Team UT students gain valuable experience working behind the scenes at the Kentucky Derby and the Super Bowl.
Not many students can boast of the fact that they’ve been to the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby and earned class credit for being there. Then again, other college students aren’t part of TEAM UT.
For six years, recreation and sport management students have been getting a lot of firsthand experience in their chosen field as they’ve worked behind the scenes at the Super Bowl—and this year at the Derby.
TEAM UT is part of senior-level classes in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies (KRSS) led by Fritz Polite, clinical assistant professor of sport management. The experiences are made possible through a partnership with M Group Scenic Studios, an event management company in Phoenix, Arizona.
“The first TEAM UT invited to the Super Bowl started out in the parking lot scanning tickets,” said KRSS student Kristen Petway, who was the team’s co-director for the Derby. “Now we have reached a level where we are not only invited back, but have been given additional responsibilities.”
At this year’s Super Bowl the team worked with volunteers and helped out with crisis management. Outside of working the events, the team had to learn time management skills as well as other job-related skills.
TEAM UT co-director Danielle Polk said some of the most valuable skills she learned were “how to organize, plan, and take control of a team.”
Petway said she learned “how to deal with pressure, react to problems, work as a team member, and how to network.”
In the future, Polite hopes the team can get even more experience on the front end of the events.
“We are having discussions on how we can be more entrenched with the planning stages of these events and possibly letting TEAM UT take on more of a leadership and management role,” said Polite.
Team members say their experience has been invaluable in providing them with connections and an insight into the sport management field that not a lot of students have access to.
“The Super Bowl experience provides a real-world opportunity for UT students preparing for careers in the sports industry,” said Bob Rider, dean of the College of
Education, Health, and Human Sciences.
“The University of Tennessee is the only institution of higher education that receives credentials from the NFL to participate in what’s known as the largest event of its type in the world. This recognition distinguishes our students, our college, and our university.”
Polite agrees that this one-of-a-kind program not only gives UT students an advantage, it shines a bright light on the university itself.
“Leaders are not born, but developed,” Polite said. “For our students to be a part of this reflects positively on our university, college, and respective students.”
Polk says the TEAM UT experience is an opportunity not to be missed. “You learn so much on one trip that you will never forget,” she said. “Being able to tell a future employer that you not only learned skills in a classroom, but demonstrated and performed everything you learned in a mega event, such as the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby, is priceless! No other classroom,
college, or program could do everything TEAM UT has done for me.”