Alumna Story | Sports Management and the power of passion

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It’s rare for a student to be very clear of a future path at the moment of application. Kiki is one of them. While she firmly chose sports management as her academic focus, she often jokes about people’s reactions to it. Many mistakes it as “corporate management.” When she tells people, she wants to do research, they would wonder, “what’s there to research about in sports?”

It would be lying to say that it’s not discouraging, but her love of sports is unwavering. Kiki believes that a girl can achieve anything she puts her mind to, regardless of what others say. As a Thinktown alumna, she generously shared her own journey with us. Here’s what she has to say.

My name is Kiki. I graduated from the International Department of the High School Affiliated to Hangzhou Normal University, and I did both my undergraduate and graduate program at the University of Florida. This is my fifth year here!

People might not be very familiar with the University of Florida, but everyone knows the sports drink “Gatorade”. Gatorade was invented by our professors for the Florida Gators. UF is the largest public university in Florida with the longest history. This year it is ranked 6th among U.S. public universities and 30th among all U.S. universities.

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As UF’s U.S.News ranking continues to rise, everyone jokes that UF is a school that works harder than its students, but I think that doesn’t even begin to show the merits of UF.

On University of Florida

The biggest charm of the school is its diversity and inclusiveness. Just like the bright weather in Florida, studying and living at UF make me very happy. As a large public university, UF has students and teachers of many different ethnic backgrounds. They will never be biased against you just because you are a minority. In fact, they will use all the resources available to help you.

UF also has a strong alumni network. Many alumni who graduated a long time ago and have achieved success in their fields are willing to do their best to help current students. The two alumni I have been assigned to recently are both sports management professors in well-known universities. They are very busy with their work, but are still willing to spend time with me on a monthly video call to understand my situation and provide suggestions for my future plans.

However, since the university is located in Gainesville, a small town, there are fewer large companies. Students who want to get an internship in a large company may find it more difficult to do so, so they have to utilize the winter and summer breaks to work elsewhere. But since it’s a small town, it is very homey.

Courtesy of the University of Florida

On Sports Management

Many people are curious about my major. Right now, I’m doing Sports Management. It mainly focuses on sports and leisure entertainment, covering diverse topics like administration, finance, law, and ethics.

My grandmother is a sports fan. With her influence, I followed all kinds of volleyball and table tennis matches since I was young. From elementary school to high school, I was always promoting sports in my classes, but what really changed my life was the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This was the first time I felt the charm of a sport — people of different skin colors, ages, genders and social classes can cheer for a sport at the same time.

Later, I started playing soccer myself and participated in my city’s high school student game. When I accidentally came across the sports management major, I thought: if my interest could also be what I do for work, why not?

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Surprisingly, there are a lot of girls in this major. The male to female student ratio is about 50:50. At first, I thought I would learn some general sports knowledge, but this major is similar to business, so we have to learn everything that a business student would learn, and more.

The biggest challenge in doing this major is “ideal versus reality”. Before going to school, I believe that every classmate had the goal of working for a professional team, but few can really achieve this goal. Some of my peers have changed their focus after returning to China because reality hit.

So, I think doing this major requires true passion; not “I like watching the NBA” or “I like playing soccer” kinds of passion — rather, a passionate desire to bring value to the sports world.

On career prospects

I personally feel that 16 or 17-year-olds would not worry too much about professional choices. My classmates and I didn’t — we just chose to study what we love. When it comes to employment, you need to measure how much you’re willing to sacrifice for your passion.

The sports scene in China is not that mature yet, so being in this trajectory will be much harder than you expected. But don’t be afraid. You need to know what you really want, and then set small goals for yourself along that direction.

I know some students who are not very clear about what they want to do or their strengths. They often went with the flow after graduation, going where life takes them. But I have also met many students with a clear sense of direction, and they are all doing pretty good now.

For example, I have a friend who loves fitness. Eyes on the prize, he obtained a lot of professional fitness certificates during his college years. After returning to China, he became the manager of the gym in his hometown. A year later, he opened his own gym.

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There’s also a girl I know who loves golf. After countless attempts, she found a job in media operations at a golf club in the United States. Basically, if you only start to consider your future career when you’re about to graduate, it will be too late. Personal connections and professional knowledge take a long time to accumulate, and it’s best to build them during college years.

I personally had two good internship experiences, one was at the sports center of the school, providing service for NCAA games; the other was in the cultural department of the government, responsible for the preparation and management of large-scale cultural events in the city.

My family did suggest that I choose other majors with more hireability, but they couldn’t change my passion. Over the past few years, they saw that I was truly happy doing it, so they let it go. Sometimes my dad still nudges me when he sees a big company’s hiring, but I will always tell him, “If I go, I would feel sorry for the knowledge I gained in the past five years and all the people who helped me pursue this field.”

In the past five years, I think I have grown a lot. I do not regret choosing this school and this major. Now, I want to do my PhD and then become a professor. Ten years ago, my dream was to contribute to China’s sports environment; 10 years later, my dream has not changed, but I hope that I can influence more people through my words and deeds and professional knowledge.

Endnotes

Kiki worked with Thinktown six years ago on her college application and stayed as a peer mentor for a few years after that. We’re genuinely happy that she found her passion very early and never ceased to pursue her goals. We look forward to hearing more stories like Kiki’s in the future!

Be true to education; be true to yourself.