Widener and Philadelphia Union Host High School Students for Work in Sports Field Trip Series

Nicole Carrera, Assistant Director of Communications
Students sit around a table listening to a professor talking
Tracy Jones talks to high school students at Subaru Park

Widener and the Philadelphia Union teamed up this week to host area high school students at Subaru Park and Union Power Plant, home of the Union’s corporate offices, to learn about the many opportunities for working in professional sports. 

Over the course of three days, students from Strath Haven High School, Marple Newtown High School, Berks Catholic High School, and Saints Neumann Goretti High School met with Widener and Union faculty and staff to tour Subaru Park and discuss behind-the-scenes operations of the Major League Soccer organization. 

Visiting the stadium’s concourse, executive suites, fan shop, press room, and locker room, students learned about career pathways in areas such as fan experience and hospitality, media relations, gameday experience, and ticket sales. They heard from experts about the many ways these pieces work together to create the experience fans know and love.  

Chris Coughlin and Grace Kelly pose for a photo on the field at Subaru Park
Strath Haven High School seniors Chris Coughlin (L) and Grace Kelly (R)

“My favorite part was hearing all of the different things that go into production here at the Union,” said Grace Kelly, a senior at Strath Haven High School who attended the trip. “Hearing from all of the different people what their tasks are and what they do- I think it was really cool to see how it all comes together.”

Union staff in attendance included members of the communications team, pro shop staff, player relations, and ticketing sales, including Widener alumnus Niko Dinoulis ’19 who now serves as the team’s communications coordinator. All the professionals shared about their day-to-day tasks and the career journeys they took to get there.  

Among the Widener faculty leading students through sessions was Jeff Lolli, professor of sport and event management, Brian Larson, professor of marketing, Tracy Jones, adjunct faculty in the School of Business Administration, Angie Corbo, chair of communication studies, Assistant Teaching Professor Tim Scepansky, and Assistant Professor Jennifer Reinwald. 

Everyone speaking to students emphasized a consistent message - the best way to get started working in sports is by getting experience and making connections. 

Lolli spoke to students about the event and hospitality industry and how Widener’s sport and event management program has built-in opportunities, such as internships, for students to gain industry experience and make connections while pursuing their degrees. 

 “These experiences allow students to connect theory and learn more about the business of sports and events beyond the four walls of the classroom. These work experiences also allow students to see what does and does not connect with their interests in the industry,” Lolli explained.  

Widener is the Official University of the Philadelphia Union and the two institutions are proud neighbors in the city of Chester. The partnership provides educational opportunities for Widener students, including internships and job shadowing with the Union, as well as community outreach initiatives like these field trip experiences, led by the Union and Widener.

While most of the high school students in attendance don’t have their lives mapped out yet, they found inspiration and ideas for possible paths. 

Students face a table on a stage where presenters are speaking
Widener faculty and Union staff talk to students in the Union Press Room

Chris Coughlin, a senior at Strath Haven High School, knows he wants to work in sports someday, and felt this solidified his plan. 

“My dream job would have to be something in sports. I would like to do communications or something on the business side,” said Coughlin. “I was surprised when they said they’re already looking to schedule friendlies [non-competitive matches] for the 2024 season while we’re still in the 2023 season. It shows that they’re always doing something and that this is a 24/7 job.”

Kelly felt the same. Planning to build on her interest in business when she gets to college, hearing from Widener and Union professionals broadened her horizons. 

“Before coming in I knew I wanted to do something in business, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Now I’m definitely way more interested in the marketing aspect of everything,” Kelly said. “I think every high school that is able to should take this opportunity.”

Widener faculty were inspired by the opportunity to connect with high school students at the stadium complex.

 “My hope is that we empowered these students to understand how their passion for sports could result in a life-long, fulfilling career,” said Corbo. 

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