Sports Management Program Places 3rd in National Collegiate Sports Sales Championship

Sports Management Program Places 3rd in National Collegiate Sports Sales Championship

Tyriq Gordon, Andrew Price, Mason Clynes and Harmauhny Faulkner

UMSL sports management students (from left) Tyriq Gordon, Andrew Price, Mason Clynes and Harmauhny Faulkner traveled to Atlanta to compete in the 2024 National Collegiate Sports Sales Championship. Clynes finished fifth individually in the speed sales competition and led UMSL to third place overall. (Photo courtesy of Karen Boleska)

Mason Clynes had just 90 seconds to sell himself to recruiters from the country’s top professional sports organizations.

University of Missouri – St. Louis Senior reminded himself to stay calm and draw on the wealth of real-world experiences he’s gained through the sports management program.

“I was able to talk about going to the Super Bowl,” Clynes said. “We hosted NASCAR at my practice. I was part of the virtual sales academy program for the Atlanta Hawks last spring, as well. I had those experiences to talk about and I think the judges really liked that.”

The personal elevator pitch was part of the Velocity Sales Tournament at the February 2024 Collegiate Sports National Sales Championship in Atlanta. Clynes’ strong performance earned him a score of 95.9 and fifth place individually in the country. He also led the UMSL sport management program to a third-place finish overall behind Baylor University and the University of Mississippi.

Karen Boleska, director of the College of Education’s sport management program and an assistant professor, said the results speak to her students’ interpersonal communication skills and ability to adapt to any situation.

“I’m proud that every year we’ve been in this competition, we’ve been ranked nationally for speed sales,” Boleska said. “I like this because the students sell themselves. It is not a current article. So it’s very personal; it’s a lot of charisma that a lot of them have in those moments.”

Seniors Tyriq Gordon and Harmauhny Faulkner and junior Andrew Price joined Clynes in Atlanta for the two-day event. More than 160 students from 48 universities across the country participated in the competition, which serves as an opportunity for college students to showcase their sales skills and make industry connections.

The Atlanta Hawks Center for Sports Strategy and Baylor University hosted the event, as well as an accompanying conference, where students had the opportunity to network with professionals. Multiple MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL and NHL organizations also pitched in to sponsor the competition and were on hand to recruit for entry-level positions.

During the speed selling competition, students delivered 90-second pitches selling themselves as potential employees to recruiters as well as their peers and were judged on their delivery. The corporate ticketing and partnership tours were open only to graduating seniors who role-played scenarios where they attempted to sell ticket packages to professional sporting events to potential buyers. Those “buyers” were actually volunteer sales managers and recruiters for professional athletic organizations.

The qualifying round consisted of three 20-minute calls to each university’s sales team. After each call, judges scored the students’ performances based on an established rubric, and the top sellers from each school advanced to the championship round at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

Clynes and Gordon earned top-100 national rankings in the qualifying round, booking places at the championships. Clynes finished in the top 64 in Atlanta, while Gordan reached the top 32. But each fell to students who went on to compete in the final four.

Gordon intends to work in sports marketing in the future, but said he was interested in competing this year because sales is a great entry point into the industry. Faulkner agreed, noting that the sports management program’s guest speakers often tout the value of ticketing roles in career development.

“A lot of them said, ‘Well, I started in ticket sales,’ ‘I start in inside sales,'” Faulkner said. “It leads to people who are CEOs, presidents in organizations. It’s this entry-level position where it can actually get you somewhere. I know this is an entry-level position that’s big on development, so I knew that in the long run it would be beneficial for me.”

Price transferred to the program in January and was looking for a way to start building his resume. The National College Sports Sales Championship seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet face-to-face with representatives from the nation’s major sports leagues.

“You can make a name for yourself and start getting known to those teams,” he said.

Klynes had that in mind too. He went on the trip with the goal of finding a full-time job after graduation and conducted dozens of interviews before and during the competition. He eventually succeeded, securing a full-time position in ticket sales with Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire FC.

“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” he said.

Before the qualifying round in November, Clynes, Faulkner and Gordon trained for several weeks with visiting coaches from the New York Mets, Orlando City SC, Phoenix Suns, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Cardinals. Louis CITY SC. Boleska is grateful to the coaches and all other sports industry professionals who have volunteered their time over the years to help her students build the skills they need to be successful at events like the NCSSC and in their future careers .

During the training, the trio struggled with the basics of sales and how to create an effective pitch to potential buyers. Clynes and Gordon said one of the key points was to be personable, while still keeping sales goals in mind. Another was active listening.

“Are you listening to what the person is asking of you?” said Boleska. “Of course, you dream a little higher and negotiate your way from there. But if they’re looking for a suite and you give them the patio as your first recommendation, then you haven’t listened. So it’s not always necessarily who sold the most money, but it was who listened the best and made the best recommendation from that information given.”

The students were trained specifically for the ticket sales competition, but Boleska noted that elements of the speed sales competition are integrated into almost every aspect of the sports management program. Boleska places an emphasis on practical skills and hands-on experiences, and students are expected to interact with guest speakers and network with professionals throughout the course of the program.

The group was happy that everyone was able to participate in the speed sale and thankful that the hard work paid off when the winners were announced.

“I was so ecstatic,” Faulkner said. “We were going up against really big schools, and remember, we have a sports management program, but some of these schools have a sales program – strictly sales. We were going up against top tier talent schools and came in the top three. It was really big.”

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