By all measures, it would have been understandable if George Washington University business student Eddie Nold was groggy headed to work on Monday, Jan. 16. The team he interns for, the NBA’s Washington Wizards, were about to play their fourth home game in a week, which meant Nold was starting at another 10-hour plus workday.
Not only that, but it was a 2 p.m. tipoff as the NBA commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, meaning he had to get to Capital One Arena extra early to begin his gameday prep.
But on this day, the popular Golden State Warriors, and their international superstars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, were in town.
Part of Nold’s gameday duties include ushering groups of fans who bought bulk tickets down to the courtside seats to watch warmups. On that January afternoon, the amount of starstruck children watching Curry and Thompson go through their pregame shooting routine for the first time gave Nold a bolt of energy that reminded him just how lucky he feels to enhance the fan experience at an event people seek out for entertainment, inspiration and escapes from reality.
“It’s a lot of work and behind the scenes work that you are doing, but It just never ceases to feel incredible and super cool,” said Nold, who is a group sales intern with the Wizards.
Nold, who is doing the 4+1 option to earn both his bachelor’s degree in general business and a master’s in sports management degree all in five years, also worked as a ticket intern this past summer for the Washington Nationals.
Through his time at GW, he has learned the importance of networking in the sports industry. One such opportunity is GW’s annual Sports Industry Networking and Career (SINC) conference, which will kick-off its 21st installment Friday, Feb. 24. The hybrid event runs through Saturday and provides college students and career changers a chance to come together with sports industry professionals from a variety of different areas, including teams, leagues, media, agencies, esports, venues, Olympics and more. Tickets are still available for the sessions.
SINC is a marquee event in the sports management program, headed by Lisa Delpy Neirotti. Nold is grateful for the opportunities that have allowed him to not only get a foot in the door of the sports industry but also show him how business and athletics intertwine.
“The program had basically every resource that you could possibly need to succeed going into a sports career,” Nold said.
While seeing the superstars up close and in person is certainly a perk of working in the industry, there’s much more nuance to it than just being within arm’s length of some of the world’s most recognizable celebrities.
Most fans, either attending in-person or watching on the television, make the game a part of their evening and then go home or turn off their devices once it’s done. Charles Branche, M.S. ’22, spends his working hours making sure those fans keep coming back. As a marketing coordinator with the Wizards, Branche enhances the team’s brand guidelines and presence in the community. He helps orchestrate gun violence initiatives, connect with local D.C. universities and address the global sphere of the NBA by spearheading different heritage nights at the arena.
“Why do we do all of these things? Because we want people to eventually come to the games because they see something cool or feel a connection,” Branche said.
Like Nold, Branche took advantage of different opportunities within the sports management program, including SINC. During his time at GW, he worked in building operations at the Charles E. Smith Center, where he was a jack-of-all-trades and did everything from moving hoops for basketball practice to cleaning up for water polo matches. Branche received an outstanding contributor award from the GW School of Business in 2022, in part because he attended every networking event he could find.
He advised fellow students to utilize the resources of the program and recognize the available opportunities. For instance, 16 students traveled with Neirotti to the men’s World Cup this past November in Qatar. One of those students, Mariette Gervitz, M.S. ’22, went straight from the World Cup to starting a full-time role with the Wizards. Another eight students traveled with Neirotti to work the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., where the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles.
There are many avenues in the sports industry, even for those without the arm strength of Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the range of a Curry jump shot or velocity of a Serena Williams serve. But those athletes all need platforms to stand on, people to market them, sell tickets to their events and broadcast their crafts to the millions of fans watching worldwide. Otherwise, they’d just be playing a game.
GW’s sports management program not only allows valuable experience outside the classroom, but it trains students who love sports to share it with others.