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All Lanes Lead to Indy: University of Indianapolis Students, Faculty Support Community at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials

Lucas Oil Stadium with U.S. Olympic Swim Trial promo. Credit: Visit Indy

Written by Troi Watts

The Amateur Sports Capital of the World, Indianapolis, has added another historic event to its roster, the 2024 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials, and with it, brings new and exciting opportunities for the University of Indianapolis community. From leading the organization of thousands of volunteers to being one of those volunteers in the midst of the action, UIndy students and faculty are proud to support the largest indoor swim meet in history.

No Small Parts

As former manager of his high school’s swim and dive team, Hayden Lake ‘26 (Sport Management) jumped at the opportunity to reimmerse himself in the sport when his professor, Dr. Isabell Mills, informed him about an internship with Indiana Swimming. This internship not only allowed him to gain invaluable experience for his future career in sports marketing but also to contribute to the monumental 2024 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.

In a historic event like the Olympic Swim Trials, there are no small parts. As an intern, Lake assisted with the publication of athlete biographies and the organization of merchandise for the athletes competing in the trials.

“Being part of organizing the largest indoor swim meet in history means a lot to me,” said Lake. “As it is not every day that a college intern gets to be part of something of this magnitude. Being part of the organization and logistics of the Olympic Trials will be something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

With two years left of his undergraduate education, Lake plans to build on the skills he has developed through UIndy’s sport management program, including the mindset needed to succeed in the industry.

My education at UIndy has helped me succeed in my internship,” explained Lake. “Prior to my internship, I have learned in several of my classes that it takes a certain attitude and mindset to work in the sports industry. Had I not learned that by going to UIndy, I think I would be in a much different place.”

Enhancing the Volunteer Experience

Not only do the Olympic Swim Trials offer UIndy students opportunities to get involved, but faculty also have the chance to offer their expertise to the community. Her past professional experience in organizing past major sporting events, such as the College Football Playoff National Championship, the Super Bowl, and the NBA Final Four Tournaments, as well as her research into volunteer motivation led Dr. Jennifer VanSickle to be selected as co-chair of the Volunteer Experience Committee for the Swim Trials.

While the fan experience is at the front of most people’s minds, the volunteer experience was at the forefront of Dr. VanSickle’s. From assigning leadership roles to determining where volunteers were needed and when to ensuring volunteers are supported and rewarded, Dr. VanSickle and her committee were responsible for organizing thousands of volunteers over the course of the Swim Trials.

“We had to put together a budget and we had to decide on equipment and furnishings. So I was really part of that foundational piece,” explained Dr. VanSickle. “We had to decide how many volunteers we needed not just for the Trials themselves, but also for running the volunteer lounge, making sure people knew what to do at their activities, and setting up a place for volunteers to hang out after their shift.”

In January, Dr. VanSickle was named the Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, Health, and Sport Sciences at UIndy, which led to her stepping down as co-chair of the Volunteer Experience Committee. However, she decided to stay involved in the Swim Trials by volunteering when she could. This gave her the unique opportunity to see her visions for the volunteer experience from both sides.

“It was a hard decision for me to step down. So I’m also going to be interested to see any of the ideas that I brought forward to the table when we were planning what we are going to be doing also to see if any of those will be executed. That’s the fun part is you spend all that time planning and then you see the execution of it,” said Dr. VanSickle.

By providing students like Hayden Lake with unparalleled real-world experience and leveraging the expertise of faculty such as Dr. Jennifer VanSickle, UIndy demonstrates its dedication to excellence in sports management education. Through initiatives like these, UIndy continues to shape the future of sports professionals in Indianapolis and beyond.

Photo credit: Visit Indy