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Dreaming of working in sports? The Spurs are looking for the 'next shining stars' in sports operations

Spurs Sports and Entertainment is launching a new talent academy to help college students and postgraduates get a glimpse of professional sports operations.

SAN ANTONIO — Spurs Sports and Entertainment is scouting talent, but not just for what happens on the court.

The organization is launching a new talent academy to help college students and postgraduates get a glimpse of professional sports business and operations. The program will allow them to get not only get job experience, but also help from seasoned professionals all the way up to the CEO!

In this episode of Commerce Street, a business podcast from KENS 5, we wanted to get a closer look at the program, what they are looking for in all of their employees and how to get noticed. 

For the full conversation, download Commerce Street on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts or the click this podcast player. Article continues below.

KENS 5 spoke with Jaimi Malone Martinez, the Director of Human Resources for Spurs Sports and Entertainment. 

KENS 5: The first question is why launch this talent academy?

Martinez: We wanted to build a program that really allowed the identification for early talent. We recognized that we wanted to grow that early talent. And it's, you know, just having more perspective about what the sports and the new management programs are all about. A part of our organization is really about being lifelong learners. And we recognized and wanted to build a program that really allowed for us to identify the early talent and give them some experience in our industry of sports and venue management.

(To apply for the program, click here).

KENS: And you kind of have two programs here, one for college students and then one for postgraduates. First, let's talk about the college student program, kind of the internship situation. What does that entail and what are you hoping to achieve with that?  

Martinez: Yeah, so we're very excited about that one. It's basically a 10-month long, full time internship where the individual is going to get some direct experience in a department, in an area of their interest. And it's really valuable experience both to them as well as to us, because we feel like through this program, we're really going to be developing those next leaders in the industry. 

KENS: And then tell us a little bit about the postgraduate program.  

Martinez: That one is really unique. We haven't found a whole lot of those in sports in general. What the associate program is going to be able to do is really shadow those major executive leaders that we have within our organization. They're going to get instrumental experience into seeing the operations and the strategic decisions that our leaders make in order to help our organization be successful. And we're really hopeful that that program can help us develop those next innovators and leaders in our industry.

KENS 5: In the sports world, as an organization, Spurs has always worked to be really accessible to the San Antonio community and has been really involved. But this is a really unique opportunity. You don't really hear about this with professional sports teams all the time. How many programs are there like this, maybe this one specifically, or hands-on opportunities to learn about this industry? And why was it important for y'all to to have new workers that had some experience in education?  

Martinez: I think a lot of businesses over the course of the pandemic have learned a lot about their organization. And we're no different in that way. We had to get really creative in trying to figure out how do we connect with our fans, how do we continue to grow and innovate and be successful during a time that was really difficult for the whole nation? And what we found that is true to our core and our values is that we believe in people. We believe that our greatest resource is people and what we really wanted to do is provide those opportunities where we could continue to invest and not only the San Antonio committee community, but our our industry as a whole. Texas is a great destination for people to be moving. We're growing rapidly, rapidly. It's a great place to live and work. And we see this as an investment into our community as well as an investment into the industry itself.  

KENSWe hear from a lot of people "I would love to work in marketing for the Spurs or for the Spurs venue management" or something like that. Has there always been a super clear roadmap for how to do that? When you go to college, can you say, "I want to do this" and it's that easy or do you need things like this to kind of grease the wheels?  

Martinez: I would say it's both. There are some great programs at Texas universities here in our in our backyard. Sports management programs are more common in university settings nowadays. And I would say also across the nation in anyone who's interested in sports can to look into those programs and go and find those programs at those universities. We also employ others, you know, others with not just sports management degree plans, but with communications, digital marketing, all kinds of other types of educational programs. We also look for experience. So it is fantastic to go to those great universities. And that's a huge achievement, to be able to go to those big name universities and get great degrees of education from them. But, we also look for skills and not just schools. And so I would say get that experience, do what you can while you're in school to gain work experience and perspective, because that's the differentiator. 

