Last Updated on March 30, 2023
Interview with Dr. Jamie Stangel
In this interview with Sports Degrees Online, Dr. Jamie Stangel shares her journey from collegiate athlete into academia, advice for students on how to choose a sport management program, and her foray into sports broadcasting. She also makes a pitch for why Indiana is an excellent place to pursue a sport management degree & launch a career in the sports industry.
About Dr. Jamie Stangel
Dr. Jamie Stangel is an associate professor of kinesiology and the sport management program director at Valparaiso University. Dr. Stangel holds a master’s degree in Sport Administration from Valparaiso and a Ph.D in Sport Leadership and Administration from Concordia University in Chicago.
We are joined today by Jamie Stangel, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Director of the Sport Management Program at Valparaiso University. Thank you for taking some time to speak with us.
Professor, prior to your career in academia, you followed a collegiate basketball career with time spent coaching and working at various positions in college athletics. Could you share your journey from college until you found your way to academia, teaching at your alma mater, Valparaiso?
Dr. Jamie Stangel: When I was a student-athlete at Valparaiso, I knew I wanted to work in sports but I wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like for me. When my playing career was finished, I just wasn’t ready to give up the game yet, so I became the graduate assistant coach for the women’s basketball team.
Then I did an internship with ESPN radio in Chicago because I thought I might want to get into sports broadcasting. When no full time roles came from there, I took a job at an NAIA school as the Coordinator of Activities and Athletics.
I thought I still had the coaching bug so I took a job as a D3 Women’s Basketball assistant coach and part of that role offered me the chance to get a Special Education teaching license. I pivoted to teaching Special Education before the role was posted for a Visiting Professor at my alma mater in Sport Management.
I love teaching, I love learning, and I love sports. I had been toying with getting my Ph.D. and this sort of spurred on that decision. I was hired as a Visiting Professor and then immediately started my Ph.D. program at Concordia University in Chicago. I’ve been back at Valparaiso for 10 years now and it really is home to me. I love my students and colleagues and my heart will always be with my alma mater.
One of the goals of Sports Degrees Online is to help student athletes make the transition from sports into a career that they are passionate about – just like you have done!
In looking at what it has taken to achieve success both on and off the court, can you share a few pieces of advice for former athletes who are transitioning into a job in the sports industry?
Dr. Jamie Stangel: Former athletes make great employees because they are battle tested. Remember when you were a freshman just working your tail off for a little playing time? You had to be patient and resilient. You had to learn your role and earn your stripes.
“Former athletes make great employees because they are battle tested. Remember when you were a freshman just working your tail off for a little playing time? You had to be patient and resilient. You had to learn your role and earn your stripes.”
For many that’s what the transition will be. It will take some time. It might take gaining some great industry experience for low pay. It will take making a good impression on every person you encounter.
I often tell my student-athletes to try to make an impression on everyone you encounter. Opposing coaches, trainers, media members. Every opportunity to expand your network is valuable. And it will take the team work and passion you already have within you.
Working in sports is great because it lets former athletes keep that fire inside them burning. But it takes the same hard work that it took on the playing field to be successful in the workplace. The thing about athletes is that they’re used to minor setbacks and coming back stronger. That tenacity will go so far in the workplace.”
“The thing about athletes is that they’re used to minor setbacks and coming back stronger. That tenacity will go so far in the workplace.”
Dr. Jamie Stangel, Valparaiso University
At Valparaiso, you offer an undergraduate Sport Management program in addition to a Sport Administration Master’s program. These days, there are so many sport management and sport administration to choose from that it’s often overwhelming for students to fix which program is the best fit for them. For students who are beginning their search, what factors should students keep in mind as they are trying to choose which sport management program is best for them?
Dr. Jamie Stangel: I think it’s important for students to do a little research on the program and the school. You’re going to spend the next 4-5 years at this place, so you want to feel comfortable in the environment. Determine if you’re looking for a big school/program that may offer a lot of opportunities or a smaller school/program with individualized attention.
