Last Updated on June 21, 2022
Interview with Dr. Chris Croft
Sports Degrees Online had the chance to interview Dr. Chris Croft, Assistant Professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. They touch on subjects ranging from coaching, Esports, and some tips on how young people can set themselves up for success in the sports industry.
About Dr. Chris Croft
Dr. Chris Croft is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at the University of Southern Mississippi. His research interests include sport marketing, coaching, intercollegiate athletics, and sport security.
Professor Croft, prior to your career in academia you had extensive experience on the coaching staff for various basketball teams around the country, including in many of the biggest D-1 Conferences. Can you talk about some of the ways that your coaching experience now makes you a better person and a better professor of sport management?
Dr. Croft: I was very fortunate to be in college basketball for twenty years including eighteen years on the NCAA Division I level. There experiences allowed me coach student-athletes all over the country and in multiple opportunities. This included being able to coach on the high major, mid-major, and low major levels.
Additionally, I was able to coach at a predominantly white institution (PWI), historically black college and university (HBCU), and a Hispanic serving institution (HSI). These experiences allowed me to coach student-athletes and interact with students with diverse backgrounds in addition to international students. There is no doubt that these experiences have allowed me to transition better to the classroom as a teacher.
Coaching is teaching, and both include connecting with the athletes or students first. That includes showing them that you care about them personally and are committed to assisting them to be successful. That connection starts with the first encounter but is evaluated in every situation by actions. Obviously, content and information on the subject is vital and needs to be relayed to students but also in a manner that they can understand and relate to both the course and their personal situation.
“Coaching is teaching, and both include connecting with the athletes or students first. That includes showing them that you care about them personally and are committed to assisting them to be successful. That connection starts with the first encounter but is evaluated in every situation by actions. Obviously, content and information on the subject is vital and needs to be relayed to students but also in a manner that they can understand and relate to both the course and their personal situation.”
A major component of my teaching includes bringing those real-world experiences that I went through and saw in intercollegiate athletics to the classroom to supplement the course content and allow students to better understand what they will encounter entering the sport industry.
There are so many sport management programs to choose from at the bachelor’s and master’s level, it may be overwhelming for prospective students to choose which program is the best fit for them. What factors should students keep in mind as they are trying to choose a program?
Dr. Croft: The sport management field has grown at a fast pace and certainly a lot of programs to choose from on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Location and finances are going to be a factor for anyone in deciding and are important.
However, it is very important to evaluate the sport management program and look at their specific classes and faculty background. It is crucial to be in a sport management program that has both the basic courses but also specific courses in emerging areas.
Additionally, faculty backgrounds are important to look at as those faculty have specialty knowledge in certain areas that can great assist students in their educational pursuit and help open doors in their career. Additional information includes the faculty’s connections with organizations, and sport management opportunities that they provide to their students like sport management clubs, volunteer opportunities, guest speakers, etc. will all enhance their learning experiences in the program.
Professor, back in 2017 you published work about the Esports industry. Can you talk a bit about how Esports is unique within the sports industry, and what the Esports market could look like 5 years down the road?
Dr. Croft: I was fortunate to work with some colleagues early on the future of Esports and it has certainly grown considerably the past five years. Esports is certainly unique it that it allows competitive sports opportunities in a way that has never been seen before in traditional sports like most of us grew up playing. It provides competitive gaming opportunities for individuals to compete against others globally.
Esports has grown dramatically the last five years with its popularity and social media awareness and the future will continue to be bright. With university and colleges adding Esports teams, this has continued to raise the sport’s awareness while also providing scholarship opportunities for participants. With having a global interest, and video gaming component, Esports will continue to grow tremendously in the near future.
Regardless of which area of the sports and entertainment industry students choose to pursue, many positions can be quite competitive. What are some ways that students can separate themselves from other candidates when it comes to getting their first job?
Dr. Croft: The sport industry is highly competitive to enter, and to continue to elevate. It is very important for students to gain practical experience in the sport industry while pursuing their degree. This can include volunteer, practicum, internship, and other learning opportunities to gain real-world experiences. These experiences allow the student to better understand specific sport careers, make valuable contacts for networking, and enhance their resume.
Additionally, and sometimes a student may decide that a certain sport area is not what they thought and not interested after all in that area. That can continue to help students eliminate options and fine-tune the areas that they are most interested in doing in their career. But in summary, gaining real-world experiences is vital to learn and enhance their resume as they enter the sport industry. It will showcase their commitment early to get involved, and able to multi-task multiple things successfully.
Finally, you have now come home to teach at Southern Miss, your alma mater. What makes Mississippi a good place to study sport management and get started working in the sports industry?
Dr. Croft: It has been great to be back at Southern Miss and teaching at my alma mater for several reasons. While being a graduate of both of undergraduate and graduate sport management programs, I have a great feel of how the program has grown and expanded through the years.
Also, we place a huge emphasis on gaining our students real-world experience in addition to their sport management classes. We have a created an internship program with Southern Miss Athletics that provides great real-world experiences for them and can elevate them to graduate assistant positions.
With our location, we can collaborate with professional sport organizations including the New Orleans Saints, the New Orleans Pelicans, Sanderson Farms PGA Championship, and minor league baseball organizations Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers. Additionally with our proximity to New Orleans, we can work major sporting events like the Super Bowl and Final Four.