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What to Expect from a Sports Internship

John Little, Former CNN Sports Internship Coordinator

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John Little, The Winners Edge Consulting: A lot of interns came in with the misconception that just because I love my team, that makes me a sports fan. Working in sports you realize quickly that if you’re going to be successful and have a long career that your team is going to be one of the last things you’re going to be focused on.

As an intern coordinator if I needed you to be watching the Royals and Pirates interleague game in the midst of a 2 hour rain delay while your NBA team is playing in the NBA finals, I need you to be focused on that Royals-Pirates game because you are watching it for a reason. That’s the difference between being a sports fan and a fan of your team. Those are the things that really stood out, somebody who could, regardless of the game you sat them down in front of, remain focused on the job at hand. The willingness to do whatever it takes, if an Anchor asks you to get them coffee…you get them coffee, and you bring the sugar and cream even if they didn’t ask for it.

Those are the things that set you apart, if you need to run scripts, if you need to re-edit games that have been edited, those are the things you need to do to be unique and stand out from the crowd. There are a lot of us out there that are sports fans, there’s a lot of us that are television fans and there are a lot of us that are sports television fans, but there are very few jobs for us, so you really need to be unique to set yourself apart.

Clapp: Full disclosure here, John was my first boss at CNN Sports and I remember whenever I acted up I’d get threatened with covering a few Pirates games or maybe a WMLS game – that was your go to line for a while there (laughter) now I’m a soccer fan so it didn’t work quite as well on me – but there was a definitely a threatening tone there sometimes! (more laughter)… Students do internships to get the hands on experience that is so vital to a career in sports television, but they also want to build their network, and make connections that can help them find an entry level job, did you find that internships often led to jobs at CNN Sports?

Little: Yeah at CNN it was a little bit different because we always had a very large pool of interns and yet not too many job openings because frankly it was a job not many people left. But we would almost always hire from within, I’d say 90% of our new hires would be former CNN Sports interns because we knew we could trust them. The learning curve in sports television is steep, there isn’t really a lot of time from entry level to where you are impacting directly what goes on air. As a producer I need to know that I can trust you, and that from day one you are capable of doing the job right and I don’t have to manage and babysit you. If you come from the outside it’s harder because I may have to teach you not only television but also how we do sports television our way. So it was always key for the interns, not to forget what they learned in school but understand how to adapt to wherever you are and adapt to new expectations and be able to jump right into the action.