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EON Sports’ SIDEKIQ Challenge Brings Realistic Virtual Reality American Football Training To Mobile Phones

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Users will have access to high level football training used by elite athletes on their mobile phones anytime, anywhere.

IRVINE, CA, July 8, 2015 – EON Sports VR, the leading sports Virtual Reality training company, has released EON Sports’ SIDEKIQ Challenge a mobile version of EON Sports’ ground breaking Virtual Reality American Football training application. Together with elite position coaches, SIDEKIQ Challenge will bring high level training, typically reserved for professional athletes and pro-prospects, to aspiring football players world wide.

kidsmiling

Available on both Android and iOS, SIDEKIQ Challenge lets quarterbacks train like fighter pilots through realistic situations and take multiple life-like repetitions on their mobile phone. Unlike traditional Virtual Reality systems that required expensive display devices and powerful computer systems, SIDEKIQ Challenge requires only a current generation smartphone. Now America’s 4.3 million youth football players can gain access to upper tier training that was once available to only a select few.

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SIDEKIQ Challenge brings realistic quarterback repetitions to quarterbacks smartphones

“This has been our dream since we started the company. Providing any athlete the chance to reach their true potential is now possible,” said Brendan Reilly, CEO of EON Sports VR. “The only thing standing between them and the next level, whether that’s a scholarship, the NFL, or playing for their high school team, is getting quality reps and high level instruction. With this you can get both.”

To access the level of training that EON Sports’ SIDEKIQ Challenge provides, athletes have to overcome several important hurdles. They would have to travel cross-country to visit one of a handful of elite position coaches in the country, pay for private lessons, find practice facilities, and then find twenty-one other players to get realistic repetitions. Now anyone with a mobile phone can experience professional level training.

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Athletes have to make split second decisions on where to throw the football in order to succeed in SIDEKIQ Challenge.

“The ability to take real live situations, re-enact them, and then have the ability to measure the athlete’s response to the simulation … is mind blowing. This is how every quarterback will train from now on,” said Steve Clarkson, one of the nation’s preeminent Quarterback Coaches.

EON Sports is partnering with elite quarterback coaches like Steve Clarkson and FirstDown PlayBook to create training experiences that cover concepts that range from simple introductions to complex reads and motions. These coaches have a proven track record of developing professional athletes and have trained several high profile quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger (SC), Nick Foles (SC), Teddy Bridgewater (SC), Tim Tebow (SC), Jameis Winston (SC), Robert Griffin III (TS), Blaine Gabbert (TS), Sam Bradford (TS), and Matthew Stafford (TS). They are, together with EON Sports, translating their teaching methods to bite-size lessons for end user consumption.

University of Central Missouri to be First NCAA D2 School to Use EON Sports’ SIDEKIQ

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Kansas City, MO (April 18, 2014) – EON Sports VR., creators of the highly sought after Virtual Reality football software SIDEKIQ, announced that it will be working with the University of Central Missouri football team to provide next level Virtual Reality training using EON Sports software SIDEKIQ. A recruiting edge, simulation of game speeds, virtual scouting reports, and less physical wear and tear were cited as reasons for the team’s decision to include this type of technology in their player development. The Mules will start working with the software late this spring in preparation for the 2014 season.

[su_spacer] The collegiate level is unique. These coaches work countless hours not only coaching, but also recruiting, breaking down film, etc. What SIDEKIQ offers is the ability to teach more, in less time, with minimal work. Brendan Reilly, CEO of EON Sports said, “Also, from a recruiting standpoint, UCM has just cemented itself as a leading innovator in all of college football. High school and college athletes want to learn by using engaging technology, and now UCM can offer that in a new, exciting way. It will help their players get more quality mental repetitions with less physical wear and tear on their bodies, allow for better scouting of opponents, and overall be better prepared when it is actually game-time.

[su_spacer] SIDEKIQ is a software tool that allows coaches to create any play or scenario in X and O, 2D, 3D, and Virtual Reality. Using the popular 3D headset, Oculus Rift, the user can see the play from any angle as if the user was standing on the field. The user also has the capability to see the play from a player’s first person point of view, as if actually in the helmet. SIDEKIQ can be used with a variety of Virtual Reality and 3D hardware from TV’s, laptops, projectors, tablets and 3D headsets.

