Of course Queens' new sport management professor Dr. Robert Lyons Jr. loves sports. He also loves encouraging students. He sees learning as a process of self-discovery. That's why one goal for the new Sport Management major in the Blair College of Health is hands-on learning.
The following is an edited version of a recent conversation with Dr. Lyons, who researches fan behavior and has also worked in sports organizations such as the Oakland A's and the National Basketball Association's league office.
Q: You were at Johnson C. Smith for seven years. What brings you to Queens?
Being able to start a new program from the ground up, help shape the curriculum, and play a part in developing internships for the students was very interesting to me.
Q: What's your vision for the program?
The vision is really to develop a quality program where students are able to get hands-on experience and develop their skill sets through various types of exercises, either through case studies in the classroom, meeting people in the sport, or volunteering with a sport agency.
I want our students to be very marketable. In sport, the standard is that an undergraduate should have completed six to eight internships/practicums. Employers want to see that students have some experience. They want to see if the students have applied those theories and concepts [learned in class] in a real-world setting.
Q: How can you help generate those real-world experiences?
I just take a real active role in going out there and meeting people in sport. You have to go out and meet people. That's just the bottom line.
Q: How do you encourage hands-on learning in the classroom?
I always present my students with scenarios in class, and a lot of these scenarios will be based on real-life occurrences within sport. For example, my sports law class is examining the Aaron Hernandez case. No decision has been made, but I led my students through the legal process. I like competition, so I'll pit two groups against one another, and they'll sort through the facts of the case. I am a big believer in, and a practitioner of, critical thinking.
In sport you have to be a critical thinker because sometimes you don't have a lot of time to make a decision. The classroom setting is really ideal for these students, whether they realize it or not, because once they get into sport on a national level, they are going to have maybe an hour to synthesize and think through some things and come to a decision.
Q: What makes a great sport management student?
A student who has initiative, motivation, and drive is a phenomenal student; someone who really wants to learn all they possibly can about sports and is willing to step outside his or her comfort zone.
Q: What is your own background in sport?
I played football and basketball in high school, and football in college. I've always been active. Do I play a sport now? No, I just try to stay in shape!
Q: How did you become involved in sport management?
My path to sport management was kind of accidental. In my senior year, my RA had some brochures on his bed for schools he was thinking about transferring to. I just picked one up and started thumbing through it, and I saw this graduate program in sports administration. I said 'Wow, what's this?' I read the description and realized, 'Wow, this is for me.'
Q: What do you enjoy about teaching?
I love challenging people. In life, if you pay attention, you'll find out what you were born to do. I'm an advisor. I like to guide students. What I do is force people to think. 'OK, why do you believe that? Why did you come to that decision?' I love challenging students.