KOKOMO, Ind. — The music blares, and fans roar as the home team runs onto the field. In the stands, crowds hurry to their seats, as the smells of popcorn, hot dogs, and nachos drift through the air, along with a sense of anticipation, leading up to kick-off.
This is a typical day at the office for Chad Wright — and exactly the kind of atmosphere he wants in his dream job. He’s taking the first steps toward that goal during his final semester at Indiana University Kokomo, with an internship with the Indy Eleven pro soccer team.
“It was a great experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to do an internship in this field,” said Wright, a hospitality and tourism management (HTM) major from Frankfort. “It was a great learning experience, working behind the scenes and on game days. I know this will help me in the future as I pursue a career in sports management.”
As a college campus representative, Wright promoted the Indianapolis-based team, which competes in the North American Soccer League. His main job was getting the word out to potential fans, and encouraging people to attend games. He also researched season ticket holder benefits for other teams and compared those to what the Eleven offer, and compiled ideas it could add for its fans.
Game days at Michael Carroll Stadium, at IUPUI, were his favorite part of the job. His duties included checking in members of the team, referees, and media, handing out credentials and parking passes, assisting in activity set up, and helping create a great fan experience.
He was amazed by the planning and detail that goes into each game day.
“Everything is planned down to the minute,” he said. “You have to be very detail-oriented, and think of every possible thing that could happen.
He had support behind the scenes from HTM faculty Mark Meng and Heather Kennedy-Eden, who was able to share her own experience when she worked for the Texas Rangers.
“It was great to hear about her personal experiences in this field, and to learn from what she did in sports management,” said Wright.
Wright admits he didn’t know much about soccer before he accepted the internship — in fact, he had never seen a game.
“I’m a big-time fan now,” he said, noting he was surprised by how rowdy soccer fans can be.
“There are no fans like soccer fans,” he said. “They are so passionately into the games, no matter the weather. It could be raining, it could be cold, it could be hot and sunny, it doesn’t matter, they are into it. We have one section that stands throughout the game. They do chants, they wave flags, and when the Indy Eleven score a goal, they let off colored smoke. It was great seeing the passion they have for the game and the team.”
He encourages everyone to go to at least one Indy Eleven game next season.
“Even if you’re not a soccer fan, it’s a great experience, being in downtown Indianapolis, with the excitement and the atmosphere,” he said. “Going to a game will make you a fan. You can’t have a bad experience.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.