If you know my story, then you know I spent the summer of 2007 in Chicago as an intern for Priority Sports & Entertainment. If you don’t know my story, you can read all about how I got this awesome internship with a sports agency (plus the rest of my intern hustle) over here.
If I’m being honest, I had no idea what to expect when I started this internship. My prior internships involved professional sports, but they were entirely focused on coaching athletes into peak physical performance. The internship with Priority Sports was my first time stepping into a business environment. You know, the kind with an office, computers and business casual work attire. So yea, I was nervous.
But nerves aside, I was also extremely excited for the opportunity. I was one of two interns selected to join Priority Sports that summer, and I was about to learn from some of the top sports agents and management professionals in the NFL and NBA.
Living the sports internship dream
I still remember the first day I stepped foot in the Priority Sports office like it was yesterday. It was the previous summer in August of 2006. I had secured an informational interview with the Founder and CEO of Priority Sports, Mark Bartelstein. I walked into their beautiful downtown Chicago office and the message “Welcome, Jenna to Priority Sports & Entertainment” was scrolling across the ticker board. Life made.
Fast forward to the following summer and I was walking back into that very same office as an official intern. I was greeted by my internship supervisor (who ran the basketball operations department), met my fellow intern (a sports law student) and was given the office tour (which ended with my very own desk – window seat!). Everyone was busy, and it was my first glimpse into the hyperspeed pace that really makes the world of sports go round. But even despite the pace, they all stopped to say hi and welcome me to the company.
I was assigned a variety of tasks and projects that summer. From an experience perspective, my internship with a sports agency was one of the best I could have asked for. I got to play utility player and work in a number of departments.
Learning all about contract negotiation and how contracts are structured in the NFL compared to the NBA was a highlight. Contract law happens to really interest me. At the time I was simultaneously taking a LSAT prep course to keep my options open for law school. I got to shadow a couple of agents, one of whom took me under his wing and became a mentor to me. In fact, he has been a reference for me in every career move I have made since my internship.
NBA free agency and the NBA draft are the big focus during summer months at a sports agency. Given that focus, I spent a lot of time with the basketball operations and client services departments. I put together player folders full of stat analysis and collegiate highlights, and I coordinated logistics for client tryouts and draft testing amongst all NBA teams.
While managing travel itineraries isn’t the most glamorous thing in the world, making sure people were in the right place at the right time (with white-glove service) came in handy later in my career. In my second job out of college I was responsible for running executive operations for a venture-backed, fast-paced startup in San Francisco. (Pro Tip: Embrace all of your assignments as an intern. Sometimes the smallest internship tasks can become an asset to your skillset and career in the future.)
Speaking of tasks, I was also in charge of answering all incoming calls to Priority Sports. Talk about stressful. When I first started it was hard remembering everyone’s names, let alone trying to work the phones and memorize extensions. However, when you are front line like that for an organization you have a window into how it operates. The more phone calls I answered, the better I got at predicting the business deals being made. It was a pretty cool behind the scenes opportunity.
And finally, there was NBA Draft Day. What an experience to sit in the conference room and watch all of the phone activity amongst the agents. I witnessed the NBA draft from the team’s perspective the summer before, with the Chicago Bulls. My internship with a sports agency gave me a great opportunity to see it from the other side of the phone line.
For a little fun on Draft Day we all submitted our first round draft selections. I keep everything, so yes I still have my selection sheet. I went five for ten on the first ten picks of the draft. But I nailed picks one through five, and I did correctly pick the remaining players in the top ten (just not in the correct order).
Overall, my time with Priority Sports flew by. I learned a lot in eight short weeks. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity and the wonderful people who showed me the ropes.
Embarrassing internship moment
One weekend that summer I took an architectural kayak tour down the Chicago River. While on the tour, we stopped in front of the Priority Sports office building. Our tour guide told us a story about the Eastland Disaster that took place in the very spot we were floating back in 1915. Turns out the basement of the Priority Sports office building was used as a temporary morgue for the disaster’s deceased.
So I went to my internship the next day and relayed the creepy history of our building to all my colleagues like it was brand new information. Turns out the entry to the building has the historic story displayed all over the walls. Therefore my story wasn’t “surprising” to anyone. I will say my awareness and attention to detail has since upped its game. I blame my heads-down focus as a new intern as the reason I didn’t observe the obvious in the first place.
Memorable internship moment
As I mentioned previously, I was in charge of answering incoming calls to Priority Sports. One day, I answered the phone and a man struck up a conversation with me for a full 15 minutes before telling me who he really called to speak with. He was very charismatic and asked a lot of questions about me. He showed genuine interest in my story and why I was interning with Priority Sports that summer. Anyways, turns out he is a Vice President with the NFLPA. Given the connection we made on the phone that day I asked him if we could swap information and stay in touch professionally. He agreed and gave me his phone number.
Fast forward (almost two years later) to my first job out of college at a sports performance facility in the SF Bay Area. We were looking for an apparel sponsorship from Adidas to supply our athletes with Olympic weightlifting shoes for their workouts. Knowing the NFL’s affiliation with Reebok, (and that Adidas had recently acquired Reebok) I decided to give my friend at the NFLPA a call to see if he had any warm leads. He did, and he kindly passed them along. I wasn’t successful right away, but after some follow-ups Adidas agreed to send us some shoes. (Pro Tip: You never know who you will meet during an internship and how those relationships can benefit you down the line. Always be networking.)
As a takeaway, I encourage you to pursue what interests you when looking for your next internship. If I would have taken the Priority Sports website for face value when it said their internships were already spoken for, you wouldn’t be reading this today. Network, find new ways in and don’t give up if it is something you are passionate about. Most people don’t go the extra mile to ask for what they want. I’m proof that if you do, it pays off.