At the fifth annual Sports Industry Conference, held last Friday at U of T Rotman School of Management, students and speakers tweeted out #SIC2016, and, over the course of the 10-hour event, the hashtag went viral, becoming the most trending topic in Canada.

The conference gave over 350 undergraduate students from all across North America the opportunity to listen and network with the most renowned sports leaders from prestigious sports organizations such as the NBA, NHL, MLSE, Toronto Raptors, TSN, Sportsnet, Wasserman Media Group, Right to Play, and You Can Play. Throughout the event, students were encouraged to take photos in their formal business attire and sports leaders and speakers who were present tweeted about the event. Their names generated a lot of attention throughout the Twitter-sphere.

The theme for SIC2016 was “Behind the Game: Building the Playbook”. The event consisted of four panels: groups of speakers who tackle certain topics and aspects of sports such as analytics, partnerships, mentorship, and high performance athletes. Panel discussions lasted for approximately 50 minutes with 15-minute breaks in between for students to network with their favourite speaker. The conversations and teaching points were engaging and brought out the enthusiasm and sharp-minded questions from a young knowledge-hungry crowd.

The first panel, Mentorship and Development, included Trevor Georgie (president of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the CHL); Rachel Bonnetta (on-air host at MLS); and Tyler Currie (director of internal affairs at NHLPA). The panelists discussed their humble beginnings and where they are now. They all agreed that extensive networking and a little bit of luck could take you a long way during the trials and tribulations of a sports enthusiast seeking a career in his or her desired field.

The second panel, Community and Partnerships, saw Morgan Campbell (sports reporter at The Toronto Star); Jillian Svensson (VP of You Can Play); Preben Ganzhorn (VP brands at Wasserman Media Group); and Stephen Brooks (business operations for the Toronto Blue Jays) tackle issues such as how to make it into a world dominated by gender and ethnic preference and how to use the community, market, and leverage partners into creating a top-tier product.

The third panel, Data and Analytics, consisted of Meghan Chayka (co-founder of Stathletes); Dean Oliver (VP data science at True Media Networks); Sean Lahman (data projects manager at SABR); and Jason Rosenfeld (director of basketball analytics for the NBA). These high-quality data experts all have one thing in common, which is staying ahead of the curve. It’s these individuals’ responsibility to provide analysis and data to players and teams, giving them the highest percentages to maintain a high level of success in their field.

The fourth panel included high profile names like Tim Bezbatchenko (GM of Toronto FC) and Johann Olav Koss (Olympic silver medalist and founder of Right to Play). Bezbatchenko dealt with the majority of the questions from the crowd, discussing problems that arise while working as a general manager of a major Toronto sports franchise.

There were a handful of keynote speakers, who were the highlights of the event. Jack Armstrong, Toronto Raptors broadcaster, opened up his monologue with his famous “Hello!” regularly heard after a big play in a Raptors game. Michele O’Keefe, president and CEO of Canada Basketball, had an interesting view on how to handle the future of Canadian basketball. She claimed that if she had her way, like Argentina and Italy do, Canadians would have a license to play basketball. Bryan Colangelo, former GM of the Toronto Raptors, and Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL, were favourites among the student delegates.

Students had plenty of refreshments and food to keep them going throughout the day. There were fridges’ worth of Red Bull refreshments and lunch was something better than you’d expect even at a four-star wedding reception. For the $40 that the event costs, it is surely worth your while. Next year, take advantage of what SIC2017 has to offer.