First Person "Helmet View" from a QB's Perspective

First Person “Helmet View” from a QB’s Perspective in SIDEKIQ

 

[su_spacer] About EON Sports:
EON Sports VR is the world’s leading interactive 3D software provider for sports performance training. Started in the summer of 2013, EON Sports VR uses cutting edge visualization software to enable all teams to get more meaningful repetitions, maximize practice time, and develop better players. The software is a combination of state-of-the-art 3D display technology for immersive and stereoscopic viewing, from portable tablet PCs and glass free stereo display systems to curved-screen and immersive rooms consisting of multi-channel projection walls. The technology foundation for developing interactive sports content is rooted in EON’s authoring software for creating applications that can be viewed on various display systems. For further information, visit www.eonsportsvr.com.

Coaches Use Technology To Enhance Their Teaching

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KANSAS CITY, Mo., December 16, 2013 –Coaches have their hands full.  During the season their days are filled with recruiting, game film, scouting, and game planning.  After the season, it doesn’t slow down much either.  There are recruiting visits to be made, more game film to watch, and preparation for the upcoming season.  Over the years we have seen coaches turn to technology to help them in a variety of areas.  This year the focus on technology is no different, but the technology and how coaches are using it is much, much different.

Using technology proven to teach better than game film, EON Sports has teamed up with University of Illinois Running Backs Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Tim Salem; Henderson State Head Coach Scott Maxfield; and Alderson Broaddus Head Coach Dennis Creehan to create play packages with interactive Virtual Reality instructional content.

2Sonny

High School QB using SIDEKIQ
 

The Virtual Reality Play Packages will include interactive 3D and virtual reality plays from a coach’s playbook.  A user will be able to learn schemes/plays to implement into their own playbook.  Unlike most instructional content, this isn’t just for coaches to watch and learn.  The players can then be immersed in the virtual reality plays and learn the plays as if they were on the field, in real scenarios, and get realistic repetitions.  All without having to have a coach or other players with them.

Dennis Creehan notes, “I’m excited about how this technology can help younger players understand the game.  The way I see it, this is how youth learn – and if we can provide a better way to teach AND it saves me time…I’m all for it.”   Tim Salem added, “The coaching community is one where we never want to stop learning.  This technology is great not only for coaches looking for an edge X and O wise, but also for players looking to get repetitions that simulate competition.  The potential this can have with respect to training and practice is huge.”

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Example of PDF notes for each play
 

The Playbook Store will operate similar to Apple’s iTunes Store, allowing coaches to upload their own content, sell and share (similar to apps).  Once a user purchases the 3D football configurator, “SIDEKIQ”, that user can add content to the EON Sports Playbook Store.  Each play package will be unique to each coach’s principles, playbooks, and schemes and consist of anywhere between 10-40 plays.  The types of play packages can be anything, from the Spread Offense, to the Wing T, to Punt Protection schemes against 8 man fronts.  Each package will consist of PDF notes on each play, and also 3D Interactive Virtual Reality download of the play.

“There is not anything like it in the market today as far as instructional content goes.  Coaches are always looking for new ways to teach and maximize their time, and athletes are always looking to get better.  Together, with our coaching partners, we can provide instructional content that helps both the coaches and athletes use technology that teaches better than anything else at an affordable cost.” Brendan Reilly CEO of EON Sports.

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Picture of EON Sports VR Software SIDEKIQ
 

“EON Sports has created a Cutting Edge technology that will benefit both coaches and players at all levels.  Virtual reality is the most advanced teaching tool available on the market today.  I am excited to be a part of this game changing technology.” said Scott Maxfield.

Once downloaded, a coach or player can experience the plays in Virtual Reality by using a variety of different 3D displays, including the ever popular Oculus Rift, 3D projectors and TV’s, all the way up to EON Reality’s Ibench and ICube.

The Play Packages can be purchased on the EON Sports Playbook Store, and are expected to be launched at the AFCA convention in Indianapolis on January 12, 2014.

If you are interested in becoming an X and O Partner with us please contact Brendan@eonreality.com.

