Founder and creator of The Canadian Sports Business Network Matthew Paladino and his colleagues hosted the first sports talk conference, which allowed Brock SMPA students to learn directly from industry professionals. The conference consisted of some very influential individuals in the Brock community and the sports community as a whole. The panel consisted of Brock’s Director of Athletics and Recreation, Neil Lumsden; Men’s Basketball head coach, Charles Kissi; and Digital contributor and writer for Sportsnet, Donnovan Bennett.
“There are a lot of events out there that are just really big conferences that aren’t a good opportunity for students to network [with professionals], so this gives a chance for students to go out of their comfort zone and meet professionals in the industry and learn about topics that aren’t really discussed much in sport media and CIS,” said Paladino.
CFL Hall of Famer, Neil Lumsden opened the conversation by saying; “sport would be a drag if all you did was practice.” He then continued to explain that we as individuals want to express and showcase what we’re good at, instead of just practice over and over by ourselves.
Lumsden has an impressive resume in the sports industry, which ranges from playing in the CFL, being the general manager for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and now Director of Athletics and Recreation at Brock. Lumsden, therefore emphasized the importance of a variety of experiences and qualifications.
To start the second part of the conference, Kissi sat down with Bennett, who discussed his university career and how that helped propel him to his current position at Sportsnet.
Prior to writing professionally, Bennett was a CIS football running back who played for the Western Mustangs. Eventually, Bennett learned that it was unrealistic to pursue his career in professional football, so began planning for new career pathways, while trying to maintain and satisfy his passion for sports.
“I knew that I had to find another path, but I wanted to stay close to sports, so being in sports media was the next best thing,” said Bennett. “So I was very lucky [to get a job with] “The Score”… they were familiar with me as they covered CIS football. So, I’ve been able to use my experience not only as a CIS player but also a student-athlete to be able to cover CIS football, which then allowed me to branch off to NCAA as well, and then professional sports. So it was a great launching pad for me and it continues to be my proudest work.”
As Kissi interviewed Bennett, he went into greater detail of his past on how he constantly searched for sports media internships but was shutdown because he lacked experience. This ultimately frustrated Bennett, as it was those internships that he wanted the experience from. It was then that Bennett reached out to Dwayne Ford who worked for The Score. Bennett explained that he would do anything for Ford as long as he got an internship with the then television network.
As Bennett and the Mustangs didn’t make it to the Vanier Cup in 2006, he reached out to The Score and explained that he will do whatever it takes to cover the event. It was during that event when Bennett made connections with iconic sports journalists such as Cabbie Richards from TSN. Bennett then explained that it was at that moment that made him the difference from everyone else. Instead of doing an internship for the work, Bennett proved that his internship was out of passion for sport and how devoted he was to hard work.
From then on, Bennett would go the extra mile and cover more events then what he was asked to do. Instead of coming back with one story, he would come back with three stories, which is something Bennett is popularly known for today with his connection to Black History Month.
Bennett then explained that working for sports media is a lot like playing for a team. You’re fighting to start, dress, and to be the best. So it is that reason why you need to find what makes you different from everyone else and embrace that. He explained that if you’re good at social media and a sports media company is lacking on social media, express to them that you are skilled in that field and how that would benefit the company. A phrase Bennett often used was, “attack the hurdle that not everyone is willing to take that makes you better than everyone else.”
“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward,” said Bennett in his final remarks.
To get involved or hear about future events run by the Canadian Sport Business Network, you can like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @CanadianSBN.
Connor Allen – Assistant Sports Editor