So You Think You Want to Work in Sports? Talk to These Guys!

For Tad Dickman ’12, Glenn Gray ’07, Jin Wong ’97, and Ricky Volante, sports at Mary Washington weren’t just a game; they were a passion.  A passion that each of them has translated into a career in the sports industry.  On Tuesday, February 2nd, the College of Business welcomed all four back to discuss their work as part of the ‘So You Think You Want To…’ series, which gives students the opportunity to learn more about industries that they might be interested in, as well as connect with alumni who are currently working in those industries.

As mentioned, all four panelists participated in team sports at Mary Washington; Wong and Volante played baseball, Dickman played basketball, and Gray played soccer.  Now, all four are working in various areas of the sports industry; two in professional sports, Tad Dickman with the PGA Tour and Jin Wong with the Kansas City Royals, and two in roles that support the sports industry, Glenn Gray with the Buffalo Groupe and Ricky Volante with the Professional Collegiate League.

During the event, the panelists detailed the journey that brought them to their current position.  For Dickman and Wong, it was an internship that launched their career in sports; Dickman was a Public Relations intern with the New York Giants and Wong did an internship with the Braves, both after they had graduated.  Also for both, these experiences opened up other opportunities within their respective leagues.  For Dickman, that was a Public Relations Consultant position with the NFL, and later the Public Relations Director for the Jacksonville Jaguars.  For Wong, it was an entry-level position with the Oakland A’s then the New York Mets, before he moved to Kansas City, sight unseen, to accept a position with the Royals, where he has been promoted multiple times.

Glenn Gray also did an internship after graduating from UMW, working in business development for Octagon.  Instead of entering directly into the career world though, his path took him to Virginia Commonwealth University, where he pursued a Masters in Sports Management and Leadership.  During his time at VCU, Gray stayed involved with sports by serving as the Graduate Assistant Coach for the Men’s Soccer Team.  After graduating with his Masters, he was offered a position across the country in Oregon, with Nike.  A year later, he returned to the East Coast to work for Junior Sports Corporation, then landed the job as a specialist with Buffalo Groupe, where he has grown to become a Senior Vice-President in the past ten years.

For his career path, Volante detailed how a sports law course he took at Lake Eerie College (he transferred after freshmen year due to an ACL injury and having Tommy John’s surgery) inspired him to pursue a law degree from Cleveland State University.  With his degree, Volante helped co-found the Professional Collegiate League, which focuses on advocacy to enable collegiate basketball players to benefit from their talent.  He has also founded the Volante Law Firm, is an adjunct professor at Baldwin Wallace University, where his teaches about legal issues in sports management, and is an unofficial advisor to Senate staff on legislation that relates to college sports.

As the hour-long event began wrapping up, the conversation moved away from how the panelists got to where they are to how current UMW students could one day be there, too.  Advice that was offered included doing research about what interested them in the sports world, and knowing what it would take to get into that career.  Some discussed the benefits of pursuing an MBA, while Volante said that he pursued a law degree because everything he does has legal issues related to it.  All agreed that students should be selective in order to find a program that worked for them.

Everyone also agreed that working in the sports industry is a grind and a lifestyle, but one that should be embraced by those who are seeking to pursue a career in it.  As Tad Dickman stated as the event was wrapping up, the long hours and travel are worth it to be part of a team that is working toward one common goal and chasing a dream together.

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