About EON Sports VR

EON Sports VR is an interactive virtual reality 3D software provider for sports performance training.  Started in the Summer of 2013, EON Sports VR uses cutting edge visualization software and provides state-of-the-art 3D display technology for immersive and stereoscopic viewing, from portable tablet PCs and glass free stereo display systems to curved-screen and immersive rooms consisting of multi-channel projection walls. The technology foundation for developing interactive sports content is rooted in EON’s authoring software for creating applications that can be viewed on various display systems. EON Sports VR’s technology solutions enable all teams to get more meaningful repetitions, maximize practice time, and develop better players.  For further information, visit www.eonsportsvr.com

High School QB Doesn’t Just Leave It All On The Field

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EON Sports Spotlight

During the off-season EON Sports will highlight a player or team that is using the Virtual Reality football training software, SIDEKIQ.  This month’s “EON Sports Spotlight” is featuring Sonny Abramson, who will be leading his team in the New Jersey State Championship game this weekend as the quarterback. Sonny has been using EON Sports’ SIDEKIQ, to take on-field reps, in front of a desktop PC.

Brendan Reilly, CEO of EON Sports, has long envisioned the incredible power of Virtual Reality being applied to the world of sports.  His first mission was to offer football teams the opportunity to increase reps without increasing player wear and tear.  “Football is a game of repetitions, you can never get enough, and it has immense physical demands it places on a player, not to mention the rules that limit time spent in practice, and the difficulty of always having 22 players at your disposal,” said Reilly.

Sonny was part of a beta test program in which the young signal caller was able to replay on field reps immersed in Virtual Reality.  “It is absolutely incredible to be able to literally relive a game play or practice play in front of the computer in 3 dimension.  When I first put on the Oculus Rift headset and could look left and right and see my receivers lined up against the defense it blew my mind. You really feel like you’re in the play.”

Sonny using SIDEKIQ with the Oculus Rift

Sonny using SIDEKIQ with the Oculus Rift

Sonny #12 Throwing A Pass

Sonny #12 Throwing A Pass

Reilly explained, “Virtual Reality is a tool that has been used by the military, and within the medical and engineering professions for several years, but the technology has advanced to the point where it can be scalable and accessible on a broader basis.  VR installations could have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars just a few years ago and that number has dropped significantly due to technological advances.”

Highlights of Sonny Abramson

Sonny Abramson was a starting freshman QB on his Varsity team last season when a friend brought him to Brendan’s attention.  It was not just Sonny’s talent (he was a National Freshman All-American) that interested Reilly, but it was his passion for the sport and his desire to train and get better that made him an excellent candidate for the beta program.  “When I first spoke to Sonny he essentially quoted the very reason we wanted to develop SIDEKIQ – it was kind of freaky.  He talked about how hard it is to get enough reps during the field time that was available, not to mention the weather challenges in the Northeast during off season winter months.”

Sonny also went on to say, “From working with my coaches over the years, I know that there is no replacement for realistic reps. I can’t ask coaches and teammates to line it up over and over again, but using SIDEKIQ I can watch coverages vs. route combinations as often as I feel necessary.  It helps with my vision and ability to process things quickly – there is no substitute for preparation, and to be able to bring the real field to the Virtual World is so helpful – it’s just unbelievable.”

 

About EON Sports VR

EON Sports VR is an interactive virtual reality 3D software provider for sports performance training.  Started in the Summer of 2013, EON Sports VR uses cutting edge visualization software and provides state-of-the-art 3D display technology for immersive and stereoscopic viewing, from portable tablet PCs and glass free stereo display systems to curved-screen and immersive rooms consisting of multi-channel projection walls. The technology foundation for developing interactive sports content is rooted in EON’s authoring software for creating applications that can be viewed on various display systems. EON Sports VR’s technology solutions enable all teams to get more meaningful repetitions, maximize practice time, and develop better players.  For further information, visit www.eonsportsvr.com

 

EON Sports Partners With Former All PAC 10 QB Longshore

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KANSAS CITY, Mo., November 21, 2013 – EON Sports VR, the world’s leading interactive 3D software provider for football training, announces expansion into California with former Miami Dolphin and University of California-Berkeley quarterback Nate Longshore as a representative. SIDEKIQ is a Virtual Reality software that allows coaches to easily create any play or scenario they want their players to practice with. Once the play is created, the athlete can experience the play in Virtual Reality on a wide variety of immersive 3D systems.

