A love of sports usually begins in a fan’s hometown parks, streets and playgrounds where they learn to play the game, and then they learn to love the teams that represent their state and region. There’s a direct link between home team loyalty and hometown pride, and it is embodied by sport management major Will Hyland ’19.

Hyland grew up in Searsmont, Maine, a former lumber town 85 miles north of Portland with a population of 1,392. He played youth baseball in what he calls the “perfect era” of successful Boston professional teams and developed a passion for all sports.

Searching for a college, he found that Colby-Sawyer matched the feel of his hometown while also offering robust academic programs. He considered majoring in politics, pre-law or business, but sport management allowed him to combine passion with a practical career trajectory.

“When you’re a kid watching David Ortiz and other cool athletes, you want to be them,” Hyland said. “Working in the industry is the second best thing. It’s a sector of business where there’s a lot of energy.”

It’s also a sector that has the potential to make a positive impact on a community. Hyland’s education has taught him to view sports from multiple angles: it’s a pastime and a business, a competition and a tool for social integration. And for Hyland, it’s the perfect fit.

Sport management major Will Highland standing outside of the Hadlock Field gates next to a sculpture of the Sea Dogs' mascot.

Double Play

For the past two summers, Hyland interned as a game day associate for the Portland Sea Dogs, the Boston Red Sox’s Double-A affiliate team he grew up watching. Now he gets to make their games an unforgettable experience for other fans.

In addition to helping with game day operations such as ushering at Hadlock Field and coordinating the on-field promotions, Hyland promoted the Sea Dogs to the greater Portland area by distributing literature and materials to local businesses.

Hyland and his coworkers also brought the minor league experience to little league teams, transforming games with the Sea Dogs’ mascot, music and PA announcers. It’s an example of how the Sea Dogs can target their audience while providing family entertainment. Figuring out how to accomplish those two goals is something Hyland practiced navigating in class through marketing simulations. Now he knows how it actually plays out.

“From a business standpoint, we love hearing that people can’t wait to come back for another game,” he said. “But we’re also providing good childhood memories. It’s a win-win.”

Sport management major Will Highland standing against a building in downtown Portland, Maine.

Nothing but Net(working)

Hyland looked at several colleges in Boston but realized he didn’t need a big city to land big opportunities.

“In the business world and in the sports world where relationships are so important, Colby-Sawyer is a conversation starter,” he said.

Hyland knows this because he’s made those conversations happen. His Sea Dog internship originated from an assignment in Introduction to Sport Management that required students to interview industry experts from their home state. Hyland stayed in touch with his contacts, and one of them became his supervisor.

Hyland landed another internship with Dartmouth College’s multimedia rights partner his junior year by following up with a guest speaker in his Sport Finance class. Selling sponsorships to local corporate partners gave him a glimpse of yet another aspect of the industry.

And, Hyland wouldn’t have had the chance to shadow Ethan Casson ’96 if he went anywhere other than Colby-Sawyer. Casson was named CEO of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx in 2016, and that winter he offered two students the chance to spend a week with him at Target Center.

“He had us sit down with people from all sectors of the organization, from PR and marketing to sales, game management and operations,” Hyland said. “It was inspiring to talk to them; they all had different stories of how they got there. If they could make it, then I can, too.”

In the Home Stretch

Growing up in a small town and attending a regional high school taught Hyland that he could make a big difference in his community; he became Searsmont’s first Eagle Scout in nearly 20 years and volunteered at the local historical society. When Hyland came to Colby-Sawyer, he took that lesson and ran with it.

Hyland has served as his class president and as an Orientation Leader. During his first year, he helped produce several episodes of “Sports Guys,” a podcast dedicated to covering Colby-Sawyer’s teams as well as professional sports. He’s also a member of the Blue Key Society, Christian Navigators and the Exercise and Sport Sciences Club.

In his free time, Hyland’s developed an impressive portfolio of published pieces. A lot cover sports and can be found at outlets such as the Yawkey Way Report, but he’s also written about the places that matter to him. He reported how a Maine city is revitalizing itself, and his “Why You Should Choose Colby-Sawyer” article on the Odyssey circulated far beyond campus.

After his final year at Colby-Sawyer, Hyland plans to return to Maine and land a job in sales, the typical entry point to the sports industry. The odds are good; in addition to the Sea Dogs and the Maine Red Claws, a new hockey team and arena football team formed in the past year.

Hyland is thinking way beyond his first job, though, and can even see himself going into public service one day.

“My liberal arts education shows me how to look at things from multiple perspectives, and that equips someone with a multitude of career options,” Hyland said. “I won’t rule out anything.”