Inside the rink: HRSM students score big with Gameco*ck Hockey (2024)

Posted on: April 20, 2024; Updated on: April 20, 2024
By Allen Wallace,

As every student associated with Gameco*ck Hockey knows, the first thing to do is answer the familiar questions.

  1. Yes, there is hockey in South Carolina.
  2. Yes, the University of South Carolina does have club hockey teams (men’s and women’s).
  3. Yes, they’re really good. The men recently won the 2024 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Division 1 National Championship.
  4. Yes, people watch. Home games at the Flight Adventure Park rink in Irmo sell out regularly.
  5. And yes, the club is operated by students, all volunteers who gain valuable hands-on experience which helps launch careers. Many of them come from the USC College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management.

For Gameco*ck Hockey Directors of Management Olivia Ballweg and Emily Reichling, it started with love of hockey. Reichling grew up in Michigan, Ballweg in Ohio and both have been fans since childhood.

"When as a freshman I found out how big co*ck Hockey was, the following that they had on social media, how the tickets sold out so quickly and everything else, I was very impressed," Ballweg says.

Inside the rink: HRSM students score big with Gameco*ck Hockey (1)

She and Reichling both began volunteering with the team as freshmen, working as gameday staff. All USC students are welcome to volunteer with the team, under the leadership of an executive board of students.

Ballweg and Reichling chose to focus on the operations side of the club, and both were chosen to serve on the executive board for 2023-24, their junior year. Their job comes with a great deal of responsibility.

"Communication is big. We have to communicate not only with the team, the players, but also with the coaches and with our GM who's not in the state," Reichling says. "So constant emails with him and with the rink, making sure that we're good to play and they're going to accommodate us when we have a special event going on, communicating with the visiting teams, making sure they know what jerseys to wear. We also make sure ticket sales are getting ready to go, and then when we have away games, we do a lot of coordinating for travel: hotels and buses and meals and such."

Even all of that leaves many other areas to handle. Gameco*ck Hockey gear is extremely popular, and retailing major Ginny Burt serves as the team’s director of merchandise. A native of Virginia Beach, Burt did not grow up going to a rink like Ballweg and Reichling, but has always been a sports fan.

"I came here as a retail major who wasn't super into fashion, and so I was wondering where I would find my place with retail. I saw an internship opportunity for the merchandising department for co*ck Hockey, and the only thing I knew was their Instagram, the cool Instagram, and that's about it. I interviewed and then when I saw the growth in the program, it just hooked me. It’s been a chance to be part of something bigger than myself, and it's all student led, which is super inspiring. You never have a dull day working on the team."

The merchandise operation Burt leads has been incredibly successful. In 2023-24 alone, Gameco*ck Hockey sold more than $150,000 in merchandise so far, and after the national championship that number continues to grow. It’s a work experience and level of responsibility far beyond most available to a student, and Burt had not only thrived but also learned a great deal.

  • Inside the rink: HRSM students score big with Gameco*ck Hockey (2)

    Caroline Delaney

  • Inside the rink: HRSM students score big with Gameco*ck Hockey (3)

    Ginny Burt

"A lot of the stuff that I never thought I'd have to deal with is the finances: the accounting, the legal stuff, the trademarks, the royalties, the event planning. I’ve just negotiated so much that I didn't know as a 19-year-old, and now two and a half years later, I have learned so much just by asking people or making mistakes and figuring it out," she says.

The devoted fans who make the games sellouts and buy all that merchandise are constantly eager for information. Providing it is the role of another sport and entertainment management major, Director of Creative Media Caroline Delaney.

Delaney oversees social media platforms including an Instagram with more than 18,000 followers and a TikTok with more than 17,000 more, both growing by the day. One TikTok post this season was viewed more than 535,000 times, another more than 482,000. It’s an audience and an engagement level any social media pro would be proud of, all led by Delaney, overseeing 13 interns.

Delaney came to Gameco*ck Hockey looking for experience in the management side of sport. She began as a social media/marketing intern and came to love the role, which has shaped her future.

"I had done some social media for a couple of random restaurant jobs I've had, but never a full management position like this.This was kind of my first rodeo," Delaney says. "It led to me switching my minor to sports media and now I'm actually going to grad school for mass communications."

The College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management emphasizes to students the importance of gaining hands-on professional experience to go with classroom lessons. Doing so in a student-run organization like Gameco*ck Hockey allows a level of freedom and responsibility perhaps unmatched anywhere else.

Our jobs are very, very stressful, but look at how much we get to do. If I worked for an NCAA team, I'd never have been able to have this amount of experience.

"We all joke about it. We don't know what we don't know, and we have to figure out what we don't know," Burt says. "We don't have the funds to outsource all of this. We do what we can, but part of the experience with the team, and I tell anyone that wants to join and work for the team, is you get out what you put in and you're going to do a lot on your own. If you don't love it and you don't want to be learning from it, then you're not going to last."

"Our jobs are very, very stressful, but look at how much we get to do," Delaney says. "If I worked for an NCAA team, I'd never have been able to have this amount of experience."

"It's definitely put me a little out of my comfort zone having to do some of this stuff that I hadn't expected," Ballweg says. "Going out and booking the hotels and negotiating prices and that kind of stuff has been really good experience."

All that responsibility comes with a great deal of work. For the executive board, Gameco*ck Hockey is essentially a full-time job during the season, to be balanced with classes and other commitments. There are also risks that come with making big decisions on everything from operations to merchandise sales to branding. It’s much more like working for a startup than for an established corporation, and the students have fully embraced it.

"co*ck Hockey has this extremely niche image. It's a little chaotic. It's a little loud. We're not a NCAA type of team," Burt says.

Delaney graduates this May, going out as a national champion and headed to Temple University for grad school. Ballweg, Burt and Reichling will be back for another year of Gameco*ck Hockey and a quest for another national title.

Delaney has already helped choose her successor on the executive board, as the others will before they graduate. They were chosen by student predecessors like Lauren Barth, now a sales associate with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Ballweg and Reichling also hope to start careers in hockey after they graduate. Whatever future paths they choose, their outstanding work at the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management and with Gameco*ck Hockey will have given them a fantastic start.

Inside the rink: HRSM students score big with Gameco*ck Hockey (2024)


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