In a new initiative to better connect students and professionals in the sports and fitness industry, the Carolina Sport Business Club hosted its first Carolina Sport Business & Fitness Expo at Kenan Stadium’s Blue Zone Saturday.
The event featured talks from a host of esteemed individuals in the sport and fitness industry and presented former UNC alumnus and basketball legend Phil Ford.
The club’s faculty advisor, Deborah Stroman, said she saw Ford as the perfect candidate to be the keynote speaker at the expo.
“What better person than a Phil Ford? He is a native North Carolinian, he is an icon, he represents sport, he represents pro sports, he represents college sports,” Stroman said. “He is engaging, he is exciting. When many people think about the brand of UNC, I would say there isn’t one person who is affiliated with the University that would not say Phil Ford.”
When Ford took the podium during the expo, he gave the attendees an insightful view into his experiences in sports, and in particular discussed how all students should have a “Plan B.”
“I talk to school kids with every year, and I tell them, ‘Listen, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a supreme court judge, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a professional athlete, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a world-renowned guitarist,‘” Ford said.
“But now those jobs, they just don’t fall off the truck everyday, you got to have a game Plan B. The best game Plan B I think is you guys are here right now. It’s having a good education, something you can fall back on.”
Along with Ford, there were other speakers present to give advice to the students on entering the sports and fitness industry.
“People always ask, ‘What do you look for in a hire?’ I think the best qualities you can have are curiosity and initiative,” said Will Pleasants, senior vice president of consulting at the Wasserman Media Group.
Pleasants went on to highlight the difference between just enjoying sports and being interested in the business end of sports.
“Just remember what you’re coming in for, do you love sports or do you love the business of sports?,” he said.
Elle Bunn, director of community relations for the Charlotte Checkers, echoed a similar sentiment in her remarks.
“The last thing we want to see is somebody who basically just wants a job in sports,” Bunn said.
There were 14 panelists involved in the entire expo, ranging from UNC staff to representatives from fitness companies and professional sports teams.
Sarah Pellegrino, event co-president, commended the efforts of the students involved in organizing the event
“(We) got about 40 interested students from the journalism school, from business school, exercise and sports science that wanted to help out,” Pellegrino said.
In particular, Pellegrino highlighted the efforts of event Co-Vice President of Marketing Michelle Bandklayder, and presented her with a sponsorship award for her efforts.
“Everyone on exec committee did a fantastic job and did above and beyond,” Pellegrino said “When you have someone bring in close to $1,000, that is the epitome of excellence for me. So (Co-President) David (Fox) and I felt really strongly about honoring her and we thought it would be really special for Phil Ford to present her with the award.”
On the whole, Pellegrino saw the inaugural expo as a success and thought the students as well as the companies benefited from the event.
“The students that came today, I think it’s an investment in their future,” she said. “I want to thank everyone that was up at 8 a.m. this morning because it shows that this event is a success and it shows that companies should come out and really invest time in the future of business and of sports and fitness business.”
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