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Dive Into A Career In Sports

By Samantha Phillips, 02/28/17, 11:45AM EST


Dive into a Career in Sports

So You Want to Work in Sports? Check out “The Game of Business”

Having a career in the action-packed, thrilling world of sports is a dream of many students, but they might not know where to start. Aafke Loney, co-owner of the Youngstown Phantoms Hockey Team, developed a program to help students get on the right track.

Loney created the Game of Business to expose students to the opportunities that are available in the sports industry and to let them hear about the industry from professionals’ perspectives. Students get to tour the locker room, review sports data research and ask career questions to the Youngstown Phantoms staff.

“The Game of Business” was created for college and high school students to understand the sports world,” Loney said. “Sport teams are continually evolving to build ‘better’ athletes, equipment, media, business and buildings. By providing this inside look into sports, students gain a unique perspective of the opportunities available in the sports community and how to get their foot in the door.”

At the event, Youngstown Phantoms co-owners Aafke Loney and Troy Loney, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, along with Jason Koehler, Youngstown Phantoms general manager; Paul Watanakunakorn, team doctor and Athletic Trainer Joe Zidar give presentations on their experience working for the Phantoms.

“This is a situation where the Phantoms are providing an opportunity for you to hear from people who are working in the sports industry,” Koehler said. “If you are truly interested in this, you should be like a sponge and absorb the information.”

Working in sports goes beyond game-day operations. All week long, leading up to the big game, sports professionals hustle to complete their tasks and get their team prepped.

“Often times, the reality of what our jobs entail is different from preconceived notions that students have based on how sports management, sports marketing and sports medicine jobs are portrayed in the media and in pop culture,” Watanakunakorn said.

Now is an opportune time to start a career in sports. According to, the projected job growth in sports careers is steadily increasing.

Athletic trainer positions are projected to have a 21 percent growth through 2024, for example.

Careers in the sports industry include sports management, medicine, marketing and customer service, to name a few. It’s far more than just selling tickets or handing out popcorn.

Scoring a career in sports takes hardwork, dedication and grit, along with being rpesented with the right opportunities. The Phantoms staff talks at the event about how their internships in college helped shape their careers.

Koehler said interning for the Pittsburgh Penguins helped launch him into his career as the Phantoms general manager. He was an assistant for Head Coach Kevin Constantine and General Manager Craig Patrick during his time with the Penguins.

“It was great to work for guys like that who took me by the hand as my mentor, to learn how they handled themselves from day to day,” he said. “It helped me become the manager I am today.”

The event is a valuable resource because students get the chance to listen and ask questions, rather than just hear about the industry from professors, Koehler said.

Zidar said his first clinical rotation at Ohio State University was with a hockey team, and it was his first exposure to working in sports medicine, a field he has grown to love.

“Get good grades, study hard,” he advised. “Networking has a lot to do with it, it’s getting out there and meeting people and being open to different opportunities.”

Watanakunakorn said he learned a lot about his profession from Michael Miladore and Raymond Duffett, who were team physicians for Youngstown State University. He said it’s important to be passionate, hungry for knowledge and to network as much as possible while in college.


“Sports is a tough business to break into, and the few opportunities that present themselves need to be capitalized on to the fullest.  The better one networks, the more opportunities that may present itself,” he said.


At the event, Watanakunakorn discusses his job as the Phantoms team physician and explains the business side of hockey operations.

“My presentation covered each of these areas, with particular emphasis on the business aspects, as well as what it takes to become a team physician or for that matter a healthcare provider for a sports team,” he said.


For the next Game of Business event call (330) 747-7825. Students also get a ticket for the game following the event along with the presentations and tours.

If you are interested in attending an exciting Phantoms game at the Covelli Center in Youngstown, Ohio, visit