By Nicole Randolph
With only two semesters left in my undergraduate Media Management studies, I knew that the summer of 2017 should be filled with some form of work experience. After applying to what felt like thousands of internships all across the media and entertainment industries in various cities, I received an email from the Charlotte Independence professional soccer team and Charlotte Hounds professional lacrosse team (both of which are run by the same company). A few days and a phone interview later, my summer plans were set.
I grew up playing soccer until an injury left me sidelined and unable to fully recover. Since then, I have spent every weekend watching professional leagues across the globe. Until very recently, soccer was my primary hobby, but not an area in which I would ever consider pursuing a career in.
In the first week of June 2017, I made my way to the Charlotte Independence’s main office in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. I walked into a room covered with sports paraphernalia, and I felt right at home. On my first day, I learned the basics of what I would be doing--maintaining the website, writing stories for the team, simple graphic designing, and running social media. On my second day, I hopped on a bus full of rowdy fans and staff to watch the Independence take on North Carolina FC in Raleigh. Yes, on my second day.
As the summer went on, my supervisor entrusted me with more responsibilities, often going far beyond my expectations for my internship. For instance, I was able to launch an interview-based series with the players and even design trading cards for the team. More importantly, I grew more and more comfortable with these tasks.
Being a part of the Independence forced me to adapt to the Hounds as well. I have never been a big fan of lacrosse; nor did I really know the rules of professional lacrosse, but I had to quickly learn how to write about the sport. While my main focus was the Independence, I am grateful for the exposure to communications for other sports.
Being part of such a small staff (less than 10 full-time employees) allowed me to be fully immersed in various aspects of the soccer industry beyond communications. I was able to see every department in action, from merchandising and ticketing, to gameday operations and press box duties.
My internship with the team helped me figure out what I want to do after I graduate. I had spent three years of my college career bouncing around different interests within the Media Management major, but I seemed to have a new career goal every semester. Now, I am very positive in my goal of working in sports media. I could not have known how much I would love the industry without my internship, and I cannot recommend United Soccer League (USL) team internships more. Any undergraduate student looking to explore the sports industry should consider this league, which has 30 teams (and more joining nearly every year!) all across the country.
Photo Caption: Nicole Randolph (center) among rowdy Charlotte Independence supporters at a soccer game.