Alan Adams is a fourth-year undergraduate student in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE). The combination of his ISyE major, his minor in business strategy and innovation, and his life-long passion for playing, watching, and analyzing sports made for a natural fit with Georgia Tech’s Sports Business Club (SBC).
Adams joined SBC his first year at the Institute and rose through its leadership ranks to serve as president for the 2019-20 academic year, where he was instrumental in reviving the organization’s presence on campus. He continues to be involved with the organization as an advisor.
To start off, give us the basic facts about the Sports Business Club.
Sports Business Club is a community of Georgia Tech students interested in the sports industry. The organization engages its members through professional lectures, projects, conferences, and other networking opportunities. Our mission is to provide educational and professional opportunities for Georgia Tech students interested in the sports industry.
SBC has been around since 2015, but the executive board took it through a big revamp effort last year to expand our programming and capabilities. This has led to significant growth in membership, as we now have over 100 members! We have continued meeting virtually this semester and hope to continue progressing with our mission despite current circumstances.
When and why did you get involved with SBC?
I joined SBC my first year at Tech after a friend recommended the club to me. I went to the first few meetings of the semester and was immediately interested in getting more involved. I have always enjoyed all aspects of sports – playing, watching, analyzing – so when I heard there is a club that provides the opportunity to learn about and gain experience in the sports industry, I was very excited to join.
Can you tell us more about how SBC provides its members with those opportunities for experience in the sports industry?
The most significant opportunity we offer is to learn from and network with industry professionals that we bring in as guest speakers at our biweekly meetings. In addition, we created a member resume book to pass along to our speakers and alumni network, so that when opportunities come up, our members are considered. We also go outside the classroom by going to pro sports games, behind-the-scenes stadium tours, and sports analytics conferences. Lastly, we have been working to offer more tangible experience working in sports business and analytics through group projects and this semester’s case competition.
What did you accomplish while president of SBC?
The president’s role is centered around setting goals for and facilitating both the executive board and general member programming – specifically our biweekly club meetings. I worked closely with SBC’s executive officers this past year to not only continue the work each position had been doing in the past but also to improve each position’s contributions.
More specifically, I think we were able to give the club more structure by offering consistent programming and engaging with our members to hear what their interests. Additionally, a major change is that we added two new executive positions: vice president of external relations and vice president of club development. By focusing more on connecting with our members within the club and having consistent outreach with professional sports networks, we can build a stronger community and expand our opportunities. Our progress this past year has given a foundation for the club to build on, and I am happy that we have continued building on that this year.
What has been your favorite experience and your biggest challenge with the SBC?
My favorite experience was attending the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this past February. Along with a group of fellow SBC members, I was able to hear about trends from industry leaders, attend sports analytics project workshops, and network with many professionals and like-minded students from other universities. In addition to being extremely interesting, the conference showed me the endless opportunities our club has to expand our reach, such as with this fall’s case competition.
I would say that the biggest challenge was revamping the club’s capabilities this past year. In previous years, we had mainly brought in industry guest speakers for meetings, but our executive board realized that there was far more we could offer our members. We have worked to better understand our members’ interests and have expanded programming accordingly this year. Our biggest need was to create more action-oriented programming, so we have been working to create an alumni mentorship network and facilitate sports analytics projects for our members to gain more tangible experience.
ISyE Professor of the Practice Ron Johnson, who serves as the SBC faculty advisor, is something of a legend on Tech’s campus. He himself has experience in professional sports, since he served as the first senior vice president for referee operations for the NBA. How does Professor Johnson’s presence strengthen the club, and what was it like to work closely with him?
SBC would not be where it is today without Professor Johnson. He has given us great guidance all along the way in our journey from an inactive club to a growing organization. This comes from both his extensive knowledge of the sports industry and effective team building skills. Working with him is great – he always brings energy and creative thinking to the group. We had the opportunity this past spring to hear about his career path, specifically his experience starting the NBA referee analytics program, and it was a great inside look into in-game sports analytics.
Why would the Sports Business Club be of special interest to ISyE students? Is there something about the ISyE major that might give them a particular affinity for what they could learn by joining it?
I think that many ISyE students would be interested in SBC because we offer a combination of hands-on project experience and great networking opportunities. A significant focus of ours is in the sports analytics field, which ISyE students fit perfectly with, given the data-driven methods we learn through our coursework. Additionally, members get exposure to other industry functions – such as sales, marketing, finance, and operations – which help develop a more holistic business acumen, something that I have found valuable in my work experience. Overall, the sports industry is an exciting and growing field, especially with respect to analytics, so ISyE is an ideal major for SBC involvement.
What’s the easiest way for students to get involved in the Sports Business Club?
Our current membership model is very open, so all students can join SBC by emailing us to subscribe to our email list and paying small semesterly dues that fund our programming. The best way to get involved once you join is to attend meetings and engage with other members, as well as our industry guest speakers. Additionally, I would recommend getting involved in the small groups and projects that we are starting up.
You’re graduating in December. Do you have any plans to continue being involved in the sports industry in some way?
I am not planning to start my career in sports, but I do hope to stay connected within the industry and continue personal sports analytics projects. It is a competitive industry to break into, and that is really why I wanted to revamp SBC – hopefully, incoming students with a passion for sports will have more access to opportunities within the industry!
The Sports Business Club recently hosted its inaugural innovATL Case Competition, which was sponsored by AMB Sports + Entertainment (a subsidiary of AMB Group LLC, comprising the Atlanta Falcons, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and Atlanta United FC). Twenty-five teams entered the competition, and five teams advanced to the final round. Finalists earned the opportunity to network with and present their analysis to AMBS+E Executives, and they were also surprised with suite tickets to an upcoming Atlanta Falcons game. The winning team shared a $5,000 cash prize.
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering