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Talking sports and business at U of T

Toronto Blue Jays President Paul Beeston (left) is one of the speakers at the student-organized Sports Speaker Series (photo courtesy Toronto Blue Jays)

It’s a winning opportunity for students seeking careers in the sports industry: a little coaching from top executives such as Toronto Blue Jays President Paul Beeston.

And it’s all courtesy of a student-run organization.

“There are a lot of passionate students who would love a job in the sports industry, but it’s a very difficult industry to break into,” says commerce student Natan Levi, president of the University of Toronto Sports and Business Association (UTSB).

“Our goal at UTSB is to bridge the gap between sports industry professionals and students at U of T.”

On Nov.2, UTSB is hosting an event focused on the development of sport in Canada. Highlights include a keynote speech from Ian Troop, chief executive officer of the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games 2015 and a Q & A session led by Beeston.

A panel discussion will feature Rowan Barrett, executive vice-president and assistant general manager of the men’s senior national team at Basketball Canada; Peter Montopoli, general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association; Darryl Boynton, manager of the Ontario region centre at Hockey Canada; and Michael Downey, chief executive officer and president of Tennis Canada.

"We'll be talking about funding, and where people see the growth of their sports in the future," Levi says.

UTSB focuses on creating opportunities for students interested in a career in the sports industry through intensive networking and events but all students are welcome, Levi says. Now in his fourth year studying commerce, Levi founded the association in 2011 with third-year commerce student Adrian Kania and Avish Sood, who graduated from the program last spring.

For their inaugural event in March 2012, they secured funding, appearances and merchandise from groups such as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the Score, the National Basketball Association and the Toronto Blue Jays. Topics included the influence of social media and technology on sport, as well as marketing and the challenges of branding a new sport.

"We called that one: Turning Dreams Into Careers, and we had a real mix of kinesiology students, life sciences students and commerce students," Levi says. "We had people from the Argos, Toronto FC, and the chief financial officer of MLSE, who talked about things like the value of a Chartered Accountant designation and things we can do after school to further our careers."

Levi attributes much of the UTSB’s success in attracting big names to U of T’s extraordinary reputation.

“Everyone has been very interested. Once we meet one person, they recommend you to the next person,” he adds, “so it’s pretty much a snowball effect from there.”

The Sports Speakers event takes place at Kruger Hall, at Woodsworth College, Nov. 2 from 11:00am to 2:30pm. Tickets are $15 for U of T students. More details can be found on the UTSB website.