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By Bobby Goldwater
THE MOST MEMORABLE moments in your career can come when you don’t expect them.
Or in places where you couldn’t imagine they could happen at all.
The setting can be as significant as the occasion, as I’ve learned during my years of personal observation and privileged experience in our wonderful industry. While it’s the spectacular performances of athletes and entertainers that most people remember, if you’re really fortunate, a remarkably memorable moment can take place away from the arena or stadium, from the theater or hall, from any of the usual venues.
It has for me.
It can for anyone.
Everyone associated with the IAAM has had his or her unique career path. Mine began at Madison Square Garden in New York City, went across the country 24 years later to STAPLES Center in Los Angeles and then back to the east coast to Washington, D.C. I’ve always felt there couldn’t be anyone who has been more fortunate or who has found more enjoyment being in this profession than me. But I gained a greater appreciation for all of it in the fall of 2008.
I started teaching.
Like so many industry friends and associates, I had always accepted invitations to be a guest lecturer for a college class, in my case at universities like Lehigh, NYU, Southern California, American and George Washington. Over the years, I had been a moderator or panelist at the Sports Events Marketing Experience (SEME) and numerous other young professional or student-oriented conferences. I was invited to give the Senior Last Lecture at my alma mater, Miami University in Ohio, and I chose to focus my speech on sports, entertainment and facility management. When the Garden introduced behind-the-scenes guided tours, I made a point of being available to school groups that requested hearing from an executive. As a member of IAAM since 1984, I had admired respected ambassadors – Ray Ward, Frank Russo, Frank Roach, Jim Riordan, Brad Mayne, David Touhey, Lee Esckilsen, Jim Kahler, to name just a few – making meaningful commitments to education. And then, out of the blue, it was my turn.
Georgetown University was starting a Sports Industry Management master’s program and the associate dean, Matt Winkler, was assembling a faculty exclusively of practitioners. He invited me. He didn’t have to ask twice, twist an arm or mention whatever modest stipend would be offered. Teaching was something I had always thought I wanted to do. So, even with my schedule handling the variety of consulting projects through my firm, The Goldwater Group, I knew I had to make time to try this.
It was in the very first class in Room 126 of St. Mary’s Hall. It was in their eyes and faces. The connection, the recognition that an insight from your own experience can be brought to life to make a lasting impression on eager listeners who are your responsibility in an academic setting. Every one of the 44 students in the Sports Leadership and Management course that night – their eyes opening a little wider, the brightening smiles and accepting expressions as they grasped a concept, the I-get-it acknowledgment – provided me with a moment that was every bit as memorable as the Rangers finally hoisting the Stanley Cup, the first fans entering STAPLES Center, the confirmation that Major League Baseball was returning to the Nation’s Capital and other special milestones in my career.
As I drove home from that initial class, rather overwhelmed at what had occurred, I thought of professional mentors and colleagues who had made lasting impressions on me. I had drawn upon them that night and I would continue to do so, on behalf of my students, in succeeding weeks and months. I also thought of other 20-somethings I had met over the years seeking their places in our industry – those I had hired or for whom I had written letters of recommendation or reviewed resumes or just provided some sought-after guidance. I suddenly had 44 of them at once and then there were 26 more in the spring semester’s Event Planning and Facility Management course (we used the IAAM’s Public Assembly Facility Management textbook) and another 26 during the summer. There are 50 students this semester. It would challenge an NBA scoreboard to count all of the memorable moments.
In only its second year, Georgetown’s program already is making an impact with its increasing enrollment, challenging curriculum and outstanding mix of executives serving in faculty positions. Every one of us is immensely enjoying our weekly classes as we pass along what we know to our passionate students.
It is an experience of a lifetime and everyone with experience can also have the time of their life. There can be no better feeling, no moment more memorable, than receiving the genuine gratitude from a young person when you’ve shared your time, your enthusiasm, your knowledge. I don’t know where I would be without the precious nuggets of wisdom I’ve been able to collect from IAAM and business colleagues over the years but I’m pretty sure it would not be where I am. So I appreciate every opportunity to offer what others have given to me. And, through teaching, there is a new, fulfilling lesson: another venue to find memorable moments in our industry is a classroom. fm
Bobby Goldwater is the President of The Goldwater Group, a sports, entertainment and facility management industry consulting company. He can be reached at email@example.com!
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