High School for Sports Management shines in Brooklyn
STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 11/3/2011, 4:54 p.m.
Call it perfect timing or destiny, but former New York State Gov. David Paterson spoke at the High School for Sports Management (HSSM) in Brooklyn at the same time the AmNews planned a visit there.
Paterson spent his time in the third-floor library delivering a message about civil rights to the group of students, mostly Black and Latino males.
"When you think of sports management, you see players, you see management, you see owners," said Paterson. Paterson told the story of Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who signed Jackie Robinson, and Art Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers who helped introduce a rule in the NFL that required at least one candidate of color be interviewed for a head coach or general manager vacancy.
"He changed the world," Paterson said of Rooney.
Located off the 25th Avenue stop of the D train in Brooklyn, inside Lafayette High School, HSSM is looking to change the world through sports. Opened in 2005 to 94 ninth graders and seven staff members, the school's curriculum brings together the industry of sports management and the academic requirements to pass high school in New York City. Setting students on career paths like marketing, sports media, journalism, event planning and business operations, HSSM aims to help children appreciate what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to sports and entertainment.
"In 2005, the mayor [Michael Bloomberg] wanted to create 200 small schools," said HSSM Principal Robin Pitts. "And we just happened to be the second cohort in the new school enterprise." HSSM was originally located in Our Lady of Solace School in Coney Island but eventually moved to its current location. "It's a program that's college preparatory nursed in sports."
More than 90 percent of the students are college-bound.
With constant images of people of color playing various sports and being involved in entertainment, it's easy for kids to assume that's the path to a better future, and Pitts wants her kids to see that there are so many things they can be besides the athlete on the field.
"Kids come here wanting to be the next Alex Rodriguez or the next LeBron James," said Pitts. "But the reality is that if they had the skills, they wouldn't be here. Somebody from middle school would've sucked them up and transitioned them into those powerhouse [athletic] programs."
However, HSSM partners with some powerhouse programs of its own. With its Sports Industry Speaker Series, the school has attracted people like NBA Director of Marketing Saskia Sorrosa, Sylvia Lind of the MLB, Minor League Baseball President Pat O'Conner and other figures in sports who work behind the scenes instead of on the court.
"We have professionals come in," said Pitts. "We have members of the NBA come, we have members of the Knicks, but none of them have been players. They've been project managers. There is something else that drives the sports industry other than LeBron banking it in from half-court. Who keeps the arena going? Who does the contract forms? You have all of this and you can still go to the games and have a connection to an industry that moves on with or without you."