Last Updated on June 6, 2023
Interview with Professor Khalid Ballouli
Sports Degrees Online had the chance to speak with Dr. Khalid Ballouli, Associate Professor of Sport Management and PhD program Director at the University of South Carolina. During the interview, they touch on a number of topic including how Ballouli made the transition from professional baseball to academia, what qualities have helped him along the way, and
Dr. Khalid Ballouli is an Associate Professor of Sport Management at the University of South Carolina, where he is the Ph.D. program director in the Department of Sport and Entertainment Management.
Professor Ballouli, prior to your career in academia you had a career as a pitching prospect in professional baseball, spending six years in the Brewers farm system. Can you talk a bit about your journey from being a professional athlete to chasing very different goals in academia?
Dr. Khalid Ballouli For the longest time, as early as my childhood, I knew I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Of course, that goal was not very realistic when I was younger. But as I continued to progress through recreational, competitive, and college baseball, I started to see a path to being drafted.
My six years in professional sport taught me a lot about not only professional baseball, but the professional sport industry in general. I learned about player unions, agent relations, fan experience, game day operations, promotions, ticket sales, and ultimately athlete career transition.
“My six years in professional sport taught me a lot about not only professional baseball, but the professional sport industry in general. I learned about player unions, agent relations, fan experience, game day operations, promotions, ticket sales, and ultimately athlete career transition.”
When I retired in 2007 due to a career-ending injury, I went back to get my master’s from Texas A&M University as a means of finding out what I wanted to do in the sport management field. It wasn’t until I was back in school that I realized a newfound love for education. I loved being back on the university campus. I had missed the process of learning. So, I entertained the idea of getting a PhD with a faculty member who would eventually become my advisor and mentor.
One purpose 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! Which skills or traits which made you successful as an athlete have also helped you find success in life beyond sports? And are there things that you had to leave behind as you transitioned to academia?
Dr. Khalid Ballouli The biggest skills and traits I took with me from the field to the “office” were teamwork, perseverance, and confidence.
In most walks of life, team building and working with team members is something that is simultaneously important but difficult. I think athletes, having relied on teammates to “do their job” for the betterment of the team, have a sense of team building that non-athletes may struggle to find in their everyday lives.
“In most walks of life, team building and working with team members is something that is simultaneously important but difficult. I think athletes, having relied on teammates to “do their job” for the betterment of the team, have a sense of team building that non-athletes may struggle to find in their everyday lives.”
I also think athletes understand the feeling (and inevitability) of defeat, and so they can deal with negative situations with a more positive outlook to the future. Lastly, any athlete that has played at the college or professional level knows that to be successful, you need to have and maintain a supreme level of confidence in yourself and in your team. This translates well into the “normal” workplace, where I’ve seen former athletes really thrive in responding to obstacles and pushback.
Professor, in reviewing your interests, it is clear that you have distinguished yourself in the world of sports marketing – including time as the Sports Marketing Association president. Can you please talk about why you love sports marketing, and why young people out there might want to consider a career in the field?
Dr. Khalid Ballouli: Growing up in sport, I also loved the spectacle that was the sporting event. Whether it was the local all-star game where the local community rallied around the young players, or a professional event with tens of thousands of fans in attendance.
I was always drawn to the organization, promotion, and execution of these events and how the people behind the scenes and off-the-field were hard at work making the experience “work” for so many fans looking for an escape from everyday life.
Sports teams mean so much to their local and broader communities, and I knew I wanted to learn more and be involved in strengthening that relationship.
“Sports teams mean so much to their local and broader communities, and I knew I wanted to learn more and be involved in strengthening that relationship.”
There are so many sport management programs to choose from at both the bachelor and master’s level, both online and on campus – 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 sport management program?
Dr. Khalid Ballouli: Students should really focus on three major factors: the expertise of the program’s faculty, experiential learning opportunities afforded to students, and previous students’ placement within the sport industry.
If I know these three factors are all exemplified by a prospective program, then I would have full confidence in enrolling at that university.
It is no secret that finding a career in the sports industry is more competitive than other fields. What advice do you have for students who are just beginning their sport management degree – this fall’s freshmen – about how to get the most out of their degree program, and what they can do over the next four years to prepare themselves for success when the graduate?
Dr. Khalid Ballouli: Become aware. The real value of a real education has almost nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness.
How will you spend your time as a student outside of the classroom? Outside of your textbooks? The answers to this question will define who you are as a student and, ultimately, who you will be as an employee.
“Become aware. The real value of a real education has almost nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness.”