In professional sports, the phrase “coaching tree” is used to refer to the lineage of coaches that have once worked as an assistant under a particular head coach. A key period in the development of successful coaches, this time allows assistants to learn from the greats, gain experience in real game situations, and then apply that knowledge to their own prospective head coaching careers.
Perhaps none is more famous than the Bill Parcells coaching tree consisting of Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, and Sean Payton all of whom have gone on to find their own individual Super Bowl-winning coaching successes.
The same concept applies in the world of academia, where students have the opportunity to learn from both tenured professors and respected alumni who walked the same halls before them. In addition to guidance and advice, mentees often receive industry-specific intel and invaluable real-world experience to develop a successful entry point into the competitive sports business world.
And as illustrated by many robust coaching trees, meaningful mentorship can have a ripple effect that extends far beyond the initial mentee. By passing on their knowledge and experience, both mentors and mentees have the ability to shape the future success of entire generations.
Few universities recognize the power of these relationships as strongly as the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Mark H. McCormack Department of Sports Management.
Currently ranked #1 in the world in SportsBusiness’s annual postgraduate ranking and housed within the nationally recognized Isenberg School of Management, McCormack provides students with unparalleled access to a dedicated alumni base of over 3,500 influential alumni around the world.
These connections are often kickstarted through McCormack’s graduate mentorship exchange, where students have formed tight-knit bonds with sports business greats like Koby Altman, Zaileen Janmohamed, Sandy Barbour, and Jeff Price, to name a few.
Incoming students articulate their ideal career placement aspirations and are then paired with trusted alumni in mid-to-senior leadership positions, who can help coach their mentee and provide invaluable career success tips.
The success of these initiatives is no better illustrated than by the stories of 2022 MBA/MS graduates Katie Yates and Jack Davis, who were both able to leverage their tight-knit bonds with successful McCormack alumni to gain valuable experience and land their dream jobs within the sports industry.
Yates now works as a Hockey Analyst for the Philadelphia Flyers. It was her first connection with UMass Hockey Head Coach Greg Carvel and grad mentor Jeremy Rogalski that led her to internship opportunities as a Women in Sports Tech fellow with the Boston Bruins.
“I came to UMass because of the breadth of opportunity it provided in the world of sports business,” she said. “I felt it gave me the best combination of being able to build a base of knowledge to succeed in any number of different sports business areas, while also providing the opportunity to work with a championship-caliber team along the way to strengthen my skill set.”
And that it did.
During her time in the program, Yates doubled as the UMass Men’s hockey program’s Director of Analytics. The Minutemen won the NCAA National Championship in 2021.
Meanwhile, Davis now serves as the University of Delaware’s Assistant Athletic Director of Project Management & Internal Operations. Fresh off a career pivot from finance, Jack’s journey was kickstarted during an internship with McCormack alumni and University of Rhode Island Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn. Via the grad mentor program, Davis developed a pro forma budget and strategic proposal for the University of Rhode Island to add a women’s lacrosse team. In October 2022, this addition was officially announced by the University.
“It was pretty cool to see how quickly I was able to work on the exact kind of project I envisioned when I made my career switch,” said Davis. “I owe that to a lot of people who believed in me and were willing to give me an opportunity, and to the close-knit bonds the grad program builds between alums and current students.”
Deeply rooted in McCormack’s educational philosophy is the value of experiential learning. Through required internships, consulting projects, and pitch competitions students are encouraged to solve actual business challenges, earn valuable practice reps, and amass a wealth of teachable moments prior to graduation. From sponsorship and finance, to applied market research and analytics, it’s the takeaways from these experiences that have awarded students the ability to assume leadership positions in sports organizations quickly after graduation.
And with 2023 admissions season quickly approaching, McCormack is actively searching for the next wave of future leaders to bring into the fold.