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Sport management students put some real-world shine on their studies.

Deakin Business School students Nick Tsaousidis and Jitaksha Patil have been able to hone their sport management skills thanks to a hands-on international internship with one of Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket teams.

The Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) team shares a unique partnership with Deakin that’s forging strong links between sport and education.

While the RPS is able to access the university’s sport science and sport business expertise, Deakin students can take advantage of valuable internship and study-abroad experiences.

For Nick and Jitaksha – who are both completing a Master of Business (Sport Management) – the IPL internship was an outstanding opportunity to gain on-the-ground experience with a global sporting brand.

Nick’s role during the four-week summer internship was promoting fan engagement and it gave him the opportunity to contribute his ideas to the Supergiant’s current direction as well as the team’s future development.

At the end of his internship, he was able to deliver a new ground strategy proposal to boost fan loyalty and promote the team’s brand image.

‘I was able to identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of the club, and how that portrays back to the minds of the consumer. The highlight of my experience was undertaking practical work out in the field. The days spent visiting sites such as the stadium, or attending meetings with sponsors and partners really had the most impact on me, as I was able to witness the organisation’s operations first hand,’ he explains.

With the IPL growing into one of the most-followed cricket tournaments in the world, Jitaksha  was delighted take on a community development role with the RPS and says the opportunity to work on activities leading up to a major event helped enhance his skills and also build professional networks.

‘I was involved in meetings with potential sponsors and partners of the RPS to work out strategies leading to the 10th edition of IPL. The visit to the RPS home ground and discussions with local vendors and service providers helped me to understand the amount of preparation before the start of the IPL,’ he says.

Jitaksha also had the opportunity to be involved in the players’ auction and says this was a one of the highlights of his internship.

‘This is where all eight teams put their best foot forward to sign the talented players who fit their team and falls within an allotted budget. RPS successfully signed the most demanding player of the pool for an all-time IPL record amount for an overseas player. All these aspects and research helped me to come up with potential ideas to formulate community development program for the RPS,’ he explains.

While highlights outnumbered the challenges, both students agree that they had to adjust to the busy and heavily-populated environment of India.

‘Even though India is my home country,’ says Jitaksha, ‘the nearly 25 million population of Mumbai was initially overwhelming. After studying the sports industry in Australia for 18 months, it was a little more challenging understanding the target markets, the procedures, the functions and role of various sporting bodies. However discussions with the CEO and business development manager helped me to understand the sports business from Indian industry perspective. The meetings with various stakeholders were key in understanding the functionalities in India.’

Nick says that simply adjusting to the Indian environment was his initial challenge.

‘Given it was my first time in India, I was unprepared by the fast-paced culture and sheer amount of people, so it took a bit of time to find my feet.’

However he adds that the challenges of working and living in an unfamiliar environment are important professional and personal enablers.

‘You’re forced to deal with many problems and adversities … to react to these, and perform highly at the workplace, displays a high level of strength, determination and maturity, which I believe in the end is just as important to employers as your industry experience.’

For Jitaksha, the opportunity to gain ‘real-time industry experience’ was invaluable.

‘It helped me to enhance many interpersonal skills, communication skills and leadership skills. It was an amazing platform to exchange ideas with experts of the industry and grow my professional network.’

With a background in sport facility management, Nick’s internship as part of his Deakin master’s degree has been an important stepping-stone in his career-path transition.

‘Fan engagement is an area in sport that is becoming more important to the industry every year. Professional sports organisations are becoming less revenue focused and more focused on promoting their brand image and fan loyalty. With the rise of the digital age, simply attending and watching your favourite team play isn’t enough anymore, clubs and brands must find new innovative ways to engage their fan base to influence positive behaviours over a long period of time.’

Returning to Australia with fresh insight and knowledge, Nick and Jitaksha now both highly recommend an international study experience to other students.

‘If you’re like me and have constant urge to travel and see the world, then it makes perfect sense to combine that passion with a program that is going to potentially open a gateway for your future career path,’ says Nick. ‘Even if you’ve never considered travelling, an overseas placement is potentially the next stepping-stone for your path. The experience of learning in the foreign environment alone creates a learning experience like no other.’

Meanwhile Jitaksha is looking forward to building on the internship experience as he works toward his career goals.

‘Sport plays an important role in creating a better environment. It can have a huge influence on its followers and stakeholders. Along with achieving organizational objectives and goals, it is important to create a brand with a social value,’ he explains. ‘The opportunity to work as a community development intern with RPS team is first step toward achieving my career objective and becoming a successful sport management professional.’