Nate Longshore, who was an All-Pac 10 QB at the University of California-Berkeley, and MVP of the Holiday Bowl, is now a coach at Rancho Santa Margarita High School in Orange County, CA.  He also runs a quarterback training program All QBS. “As a player and now a coach, I have always felt there must be a better way to get the reps needed for developing players. Now there finally is, and I’m excited to be a part of something that will revolutionize football development.”

Nate Longshore Highlights from his days at Cal.

“Nate is someone who has excelled at all levels of the sport, both as a player and a coach.  From the day we met, I could see that he has an innovative mind with respect to how technology can help football players improve…especially quarterbacks.  Not only did he play at the elite levels, but he’s still intimately involved in the game as a QB trainer and coach.  That experience is invaluable and he will be a great partner to join in our growth on the West Coast.”  Brendan Reilly CEO EON Sports VR.

Nate Longshore #9 QB  Cal Golden Bears

Nate Longshore #9 QB
Cal Golden Bears

If you would like to be a partner with EON Sports contact us at: eonsportsvr@gmail.com

About All QBs:

ALL QBS Skills Training focuses on position specific development that is needed to compete at the highest level.  It is an intensive program necessary in order to maximize each individual’s potential on the football field.  The offseason is a crucial time where one is either getting ahead or falling behind.  As quarterbacks we must do everything we can to ensure we are preparing ourselves to lead our team into battle.

ALL QBS Skills Training is open to all athletes between 5th and 12th grade.  Our focus is on developing the fundamentals required to excel at the offensive skill positions.

For more information: http://www.allqbs.com/home

About EON Sports VR

EON Sports VR is the world’s leading interactive 3D software provider for sports performance training.  Started in the Summer of 2013, EON Sports VR uses cutting edge visualization software and provides state-of-the-art 3D display technology for immersive and stereoscopic viewing, from portable tablet PCs and glass free stereo display systems to curved-screen and immersive rooms consisting of multi-channel projection walls. The technology foundation for developing interactive sports content is rooted in EON’s authoring software for creating applications that can be viewed on various display systems. EON Sports VR’s technology solutions enable all teams to get more meaningful repetitions, maximize practice time, and develop better players.  For further information, visit www.eonsportsvr.com

 

 

EON Sports Announces Expansion to Wisconsin and Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Mo., November 19, 2013 – EON Sports VR, the world’s leading interactive 3D software provider for sports performance training, announces expansion into Wisconsin and Kansas with former Wisconsin football player Joel Nellis as the representative in Wisconsin and former Pittsburgh State football player Ben Kettler as a representative in Kansas.  SIDEKIQ is a Virtual Reality software that allows coaches to easily create any play or scenario they want their players to practice with. Once the play is created, the athlete can experience the play in Virtual Reality on a wide variety of immersive 3D systems.

Joel Nellis, a letter winner at Wisconsin, has this to say about Virtual Reality training in football, “The SIDEKIQ program designed by EON Sports is a major advancement in the way coaches can prepare their players for game day. With the speed of the game increasing and the amount of looks offenses and defenses give, there isn’t enough physical practice time to adequately prepare players week to week. I’m thrilled to be a part of the EON Sports team and for coaches and players to get this technology in their hands.”

Ben Kettler, a former walk-on at Pittsburgh State says, “”This is the next big thing the football world has been waiting for.  The research based learning through this amazing technology has endless benefits.  I’m very excited to be a part of this fascinating innovation with EON Sports.”

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 Pictured: Joel Nellis #89 hoisting a trophy                      Coach Kettler(white shirt) coaching a camp

“We’ve always been proud that we have developed the software for coaches, by coaches.  Teaming up with former athletes and coaches allows us to get a true understanding what their pain points are, and continue to develop the software to solve those issues.”  Brendan Reilly CEO EON Sports VR.

