Glory days – Sports Management students organize Special Olympics tourney


This spring, UIndy hosted the 2010 Special Olympics Indiana State Youth Basketball Tournament, which began as a project organized and implemented by six Applied Sport Management students.

Dr. Jennifer VanSickle, assistant professor of kinesiology, structured the class as a way to provide service-learning opportunities for UIndy Sport Management majors while meeting the needs of Special Olympics Indiana.

The more than 300 athletes participating in the event had played a full regular season of basketball already through clubs sponsored by various counties in Indiana. Two weeks before the state tournament, sectionals advanced the top 32 teams to the state level.

Students who were enrolled in VanSickle’s Sport Management class became the main organizers for the state competition.

All accepted positions of responsibility, including those of tournament director, tournament assistant, operations coordinator, assistant operations coordinator, volunteer coordinator, and ancillary events coordinator.

“It meant doing a lot of work outside of the classroom and working with outside organizations,” says Katie Dewey, a senior point guard for UIndy’s Greyhound basketball team and assistant operations coordinator for the class.

The student team was given tasks that paralleled actual event management—logistical planning, designing a budget, establishing goals and objectives, coordinating technical aspects, and managing the day of the tournament.

The class worked closely with VanSickle and Dave Breen, director of sport management for Special Olympics Indiana, while planning. The preparation provided students with real-world application for the knowledge gained in other sports management classes.

The UIndy students also rubbed shoulders with Mike Furnish, president and CEO of Special Olympics Indiana, and several of its board members during the event.

“This event cultivated future community leaders, provided students and faculty from the entire campus with an opportunity for community service, and utilized our community partner’s staff and resources,” VanSickle says.

On the day of the state tournament, the six-member team kept all aspects on track: coordinating gym space and food service, assigning divisions and bracketing teams, organizing sideline events to keep participants entertained, and scheduling volunteers and officials at all times of the day.