Sport management major hones her skills at summer internship with Irish pro soccer club

August 7, 2019

By Greg Sullivan

George Mason College of Education and Human Development student Jamie Olsen knew she wanted to get out of her comfort zone a little bit by choosing an internship that would prepare her for a career in sport management.

That quest recently sent her across the Atlantic Ocean where she’s now finishing up a summer internship with a professional soccer team in Ireland.

The sport management major, who begins her senior year at Mason this fall, took on a sports marketing and media relations intern role with Shamrock Rovers Football Club, a Dublin-based team in Ireland’s top division. Not only was it a far-flung locale but also it was a different sport for Olsen, who grew up in Vermont and previously had worked mainly in gymnastics and rowing.

Olsen said her experience in Ireland has been one filled with excitement. Gamedays, she said, are typically a whirlwind for the employees, who arrive several hours before kickoff for preparations. However, Olsen said that witnessing the game night atmosphere come together in Tallaght Stadium, an 8,000-seat venue on Dublin’s south side, is well worth all their effort.

“Once the fans start to arrive, the atmosphere is most often compared to an Irish pub’s,” Olsen said. “If you’re wearing a Rovers shirt you can walk in the stadium and immediately feel as though you are part of something bigger. While most of the fans are in the east and west stands, the stadium’s south stand is where the fans sit who want to take part in the club’s cheering traditions.”

Those special south-stand traditions range from traditional team chants to fans in the section standing the entire game, Olsen said.

“It’s incredible seeing everyone come together to support the Rovers,” she said. “Once the fans begin to chant, it’s not just individuals yelling, it’s more like all the fans we have just become one. They jump up and down in the stands, waving their flags and banners.”

Olsen said she was drawn to the Shamrock Rovers for more than just the great game experience. On researching the club, she said she found that they seemed to have one of the stronger understandings out of similar clubs of how to run a successful sports business and acquire sponsorships, while also attracting top athletes.

“All of my colleagues with the Rovers have taught me something about either marketing, media, or about the general structure of sports in Ireland,” Olsen said. “There are a lot of ways one can approach marketing and media, so learning it in a new sport or field I thought would benefit me in the job I end up getting in sports.”

She certainly chose a soccer club with a rich history. The Shamrock Rovers Football Club dates back to 1899 and boasts 17 league championships and 24 FAI (Football Association of Ireland) Cup victories, the most of any team in the Republic.

This year’s team faces stiff competition from a talented rival club, Dundalk, in the league standings and is in second place for now with the season running until late October.

For Olsen, the internship has been an excellent addition to her education at Mason where, in addition to her sport management degree, she is also pursuing minors in Hospitality Management and in Tourism and Events Management.

Olsen said that while she still sees herself long-term most likely working in rowing (she has previously worked as a coxswain, the person who steers the rowboat) or in college athletics, she said her career outlook has already evolved a bit in an unexpected way after spending a summer on the Emerald Isle. She’s grown to love the role of data analytics in sports even more while working with the Shamrock Rovers as she has seen how data are applied to soccer. Now, she said she’s started to reevaluate her future plans to incorporate more data analytics training.

In recent years, other Mason students in the sport management programs have interned abroad in countries including Spain, South Korea, and Australia, among others. Olsen also completed a practicum as a yoga instructor in London during her Mason career.

Following her time at Mason, Olsen said, based on this internship experience, she now plans to either pursue certification in data analytics or to get a master’s degree in sports performance data analysis.

“I came here nervous working in a new sport and in a different country, and now I am leaving with confidence in my work and in my abilities, and with a better understanding of what my professional goals are,” she said. “Internships are a time to figure out what you really like and what you really don’t. It’s a time to shadow people and learn lessons. I’m extremely lucky to be with a group of people who want to see me succeed in every way.”