Lessons Learned: Making Athletics Count Off the Field Into Careers

What can students take from the playing field beyond their playing years? A U-Imagine Center symposium explored how teamwork and other skills can help make goals beyond college. 

For KYW Newsradio sports reporter Matt Leon, “Every opportunity I’ve had, I’ve gotten through networking,” he said as the keynote speaker Sept. 28 for the Inspire series event.

Throughout the two-day program, alumni athletes, as well as guests such as Leon, told students how they got to their current careers, and what skills they acquired in athletics that helped them beyond college.

The U-Imagine Center’s Going “Pro,” Teamwork On and Off the Field aimed to inspire students to understand the connection between athletics and entrepreneurial thinking.

Leon, a well-known Philadelphia-area sports broadcaster and author, said he always wanted to be in radio. “When I was 7 years old, I would turn the volume on a Phillies game down and practice doing my own play by play,” he said. “I never lost my passion for the industry, even when a wall in my apartment was covered in job rejection letters. My four roommates and I called it ‘The Wall of Rejection.’”

Leon landed his first broadcasting job through an internship experience at local radio station in Hanover, Pa. “I went back to the station right before graduating to thank my internship supervisor. When I got there, he told me the afternoon host had just had a heart attack. I hated for the opportunity to come in this way, but I left the station that day with my first broadcasting job,” said Leon.

In the beginning of his career, Leon worked three jobs just to make ends meet. He moved on to State College, where he served as sports director for WRSC, WQWK, and WNCL, and then to the Midwest as the sports director for Missourinet, the state network for Missouri. He joined KYW Newsradio nearly15 years ago.

“My advice to students pursuing a career in broadcasting? Find your audience, whether it be sports, wrestling, gaming, etc. And pursue your passion for excellence—the world has met its quota for mediocrity.”

Off the Field: How Sports Led Me to My Career

Teamwork  was among the many athletic experiences that made an impact later in life, panelists said during the Sept. 29 panel, Off the Field: How Sports Led Me to My Career.

And, for nearly all, a failure of sorts helped them change course. One panelist did not make a team and eventually found success in financial planning. Another lost a job in a downsizing and decided to start a business. “Failure is the way humans learn,” said Joe Kelly ’88, now a counselor.

Athletics gave Gary Canner M.D.,” the ability to make decisions, for better or worse,” he said. Added alumna Jeanine Stuart, “As a business owner, I make a lot of decisions but the end of the day, I don’t know everything. Surround yourself with a team.” She added that teamwork means everyone looks out for each other, and they have the same goals.

“If you think about each play, each pitch, you are always adjusting, always problem-solving,” Kelly said.

The panelists were Jenn Harpel ’92, with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management; Stuart ’85, with AREUFIT Health Services, Canner, partner with Berkshire Ortho Associates and orthopedic consultant to Ursinus College, and Kelly ’88. partner at Integrated Counseling Services. The panel was moderated by Megan Myers, talent acquisition specialist at Enterprise Holdings.

On the Field: Careers in the Sports Industry

Dr. Robert Sing ’75, who has a family and sports medicine practice, always wanted to go into medicine. Meanwhile, he took up javelin throwing, was designated fifth in his home state of New Jersey,  and was the 1974 Division III national champion. He is now considered one of the top javelin coaches, and is the author of a textbook on javelin throwing.

“You make your own niche” said Sing, an Ursinus Trustee, who introduced the afternoon presenters.

During On the Field: Careers in the Sports Industry, Ursinus students met in small groups with guests. They wanted to know for example, what J.P.  Dunne ’07, ticketing services representative for the Phillies, about his job. (“A lot of paperwork” he said, “but it is one of the best experiences I have ever had.”)

They asked former basketball player John Noonan ’09, now a sports agent with Octagon Sports, how often he travels (a lot) and what is important in his job (“building relationships with players, parents and coaches”).

Dunne and Noonan joined guests Taylor Weidsensaul ’11, assistant director of education services for students athletes at St. Joseph’s University; Joyce Anne Koubaroulis ’05, athletics academic support coordinator at Christopher Newport University, and . and additionally from  the Phillies – Troy Sattin, Phanatic representative, Jameson Hall, community outreach representative  and Sarah Hartsell, marketing representative.

Patterson Presents

Following the panel, a program co-sponsored by Career and Professional Development, Exercise Your Leadership and Innovation, featured Prince Patterson ’17, an intern at Enterprise, and Enterprise talent acquisition representatives..