U SPORTS sits down with each of its summer interns  in our new interview series “Getting to know…”

  • Name: Matt Sakala
  • School: Brock University
  • Program: Sport Management
  • Internship position: Events and Awards Intern
  • Hometown: Aurora, Ont.

1. What attracted you to Brock and your program? 

I was attracted to Brock after hearing about their Sport Management program. I originally wanted to get into a business degree for my undergrad followed by a Master’s in Business afterwards. However, I discovered the Brock Sport Management program through some research, and I decided that I would much rather combine my love for sport with the importance of understanding the business of how these sports are run. I then visited the campus, and the rest is history.

2. Why were you interested in interning at U SPORTS? 

Over my four years at Brock, I have had the pleasure of working alongside multiple varsity and club teams including men’s and women’s volleyball, ringette, as well as men’s and women’s basketball. This work was mainly game day operations, which gave me great exposure to what university sport had to offer and I developed a great liking to it. In my fourth year, I was lucky enough to work alongside the Brock women’s basketball team as a player development coach. It was a great experience being able to be a part of a growing varsity program in our school. This experience allowed me to travel to different schools across Ontario and follow the men’s team on their road to the national championship. Throughout all this, I gained a great appreciation for the work that gets put into university sport in Canada and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved in any way I could.

3. What are your key learnings from your experience at U SPORTS? 

Some of the key learnings that I learned at U SPORTS have been multi-tasking, as I consistently had multiple projects on the go, followed by supplementary tasks. I’ve learned how to better prioritize in order to manage my time better and complete every task on time. I have also learned a great deal about relationship building and the importance of effective communication in a workplace. Many departments within

U SPORTS are constantly working alongside each other, which is why it is key to communicate effectively to ensure all parties are on the same page.

4. Any memorable moments over the course of your internship?  

I have a few memorable moments from my time at U SPORTS. The first was being able to meet the Senior Director of Hockey Development & Special Events of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) during my first day on the job. I got the opportunity to discuss the partnership between the CHL and U SPORTS, and what U SPORTS can do to better leverage the partnership in order to improve the quality of U SPORTS hockey across Canada.

I was also grateful to participate in this year’s Motionball event held in Toronto. Motionball is a great organization that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for Special Olympics Canada by putting on great events such as the Marathons of Sport. I was able to meet some great people, have a great day playing sports, all while fundraising for a great cause.

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5. What is one piece of advice you can give to someone interested in joining U SPORTS? 

I would tell prospective interns and employees that U SPORTS is a young organization, focused on growth and revolutionizing the way university sport is effectuated in Canada. The work environment is progressive, friendly and supportive of its employees. I would definitely recommend this as a great way to get started or to pursue a future in the sport industry.

6. Why did you choose to pursue a career in sports and what is your dream job?

I chose to pursue a career in sports because sports has always held a big part of my life. Whether it be playing, organizing or coaching, so I figured why not turn something I already love doing into a career. I believe it is important to work a job that gets you excited to come to work, week after week, no matter what the challenges are. This helps maintain motivation, happiness and longevity in the workplace. 

My dream job would be to work in the front office of an NBA team. I would love to be in a management role and have an input on putting the team together.

7. If you could sit down with one person in the sports industry (athlete, coach, manager or professional), who would it be? Why? What would you talk about?

I would sit down with Pat Riley, who currently serves as the President of the Miami Heat. He has had an incredible 50-year tenure around basketball including winning championships as a player, coach, and president. This kind of success is something one can dream about, but Pat Riley has lived it. I would ask him all about his start in the basketball world and how he got to where he is today. I would ask him for every piece of advice he could give as it would be some of the most valuable words I could ever hear.

8. After joining U SPORTS and gaining a better understanding of what we do, how would you describe the organization and the culture at the national office?

After being here for a few months, I would describe the office culture as being focused on the future, and the development of university sport in Canada. We also have a few days a month focused on team building and personal growth, with presentations from guest speakers and beach volleyball days. Things like this may seem little, but they actually have a large impact on employee morale as they help give the staff breaks, all while maintaining focus on improving as a group. Our work hours are also fairly flexible as long as the required work gets completed in a timely manner. Overall, a very enjoyable place to work.

9. What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from your internship and school?

When I’m not working around sport, I enjoy playing sports and staying active. My favourite sports to play are basketball, baseball, ultimate and ping pong. Another one of my favourite things is to umpire baseball. I enjoy being around the game and having the ability to teach and manage each game while making money.

10. What is your most memorable sports moment?

My most memorable sports moment is by far from the 2013 NBA Finals - San Antonio Spurs @ Miami Heat, Game 6. San Antonio is up three games to two, with 19.5 seconds left and Miami down by three. With nine seconds left, LeBron James gets a great look at a game-tying three but misses it! Chris Bosh with an insane offensive rebound, kicks it out to Ray Allen for three! BANG!

In that moment, Allen hit the most clutch shot in NBA history in my opinion.  If he misses, Miami loses the championship and a whole season’s worth of work is done. But he makes the shot, Miami goes on to win in overtime forcing a Game 7, where Miami dominated the entire game to secure their second NBA Championship in as many years.