Interview with Dr. Ted Peetz
Bryan Haggerty of SportsDegreesOnline.org interview Dr. Ted Peetz of Belmont University. They touch on his experience as a coach, touring with a mascot around the country, a teaching assistant and his current role as a professor. They discuss the impact of COVID-19 on sports, the future of the industry, and Dr. Peetz offers some advice for people following in his footsteps.
About Dr. Ted Peetz
Dr. Ted Peetz is an associate professor and chair of the department of sport administration at Belmont University located in Nashville, TN. Peetz has worked in coaching, marketing and administrative positions in professional and intercollegiate athletics. He is an active member of the Sport Marketing Association (SMA) and the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) and serves on the editorial boards for Sport Marketing Quarterly and the Journal of Amateur Sport. His research interest include celebrity athlete endorsers, fandom, and sport consumer behavior.
Bryan: Dr. Peetz, your impressive career has taken you to universities around the country teaching different aspects of the sports industry. Do you recall when it was that you decided to pursue a career in the sports industry? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
Dr. Peetz: My first job out of college was working with The Famous San Diego Chicken, basically the “original sport mascot”, touring the country and putting on shows at minor league baseball stadiums. This experience solidified my dream of working in the sports industry. While I was still involved in minor league baseball, I went back to get my Master’s degree, looking at it as way to help advance my career aspirations. While in graduate school, I served as a graduate teaching assistant. The professor I was working under, unexpectedly left her position and with the semester already underway, I was asked to take over as the instructor for the course. It soon dawned on me that I enjoyed teaching and planning for classes more so than going to the ballpark. It ultimately became a combination of two of my loves- sport and education.
Bryan: You spent time as a golf coach while teaching subjects ranging from sport marketing, sport facility management, sport law at UNLV, Iowa Wesleyan College, and Bowling Green, and – the list goes on. What is your favorite subject to teach, and why?
Dr. Peetz: My first academic job was at Iowa Wesleyan College (now Iowa Wesleyan University). They were looking at starting a golf team and asked if I would serve as coach. Having zero golf experience at the time I wasn’t sure it was the greatest idea but once I got involved my competitive juices started to flow and I really enjoyed it. I coached both the men’s and women’s teams and it was a really incredible experience. I saw the role as an extension of my teaching and while I didn’t have the technical skill set to “instruct” my players in swing mechanics and so on, we did eventually have a lot of success. I found out I was pretty good at recruiting and developing a positive team culture. I use a lot of the lessons learned from that experience and bring it to the classroom. My favorite courses to teach are sport marketing, which is my main research focus and academic emphasis and sport leadership. I don’t have a least favorite course to teach as I am someone who loves to teach and the process of making subjects engaging is a real joy for me. Both the sport marketing and leadership courses just seem to be a bit more interesting for students, I think because they are really relatable from their own experiences as consumers, sport fans and future leaders in the industry.
Bryan: When did you realize that you wanted to get your PhD and get into teaching at the collegiate level?
Dr. Peetz: This goes back to the epiphany I had while being a graduate teaching assistant. Going on to get a PhD was an extension of my love of sport and education. I realized this was the best way to combine those two passions. I actually starting teaching at the college level prior to heading back to get my PhD. I taught as an assistant professor for 7 years before making the step to getting a PhD. I realized the importance of developing research skills and how they can add to the classroom environment. It was a decision that I am very glad I made and I am also happy I did it on my on schedule.
Bryan: Quickly, before we move on to more specific aspects of your field – can you take a minute to clarify the difference between sports administration and sports management – would you say there are important differences between these categories? If so, what would you say those differences are?
Dr. Peetz: Personally, I think it’s just semantics. Some may argue that administrators work primarily in a public sector were as managers work in the private sector but the content of any program whether titled sport administration or sport management will cover the same points. In fact, the majority of our graduates go on to work in the private sector with professional sport organizations, so I think it is a decision that is made early on that schools went with management and others with administration. Have one or the other in the title doesn’t change the way people would teach the student, in my opinion.
Bryan: Why do you feel that sport administration/management as a degree/professional field could be an excellent choice for young people out there who were athletes themselves or who are passionate about sports?
Being a fan of sport doesn’t guarantee success in this field. Having the skillset and competencies necessary to help sport organization succeed is what will ultimately make or break your career.
Dr. Peetz: It could be an excellent choice, it just depends on the person. Being a fan of sport doesn’t guarantee success in this field. Having the skillset and competencies necessary to help sport organization succeed is what will ultimately make or break your career. Being passionate about a subject is a great jumping off point but working in sport and being a fan of sport are two entirely different things.
Bryan: Belmont University offers both a Bachelor’s Degree in Sport Administration and a Master’s Degree in Sport Administration. Can you tell us about some of the highlights of your programs? What factors set your program apart from similar programs?
Dr. Peetz: I think our program is one of the most practical in the country. We are fortunate to be located in the great sport city of Nashville, which we take full advantage. We are filled with professional, intercollegiate and community sport organizations and really incorporate them into our program. For example, in the two years it takes to complete our Master’s program a student will, on average, complete five internships. We load our classes with practical projects, guest speakers and experiential learning experiences. Nashville hosts many events and our students are working with them starting their first semester. There aren’t a lot of programs that can say they are in a city that hosted the NFL draft, NHL all-star game, Women’s Final four and so on, in just the last few years. Once a student “gets their fill” of Nashville, we also offer an extensive study aboard option at both the undergraduate and graduate level. We annually take trips to Europe and other locations to study different models of sport. Belmont’s slogan is “From here to anywhere” and that is certainly true with our program!
Bryan: What can you tell us about the demand for sport administration graduates in the professional world?
Dr. Peetz: The demand for skilled sport professionals is always high. We had have a lot of success in getting our graduates placed in the industry. In fact, we have been ranked a top 5 program in the country for placement of our graduates.
Bryan: Needless to say, COVID-19 has changed so many aspects of our economy, but we are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Within sports administration, are there any trends that graduates should be aware of as we navigate the few years?
…I imagine once we get “back to normal” the demand for sporting events and professionals to help run them will be at an all-time high.
Dr. Peetz: The pandemic has caused the entire sport economy to be in a holding pattern for the last few months but I imagine once we get “back to normal” the demand for sporting events and professionals to help run them will be at an all-time high. From a marketing perspective, finding new ways to engage fans is always important. I think after the pandemic that will be more important than ever.
Bryan: With the previous question in mind, Is there an area of the industry that you feel is particularly promising/growing?
Dr. Peetz: I think it will always be a focus on finding new revenue generating strategies and with the pandemic drying up a lot of those avenues over the last few months, it will be more important than ever. I imagine we will see a lot of innovative partnerships and strategies coming out in the near future. Two other areas that are promising are esports and women’s sport organizations, like the WNBA.
Bryan: Is there anything else you would like to share to the next generation who are charting their path into the world of sports?
Dr. Peetz: Sport professionals are going to need to consider social justice issues in all decisions. Understanding business concepts will always be critical, but what has become clear is that cultural intelligence will be a highly sought after skill from here on out. Younger sport fans have started to demand organizations take a proactive approach and sport is an area that will remain at the forefront on inclusion, diversity and social justice issues.