If you would like to be a partner with EON Sports contact us at: eonsportsvr@gmail.com

About EON Sports VR

EON Sports VR is the world’s leading interactive 3D software provider for sports performance training.  Started in the Summer of 2013, EON Sports VR uses cutting edge visualization software and provides state-of-the-art 3D display technology for immersive and stereoscopic viewing, from portable tablet PCs and glass free stereo display systems to curved-screen and immersive rooms consisting of multi-channel projection walls. The technology foundation for developing interactive sports content is rooted in EON’s authoring software for creating applications that can be viewed on various display systems. EON Sports VR’s technology solutions enable all teams to get more meaningful repetitions, maximize practice time, and develop better players.  For further information, visit www.eonsportsvr.com.

EON Reality Moves into Virtual Sports Training with EON Sports

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Kansas City, MO., September 4, 2013 – EON Reality, the world’s leading interactive 3D software provider for business and education, today announced its newest venture in EON Sports.  EON Sports will facilitate cutting edge visualization training methods for sports performance enhancement.  The headquarters will be based out of Kansas City.

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Picture from an EON Sports’ application.

The software allows the athlete to feel as if they are on the field, immersed in game action and will have a dramatic impact on all ages, from youth sports to the professional level. Brendan Reilly, CEO and Co-Founder of EON Sports: “Strategically, this was a move that made sense on a couple different levels.  One, we realize that the success of the software is dependent on how happy our users (coaches and athletes) are, and the first user happens to be down the road at KU, so proximity is key. And two, Kansas City has a certain technology and entrepreneurial focus that we are excited to tap into.  With Google Fiber and some other tech initiatives, there are a lot of ways we can grow and expand this company in the Midwest.”

“We are very excited about this new venture into the area of sports training, assessment and skill improvement and at the same time building EON’s presence in the Mid-West. Virtual Reality technology has been a corner stone for training in Defense, Aerospace and Energy markets for many years and the applications in Sports are a natural extension for EON Reality’s software and virtual reality systems such as the EON Icube Mobile,” said Mats W. Johansson, CEO at EON Reality, Inc.

By being immersed in game action, athletes can increase the amount of repetitions they are exposed to, thus increasing their chances of success when they step on the field.  When an athlete or coach is put into the system, they feel as if they are actually on a field during a game. Reilly describes the benefits of training in virtual reality, “Coaches and athletes watch a lot of game film, but are they learning from game film?  In football, the more repetitions you are exposed to, the better as a player you will be. We are taking the same technology that fighter pilots use in training, and applying that to quarterbacks, linebackers, etc. It is very powerful.” Learn more via our website.

About EON Sports VR
EON Sports VR is the world’s leading interactive 3D software provider for sports performance training.  Started in the Summer of 2013, EON Sports VR uses cutting edge visualization software and provides state-of-the-art 3D display technology for immersive and stereoscopic viewing, from portable tablet PCs and glass free stereo display systems to curved-screen and immersive rooms consisting of multi-channel projection walls. The technology foundation for developing interactive sports content is rooted in EON’s authoring software for creating applications that can be viewed on various display systems. EON Sports VR’s technology solutions enable all teams to get more meaningful repetitions, maximize practice time, and develop better players.  For further information, visit www.eonsportsvr.com.

Alums score big in the business of sports

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Imagine you’re a college football coach. You make your players watch game film, spend hours in the gym, and run no-tackle scrimmages in the July heat. But how do you teach the one thing that matters most—instincts?

That’s where Brendan Reilly, M.S. ’11, comes in. Reilly is cofounder of Eon Reality Sports, a leader in virtual reality that’s created a new 3-D football simulator to train athletes. It allows a quarterback to stand inside a small space, surrounded by a virtual football field where digital linebackers come at him full speed. Think of it as a giant and much smarter version of a Madden video game, but one you play with your whole body.

It’s a game-changing training tool, and one that might not exist if Reilly hadn’t gotten his master’s degree in sport management at Illinois State.

When Reilly came to ISU in 2009 to work under then-basketball coach Tim Jankovich, he was already on the fast-track to becoming a head college coach himself someday. But he had this idea that nagged at him when he watched the Redbirds practice: Why aren’t these players using virtual reality to get even better?

In class, Reilly’s entrepreneurial spirit was unleashed. He once gave a presentation to a group of owners arguing that putting a minor league hockey team in Las Vegas was a good idea. He loved it.

