The Hart School’s sports and recreation program has offered students on-the-job experience in their prospective career fields, like working in Hotel Madison and dining halls, but a new opportunity is quickly approaching. Starting in March, students in the Hart School have the opportunity to participate in the new NASCAR University program.
The school previously partnered with Richmond Raceway to sell tickets to NASCAR races over the phone. This is offered through the JMU course SRM 435 (Sports Marketing and Sales) and is taught by professor Alyssa Bosley.
“Instead of just giving the students people to call, now they’re learning a huge part of sales, which is prospecting,” Bosley said.
As part of its partnership with JMU since 2017, Richmond Raceway has sent a guest speaker every semester to the classroom to reinforce topics and provide new information to the students in the class while they’re making calls.
“Right off the bat, when students hear they will be participating in a calling program, it is directly outside of their comfort zone,” Bosley said.
Bosley said the students felt uneasy going into the original program. After the first class, Bosley saw the students’ confidence increase — they were excited to continue with the program. Bosley said that her favorite part was watching her students overcome this “fear of the unknown” and embrace the skills they’ve learned through the Hart School.
Bosley said there’s always been a competitive atmosphere in the class. With the introduction of the NASCAR initiative, the student with the highest sales is automatically offered an interview for NASCAR.
Around 100 students are enrolled in Bosley’s course, which will be the first class to participate in NASCAR University. Bosley expressed her excitement to build connections with her students at a higher level than she has in previous years through this program. She’ll work closely with her students and watch them develop marketing skills.
Bryce Sheetz and Breighan Szajnecki, senior sports and recreation management majors, are both enrolled in Bosley’s class and have worked closely with her in preparation for this project in early March. Sheetz said the hands-on experience is helpful because it applies the foundations they’ve learned from class to a real-world scenario.
“Having practical experience is really the only way you’re going to learn,” Sheetz said.
Not only does the Hart School offer the NASCAR initiative to its students, but Sheetz said it also works closely with students in both professional and experiential development. It offers its students professional contacts and resources for post-graduation. Both Sheetz and Szajnecki were in line to partake in an internship in Valencia, Spain, with the Spanish football club Villarreal CF. This was canceled because of COVID-19.
“This is what our curriculum is based off of,” Szajnecki said, “getting that experience and getting in front of the sport and recreational management industry.”
Szajnecki said the students in the sports and recreational management major are offered educational trips for different sporting events so they can dive into the behind-the-scenes of what goes on at these events. Szajnecki was invited to attend the Final Four before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both Sheetz and Szajnecki praised the Hart School for the skills and opportunities it’s taught and offered them, even through a pandemic. They both said they weren’t fearful of the future, even with the sports industry being unavailable for the greater part of 2020.
“I think the quality of the project will be just as good, arguably better, given our current circumstances [with COVID-19],” Szajnecki said.
The Richmond Raceway call-in project would usually consist of students bouncing ideas off each other in close proximity to make the most ticket sales possible. With the class being remote and social distancing guidelines preventing student gatherings, to adhere to social distancing the class will work remotely.
Both Sheetz and Szajnecki agree that this new environment is a hindrance to their usual routine in school, but they said they’re adapting to their circumstances and are making the best of their situations.
“I used to be the director of athletic marketing at JMU, before I started teaching,” Bosley said. “So I certainly understand the value of having that experience, as much of it as you can get.”
CORRECTION (Feb. 22, 11:44 a.m.): A previous version of this article contained misspellings of Bosley's last name.
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