COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. One of the most significant absences in the world today is that of sports. You never realize how big of a role sports play in your daily routine until they’re gone. Spring sports were canceled from the college level down to little league. Professional sports pressed pause and even the 2020 Olympic games were postponed. Perhaps those most affected by this loss are those who work in the world of sports.
Katie Prchlik is the assistant director of athletic marketing and fan experience at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She and the five others in the department began discussing possible restrictions a couple of weeks prior to the decision to cancel spring sporting events altogether. However, her job did not come to a halt with the Big Ten’s decision to cancel sports. In fact, it created much more work for her. In the weeks following the cancellation of spring sports, she was responsible for canceling orders, planning for next spring’s seasons, overseeing the completion of marketing reports and many other tasks. Just to complicate this process, athletic department employees were asked to work from home. When her workload decreased, Prchlik began working one-on-one with marketing and fan experience interns to improve their professional skills, social presence and resumes. Prchlik made it her mission to not only stay connected with the interns through professional development lessons but to ensure they remained connected with each other.
Coleman Cooper is an athletic marketing and fan experience intern who reports to Prchlik. He was working at a Nebraska baseball game when he got the news. The Big Ten had decided to host all spring sporting events without fans. It quickly set in that he was working his last event as an employee of the athletic marketing and fan experience department. Since that day at Haymarket Park, the Big Ten has canceled all spring season events, and Cooper has accepted a position with IMG Sports Properties beginning in the fall of 2020. In this role, he will continue to work closely with the marketing and fan experience department. Cooper had been an employee of the department for two years and had built many relationships that would not end with his title as a marketing intern. He claims he will miss the early mornings spent at Memorial Stadium with his delirious coworkers before an 11 a.m. football game. For student employees like Cooper, COVID-19 brought an end to more than a job but also the time spent bonding with coworkers, networking opportunities and professional experiences. Professional experiences like those provided by the marketing internship could prove essential to student employees as they take their first steps into the workforce.
Scott Galusha and his wife recently bought into the ownership of a small baseball team in Hastings, Neb., the Sodbusters. The team is comprised of college players from across the nation who gather to play wood-bat baseball during the summer months. The Sodbusters were set to begin their third season on May 26. On April 9, Nebraska governor, Pete Ricketts, announced that social distancing would be enforced through the month of May. That announcement delayed the start of the Expedition League’s season. Galusha is uncertain of the organization’s future in the wake of the national pandemic, but the season has not been canceled. He is optimistic the team will have the opportunity to take the field at some point this summer, but in the end, the decision will be made by the Expedition League president, Steve Wagner. Galusha has instructed his staff to proceed in planning for the season; the small, up-and-coming team like the Sodbusters has everything to lose. Where the organization is running into trouble is in dealing with external business. The month leading up to opening day is crucial to securing sponsorships, filling a roster and planning events on and off the field. However, all of these tasks have found a spot on the back burner while the Expedition League and the Sodbusters determine the best course of action in dealing with the effects of COVID-19. With limited exposure and decreased traffic, local businesses are hesitant to commit to the season at this point. The owners and general managers of the Expedition League meet twice a week via Zoom to discuss contingency plans for the season. The uncertainty filling the air makes it difficult for a small organization like the Sodbusters to see the light at the end of this long tunnel.
In this time of uncertainty, one thing is clear: When sports return, Americans will be more grateful for them than ever before.