29 Oct

In August, I was finally offered a volunteer position with the Ujpest Ice Hockey Club in Budapest.  What a great opportunity!  However, the transition from paid consultant (well paid sometimes) to unpaid assistant is an interesting transition for me….mostly in my own head.  However, the process to even get this position was a long, interesting journey on its own.

It started in early winter 2012.  My wife and I decided we wanted to spend the summer in Europe.  I began looking for internships or summer work with sports leagues all over Europe.

Problem 1:  I currently speak zero European languages fluently.

Problem 2:  No one (NO ONE) works during the summer in Europe.

So, after some 100 unsolicited emails, I received less than ten responses.  Mostly, I was told no one was working during the summer.

At 32 I am looking to offer free work and no bites.  I had an opportunity at the very beginning of the job search process to help organize a men’s junior tournament in Hungary with the Hungarian Basketball Federation that fell through because FIBA provides money to hire interns from a specific organization.  Then at the very end of the search process, the Hungarian Ice Hockey Federation considered bringing me on, but they felt there was a language barrier that would hold back staff from doing their everyday work.

We even started to look back to the U.S. for the summer, but it was too late and….all the U.S. sports internships were unpaid also.  At the bottom of some of the internship advertisements there were questions like, “can you afford to live in New York for the summer without compensation?”  Uh, nope…

Finally, I landed with a good group in Ujpest.  Hockey guys tend to be pretty modest, but I am working with some really amazing former players and coaches.  These guys have their own Wikipedia pages even!  Rumor is one of the guys I am working with scored 400 points in 100 professional games.  Makes me feel like I’m in the right place to learn!

My first tasks were to look over the offseason training schedule and see what could be added from my rugby and U.S. football background.  The training lacked the plyometrics stuff I was used to, but I am unfamiliar with offseason hockey training.  I suggested some things and offered a couple of websites to the coaching staff.

I also attended the on ice practices and began to collect data.  Mostly I would observe shooting drills and mark the number of shots, missed shots, shots on goal, etc….

The practices ended up being practice for me for collecting data during games.  Just getting used to watching what is going on on the ice while writing down notes was a challenge at practice speed.  This was also the beginnings of a mental transition for me watching sports.  I had to begin to look at the game critically, but not as a fan (or not only as a fan).  I think this is where some people who are fans and get into the sports industry end up disliking sports after some time.  I have heard this fate from many in the “industry”.  I think this is because these folks think they are going to be hanging with athletes and going to parties…make it to the big time themselves.

August’s lesson from sports to the real world:  Stay grounded!


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