Long-time sports enthusiast, Taylor Ashford, M.S.E. ‘21, knew he wanted to advance his career and he knew he wanted to be in sports. He just wasn’t sure how to achieve both. When he first pursued ways to boost his career, he took steps to earn a master’s of business administration degree.
“I started an online MBA program prior to doing my sport management master’s degree at the University of Kansas. I was not as interested in the classwork as I thought I would be, which confirmed that I needed to pursue my true passion in the sport industry.”
With a newfound direction, Taylor looked for a new way forward that could help him enter the sports industry he loved and have a high-power career. He soon learned about sport management master’s degrees, which provide the skills and connections needed to unlock top-tier careers in today’s competitive sports industry.
“I was speaking with a close friend about going back to get my master’s in sport management and they suggested looking into KU. I did my research and it seemed like a good fit.”
He adds, “I wanted to get my master’s in sport management so that I could break into the industry and be able to move up the ranks quickly. The program being online appealed to me because I could still work full-time while pursuing my degree.”
A Program That Exceeds Expectations
Two years since finding the program he was looking for, Taylor has a new Jayhawk alumni mentor, a brand new leadership role in the industry as the Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator for College Park Skyhawks & Hawks Talon GC, part of the NBA Atlanta Hawks, and a highly respected online master’s in sport management degree from KU.
Taylor is quick to sum up how he feels about having gotten his advanced degree from KU. “I am satisfied with my decision.”
Taylor references the many benefits of the program, including one-to-one alumni mentorship, internships, and new career opportunities when he explains why he is happy with his choice of school and degree.
Ever the high achiever, Taylor successfully held two internships, at one point simultaneously, while he pursued his degree.
“My first internship was with MOKAN Basketball. I spent most of my time managing equipment, filming games and practices, communicating with parents in person and via email, coaching, and handling payments. I have learned how much of a grind working in youth sports is and how many people it takes to operate an elite program,” he says. “I chose to intern with MOKAN basketball because I wanted to learn how to operate a youth sports program and because MOKAN has a good track record of getting their athletes college scholarships; I wanted to assist in that process when I could. Also, I wanted the opportunity to network with a youth sports program that had connections to Nike.”
During his second internship with the Kansas City Royals, Taylor worked with students, employees, and community partners. There, he was able to practice his management and communication skills.
“My second internship was with the Kansas City Royals at their Urban Youth Academy. At the Urban Youth Academy, I was an assistant lead and taught students at the Royals’ first-ever summer camp. I also worked with facility management, equipment management, and participated in the Royals’ mentorship program. I learned how to build and manage relationships between a sports organization and local community partners. I also gained skills in managing and scheduling employees.”
He selected his second internship not only to advance his career but also for altruistic reasons; to give back to his community. “I chose the internship with the Royals because it was a foot in the door with a professional team and one of my reasons for acquiring my master’s was to work in professional sports. I also chose the internship because it allows me to influence and give back to the same community that I grew up in.”
These internship experiences unlocked new career pathways for Taylor and have given him the confidence he needed to walk those pathways. “My internships have forced me to network more and seek more information to complete tough tasks,” he says.
“Both of my internships placed me in roles that empowered me to lead a team whether that team consisted of summer camp counselors or Division 1 basketball talent. I have gained industry knowledge by attending meetings, touring sites, traveling with both internships, and finding mentors in both programs.”
A Powerful Alumni Mentor With Industry Connections
“The KU sports management mentorship program has given me a direct contact to reach out to when I’m curious about an assignment and the opportunity to work on projects directly with someone in my field,” Taylor says. “My mentor and I worked on assignments via Zoom and then emailed each other any changes or final drafts.”
Taylor’s mentor also assisted him outside of the classroom. “My mentor has provided me with many examples of resumes, cover letters, interview questions to assist with my career development. My mentor has also instilled a ton of confidence in me and has been transparent about her experiences within this industry.”
He adds that the mentorship component of his online master’s gave him a new level of tenacity to pursue his larger professional goals. “I think the mentorship program has impacted my career by pushing me to go for things I may have looked over before and to look at every single opportunity in the sport industry as a chance to learn, grow, and network—no matter how big or small the role.”
Top-Tier Job Opportunities
With newfound confidence and a growing resume of internship experiences and industry knowledge, Taylor saw a boost in his career. He understands how being a part of the KU online sport management master’s program has helped in that regard. “I think the ability to continuously meet more and more people in the sport industry because of my internships has given me the opportunity and confidence to position myself to make a splash in this industry. Now I am getting a lot more attention on LinkedIn, Teamwork Online, and other hiring platforms.”
It’s a noticeable change from before he entered the program. “My opportunities did not feel as plentiful nor possible prior to my master’s with KU and my internships.”
He’s now more optimistic about the industry, overall, and what’s available for him and students like him in the future.
“The thing that makes me most excited about the future state of the sports industry is that I believe there will be more opportunities for minorities to gain employment and advance to higher positions,” Taylor says. “Before even completing my online master's in sport management I was offered jobs by many professional teams and accepted an inside sales representative position with the Denver Nuggets.”
A New Prime Role in Professional Sports
Taylor graduated with his M.S.E. in sport management in August 2021. He started a brand new role that was created specifically for him in September, just one month later.
“In my new role, I will be responsible for the sale of new full season tickets, partial season ticket plans, mini-plans, group tickets, and premium seating,” Taylor says. “In this role, I will also identify new business opportunities by establishing professional and personal networks, and staff sales tables at various games and events. After accepting my offer, Dr. Bass immediately connected me with KU sports management alumni Allison Thomas who is a membership service executive with the Nuggets.”
For the future, Taylor says he has his eyes set on a leading role at the very top of the sport industry. “I think this will be a great opportunity for me to continue my career in the sport industry and bring me one step closer to my dream job as the general manager of a professional team one day.”
He now has the Jayhawk network and mentor, industry experience, skills, and confidence to get him there.
A Program for Career-Driven Sports Enthusiasts
Taylor has words of wisdom for those who are in the same position he was a few years ago; considering a top program for a sports degree but not quite sure which path to take to advance his career. “I would tell those students who are passionate about working in sport to do their research and consider joining the KU program,” he says. “I was nervous about starting the program but I have enjoyed my sport management master’s degree classes. The program faculty are very understanding and easy to communicate with. This program truly feels like a family and I am happy I made my decision to pursue my degree here at KU.”
Power Up Your Sports Management Skills Today.
Study online as you earn your sport management master’s at KU. Maintain your career momentum, land new internships in the industry, and gain a powerful industry mentor as you learn valuable skills for your career. With the KU online master’s degree in sport management*, you’ll be fully prepared for the right opportunities. Explore the curriculum and schedule a call with an admissions advisor today.
*This program is a Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) degree in health, sport management, and exercise science with an emphasis in sport management.