Hands-on Experience Helps Students Decide Career Direction

March 1, 2016

Have you ever wondered what it takes to run a fitness center or sports stadium?

Who decides which equipment is needed and who maintains it? How does the gym management know it’s time for you to renew your membership? Who publicized that big game?

Those are just a few of the questions explored by the eleven students currently pursuing GCC’s Athletic Facility Administration (ATH) Certificate. To run an athletic facility, there’s a lot to know about business management, marketing, computer systems, health and safety, personnel management, customer service, and more.

GCC students learn through coursework, but where the rubber hits the road is working in real-life situations. That’s why ATH students are required to do an internship in a sports facility. GCC students have completed internships with the Springfield Falcons (a professional AHL Hockey team affiliated with the Arizona Coyotes NHL team), Indoor Action Sports in Greenfield, and the GCC Fitness Center. Plans are underway for GCC students to serve as customer service and marketing interns at the Basketball Hall of Fame next year. All of the internships are heavily-centered on operations management: the gritty job of operating a sports facility, working with both fans and players, and with retail operations.

Andrew Simmons, 19, of Shelburne Falls, completed an internship at Indoor Action in Greenfield and is in his fourth semester at GCC. He plans to transfer to the Sports Management program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. At Indoor Action, Andrew did many tasks, including customer service helping people sign up for programs, data entry, running the concessions area, cleaning, and setting up the field for different sports such as switching from football to soccer.

Andrew said, “My internship at Indoor Action was a great way to get hands-on experience, to make sure what I was studying toward is what I want to do. It really confirmed that I’m headed in the right direction. I applied things I’d learned in class at work, and, in class we talked about how our real-world experiences relate to what we’re studying. I think internships are great for students and our future careers and also good for the businesses who get GCC interns.”

Indoor Action’s Facility Manager and Sports Director, Bill Buck, supervised Andrew in his internship. Bill said, “Andrew was well prepared for the internship, and very professional in handling everything I assigned to him. After Andrew completed his internship, I asked him to continue on in a staff role. I look forward to working with future GCC interns and encourage other businesses to host GCC interns.”

Larry Harnois, 46, of South Deerfield, is studying toward an ATH certificate and an associate degree.  Larry worked in construction before studying at GCC and is currently affiliated with the Northeast American Powerlifting Association. Larry completed an internship at GCC’s Fitness Center maintaining equipment, keeping paperwork organized, and familiarizing people with the Fitness Center.

Larry said, “Working in the Fitness Center has helped me build skills I will need for my future goal of opening a gym in the area.”

Thom Simmons, Co-Chair of GCC’s Business & Information Technology Department and Professor of Economics & Business, said, “The sports industry is one of the largest industries in the United States, and growing annually. From athletes and coaches to stadium operators, marketing experts, and labor and customer relations, there are many career paths within this industry. This certificate is meant to help students marry their love of sports with a potential career path, whether they intend to continue their academic pursuits or go directly into the workforce.”

Those who complete the ATH certificate are qualified for an entry level job in an athletic facility and/or to continue study towards an Associate in Arts Business Administration Transfer (BAT) degree. Like other “stackable” certificates at GCC, the courses required for the ATH Certificate can be applied toward a GCC Associates degree. The BAT degree is designed to provide a seamless transition to Bachelor’s degree programs at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst or other schools with sports management programs. All of the courses required for the Certificate and BAT degrees can be used to transfer into these Bachelor’s degree programs.

For information about the Athletic Facility Administration Certificate, contact Thom Simmons at simmonst@gcc.mass.edu or 413-775-1482.

By Mary McClintock, ’82