sport Management Department at the University of Connecticut to travel out to Storrs, Connecticut for a first-hand look at campus and to speak directly with faculty and students currently in the Sport Management Program (SMP) here at the University of Connecticut. However, the SMP strongly believes that no matter where they live, it is very important for potential students to have the opportunity to interact directly with members of the Program to help decide if the culture of the UConn SMP is the right fit for their educational/professional interests and passion for sport.

Thus, the UConn SMP is pleased to invite all interested students to a Virtual Open House for graduate studies in UConn’s SMP – a live and interactive online presentation featuring UConn SMP faculty and students that you can experience via WebEx on your computer, tablet or smartphone from anywhere in the world! This is a great opportunity to learn in detail about what the UConn SMP is all about, hear updated information about the application process, and ask anything you would like to know directly from the UConn SMP team!

In order to accommodate applicants in different time zones around the world, the UConn SMP will offer two Virtual Open House events this month:

Monday, February 15, 2016 at 7:00pm EST


Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 9:00am EST

Don’t miss out on this opportunity! To participate, simply e-mail Dr. Jennifer McGarry, Professor and Department Head, Department of Educational Leadership, to indicate which event you would like to join in and she will send you the necessary WebEx link and meeting number.

Not available to attend either event? Not to worry! Each UConn SMP Virtual Open House will be archived as a video file that will be posted here on the UConn SMP website.

We look forward to welcoming potential UConn SMP students at one of our upcoming Virtual Open House events!

Issues in Sport: The Relationship between Sports and Academic Achievement in Schools

Issues in Sports: The Relationship between Sports and Academic Achievement in Schools

The University of Connecticut Sport Management program seeks to foster personal and professional growth in our students. Undergraduate and graduate students engage in thought provoking discussions in their classrooms. At the conclusion of the Fall 2014 semester, our graduate students had the desire to further such conversations to a space outside of the classroom setting. They wanted open dialogue with a wider audience. On December 9 the program launched its first discussion of the Issues in Sport series where we created a forum to talk about social issues and their impact on sports.

Approximately 30 students, faculty and staff members attended the Issues in Sport discussions series to discuss the relationship between sports and academic achievement in schools. Through a WebEx conversation, UConn alumnae Anne McKernan and Karissa Niehoff spoke to the audience about the role, positive and negative, that sports play in a student’s academic life. The key theme of the discussion was creating and maintaining balance for student athletes, After hearing from the guest speakers, attendants engaged in small group conversations about an article posted in The Atlantic entitled “High-School Sports Aren’t Killing Academics”.

Overall, the event served as a way for the community to express ideas and concerns about the current state of academics and sports. There was a great turnout by fellow sport management students and faculty; however, representatives attended the event from the Rainbow Center, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources as well. With such diverse backgrounds, there was much opportunity for versatile discussions and continuous networking.

The Issues in Sport discussion series will continue in Spring 2016. Dates and topics are to be determined.

Guest Speakers:

Anne McKernan (2011), the Director of Leadership Development for the CT State Department of Education and a former chief academic officer for the Enfield Public Schools and school principal at CREC’s Metropolitan Learning Center.

Karissa Niehoff (2010), the Executive Director of Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CAS-CIAC).

Boston Area SMP Alumni Men’s Basketball Watch Party on Dec. 12

Boston Area SMP Alumni Men’s Basketball Watch Party on Dec. 12

The UConn Men’s Basketball team will be heating up chilly winter temperatures across the region when they take on The Ohio State on Saturday, December 12!

Come join the UConn Boston Alumni Association and UConn Sport Management Alumni Community for the first basketball watch party of the season, hosted by “The Greatest Bar” on 262 Friend St. in Boston.

The game kicks off at high noon on CBS, so please join us any time from 11:00 at The Greatest Bar for pre-game festivities and a prize raffle. The alumni team and UConn basketball will provide the festive atmosphere, so all you need to do is bring your friends and family (self-pay for food & drinks), and be ready to have a great time!

All alumni, students, friends & family are all welcome – we hope to see you there!

Go Huskies!

Native American basketball star Shoni Schimmel speaks at UConn

Native American basketball star Shoni Schimmel speaks at UConn

Article written by Max Engel, photo taken by Olivia Stenger, both courtesy of The Daily Campus.

As a part of Native American Heritage Month, Shoni Schimmel spoke at the University of Connecticut’s Student Union Theater on Tuesday night, regarding her experiences as a Native American in the WNBA.

Schimmel was raised on the Umatilla Reservation in Mission, Oregon. She started the evening by reciting some of the ignorant questions she was asked in high school, such as, “Do you guys live in teepees?”

Schimmel described her reservation as a place where “everybody knew each other,” but outside the reservation and in high school she faced discrimination from classmates and teachers alike. When applying to colleges, Schimmel received a remarkably disparaging rejection letter.

“It said, ‘Go back to your reservation,’” she explained.

Schimmel, currently plays for the Atlanta Dream and was featured in a documentary “Off the Rez.” After attending high school in Oregon, she attended college in Louisville, Kentucky, and was drafted into the WNBA when she graduated in 2014. While playing college basketball at Louisville, her sister Jude was among her teammates.

