Fetching coffee and mastering the copier machine are not on the daily lists that Greg Wiley draws up for his interns with the Philadelphia Charge of the Women’s United Soccer Association.
The director of public relations for the third-year club likes it that way.
Scrapping to firm up their position in the crowded Philadelphia sports landscape, the Charge do not rely on a bloated front office staff. Only the sales department boasts more than one full-time employee.
All of which means that on this team, everyone – right on through to the interns – plays and pitches in to make sure that everything that needs to get done, gets done.
“The smaller organization allows you to do more outside of what your initial responsibilities are,” Wiley said.
That’s good news for someone looking to break into the sports business who lands in the team’s front office as an intern.
Or, to put it another way, it’s something like languishing on the bench versus playing time. Think of an intern as a draft pick who needs playing time to develop. Interning for a team in Major League Baseball or the National Football League may seem like a good move, but with those teams can come a sea of fellow interns. Getting lost in the shuffle is a definite possibility, not to mention missing out on the attention and mentoring that a smaller atmosphere like that of the Charge offers.
When that intern graduates and tries to track down a job, an internship at a league office in New York may shine on the resume at first, but it’s the substance of the experience – the what rather than the where – that eventually separates job candidates. Good luck trying to cobble together a portfolio for an interview if you did little more than commandeer the fax machine as an intern.
Both in their first season with the team, Wiley’s protégés, Ann Raymond and Jodi Redcay, are seeing it all.
Raymond is a 23-year-old Maine native making her way through Temple University’s journalism graduate program. Redcay, meanwhile, is a soccer junkie senior to-be at York (Pa.) College, where she majors in public relations.
Wiley draws up a daily to-do list for his interns. On Wiley’s lists are the “anything and everything,” as Raymond termed it.
Working off those lists, the two write press releases, assemble the club’s impressive web site, oversee the production of the game program, tend to the needs of the press on game nights and tie up the endless loose ends that need tying.
Should Raymond and Redcay manage to run low on work, the sales and marketing departments bring the pair on board to help out.
In Wiley the two interns have someone who knows the very value of seeing it all. Wiley interned everywhere from WFAN Radio to Major League Soccer’s New York/New Jersey MetroStars to his college’s sports information department. Wiley’s pre-Charge work history also boasts stints with an independent league baseball club, a 180-degree switch to a New York public relations firm handling music accounts and then a move back to sports as a wire service sportswriter.
“You want to get a background in everything,” Wiley said of his own work history. “You want to make yourself the best as possible.”
There is also something to be said for learning the ins and outs of the job as an intern rather than on the job after graduation.
Wiley lets Raymond and Redcay run with his lists. He’s happy to help as needed but allows his apprentices space to learn through trial and error.
Said Wiley, “I tell them, ‘It’s not your neck that’s on the line. If I don’t like it, I’ll give it back to you and show you how it should be done.’”
That freedom to learn on the job, to make mistakes now rather than later, is yet one more advantage of choosing a situation that will allow an intern to get dirty and involved.
“Not worrying about their job being on the line allows them creativity,” Wiley continued.
Wiley conveys that message to his interns in the variety of responsibilities he hands them.
“He wants to see you take it on yourself,” said Raymond of her boss. “I hoped that in time Greg would learn to trust me.”
The pair have done nothing to squander their mentor’s trust.
The bizarre side also creeps into their work.
A wayward and frazzled out-of-town fan and his family wandered into the press box at Villanova Stadium after a recent home match, inquiring about a taxi ride back to the hotel.
The leafy suburb of Villanova, the man and his family learned, is decidedly lacking in taxi options.
Enter Raymond, who played the role of taxi driver and squired the family back into town. All in a day’s work for a team that does not takes its relationship with its fan base for granted.
Working in sports requires flexibility and the dealing with the unexpected. Sure, seeing to it that a fan has a ride is the extreme side of that rule, but for an intern, those skills needed in the sports world are cultivated with a boss willing to trust and provide genuine experience.
“You need to get out of the classroom, need to get away from the tests and get your hands dirty,” Raymond observed.
Redcay came to Wiley looking for that experience. Wiley was in the market for another responsible, organized candidate, someone he can trust will get the job done.
“You don’t need to have all the experience in the world to work with me,” Wiley said. “I look for people who are eager to learn and want to take on responsibility.”
Redcay fit the bill.
“Greg told me I would get a lot of experience,” said Redcay. “At each game, I’ve done different things,” including jumping in to assist the statistics crew on a night that it was shorthanded.
Where that experience Redcay speaks of pays off is in the intangibles, the tricks of the trade, that the pair soak up working alongside Wiley.
Redcay knows her press releases need to “say what needs to be said without being flowery,” which is not something that even some in the business doing it for a living always master.
Or take deadlines, for instance. They matter. They matter even more for a team hustling for publicity. A seven o’clock start on a Saturday night leaves the pair scrambling to make early deadlines for the Sunday papers. Miss that deadline and the Charge will lose out on valuable ink.
After a match, there are players to corral for the press conferences. Game recaps to write. Player quotes to transcribe. Forms to fax.
“All the stress begins after the game to an hour afterwards,” Raymond summed up. “Everything goes into fast-forward.”
Somehow, the two manage to get it all done on time.
Through various events, the two have met with interns working for other professional teams and come away knowing that the more personalized approach that accompanies interning for the Charge was the right move.
“You could just tell they weren’t getting the same type of experience,” Raymond said of her peers interning elsewhere.
If Wiley immerses Raymond and Redcay in experience, the duo also bring their own good-natured enthusiasm and humor to the office.
“We entertain Greg all day,” Raymond laughed.
The entertainment aside, Wiley’s offers to-the-point advice to his understudies.
“Get the most out of it. Do as much as you can. Learn as much as you can. Get to know as many people as you can.”
Wiley’s lists and something small and personal – like the front office of the Charge – allow a couple of interns like Raymond and Redcay to do just that.