May 3, 2016
By Annie Dittberner '17 for the CSB/SJU Magazine
During the 2015 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves acquired former Duke University basketball star Tyus Jones in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The trade shocked fans everywhere.
But it was no surprise to SJU senior Adam Kolb.
Last summer, the communication major from Wabasha, Minnesota, interned as a game presentation assistant for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. In addition to working Lynx games, Kolb and nine other interns worked special events — one of those being the Timberwolves' Draft Party.
"About 15 minutes before the trade occurred, I heard on my headset that we were going to trade for Tyus," he says. "It was pretty cool that I was able to know before pretty much everyone else that was watching."
But Kolb had to keep quiet.
"Part of the job was being professional," he says.
CSB junior Erika Schlangen is familiar with this kind of professionalism.
Schlangen, a Paynesville, Minnesota native, worked alongside Kolb as a game presentation assistant for the Lynx. Kolb started his internship in May and Schlangen joined him in June after returning from studying abroad.
"We were in such close range to [the players] and it seemed so ordinary," Schlangen says. "I couldn't necessarily be a fan, and I had to remind myself that they are normal human beings just like us. It had to be very professional."
Throughout the summer, Kolb and Schlangen worked nearly every home game of the Lynx's 2015 championship season. They set up promotional events, on-court games, halftime activities and T-shirt tosses.
According to the duo, it was all about the fan experience.
"It was our job to make sure the fans had a good time," Schlangen says. "It was a mix between being on court and off stage. I enjoyed coordinating all of the things that fans don't think about."
"You definitely learn a lot about how a sports organization is run," Kolb says. "It almost felt like we were shadowing someone while also having an internship."
Comfort of connection
Several of the other Lynx interns attended public universities and had previous experience working for the University of Minnesota athletic department.
Kolb and Schlangen couldn't relate to those backgrounds, but the two of them shared something that the other interns did not - the Bennie-Johnnie connection.
Last spring, Kate Ulrich '12 contacted the athletic and communication departments at CSB and SJU.
"The time came where I had to hire interns for the season," says Ulrich, who now works for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. "So I contacted CSB and SJU. That's when they got me in touch with a few different people, and Erika and Adam stood out to me."
Looking back, Ulrich says, it was a seamless transition for the two students.
"I never had any reservations about Erika and Adam," Ulrich says. "I knew they were good students, and I had heard from faculty that they were also exceptional human beings. I know that CSB/SJU does an outstanding job of building individuals into who they are."
But besides the Bennie-Johnnie connection, Kolb says, the CSB/SJU liberal arts education prepares students for this kind of experience.
"Having knowledge about various things really shows your diversity," he says. "A lot of other interns went to public universities, and a lot of them had a different perspective."
One opportunity leads to another
When the Lynx won game five of the WNBA finals, Kolb and Schlangen finished the season with a championship organization and a new opportunity in front of them.
Last fall, the students began working for the Timberwolves Action Pack, a group in charge of leading promotional activities and interacting with fans during games. The two started the Timberwolves' 2015-16 season on Nov. 1 and will continue to work for the professional team through the conclusion of the season April 13.
"The action pack is the Timberwolves' version of what we did for the Lynx," Schlangen says.
When Kolb started to work for SJU Athletic Media Relations during his junior year, he was introduced to SJU Athletic Media Relations Director Ryan Klinkner.
According to Kolb, Klinkner has impacted his desires to work in sports.
"He has had a huge impact on my passion for working in sports because he was the first person to give me the opportunity to work in the field," Kolb says. "He is someone that likes to have fun, but also pushes you to work hard and do your job the right way.
"All of my opportunities have kind of grown on each other and allowed me to get this internship. My time here has allowed me to grow as a person and as a professional. It's hard to put it into words."
Schlangen's interest in sports followed her to college. During her first year, she was a member of the CSB basketball team.
"I was really interested in this internship because I have always been a huge fan of basketball, and I love watching the Lynx," Schlangen says.
After taking CSB/SJU associate professor Janna LaFountaine's coaching class, Schlangen heard from LaFountaine about the opportunity with the Lynx and contacted Ulrich to tell her that she was interested.
"I felt it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up," Schlangen says. "I have always loved sports, but I guess I decided I wanted to work in sports after deciding to change majors."
The elementary education major also works in the CSB athletic department during the school year. For the past two years, Schlangen has spent her summers working as a camp assistant for CSB athletics. This summer, she will be the camp lead.
"Becoming an athletic director really interested me so I started working in the [athletic] office and summer camps, took Jana's class, and started coaching," she says. "I really enjoyed each of these opportunities and all of them combined really solidified my decision to work in sports.
"The internship taught me that, yes, this is a job, but it's sports and entertainment so you definitely want to make it fun. And that's something I can correlate with working summer camps. It was my job, but I did everything I could to make it fun for all of the campers.
"I could see myself teaching. But I could also see myself working in sports entertainment."
"The ultimate goal is to work somewhere in sports," Kolb says.
And thanks to Ulrich, their futures look promising.
"They were a huge help to our organization this past summer," she says. "The Bennie-Johnnie connection is obviously something."