College students find big-league niches


Via Bernard Gagnon | Wikimedia Commons

Live Content Correspondent is a new program started by the NFL that hires photographers and videographers to cover games in cities across the country.

By Nick Carlisano, Staff Writer

If you’re watching a Pittsburgh Steelers home game on TV, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Sarah Snyder on the sidelines.

If you ever got a phone call from the Pittsburgh Pirates trying to encourage you to go to a game, there’s a chance you talked to Nick Roberts.

And if you were at the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Championship parade in 2016, you probably saw Dana Julian.

Many kids grow up playing and watching sports, and a large number of those kids carry that passion into their adult life. Some love sports so much that they aspire to work in the field. A vast majority of people don’t even get the shot to pursue a sports-related job, yet alone their dream job –– but some, like Snyder, Roberts and Julian, do.

After growing up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, Snyder, a Penn State grad and DuBois, Pennsylvania, native found a way to turn her passion into a career this past year.  At just 22 years old, she has acquired a position working for the National Football League.

Snyder is employed by Live Content Correspondent, a new program started by the league that hires photographers and videographers to cover games in cities across the country. Due to her location, she’s found herself spending her Sundays at Heinz Field during the football season.

“On game days I shoot for both teams,” Snyder said. “If the Steelers are playing the Patriots, I would get a shot list from the Patriots of everything that they need, and a shot list from the Steelers of what they need. It’s typically some video for their social media accounts and a lot of photos.”

Snyder landed her role in the LCC program after graduating college. While in college, she was a photographer for Onward State, Penn State’s student news website, and also started her own wedding photography business.

“I photographed a couple football games for [Onward State] and shot for Homecoming, too,” Snyder said. “I thought, ‘Dang, this is really cool’ and after graduation took a shot in the dark to see if there was anything out there for sports photographers.”

She stumbled upon the application online –– a few months later, she received a phone call, and within two hours had secured a job with the NFL.

From her position on the field, Snyder is as close as you can get without actually playing. The LCC workers also receive black vests that grant them full access to the stadium, another cool aspect to the job.

“We can pretty much go anywhere we want,” Snyder said. “We get to go down on the field, walk wherever and have post-game locker room access.”

A goal of the LLC is to make fans feel close to the players through social media, so Snyder gets to interact with players to do so.

“Getting selfie videos after the game for social media requires one-one-one time with the players, so that’s been very interesting,” Snyder said. “Especially being a Steeler fan since childhood.”

Not all paths to a job in sports are similar, just as not all sports jobs themselves are similar. Roberts, a Gannon University graduate from Punxsutawney found himself in an inside sales role for the Pittsburgh Pirates right out of college.

Throughout college, Roberts worked as an intern for the Pirates through a program called BUCS (Building Ultimate Careers in Sports) Academy. After graduation, he reached out to the organization himself to show he was a go-getter –– a creative elevator pitch sealed the deal.

“It’s a tough job,” Roberts said. “We had to average 100 calls a day. Sports is just a hard field, it really is.”

The goal of the phone calls was to sell tickets and convince people to come to the games, therefore increasing sales revenue for the organization.

Roberts’ stay with the Pirates was short-lived. After a year with the Pirates, Roberts accepted a job with the Phoenix Suns. Now, Roberts works for a nurse staffing company called Maxim Healthcare.

“It kind of burnt me out,” Roberts said. “Not that I don’t love sports, but I have a passion for helping people, and you don’t have to be in sports to do that.”

Julian, a senior neuroscience major at Pitt from Mendham, New Jersey, also had the opportunity to work for a local sports team.

Although she no longer works for them, Julian was a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization from her first through junior year. Her first year, she worked in the Kids Zone arcade before joining the ice crew, a team responsible for maintaining the ice and entertaining the crowds, for two years.

“We cleaned the ice three times a period, did intermission games and did interactive fan games,” Julian said. “We also did other things, like appearances at sponsors, student rush promotions and T-shirt handouts. We also got to be in the parade my sophomore year.”

Julian found out about the Kids Zone position through her first-year roommate. The next year, she went to the tryouts for the ice crew. As a member of the Pitt women’s club hockey team, Julian has the experience needed on the ice and was bound to ace the tryout –– which she did.

“I grew up going to New Jersey Devils games, and they don’t have girls on their ice crew,” Julian said. “It didn’t even occur to me that was an option until I attended Penguin games. It took two on-ice tryouts and an interview in front of a panel to get the position.”

Although the ice crew doesn’t get any specific “perks,” the job in and of itself is the best perk a fan can get it. Everything the ice crew does is at ice level, so they get to watch the game from that view and go out on the ice during the game to interact with fans.

“It’s just really cool to interact with fans,” Julian said. “We get to take pictures with little kids and it would make their day.”

Julian counted up the time commitment to about six hours with pregame, the game itself and postgame traffic. This kept her from continuing this year, but that doesn’t mean the job wasn’t worth it.

“The ice crew really made the job worth it,” Julian said. “It was just a great group of people, and I loved getting to know everyone.”

Although Julian’s time with the Penguins has come to an end, she, along with Snyder and Roberts, can still say they are living, or have lived, their dreams.

“It’s a complete dream,” Julian said. “It’s insane how an opportunity falls into your lap, and it turns out to be your dream job. I just love what I do.”