TEMPE, Ariz. – Earlier this year, Wilson and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced the 2017 Wilson/ITA National Promoter of the Year Award winners. Kelli Woodman of Seattle University and Milton "Neto" Cacace of Harding University received a paid summer internship to work at Wilson's global headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, in its Grassroots Marketing department.
Each year, the Wilson/ITA National Promoter of the Year Award recognizes two student-athletes who advance the game of tennis by devoting consistent time and effort to promotional activities, and by supporting and bringing awareness to their school program and to college tennis in general.
Upon completion of the internship, both Woodman and Cacace took the time to share their thoughts and experiences on working at Wilson with the ITA. You can read those accounts below.
My summer at Wilson was nothing like I expected a 9-5 job to be like. Every day was different from the previous. Neto and I worked on countless projects from logo ball contracts and junior sponsorships to tournament activations and play tests.
We learned the ins and outs of Wilson, and what it takes to make it such a successful company. The best part about working in the office was collaborating with so many people on the floor and creating new relationships within the company. These relationships turned into mentors who helped me understand the brand on a whole new level. Not only did I learn so much about the products we offer, I learned how much dedication and behind the scenes work it takes to run such a successful company.
Our trips to junior tournaments were very unique in the sense that we got to engage with juniors on such an emotional level. I loved talking to juniors about their tournament experience and where they see themselves in a few years. It was really fun to talk to them about collegiate tennis, and share my experience as a D1 athlete. It made me realize how important it is to create relationships with consumers, because they want to know the advice and information you are giving them is genuine. Working with Cy and Kristin made me realize how much of an impact we have on the future generation. They made it a point to lead juniors in right direction even if they were playing with a competing brand. Seeing juniors succeed is their main mission, rather than trying to sell them on our brand.
My favorite part of the internship was working at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, and the US Open in New York. I had never been to a professional tournament before, so I was over the moon watching matches and being a part of the action. The energy at these tournaments was like none other. Similarly, working the store was an opportunity of a lifetime. I had the privilege to engage with people coming to the tournaments from all over the globe. Which not only improved my people skills, but I learned so many things about tennis that couldn’t have learned anywhere else.
Needless to say, I will miss working for Wilson when I return to Seattle University for my last year of school. With that being said, I am very grateful for all of the experiences because I can now apply them to my studies. I hope to find myself working for Wilson after I graduate because they made such a huge impact on my life.
“You should apply,” my former tennis coach told me back in January. Now, as we near the end of 2017 and I reflect on the year, applying for the Wilson Internship was the best decision I made all year. Although I have been involved with the sport of tennis every summer through coaching, this summer I experienced another side of the sport...a more fun side.
I must confess I felt both scared and unprepared as I made my way to Chicago back in June. However, as the summer progressed, my fears were put to rest by members of the Wilson Team tasked with guiding Kelli and I through the internship. They first became our bosses, then mentors and now most importantly, family.
One thing that stood out immediately about the work culture in the Chicago Headquarters were the employees. They truly reflect the values of the company. In one of the meetings with the company’s President, Mike Dowse, he shared Wilson's values: People first, Brand second, and the Business third. Our very first project exemplified the values of the company. Before engaging in any business activities, Kelli and I were asked to meet with as many people on the Racquet Sports floor as possible to learn what they do, what they enjoy about the company and any advice they might have for us.
Almost everyone suggested being pro-active, which I found to be almost a requirement for success at the company. On the floor, you see constant collaboration between employees as well as a unique sense of camaraderie. As the summer progressed, this camaraderie went from something I observed to something I had become immersed
Looking back on the internship, what I most enjoyed about the work was the diversity of the projects. Every day there was something new to learn about the sporting goods industry, from working in the office on junior
sponsorship programs to selling a tennis racket off the shelf at professional tennis tournaments like Cincinnati and the US Open. What a relief! Having never experienced a corporate internship, I feared the “9 to 5” job. I pictured myself leaving the office stressed with a briefcase in my hands. Well, that didn’t happen. Days went by and suddenly the only thing I feared was this summer coming to an end.
Every year, the internship concludes in New York City at the US Open. Being part of such an event was by far the highlight of my summer. It was great to engage with people from all over the world, talking tennis, rackets and more. I even got to fulfill a childhood dream of mine: watching a Grand Slam final! It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.
I am confident that my time at Wilson has prepared me for big things in life and has created a professional direction that I am confident in pursuing. Though I learned a tremendous amount about Wilson and about business, the most treasured part of the internship are the people I met along the way. As I head back for my last year of college, I know I’ll miss my time with them in Chicago!
I encourage everyone that is looking to truly learn about the sporting goods industry to apply for this position. I cannot imagine a better position to be in. Thank you to the big W for the best summer of my life!