KENS: I think that will be good for a lot of people to hear and a lot of people will be interested in that. I'm curious, you made me kind of wonder, what are some of the other values that you look for in employees with the Spurs organization? What do you think?

Martinez: That's the probably the part I love the most about our organization, its very values-based. We're very focused on our community and what we can do to serve it. And we look for individuals who are very customer focused. They have those values of integrity, success and caring. And we're also looking for people who are change-agile, because as we've seen over the course of the last year, nothing is consistent but change. And so can they kind of roll with the punches, innovate and figure out what can we be doing better to connect with our fans, to connect with our community and keep going and thriving. 

KENS: Shifting back over to the talent academy specifically. Is there still time to apply for that? And what's kind of the timeline process?  

Martinez: Yes, there is still time to apply and we we would be thrilled to have people consider us as an employer. That's such a compliment. But time's going by fast. So we're looking to make our selections and offers by May 15th. I would say get your application in now so that you can be considered. 

KENS 5: Talk to me a little bit about the other types of jobs opportunities that typically result either with the Spurs organization on the team side or the venue side. What would you want people to know about there?  

Martinez: We do employ a lot of individuals and we're hiring right now for those roles, whether it's management roles or entry level roles. At our soccer venue, at our AT&T Center venue, we look for skills that are very diverse. It could be electrician, it could be a manager in marketing, it could be an event planner. There's a wide array of a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds that we look for. So individuals who are interested in that can connect with us on our website or if they have the Spurs app, that they can scroll down to the bottom and join our team.  

KENS: What do you love working about working for the Spurs organization? 

Martinez: Well, honestly, it's programs like this where we get to really find those next shining stars. But I just have to also I can't express enough, really, that it's a great place to work. It's a great culture. I love the values. I love the people I get to work alongside every single day. Been there for a little over 10 years now. So so I can tell you...you don't stick around that long if it's not a great place. 

KENS: Has the industry grown and changed a lot in the types of jobs that you're typically hiring for?  

Martinez: You know, it has. And I would say that's another learning [experience] that we've had over the course of the last year. We had to find ways to continue to connect with our fans during times when play was not possible. And so social media, graphic artists, digital engagement is huge for this industry right now. And it's been something growing over the course of the last few years. Also analytics. And we're even hiring for our sales right now and looking to try to even expand our revenue opportunities.

KENS: The Talent Academy program is something that you have even a lot of your executive level leadership involved in. And that's huge to have access to to those types of people to help you learn and grow. Why was that something they were ready to invest in with these college age and postgraduate people? And what are they hoping to get out of it?  

Martinez: That's a great question. And it really, I think, just really points back to our values and the belief that our people are our greatest resource. Programs like this wouldn't be possible if our our leadership from the top down didn't believe in them. And so it speaks a lot to their willingness to take time and invest in those individuals to grow them into those next leaders. It's really about like that belief in that foundation. And again, it speaks to our culture. 

KENS: Do you have any other advice for people who are applying for the Talent Academy program or even if if they missed the boat on the deadline for that one, just in general, for making myself a better applicant for jobs with the organization?  

Martinez: I would say this is year one. We will be having this come back year over year and will probably try to launch it a little bit earlier because we recognize that a lot of those students right now are making plans for the summer and the fall. So we want to get in front of them right now so that we can be considered as an opportunity. And it's a huge compliment, like I said earlier, if they were to apply and consider us as an employer. But, if they don't make it this year, they can always apply next year, it will launch again. And and as far as being that differentiator, I would just say continue to get that volunteer experience, that work experience and customer facing roles and roles where even if it's an internship, every little piece of experience provides candidates with perspectives that are invaluable during processes like these where it's pretty competitive. 

KENS: Is there anything else that you think is important for people to know? 

Martinez: Our deadline is May 15th and we will be trying to make those offers by May 15th. And if someone has applied and is looking to hear from us, that would really be if they haven't heard from us by May 15th. That's the deadline where we're going to be giving offers.