If you can take a campus visit, meet with faculty, maybe sit in on a class, that would be a great way to get a feel for the program. It also is important to see what the curriculum looks like.
At Valparaiso, our students have a Business Administration Minor built into their Sport Management major. It gives them a chance to learn a lot of the business management skills that translate into sport management.
For a graduate program, it is important to see how the program will fit into your life. If you are a working professional, will the program be flexible enough for you to do both? Are there online course options? Graduate assistantships? All of these things can be important when making a decision on what program best meets your needs and future goals.
Professor, I understand that in addition to being a professor, you also do play-by-play broadcasting for Valparaiso basketball. Can you tell the story of how you got your start in broadcasting?
I actually do the color commentary for the Valparaiso University men’s home games on ESPN+. As an undergrad I was an individualized Sports Communications major. I did an internship with a local broadcast company as a sideline reporter for their weekly high school football game of the week.
Then I did my radio production internship at ESPN Radio. I started out as a fill-in color commentator for some of the Valparaiso University women’s basketball games. I think the fact that I was a former player and readily available helped. I was not very polished at the start, but I learned a TON.
I have worked with some really great play by play guys who have been super willing to give me feedback. I even have done some color commentary for volleyball and softball. It’s just like anything – it takes a good deal of preparation, a lot of experience, and the ability to continue to learn from failures. I like to go back and watch broadcasts I have done as well as listen to broadcasts from people I admire. It’s a constant learning game.
Now that you have been actively broadcasting for some time, I’m wondering how you are finding it compared with what you expected. Can you share some thoughts about that?
I was really nervous when I first started broadcasting. I was pretty monotone and I was very straightforward with analysis. I have learned as I’ve gone that being authentic, injecting a little personality into the broadcast, and having a bit of fun is actually more appealing to listeners.
There are some really famous broadcasters and they are famous for different reasons. Their authenticity is what sets them apart. So I would say I’m still finding my way in that regard, but I’ve definitely lightened up.
There is a new generation of aspiring broadcasters out there right now, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the career landscape for recent graduates? Is there anything that you know now about broadcasting that has surprised you, and what are some things that students can be working on to make themselves attractive candidates in this area?
We have some really talented student broadcasters at Valparaiso. I can think of one student in particular who has called basically every sport that has been on the radio at Valparaiso, and has served as a play by play guy, color analyst, and sideline reporter.
I think every opportunity that presents itself in the field you should take. The experience will only make you better and more versatile.
“I think every opportunity that presents itself in the field you should take. The experience will only make you better and more versatile.”
A lot of times color analyst roles get offered to former athletes and coaches who can talk about the strategy of the game and explain those things to viewers. But play by play is an art and something that takes a great deal of practice. I think the more tape a young person has to show an employer, the better the chances he or she can get picked up. So my advice is to say “yes” as much as possible.
“I think the more tape a young person has to show an employer, the better the chances he or she can get picked up. So my advice is to say “yes” as much as possible.”
Now professor, I’d like to give you a chance to talk about why students should consider studying at Valparaiso University. In your view, what are some of the factors that separate your program from the pack?
One of the things that really makes our program unique at Valparaiso is the fact that we have Division I athletics teams that compete in the Missouri Valley Conference, one of the best mid-major leagues in the country, and our students have an opportunity to get involved in the athletic department from the time they are freshmen.
We have students who work as event staff, in the ticket office, game-day operations, sports information, on the ESPN+ home broadcasts, as student managers, and with social media and marketing. We find that experiential learning to be invaluable to our students.
We have a smaller athletic department and a smaller academic department, so everyone knows each other and the personal attention is really neat. I just got off of a zoom call with a former student last week where we just checked in with each other and he told me about where his career has taken him. I cherish those relationships.
Why do you feel that Indiana is an ideal place to pursue a degree in sport management?