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Running the Show: Inside the Southern Ohio Copperheads Experience

Tuesday, July 11 2017 12:00am

Students lead all day-to-day operations of local intercollegiate baseball team

Summer and baseball go hand in hand. And if you’ve experienced summer in Athens, you know that the Southern Ohio Copperheads are a highlight of this hot and humid season. Families and students alike have long taken advantage of this summer treat and American pastime at Bob Wren Stadium.

The Southern Ohio Copperheads are Athens’ collegiate summer baseball team and is part of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. The league is one of 11 in the National Alliance of Summer Baseball. For the last 17 years, the team has been loyally supported by sold-out crowds and has worked to enhance its game day experience for the greater community.

But behind every fireworks night, concession stand, promotion, and ticket sale is a student who plays a vital role in creating a memorable experience for every fan. Yes, each front office position is filled and managed by undergraduate students at Ohio University.

The Team Behind the Team

With a dynamic staff of nearly 60 students representing OHIO’s College of Business’s Bachelor of Sport Management Program and Scripps College of Communication, there are several opportunities within the Copperheads organization to prepare for a career in the sport industry.

The Copperheads organization has served as a launch pad for students to accept front office positions with professional sports teams such as the Cleveland Indians and San Antonio Spurs. Whether it’s to gain professional experience or simply fulfill their passion for baseball, students are fully integrated into leadership roles within the team through this transformational experience.

“There are many opportunities within Sports Management that allow students to apply the skills they’re learning inside the classroom, but the Copperheads experience is a special opportunity for our business students to immerse themselves in a comprehensive baseball experience – one they can take with them when they land their full-time job.” said Jennifer Murphy, assistant dean of career management and student success.

The student team consists of 12 directors, 15 media staff members and 30 game day staff with minimal oversight from Annie Brackley, College of Business instructor and vice president of the Copperheads, as well as Dave Palmer, president of the Copperheads. Directors lead their teams and take the responsibility for the strategy behind operations that include driving ticket sales promotions and preparing the press box for game day media.

The goal of this unique experience is to give students the opportunity and autonomy to make key decisions and to solve challenges that effect the day-to-day operations of the team.

“Holding a director position is a huge learning curve because I’m not following someone around who can show me the ins and outs,” said Maddie Wyke, director of marketing and marketing sophomore. “Our president gives us a lot of freedom. I’m learning from doing, and of course we have people to turn to for help and to ask questions, but they constantly tell us that this is our learning laboratory.”

Each operations team sets a goal to achieve throughout the season, whether it’s increasing sponsorship revenue or fan attendance. Last year the Copperheads generated a sold-out crowd of more than 2,000 fans. This year they intend to do the same and keep the game day experience thriving.

“Everyone is responsible for their department and working to make the organization better as a whole,” said Justin Brodsky, director of partnerships and sport management major. “My focus is people. I want to engage the fans and partners so that they continuously want to show their support at future games. It is all about experience and customer service with the Copperheads.”

Building Community

For the Copperheads staff, the community comes first at Bob Wren Stadium. Delivering excellent service is a top priority for all teams as they work to create a seamless game day experience and bring the Athens community together.

“Excellent service is key and it’s what sports are all about,” said Kaleb Sislowski, general manager. “It’s about the atmosphere that we create and the energy we have as a staff that translates to the fans in the seats.”

Students also develop relationships with members of the community throughout the season and strive to revive partnerships with local businesses to increase exposure and revenue. This year, the team’s goal is to generate more than $100,000 in sponsorship revenue.

 “We set a new goal for our sponsorship revenue this year and part of that has been working with previous local partners. We want to rebuild those relationships that have tailed off through past seasons,” said Brodsky. “Our former general manager, worked with a company called Dan Inman Electric and they have joined on this year to sponsor a special alternate jersey. We have to come up with creative strategies that we can implement to help drive traffic back to our partners and continue to grow their brand."

Through their efforts to improve the operations of the organization and community experience, students come away with not only a wealth of experience and skill, but a newfound family away from home.  

“Through working with the Copperheads over the past three years, I have made friends that will last a lifetime,” said Sislowski. “It’s a close-knit family oriented team here. We spend a lot of time together and watch each other grow professionally through a very fast-paced experience.”

Students look toward their futures with the support of their peers and experience behind them to achieve their goals.

“We are all passionate and motivated about doing something to better ourselves,” said Wyke. “It will be rewarding to see all of our hard work translate into our careers.”

Studying Sport Management at OHIO

Students learn in and out of the classroom in OHIO’s Sport Management Department, including opportunities through the Southern Ohio Copperheads organization. To more about the undergraduate sports management program at Ohio University, visit business.ohio.edu/sport-management.