by Olivia Odom
Nathan Kirkpatrick, an assistant professor in Samford University’s School of Health Professions, hopes to encourage middle school students in Birmingham City Schools to dream of a future career in the sport industry by telling them the path is possible.
“Most people do not get to be LeBron James or Nick Saban,” Kirkpatrick said, “But I want these kids to know that this will not stop them from having a successful career in sports.”
Kirkpatrick leads the Sport Administration Seminar Series, visiting Birmingham City Schools with students in Samford’s sport administration program to talk with fifth through eighth grade students about careers they could pursue in sports.
One of the series’ goals is to expose students to the business and leadership side of the sport industry—one that is just as important as being a professional athlete.
“No one has ever told these kids about the opportunity to work in sports,” said Kirkpatrick. “We want to show them that a job in sport administration can be exciting, and a great way to earn a living and even support a family.”
Along with hearing from Samford faculty and students, the middle school students work through a curriculum that mirrors aspects of the Introduction to Sport Administration course offered to college students. The series takes place each spring.
The seminar series began with the help of 2011 Brock School of Business alumnus Marshall Pollard in 2015. At the time, Pollard worked for the Birmingham Educational Foundation. When he heard about Samford’s new sport administration major, he offered to help create the seminar series, alongside Alicia Washington, who was assistant principal of Hudson K–8 School at the time.
The heartbeat of this series is to help these students see that majoring in a sport business program in college is an option. Kirkpatrick hopes to paint a vision of a future the students can be excited about and be motivated to work toward during high school.
This seminar series has led to several special opportunities. Last year, 15 students from Hudson K–8 School visited Samford’s campus. This was their first college visit, and for many, the first time to venture more than a few miles from home.
Kirkpatrick leads this series not only for the students’ future education, but also for a biblical kingdom impact. The goal is to share Jesus’ love and make the gospel more attractive.
“The ultimate goal of this program is similar to the mission of Samford University. The big picture is shining light for Jesus Christ,” Kirkpatrick said. “Sport administration is just a tool to reach the deeper need of middle school students.”
Going forward, Kirkpatrick hopes to involve more Samford students and to ultimately expand the series beyond the schools currently participating. He hopes it can reach more public, private, Christian and inner-city schools in Birmingham.
Olivia Odom is a journalism and mass communication major and a news and feature writer for the College of Health Sciences.