Inspired by the continued success of the Toronto Raptors in this year's National Basketball Association playoffs, Abhinav Prakash is likely no different than many other young Canadians in dreaming of a future career in the sport of basketball.
Unlike many of them though, Mr. Prakash has already worked in close proximity to the Raptors, helping with business development and sales for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of both the Raptors and the National Hockey League's Toronto Maple Leafs, among other sports entities.
Unfortunately, the 26-year-old realized it would take an awfully long time to get to senior-level positions there without proving himself in higher education.
So he left, and after a period of undertaking his JD-MBA, writing both his LSAT and GMAT in a span of five months, he ended up doing an accelerated MBA program at York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto.
His vision of a career in basketball has never died.
"For me, it's being in the front office," Mr. Prakash said in describing his dream job. "I don't want to get too specific and pigeonhole myself but I would say the Toronto Raptors [or] any basketball team, being in the front office and dealing with player development, player relations, [managing the] salary cap and financial management in that sense."
With a number of his students having similar sporting aspirations, Schulich sports marketing instructor Vijay Setlur decided to host the school's inaugural Sports, Media and Entertainment Internship Fair. The event, one of the few organized by a Canadian university focusing exclusively on these three industries, brought together 16 companies or organizations, including Rugby Canada, Golf Canada and global sports management behemoth IMG, to showcase themselves in front of the students.
The reasons for putting on the event were twofold. On one hand, it enabled Schulich students to build awareness about careers in the sports industry, but for the companies that already operate in that sphere, it allowed them to see what kind of talent existed at the business school.
"Our school doesn't have a sport management or sport marketing program per se," said Mr. Setlur. "Yet there is an interest in sport, so it's a matter of combining that interest in sport with opportunities to connect those students that are interested in sports with real opportunities in the industry."
As he pointed out, there are a number of sectors within the sports industry, so whether it is in apparel, facilities or the teams and leagues themselves, there are numerous career opportunities in an ever-growing and seemingly increasingly popular industry.
Though MLSE turned down an invitation to appear at the fair, those that did come out were pleasantly surprised at what they saw.
"We're here to find the great minds of tomorrow," said David Cohen, a Schulich grad and the director of strategy and new business development for IMG. "In the past, most of our recruiting has been done at traditional sports marketing programs, and we felt that limited the pool of talent that we were receiving, so why not open the door up and expand the pie so to speak?"
As Mr. Cohen explained, while the students benefit from face-to-face contact with the kinds of organizations that might provide them with career avenues, for the companies themselves, it gives them a level of brand exposure. That is particularly true for a company such as New York-based IMG, which may not get the same level of exposure in Canada as a well-known organization such as MLSE.
In addition, while the students at Schulich aren't studying a straight sports business program, they bring other talents to the table.
"The sport business programs are great because the people coming out of there have very industry-specific knowledge," Mr. Cohen said. "But are they the brightest minds within their age group? Who's to say? Not necessarily."
Repucom, a global sports and entertainment data and insights firm with more than 1,700 clients worldwide, including soccer's English Premier League and La Liga of Spain, feels an obligation to reach out to the next generation of talent and get them excited about possible careers.
"They're proactively here so clearly they have an interest or a passion in the industry and are just trying to learn more," says Katrina Galas, a Toronto-based account director for the company. "I think it's partially our job to help educate them on what this industry is all about and just build that momentum."
That momentum can take a student to the top of his profession, as the Arizona Coyotes' recent hire of John Chayka, an Ivey Business School alumnus, to be the youngest general manager in NHL history goes to show.
Daniel Lovero, a 25-year-old Philadelphia native, has similar aspirations to follow in Mr. Chayka's footsteps as a GM of a team, whether that is in the NHL, the National Football League or Major League Baseball.
And while he knows it's a long shot, he's been focused on building a career in sports for a number of years. So for single-minded students like him, the Schulich Sports, Media and Entertainment Internship Fair was more an opportunity to make contacts. For other, more unsure students, the fair fulfilled an important role.
"So many people are unaware of all the job opportunities in sports," Mr. Lovero said. "So people like myself that are really interested in sports, we're aware and we're here and we're taking full advantage of it. We know where we want to go. But for some people it's just an eye-opener."