“It was then when I realized I liked the business side of sports more than the actual game itself,” Reilly said.

Illinois State’s sports pantheon is larger than Doug Collins ’73, or any other student-athlete. Reilly is just one of the many all-stars on Illinois State’s roster of alums who’ve found off-the-field success in sports—a Redbird network that grows more influential each year as the Department of Kinesiology and Recreation’s sport management program trains the next generation of leaders.

These alums have varied backgrounds, from broadcasting to finance to family and consumer sciences. Yes, they say, working in sports is fun, but for reasons that oftentimes don’t have anything to do with wins and losses. Collectively, they share a competitive passion for sports that goes beyond fandom.

Reilly, for example, spent six months researching his virtual reality idea, making phone calls around the world to see if anyone was already doing it, and getting encouragement along the way from his ISU sport management professors Nels Popp and Chad McEvoy. Eventually he formed a partnership with Eon, a longtime leader in virtual reality training programs in several other industries, just not sports.

Two years ago, Reilly moved out to California and cofounded Eon Reality Sports. While it’s a major technological endeavor, Reilly says the hardest part is explaining to coaches and athletes just how powerful interactive game film can be. He works to convince them that you can train the brain to be “bigger, faster, stronger—just like a bicep.”

“Doing any start-up is hard,” Reilly said. “Doing it in an industry that’s completely new is even harder.”

But his sweat equity is paying off: Earlier this year, Eon announced the University of Kansas—led by former Redbird Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger—will be the first NCAA institution to use its virtual reality football simulator.

Working at Wrigley

Unlike Reilly, Andrea Burke ’02 never saw herself working in sports. She studied human development and family resources at Illinois State, but after an internship she found that path wasn’t the right fit.

Andrea Burke in front of ivy

Illinois State alumna Andrea Burke at Wrigley Field.

She always liked sports—and going to Wrigley Field—so she took a chance and applied for a Chicago Cubs internship during what turned out to be an exciting 2003 season. One of the Cubs executives she met during her internship interview was Jay Blunk ’86, who is now executive vice president for the Chicago Blackhawks.

That internship turned into a job, and 10 years later Burke is a senior account executive for the Cubs, going to work every day under the historic Wrigley marquee and spending her summers staring at the ivy. She was even able to take her grandmother, a die-hard Cubbie fan, to a game and down to the field during the 2004 season.

But it’s not all perks. Working for such a unique team requires Burke to think outside the box with her corporate partners, who are looking to increase their brand exposure in a landmarked stadium with limited space. It’s up to Burke to strategically add signage and find other solutions.

“ISU made me a well-rounded person and gave me the confidence to be successful in anything,” she said.

Tackling spreadsheets

Eric Hart ’90, M.S. ’92, also credits the broad-based education he received at ISU for his sports career.

Eric Hart inside his stadium

Alum Eric Hart is president and CEO of the Tampa Sports Authority.

Hart is president and CEO of the Tampa Sports Authority, putting him in charge of Raymond James Stadium (home of the NFL’s Buccaneers), the Tampa Bay Times Forum (home of the NHL’s Lightning), Steinbrenner Field (home to New York Yankees spring training), and three City of Tampa golf courses. It’s his finance degree that’s gotten him this far. Turns out the guy who runs big venues like these—and a $38 million budget—needs to know about public financing, balance sheets, and income statements.

Knowledge in event and facility management is equally essential experience that Hart picked up starting at ISU, where he worked the box office and concerts. He’s now positioned on a much bigger stage, where he relishes that every day brings something different. Raymond James can fit 75,000 people. On game days, the stadium becomes its own city, complete with police officers, medical personnel, and parking staff.

That means football Sundays have lost their glimmer for Hart. And while he can enjoy sports on TV, he tends to get distracted when he visits other venues, scoping out their crowd control measures or something else more than the athletic competition.

But there are no complaints from Hart, as running an NFL stadium has been his dream job—the “crown jewel” of facility management, as he puts it.

“I’ve got to take an entire town, bring it in and get rid of it in a seven- or eight-hour period,” Hart said. “The details that go into that can get very troublesome. But it’s exciting too.”

