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The power of giving back

Despite completing their Sport Management studies during prolonged pandemic restrictions, international Deakin Business School (DBS) alumni made important community contributions.

Two DBS sport management alumni have been recognised for their contribution to community sport after harnessing their Deakin learning and turning it into valuable volunteering opportunities.

Yash Pathak and Abhishek Pratap,  both from India and alumni of DBS’s Master of Business (Sport Management), have won awards from Cricket Victoria and the City of Whitehorse after taking on the shared role Social Media Coordinator with the Burwood District Cricket Club, and also establishing an exercise program for local women with the Box Hill Rugby Union Football Club (RUFC).

Choosing Deakin 

Originally from Mumbai, Yash says he was motivated to study at DBS by his life-long passion for sport.

‘The power of sport and the way it brings people and communities together is the big reason I’m interested in this industry … the Deakin program is one of the best in the world.’

As a keen athlete, follower, and organiser of sport in his home city of Delhi, Abhishek was also driven by his love of sport to study with DBS.

‘The rise of sport as a professional and viable business sector in India was motivation for me to apply to Deakin for one of the world’s most reputable sport management courses,’ he says. 

Community connections

Commencing their studies in 2020, both soon grasped the size and significance of community sport in Australia and the importance of the practical learning embedded in their sport management studies.

‘The course provided us with a huge learning opportunity and the ability to apply theoretical concepts to practical work environments,’ says Yash.

Even during Melbourne’s long lockdowns, he says that tapping into work experience simple.

‘I reached out to nearby clubs … and soon developed a good rapport with the president of the Box Hill RUFC who kept in touch during the lockdowns. The need for volunteers in community clubs was perhaps even greater during the pandemic, so I think it came as a blessing in disguise for me.’

Abhishek agrees that being involved in community was crucial to his learning.

‘Deakin’s academics provided us with encouragement and advice on the importance of community sport participation by using research and theoretical learning in practical implementation … (during the pandemic) community sport was looking for volunteers to help them manage operations as they were falling short of help in the tough times.’

An award-winning program

In addition to volunteering with the Burwood District Cricket Club – where they worked together in the newly-created role of Social Media Coordinator – Yash and Abhishek extended their work-integrated learning with the Box Hill RUFC to develop the innovative Time Out program.

This initiative provided women with the opportunity to participate in a four-week physical-activity program.

‘We took concepts from the course’s Sport Policy and Development unit to design the program … from producing the plan to pitching it and working with our professors and peers to develop it further, it was a great experience,’ says Yash. 

Abhishek explains that the program demonstrated how sport could be used for societal and community development.

‘It was designed to help women break the barriers of appearance and ability … it was a great success with 32 registered participants aged between 19-55 years and went on to win the City of Whitehorse Sport and Recreation Award 2021/22.’

Deakin support during pandemic

While both Yash and Abhishek acknowledge that 2020 wasn’t an ideal time to move countries for postgraduate study, they were well-supported by Deakin. 

‘The transition to online learning was smooth and the professors made the learning experience even more engaging … I was also supported by a Deakin scholarship and my overall study experience is one that I will cherish for the rest of my life,’ says Yash.

Abhishek reflects on his Deakin experience as one that was unique within the global timeline.

‘While it was not the way I planned, Deakin was immensely helpful in terms of support … [during the lockdowns] our lecturers also provided access to many online industry professionals which connected us to prospective volunteering, work experience, and job opportunities,’ he says.

Strong industry networks

It’s these industry connections that Yash and Abhishek now nominate as one of the standouts from their time at Deakin.  

‘A particular highlight for me,’ says Abhishek, ‘was an assignment in which I reached out to many industry professionals for input and ended up interviewing two Chef de Missions of New Zealand Winter Olympics teams who were happy to help and collaborate on the assignment.’ 

While Yash says he was initially sceptical about the COVID-forced move to online study, it provided him with an unexpected windfall.

‘It was perhaps the best thing that happened as it helped me develop some great professional and personal relationships. I second Abhishek in saying that the assignment where we reached out to the Chef de Missions of the NZ Winter Olympics team was surreal. We also almost pulled off reaching the Prime Minister of NZ!’

A confident, career-forward focus

Yash considers that his newly-minted degree, combined with industry experience in Australia, has prepared him well for the next stage of his career. 

‘I am now much more confident – both personally and professionally – than the person who arrived in Australia in February 2020. My time at Deakin has enabled me to understand the Australian sporting landscape, opened my thinking about future roles, and really helped me understand where I see myself going in this industry. Deakin has taught me the meaning of going above and beyond your expectations and how you can start making a positive difference in the community, especially through sport,’ he says.

For Abhishek, a DBS sport management degree has provided him with a clear career focus.

‘I am excited to take the next steps in my career as a sport management professional. The course structure and quality education at Deakin has made me aware of the many areas in which I can work where sport and recreation plays a role. Importantly, I now also the understand different roles and environments associated with sport and can quickly assess the scope of skills and effort that I can contribute.’