Last Updated on October 19, 2022
Interview with Dr. Jaime Orejan
Sports Degrees Online has the chance to speak with Dr. Jaime Orejan, Associate Professor of Sport Management at Limestone University. In the interview, Dr. Orejan touches on topic ranging from the life skills and myriad connections made from his coaching career, how sport management students can set themselves up for success in the future, and value of an MBA.
About Dr. Jaime Orejan
Dr. Orejan is Chair of the Sport Management Department at Limestone University. Professor Orejan holds a PhD in Teaching and Sport Administration, a Master of Science in Coaching and Sport Administration and a Bachelor of Science in International Trade and Finance from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Professor Orejan, in looking at the courses you teach at Limestone University, you’re very focused on experiential learning for students studying sport management. Can you talk a bit about why internships and practicums are so important for sport management students?
Professor Jaime Orejan: First of all, I think students gain a better understanding of the sport business industry as a whole, be a small community event or a major event like the World Cup.
As a student myself, I took advantage of every learning opportunity I had outside the classroom. I am a firm believer that theory in the classroom is one thing but putting that theory to work is something else; theory is very different than the real world. That’s one of the reasons why I put a great deal of emphasis on internships and practicums. I tried to use those experiences to put into practice what I had learned in the classroom, and quickly realized that while similar, the real world is very different than the classroom.
In the classroom, I like to teach from personal experiences as opposed to teaching by the book or from the book for that matter. Internships and practicums are crucial, and I tell the students, even if you’re not getting any credit for it, if there is an opportunity for you to learn something outside of the classroom, please take advantage of it. You never know who you’re going to meet, and you never know where that is going to take you. Additionally, I tell my students that regardless of the event or activity, to do their absolute best.
Lastly, I remind the students the importance of learning additional skills such as time management, social skills, and many other soft skills that are as important as all technical skills.
“If there is an opportunity for you to learn something outside of the classroom, please take advantage of it. You never know who you’re going to meet, and you never know where that is going to take you. Additionally, I tell my students that regardless of the event or activity, to do their absolute best.”
Can you talk a bit about how students should approach these internships and how they can be sure to make the most out of these opportunities?
Professor Jaime Orejan: Students should not approach these internships as an opportunity to get credit and complete their degree requirements. They should take this as an opportunity to learn, to find ways of impressing their supervisor/mentor, to learn what they are good at, and to learn what they need to work on in order to do a better job and become better professionals. Just because they’re interns doesn’t mean that they’re not responsible for the things that they’re asked to do. So, they should take it seriously.
Here at Limestone, if they are doing it for a grade, eighty percent of their grade comes from their supervisor. So, if the supervisor says, this student gets a D, that student is pretty much going to get a D, and that does not look good on a transcript. So, they should take it seriously and be like a sponge – observe as much as possible, ask questions, volunteer, do what you are told.
It is also important to be able to network. We all have heard the expression “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you”.
During the internship experience, is it important for students to arrive early and stay late?
Professor Jaime Orejan: Of course. It’s just like being an athlete. If you want to be a better basketball player, a better tennis player or whatever, you’re going to practice, practice, practice. You’re going to arrive early and stay there longer, it’s the same thing. And you [shouldn’t] sit around waiting to be told to do something, you’ll have to ask or take the initiative to do something yourself.
Professor Orejan, prior to your career in academia, you were a competitive soccer coach. And looking back at your time as a coach, are there any aspects that you get nostalgic about and are there any factors or traits that made you successful as a coach that you still use as a professor of sport management?
Professor Jaime Orejan: Wow, that’s a loaded question. Well, I will say this – I do not miss the travel and the recruitment part. That I don’t miss, particularly the recruitment aspect of it. I don’t miss that. I do miss being with the athletes, coaching and developing friendships and things over the years. I [often] think about the times when we were successful and the friendships.
To this day – I haven’t been coaching full-time in almost 15-20 years – yet I’m still in touch with about a quarter of the student-athletes that I coached, [including students from] USA, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Bolivia, England, Wales, Sweden, etc. Wherever they are, we stayed in touch over the years. That’s kind of one of the things I miss, the day to day interaction.
Now, I have taken a great deal of the philosophy I had on the soccer field to the classroom in that I was never one to force the players to do something. They were the ones playing, I was the one coaching. When managing I would always ask their opinion about particular things that we were trying to accomplish, to see if it would work. I try to do the same thing in the classroom. Just because I’m on this side of the desk doesn’t mean that I’m smarter than the students in front of me. It just so happens that I’m older and I have more experiences, that’s about it. That doesn’t make me smarter.
I try to approach [teaching] from that point of view, give [students] the opportunity to express themselves, to agree, to disagree, to communicate, to challenge me, to question me. And I did the same thing when I was a coach, and that was one of the reasons why I was a bit successful during my time.
“I have taken a great deal of the philosophy I had on the soccer field to the classroom in that I was never one to force the players to do something. They were the ones playing, I was the one coaching. When managing I would always ask their opinion about particular things that we were trying to accomplish, to see if it would work. I try to do the same thing in the classroom.”
Can you talk a bit about some of the coaching roles that you had over the years?
Professor Jaime Orejan: I coached at Southern Miss for a little while. Then, I went on to be a head coach at Lora’s College in Iowa. From there, I moved to DeSales University where I chose not to be a head coach anymore. I was asked to be the head coach, but instead was active in the search for a new coach who convinced me to be his assistant coach even though I didn’t want to.
