When it comes to sports, the adage is always “practice makes perfect.” Dr. Dexter Davis, associate professor of sport management, gives students the opportunity to practice for their future careers at one of the largest sporting events in the country: the Super Bowl.
Davis began supervising trips to the Super Bowl around 17 years ago, when his colleague who worked for the Miami Dolphins invited him to bring students to help with hospitality. His group of seven Niagara University students, where he taught at the time, made such a strong impression on the event’s coordinators that Davis was asked to invite students again the next year. When Davis started teaching at UT Martin in 2013, he continued these trips, bringing once-in-a-lifetime experiential opportunities to nine groups of Skyhawks and counting.
“They’re going to see all of the different elements of this major sporting event and how it occurs, and no matter how hard you try in a classroom, you can’t describe the magnitude of that event without being at that event,” Davis said.
At the Super Bowl, students transport guests who are celebrities, retired players or hall of famers to their next event. The students learn the most efficient routes to get each person where they need to be, and their experience translates into diplomacy and time-management skills by assuring that everyone arrives promptly, as well as tactfully answer questions and demands from fans.
Through taking on these duties, students are able to not only apply what they know, but also expand their knowledge by experiencing the hustle and bustle of large sporting events. Even students who have already attended a Super Bowl in the past can find something new to take away from their experience.
“Every one has its own unique characteristics. And so what you learn and what’s funny is the kids that were at Tampa last year are gonna have a completely different experience this year because it’s going to be completely different, but they’re also going to see some very similar things as well, and so learning that is also important,” Davis said.
Davis’ efforts to prepare his students for their future careers resulted in his being named the University of Tennessee Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher for 2022.
“It’s an incredible honor, you know? It’s the most prestigious teaching award that the university gives out, and it’s pretty cool because … current students have to evaluate you in the classroom and say, ‘Yeah, this person is a good teacher.’” Not only do students recommend you, but also the college dean, department chair and peers, “So it’s a real honor,” Davis said.