Symposium attendees pose for a photo at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Behind the athletes working hard to achieve their Olympic and Paralympic goals are a whole team of people working hard to help them get there.
For anyone who’s ever dreamed of being one of those behind-the-scenes people and wants to know more about who they are and how to join them, the Team USA Symposium is the place to be. Now in its seventh year, the symposium will be held March 8-11 at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where attendees will spend three and a half days learning all about the Team Behind the Team. Registration is open through March 1 at TeamUSA.org/TeamUSASymposium.
“It is a unique opportunity to really get a snapshot of this really rich, complex ecosystem of organizations that make up the Olympic and Paralympic movements,” said Chad Sunderland, United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee VP of strategy and business consulting.
Sunderland has been a presenter at the past few symposiums. His group works internally to support all departments and divisions across the USOPC and also works with national governing bodies on everything from strategic planning to data analytics to project management to the best way to hand out tickets to athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Just within his group there are two current full-time employees who got their starts by attending the symposium. Although job and internship offers are not guaranteed, since 2016 attendees of the symposium have landed internships and paid positions in everything from sport sciences to operations to sports business development to special projects with the USOPC and NGBs including USA Triathlon, USA Cycling and USA Wrestling.
Brad Birling attended the symposium in 2017 as a junior finishing his degree at Metro State University in Denver. Now 33 years old, he said he had switched both colleges and majors quite a few times with a break from education in between, but when he started at Metro State for a degree in sport management it was specifically because he wanted to work for the USOPC. After landing internships with USA Rugby and the USOPC — one that allowed him to work at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 — he’s now the merchandise warehouse coordinator with USA Track & Field.
Download the Team USA app today to keep up with all your favorite sports, plus access to videos, Olympic and Paralympic team bios, and more.
He said the opportunity to network and talk with people working for the USOPC and the NGBs was invaluable and credits that face-to-face interaction with his success in landing opportunities in the movement.
“I don’t think there was a single presenter who didn’t wait around after so if you wanted to go talk to them in person you could introduce yourself and ask more about the presentation or what they do,” he said. “It was awesome the amount of support that the staff who participated had for the event as well as how much they saw the value in talking to people who want to be in the industry.”
The 2020 symposium will include speakers from sports business development, fundraising, Games operations, sport performance, sport medicine, nutrition, LA 2028, U.S. Paralympics, events and logistics, and athlete services.
Sunderland said that while the bulk of the attendees are in the earlier stages of their careers he has met people with more experience who are looking to change paths and get a leg up. Anyone with a passion for the Olympic and Paralympic Games is encouraged to look into taking part in the symposium, he said.
“I would say if you care about the Olympic and Paralympic movements and you’re looking to understand more how to be a part of the team, this is the best opportunity to do that and network with people who can help you learn more,” he said.
It’s that passion, he said, that will ultimately help attendees stand out.
For instance, he said, if you were thrilled about the launch of the Olympic Channel so you could finally follow everything from world cup skiing and cycling to world championship weightlifting and badminton, you’d be in the right place in Colorado Springs.
“Here, knowing and understanding what so many people as fans embrace and are inspired by is the most foundational thing,” he said. “People here love to be here and are here for all the right reasons, to help support Team USA athletes. From my perspective, the best thing someone can do to prepare is to know you’re here for the right reasons, and have chosen this because you’re passionate about it. In addition to that, just come ready to share that passion with everyone you talk to.”
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.