Broadcasting to ballparks

The excitement of sports still hasn’t worn off for Mike Bucek ’82, despite three decades in the business.

Mike Bucek inside his stadium

Alum Mike Bucek is vice president for marketing and business development with the Kansas City Royals.

Bucek is vice president for marketing and business development with the Kansas City Royals, overseeing about 45 people who do everything from game presentation to corporate sales. He got his start in broadcasting as one of the founding fathers of Illinois State’s WZND radio station.

His first job out of college, with a triple-A baseball team in Arizona, melded his two passions—broadcasting and sports. But the team’s small, everybody-does-everything staff also meant he was learning the whole business, a crash course in adaptability that’s paid off as he’s moved up the ladder.

After Arizona, Bucek directed marketing for the Chicago White Sox, lead ballpark development for the Milwaukee Brewers, headed up sales and business development for the Indy Racing League, and served as chief marketing officer for the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team. In 2009 he joined the Royals, and last year he managed to boost ticket and corporate revenue while also selling out All-Star Game festivities.

One of the many quirks about working in sports is that, unlike the marketing chief for, say, Gatorade or Pepsi, there are aspects of Bucek’s product that are completely out of his hands.

“I can’t control the weather, and I certainly can’t control the team’s performance,” Bucek said.

When the Brewers hired him in 1996 to help them build a new ballpark, all they had were a set of drawings and a parking lot. When he finished, they had one of the best venues in sports.

As the Brewers’ vice president of ballpark development, Bucek slept with a yellow notepad on his nightstand for six years, kicking around ideas for financing, concessions, design, and everything else that goes into building a $400 million, 41,900-seat stadium. Bucek was even the one who pitched the Miller brewing company on buying the retractable-roof ballpark’s naming rights.

It was an all-consuming job, but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that Bucek savored.

“I see certain things in Miller Park today when I go back, and I know that it was my suggestion,” Bucek said. “I enjoy going back there. And it’s made a world of difference for the Brewers.”

Magical moments

Kelby Weiter

Alumna Kelby Weiter is director of communications and marketing for Old Hat Creative.

Kelby Weiter, M.S. ’12, has spent her first year in the sports business building something from the ground up.

She’s the first director of communications and marketing for Old Hat Creative, a sports marketing agency that does print materials, videos, and websites for more than 80 collegiate programs and professional teams.

Weiter’s father encouraged her to consider marketing as a career, so she chose sports and came to ISU for its sport management program. As a graduate assistant, Weiter helped lead a major expansion of the Reggie Kids Club program in Redbird Athletics—from 100 kids to 2,000 in just one year.

Now she’s helping spread the word about her Oklahoma-based agency’s collegiate projects, including one last fall that sent her on the field before Texas A&M football’s home opener against Florida.

“It was the excitement of it, being on the field, seeing the stands,” she said.

Those who work in sports have careers full of big moments like that. For White Sox senior director of ticket sales and premium seating Tom Sheridan ’90, the most memorable was Game 3 of his team’s 2005 playoff series against Boston. A feared Chicago pitcher nicknamed “El Duque” came out of the bullpen and single-handedly silenced the rowdy Fenway Park crowd—and the rallying Red Sox.

“It was just a magical point in time,” he said, especially given the White Sox went on to win the World Series.

Tom Sheridan at COM Week podium

White Sox senior director of ticket sales and premium seating Tom Sheridan.

Sheridan, a public relations major who played baseball at Illinois State, was conflicted about whether to take the first job that came along after graduation or wait for one in sports. He took the non-sports job, poaching engineers for a recruiting firm—and hated it. So he switched gears and followed his passion, taking low-paying internships with the Chicago Bulls and White Sox before the Sox offered him a job.

The sports industry, particularly in Chicago, is “smaller than you think” and connections are key, Sheridan told School of Communication students during last semester’s Communications Week.

Just like Bucek, Sheridan says that some things in sports are out of your control. Trades, for example, can have a noticeable effect on ticket sales—good or bad. Now in his 19th season with the Sox, the former athlete is happy he followed his passion for sports beyond the base paths.

“It’s been a very rewarding career for me,” he said. “I definitely would not have done it any other way.”

 

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