Ted Van Zelst knew he wanted to work in the sports industry ever since the eighth grade. "I saw a behind-the-scenes piece on the Los Angeles Lakers that showed the business side of the game," Van Zelst says. "I was hooked."
Figuring he'd go the "business route" in life, Van Zelst transferred to Indiana University during his sophomore year because of its quality business school and undergraduate sports marketing program.
It was a sweet move.
At IU, Van Zelst majored in sports marketing and management, and became the president of the Hoosier Sports Marketing Club for two years. In addition, he did what many successful sports people do: He found a quality internship and excelled.
"While at IU, I interned with the Indiana Pacers then worked part-time for the Indianapolis Colts," he says. From there, it was a steady climb towards the top. "I got a job at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and at night I worked Indianapolis Ice (IHL) games."
The fact that he worked two jobs should tell you a little something about Van Zelst's thirst for success. We've heard it before from the talented, productive people profiled in this space. You must be willing to do whatever it takes, if it means a brighter future.
After spending two years with the Columbus Chill (of the ECHL), Van Zelst joined the New York Islanders seven years ago and now oversees the entire sales and services for the sponsorship department for the Isles and the New York Dragons (of the Arena Football League). And how would he describe a typical work day? He really can't put it into a neat and tidy description, which is exactly what makes Van Zelst's job compelling.
"There really isn't a typical day," he says. "Each day consists of selling and servicing sponsorship accounts. I enjoy sponsorship sales because it is a great place to get involved in all facets of the organization. From ticket sales to public relations, sponsorships has a hand in everything."
Here's an example of how his days vary: One day I can be helping with a news conference then handing out bobbleheads in the cold after a February home game or in New York City negotiating a million dollar deal. Sponsorship gives you a little bit of everything."
How cool is that? How many of you would like to do exactly what this Hoosier graduate does and get paid to do it? It's possible.
Van Zelst says this: "Never lose focus. If a job in sports is what you truly want, go and get it. Get experience everywhere you can. I highly recommend the minor leagues as a testing ground, especially for sales people. Nothing helps that resume more then showing you can close business, no matter what level."