Later, when we moved to North Carolina I eventually got involved in ODP and travel teams in for about 10 years or so. And here at Limestone, we have a “faculty representative” for each sport, and of course I was assigned to the women’s soccer team. (This crazy sport follows me everywhere) Once the women’s coach learned about me and my experiences, he asked me if I would please coach the goalkeepers. So, I’m a volunteer goalkeeper coach now. It’s kind of nice because I have no pressure [with the team]. My pressure and responsibilities are to run the Sport Management department here, of course.
Part of our goal at Sports Degrees Online is to highlight and promote areas of growth within the sports industry where some of the best opportunities exist today. Can you take a moment to name a couple of areas that students might not think of in the sports industry where there is good career potential?
Professor Jaime Orejan: Most of the students come to the Sport Management major with the idea that they’re going to work for a professional sport team, be that the Celtics, the Dodgers, the Panthers or LAFC, or whatever. I always try to explain to them that they do not need to be so narrow-minded.
At every point in this business world of ours, every industry is touched by sports. The travel industry, the clothing industry, the tourism industry, the hotel industry. So, I tell them to open their eyes and to think outside the box, and I always use the example of Coca-Cola. I ask, ‘how many of you ever think of working for Coca-Cola with a Sport Management degree?’ And nobody says, ‘me’, but I always remind them Coca-Cola is the one of the largest sport sponsors on the planet. They need sport-business minded people to help them plan their sponsorship strategies across the world.
The same thing goes for IBM or any other organization that is involved in sport sponsorships. I have had students over the years who have moved on to become event managers, which is something that a lot of them never thought of. One of my former students now manages the Greg Norman clothing line. Instead of having your heart set on working for the Carolina Panthers, for example, there are other venues [to consider]. As I mentioned before, I always tell them to think outside the box and look outside the traditional sport teams to get a job in sports, because there are many other options.
“At every point in this business world of ours, every industry is touched by sports. The travel industry, the clothing industry, the tourism industry, the hotel industry. So, I tell them to open their eyes and to think outside the box, and I always use the example of Coca-Cola. I ask, ‘how many of you ever think of working for Coca-Cola with a Sport Management degree?’ And nobody says, ‘me’, but I always remind them Coca-Cola is the one of the largest sport sponsors on the planet. They need sport-business minded people to help them plan their sponsorship strategies across the world.”
Professor Orejan, what are some selling points of why students should consider pursuing a sport management degree in South Carolina? How is the sports economy generally there? And what are some of the major employers where graduates are finding jobs?
Professor Jaime Orejan: First of all, it really depends on what they are looking for. Our program here at Limestone is focused on the business side of sports. We are very student-centered, and our job is to help the students reach their full potential, whatever that may be.
We do a great deal of professional development in and out of the classroom, including the development of technical skills, soft skills, and networking. Most of our students are getting sport-related jobs outside of the state of South Carolina, because we have a great number of kids that come from out of state. We have between eighty percent to ninety percent of our students as student-athletes. The coaches at Limestone University recruit many of our students from the northeast and overseas. In fact, close to 10 percent of our students are from overseas. So, a lot of our students get jobs where they came from.
Having said that, in South Carolina, [the market for sports-related jobs] has been getting better since probably the last three or four years. Plus, we are within about an hour drive from major metropolitan areas such as Charlotte NC (Panthers, Pelicans, Charlotte FC), Greenville and Spartanburg SC. which have a lot of minor league sport teams in the area, and many collegiate state rivalries with additional opportunities to gain experiences.
But one of the main reasons that we attract so many students is that our program has been transformed to strictly a business degree. Our students automatically get a minor in business administration when they graduate from Limestone, and they also can take five more classes and get a double major, either in business administration or marketing, or management – in addition to sport management.
And now we have introduced this new program that is called ‘four plus one’ in which the students can go from the Sport Management bachelor’s degree program directly to an MBA in Sport Management in five years, beginning this fall.
As the landscape of sports continues changing and evolving, the students will have additional opportunities for careers in the sport industry, and it is imperative that they make their college choice depending on what they are looking for. It is important to note the explosion of analytics in the sport business industry as well.
“As the landscape of sports continues changing and evolving, the students will have additional opportunities for careers in the sport industry, and it is imperative that they make their college choice depending on what they are looking for. It is important to note the explosion of analytics in the sport business industry as well.”
Does that mean that students can graduate in five years with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sport Management and an MBA?
Professor Jaime Orejan: Yes, sir, that’s correct. The MBA in Sport Management is brand new this coming fall (2022).
What advantages are there to having an MBA in combination with a Sport Management Degree set you up for success in the professional world?
Professor Jaime Orejan: Well, to be honest with you, our program at Limestone University is going to be the first program of its kind in the state of South Carolina – to offer an MBA in sport management. There are other schools that offer master’s in sport management, but not an MBA.
For whatever reason, an MBA title carries more weight than an MS. So, we’re taking advantage of the opportunity of being the first one in the state of South Carolina to do that. We’re hoping that this program will bring attention to the university, and that it will help us attract more students.
We are trying to get away from recruiting just student-athletes, because like I told you before, about 80 percent of our students are student-athletes. We are now trying to recruit additional students from different backgrounds, particularly those that have been in the workforce for a while.
We are hoping to attract the professionals who might have an opportunity to get promoted to a higher position, and an MBA in sport management may be the way for them to move up. Maybe there is a high school coach who would like to move to athletic administration, from the front office to higher management; that’s basically the kind of people that we are trying to recruit – professionals. In fact, my son who’s been a manager at a sporting goods store for two years, informed that he is going to get his MBA in sport management here at Limestone, in order to move up within his company.
“We are hoping to attract the professionals who might have an opportunity to get promoted to a higher position, and an MBA in sport management may be the way for them to move up. Maybe there is a high school coach who would like to move to athletic administration, from the front office to higher management; that’s basically the kind of people that we are trying to recruit – professionals.”