Working with students is something Buck Jones has been doing for 39 years. As the Associate Professor of Sport Management for the University of Tennessee, Jones says “When I was in the second grade, I saw myself being a gym teacher.”
Jones' teaching career started with coaching. “I started out as a high school basketball coach and thought I was going to be the next John Wooden. Next, I got into college teaching and did more coaching; from there I went into college administration.”
Buck has spent the last 22 years with the University of Tennessee and has assumed many different roles. Originally from West Virginia, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Fairmont State College. Next it was on to West Virginia where he earned his Masters and then finished with a PhD. from the University of Toledo.
While he saw himself being a gym teacher in the second grade, Buck says he could not have foreseen what he is doing today, but he knew the field of sports would be his calling. “I don’t know that at that point I would have envisioned doing this because there weren’t any people who did this sort of academic work 50 years ago. Sport management programs are in their relative infancy. I knew that I loved sports and I knew that I loved working with students as soon as I taught a couple of years. This job has been a nice combination of sports and students. I guess that is my real passion.”
In addition to his duties as a professor, Buck is the Director of the Partners in Sports Program for the university. “I am responsible for all of the field work that our students do. We normally have about 100 students per semester doing field work somewhere, including summertime. So largely, I spend my time with field work, freshman orientation and the Partners in Sports Program. The Partners in Sports is a combination of our majors club and a fund raising effort.”
Getting prepared for the sports business is something else that needs to be taught. “Some of the students have no idea what environment they are preparing to work in, that is why we put as much emphasis as we do in getting the kids out and getting hands on real-live experience.”
This means working hard when others are most likely having their fun. “We require them as freshman to first get involved in working in a sports setting. They do a half-time practicum as sophomores and juniors, and then finish up the program with a full-time internship. What we try to do is get them out where things are really going on so they can see that while everybody else is playing on the weekends and the evenings, the people in the sports industry are probably working their hardest.”
Additionally, Buck is a “hands-on” teacher. He does not make his students do anything he is not willing to do or has not already done. Being able to work with them is an added bonus. “One of the things that I enjoy most is, these things the kids are doing, I do it with them. I have a class that meets in the summer and we spend a whole week together all day and all evening at a golf tournament, a PGA golf event.”
Jones also has a lot of activities he partakes in to keep himself busy in the field. “I work at basketball games, I keep the scorebook, I work the PA, I announce track meets, I am going to Florida to announce the Florida relays for four days, so I do a lot of these things. I think sometimes too, the students can sense that I am excited about doing them and maybe that helps them a little.”
So if you are looking to “Work in Sports”, take some advice from someone who teaches people to work in the industry. Buck says that there are a few steps to get you to where you want to be.
“First of all, try it. Secondly, get out and get your hands as dirty as you can learning what it is about. Third, you need to have a passion for it. If you don’t love sports, you are not going to work those nights, weekends and 16 hour days and feel good about it.”
He stresses the fact that you have to love your chosen occupation or you will not be successful. “I think you have to love it, you have to get out and do it, get as much experience as you can, and understand that there are steps that you follow to get where you want to go.”
Additionally, don’t expect to jump to the top of the ladder right away. “I think sometimes the students that I work with here that are so anxious to get out and get involved, they think that maybe they are going to work right into an AD position without probably realizing that there is going to be a graduate assistantship, a part-time and a full-time AD position long before they get there. I think understanding the steps that are involved, being excited about it and getting as much experience as possible.”