Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management

Behind the Scenes with DC United


DC UnitedFour students from JMU Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management spent the day behind the scenes with Major League Soccer’s D.C. United team and its communications staff on April 16th at the team’s home match with Toronto FC at RFK Stadium.  

Sport and Recreation Management undergraduate students David Halstead and Tim Vongkaysone, as well as Sport and Recreation Leadership graduate students Shannon Tumelty and Connor Woisard, traveled with assistant professor Dr. Joshua Pate to attend the match.  The group was given field access during the pregame show,  taping,  and met with the Director of Media and Communications, Lindsay Simpson. The group then was given press box access and postgame media access to gain insight on the work of professionals in sport communication.

“I enjoyed the pregame interviews,” Halstead said. “I thought it was interesting to see how far in advance of the match they conducted them and the extra lighting they used on the field. It was good to see.”   Vongkaysone agreed that the production itself was special to see from behind the scenes.   “There are a lot of different moving cogs in the system,” Vongkaysone said. “You talk about that in the classroom, but here you see that if something doesn’t work, then the whole process hurts. It’s like in our group work, if someone doesn’t do their part, the whole thing doesn’t succeed.”  

Tumelty, a graduate student on the campus recreation track, said she was most impressed by the way the D.C. United staff made use of an old space to the best of its ability.   “I gained a better understanding of how to use your resources even if they’re limited,” Tumelty said. “Like their facility. If they don't have the funding to fix something, they've found ways to transform it. For example, behind the goals, with extra space and no seating there, they’ve filled it with a beer garden, cornhole boards and a VIP food experience.”   Vongkaysone agreed, referencing how the fan focus will take shape in the club’s new stadium set to open in 2018.   “The fan experience is a larger focus than I anticipated,” he said. “Even for their new stadium, the fans want the bouncing seats (like in the current supporter’s section) so they’re putting them in the new stadium. I knew we were in a service-driven industry, but I didn’t realize it was that deep.”

Woisard used his photography background to shoot photos of the action during the match. He said the best part of the experience was putting bookwork to practice.   “Being able to go behind the scenes and see what kind of operations are involved to run a professional sporting event reinforced the material we have studied in the classroom,” Woisard said. “Being able to photograph the game also offered a unique perspective. Having on-the-field access notDC United 2 only made for great pictures but also further offered a point of view that you wouldn’t see as a normal fan.”

The students were also treated to some quality soccer talent despite the outcome. United fell 1-0 to Toronto, with the lone goal scored by last year’s MLS MVP and Italian National Team member Sebastian Giovinco, who scored in the match’s first minute of play. Toronto’s roster also includes U.S. National Team members forward Jozy Altidore and midfielder Michael Bradley.   Still, it was the work environment that left the lasting impression on the students.   “The sheer amount of people that have to go into the production,” Halstead said. “There are so many different roles that have to make this event happen.”  

SRL graduate student Jacob Harris, who worked to arrange the site visit for the Hart School, spent the spring semester interning with D.C. United in sales and operations.

For more photos, click HERE.

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Published: Saturday, April 16, 2016

Last Updated: Monday, February 7, 2022

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