Eventually, President Obama choseJude as a moderator for the 2015 White House Tribal Nations Conference, where she was seated close to the President as he spoke.

“It’s not about who has the nicest car,” Schimmel said, as she gave a background to the more modest mindsets held within her reservation.

Schimmel suggested that injustice towards Native Americans easily slips through the minds of many people, as one of the nuances of race relations in America. However, the general populace is slowly but surely becoming more mindful of the struggles of Native Americans.

An example of this is the documentary “Reel Injun,” which describes the degrading portrayals of Native Americans in film. There is also a significant movement protesting sports teams’ use of Native American mascots, such as the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins.

Regarding the controversy over the Washington Redskins mascot, Schimmel said she disagreed with its use. She noted that the use of such terminology is unusual and egregious within the context of other NFL team names and American professional sports altogether.

Max Engel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

Shoni Schimmel: UConn Community Screening of “Off the Rez” & Meet and Greet

Shoni Schimmel: UConn Community Screening of “Off the Rez” & Meet and Greet


UConn’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program as well with the Sport Management Program in the Department of Educational Leadership are pleased to announced that ex-Louisville women’s basketball star Shoni Schimmel will be visiting our campus Monday and Tuesday November 9th-10th for the Screening of “Off the Rez” and a Meet and Greet event with our UConn community. Both events are open up to the public, free of charge, and we encourage all to come out and show support to Shoni Schimmel, and both organizations who are responsible for bringing this event to our UConn community.

The first event, Screening of “Off the Rez” will take place Monday November 9th from 6:00-8:00pm in Laurel Hall room 101. This film documents Shoni Schimmel’s journey from her upbringing in Oregon to playing collegiate basketball for the University of Louisville. The next event, Lecture with Shoni Schimmel will take place on Tuesday November 10th from 7:00-8:00pm in the Student Union Theater. The Lecture with Shoni Schimmel event will include a question and answer format style that will allow people in attendance to ask Shoni Schimmel questions about her life journey. In addition, prior to the question and answer part of the event, there will be a Meet and Greet with both Shoni and Jude Schimmel in the North Lobby of the Student Union from 8:00-9:00pm.


Networking at the Fall 2015 “Career Night in Sport” Event


Undergraduate Sport Management Students Network with Profesionals “A Career in Sports Night” at UConn Alumni Center

Seeking advice, stories of inspiration and the opportunity to network with industry professionals, more than 60 UConn undergraduate students flocked to “A Career in Sports Night” on October 19, an event featuring networking opportunities and interactive discussions with more than 20 UConn alumni currently working in the sport industry.

Organized and hosted jointly by UConn’s Center for Career Development, Alumni Association and Sport Management Program, the event was opened by UConn’s Director of Major Gifts, Meg Culmo (’92), who encouraged the students to make the most of such events, as students who came through UConn 10 years ago never had such great interactive opportunities.

Speaking from experience, the UConn communications major, UConn women’s basketball captain and NCAA championship-winning assistant coach never thought her career in broadcasting could lead to a job as a political lobbyist or her current position at UConn focusing on fundraising efforts for capital
projects and engaging former UConn student-athletes. Doing her best in each of the roles she performed opened up unexpected doors and networking opportunities with a people in a wide array of industries over the years that has led her to her current job, which she loves passionately as it is full of great people, challenges, and great reward in supporting the institution that helped provide much of the infrastructure of her own success.

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A huge thanks to all of our UConn alumni who participated in the event!

Alyssa Budkofsky: Assistant Athletic Director for Men’s Basketball Academic Support at Quinnipiac University

Billy Haubrich: ESPN Multimedia Sales Research Manager

Brent Colborne: Associate Manager at ESPN

Danielle Upham: Assistant Director of Event Management at UConnScreen Shot 2015-10-22 at 11.29.30 AM

Dave Longo: Athletic Facilities and Operations Manager at Brown University

Jenny Gobin: Motion Graphics Operator at ESPN

Joel Satin: WWE Marketing and Business Operations Executive in Media and Sports

Kate Mainelli: NBC Olympic Sales Marketing Manager

Kirsten Britton: Assistant Director of Athletics/Event Management at UConn

Leigh Michaud: ESPN Remote Production Operations

Lindsey Lemoine: Assistant Director of Video Services at UConn

Lisa Misipeka: UConn Track Assistant Coach/Director of Operations (3x Olympian)

Meg Angeletti: Section Marketing Strategist at USTA

Meg Culmo: Director of Major Gifts at UConn

Meredith Scarlata: Associate Athletic Director/Finance at Brown UniversityScreen Shot 2015-10-22 at 11.27.57 AM

Ronnie Balzano: Digital Client Services Coordinator at Major League Baseball

Sarah Griffin: Sales Coordinator, Affiliates Sales and Marketing at ESPN

Taylor Whiting: Tournament Assistant at Travelers Championship PGA Tour Event

Zack Wainwright: Assistant Ticket Office Manager at Brown University

Aaron Watson: Supervisor at ESPN in Broadcast Media

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 11.29.20 AMJulie Purcell: Assistant Director of Compliance at UConn


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