Sport management program nets 3rd place finish at National Collegiate Sports Sales Championship

by | Apr 1, 2024

Senior Mason Clynes finished fifth individually in the speed sell competition and led UMSL to third place overall.
Tyriq Gordon, Andrew Price, Mason Clynes and Harmauhny Faulkner

UMSL sport management students (from left) Tyriq Gordon, Andrew Price, Mason Clynes and Harmauhny Faulkner traveled to Atlanta to compete in the 2024 National Collegiate Sports Sales Championship. Clynes finished fifth individually in the speed sell competition and led UMSL to a third-place finish overall. (Photo courtesy of Karen Boleska)

Mason Clynes only had 90 seconds to sell himself to recruiters from the country’s top professional sports organizations.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis senior reminded himself to stay calm and to highlight the wealth of real-world experiences he’s gained through the sport management program.

“I was able to speak on going to the Super Bowl,” Clynes said. “We hosted NASCAR at my internship. I was part of the virtual sales academy program for the Atlanta Hawks last spring, as well. I had those experiences to speak about, and I think the judges really loved that.”

The personal elevator pitch was part of the speed sell tournament at February’s 2024 National Collegiate Sports Sales Championship in Atlanta. Clynes’ strong performance earned a 95.9 score and fifth place individually in the country. It also led the UMSL sport management program to a third-place finish overall behind Baylor University and the University of Mississippi.

Karen Boleska, director of the sport management program in the College of Education and an assistant teaching professor, said the results speak to her students’ interpersonal communication skills and ability to adapt to any situation.

“I take pride that every single year we’ve been at this competition, we have been ranked nationally for speed selling,” Boleska said. “I love that because it’s the students selling themselves. It’s not an actual item. So, it’s a lot of the personality; it’s a lot of the charisma that a lot of them have in those moments.”

Seniors Tyriq Gordon and Harmauhny Faulkner and junior Andrew Price joined Clynes in Atlanta for the two-day event. More than 160 students from 48 universities across the country participated in the competition, which serves as an opportunity for college students to showcase their sales skills and make industry connections.

The Atlanta Hawks and Baylor University’s Center for Sports Strategy hosted the event, as well as an accompanying conference, where students had the chance to network with professionals. Numerous MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL and NHL organizations also pitched in to sponsor the competition and were on hand to recruit for entry-level positions.

During the speed sell competition, students delivered 90-second pitches selling themselves as potential employees to recruiters as well as their peers and were graded on their delivery. The ticket sales and corporate partnerships tournaments were only open to graduating seniors who role-played scenarios where they attempted to sell ticket packages for professional sporting events to potential buyers. Those “buyers” were actually volunteer sales managers and recruiters for professional athletic organizations.

The qualifying round consisted of three 20-minute phone calls for each university’s sales team. After every call, judges scored students’ performances based on an established rubric, and the top sellers from each school moved on to the championship round at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

Clynes and Gordon earned top-100 national rankings in the qualifying round, booking places in the championship. Clynes finished in the top 64 in Atlanta, while Gordan made it to the top 32. But they each fell to students who went on to compete in the final four.

Gordon aims to work in sports marketing in the future but said he was interested in competing this year because sales is an excellent entry point into the industry. Faulkner agreed, noting that the sport management program’s guest speakers often tout the value of ticketing roles in career development.

“A lot of them said, ‘Well, I started off in ticketing,’ ‘I start off in inside sales,’” Faulkner said. “It leads to people who are CEOs, presidents at organizations. It’s this entry-level position, where it can actually take you somewhere. I know this is an entry-level position that is big on development, so I knew in the long run, it would be helpful for me.”

Price transferred to the program in January and was looking for a way to begin building his resumé. The National Collegiate Sports Sales Championship seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet face-to-face with representatives from the country’s major sports leagues.

“You can make a name for yourself and start to familiarize yourself with those teams,” he said.

Clynes had that in mind as well. He went into the trip with a goal of finding a full-time job post-graduation and conducted dozens of interviews before and during the competition. He ultimately succeeded, securing a full-time position in ticketing with Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire FC.

“I don’t think it has really hit me quite yet,” he said.

Ahead of the qualifying round in November, Clynes, Faulkner and Gordon trained for several weeks with guest coaches from the New York Mets, Orlando City SC, Phoenix Suns, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis CITY SC. Boleska is appreciative of the coaches and all of the other sport industry professionals who have volunteered their time over the years to help her students build the skills necessary to be successful at events like the NCSSC and in their future careers.

During training, the trio brushed up on the basics of sales and how to craft an effective pitch to potential buyers. Clynes and Gordon said one key takeaway was to be personable while still keeping sight of sales goals. Another was active listening.

“Are you listening to what the person is asking of you?” Boleska said. “Of course, you dream a little bit higher and negotiate your way from there. But if they’re asking for a suite and you give them courtside as your first recommendation, then you didn’t listen to them. So, it’s not always necessarily who sold the most amount of money, but it was who listened the best and gave back the best recommendation from that information provided.”

The students trained specifically for the ticket sales competition, but Boleska noted that the elements of the speed sell competition are built into virtually every aspect of the sport management program. Boleska places an emphasis on practical skills and hands-on experiences, and students are expected to interact with guest speakers and network with professionals throughout the course of the program.

The group was happy that everyone was able to participate in speed selling and grateful that groundwork paid off when the winners were announced.

“I was pretty ecstatic,” Faulkner said. “We were going up against really big schools, and mind you, we have a sport management program, but some of these schools have a sales program – strictly sales. We were going up against really high-level talent schools, and we made it to the top three. That was really big.”

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