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Management Professor and L.A. Galaxy Soccer Team Provide Lessons in Teamwork



Stephen Jenner, professor of management; photo courtesy of the College of Business and Public Policy

Management Professor and L.A. Galaxy Soccer Team Provide Lessons in Teamwork

“Winning teamwork comes from a great plan, a great team and a shared passion for the goal,” says Stephen Jenner, professor of management in the College of Business Administration and Public Policy (CBAPP). Jenner learned this concept from Michael Hitchcock, former L.A. Galaxy VP of Sales, and has become adept at applying this lesson in his classroom.

Partnering with members of the L.A. Galaxy organization, Jenner has designed lessons that allow students to learn from world-class athletes and their management team. Jenner believes that this win-win partnership between the university and the L.A. Galaxy creates an excellent playing field in which well-rounded academic principles can be learned and practical experience can be obtained by students in his strategic management and strategic communication courses.

After opening in June 2003, The Home Depot Center represented the single largest accomplishment of this campus in partnership with the community. Under the leadership of Dean James Strong, in 2006 the College of Business Administration and Public Policy launched the groundbreaking Sports, Entertainment and Hospitality Management program with the goal of attracting and serving students who would see the value in attending a university that also serves as the home of the world-renowned entertainment and sports complex. The program further made perfect sense for the university given that nearby Los Angeles and surrounding communities form one of the largest spectator sport markets and offer popular tourism destinations.

Wanting to transform his management courses so that they could be incorporated into the new program, Jenner had to look no further than to one of his students, Alex Bengard (Class of ‘03, B.S., business administration) Bengard played on the CSUDH soccer team in 2000 when the team won the national championship and was drafted to play for the Galaxy. He was a student in Jenner’s business strategy and human resource management course while on the Galaxy team. Bengard would frequently point out connections between the game of soccer and management strategy. This piqued Jenner’s interest and those conversations in the classroom became the seeds for a new direction for the course with a focus on teamwork.

Jenner now weaves the concept of teamwork into his lectures, using the L.A. Galaxy soccer organization as a case study. In 2005, Jenner began conducting interviews by professors and students with key members of the Galaxy organization that included coaches, soccer players, a vice president, and sales representatives. After editing and isolating the most interesting and useful “sound bites,” these experts explain what business students need to know about teamwork, business strategy, organization and goal attainment. Jenner has used the video segments for four semesters to illustrate the value of team strategy, both in sports and business settings.

One example has sales manager Tim Martin and his colleagues in Galaxy sales and a former player, Todd Dunivant, speaking about teamwork and game principles as they apply to strategic human resource management. The videos have met with great success and Jenner is making arrangements to produce additional footage of some of the new players, the coach and senior management, with plans to complete a more finished product incorporating Galaxy soccer action, music and graphics. He would also like to create a version in Spanish for wider distribution.

Participation in this “teamwork project” has benefits for the Galaxy as well as CSU Dominguez Hills, according to Jenner. The partnership contributes to the base of community service being provided by the Galaxy, and increased exposure to the sport of soccer increases their fan base and ticket sales. The benefits for the university include improvements in student learning about teamwork and management, the sports and entertainment field, as well as providing internship opportunities and enhancing the university’s accreditation efforts in the area of community relations.

With a focus on international business, Jenner has experience leading international business seminars and developing case studies of specific companies that make international trade and investment decisions. A Fulbright border scholar and holder of a doctorate in strategic management from the University of Sussex, Jenner joined California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1991 where he designs and delivers undergraduate and MBA courses in strategic management, strategic communication and international management. He has also partnered with Iris Baxter, assistant professor of public administration, on a Student Learning Outcomes Assessment project on teamwork skill-building with the goal of providing faculty with additional tools to help students succeed. In 2006, Jenner, Baxter, and Mary L. Cruise, emeritus faculty, published "Student-Centered Teaching and Learning Through Teamwork Assignments" in the Journal of the Academy of Business Administration.

Jenner has encouraged students to take advantage of our close proximity to The Home Depot Center and its teams in their course of study. In spring 2007, two of Jenner’s students in his strategic communication course, Stacey Bacon and Erin Cooper, co-authored a paper “David Beckham and the New Hospitality Concentration.” The students put together a strategic communication plan to take advantage of the arrival of major soccer celebrity David Beckham to the L.A. Galaxy team. Their plan included making requests for Galaxy players to appear at major campus events and developing communications that market the CBAPP program and leverage the media attention that Beckham’s arrival will generate. In sharing student results with communications and public affairs staff at The Home Depot Center and CSUDH, some of the students' suggestions are becoming a reality. Conversations with Jenner about The Home Depot Center and CSUDH partnerships generated the idea to produce this special Dateline issue centered on soccer and the university’s relationship with the center during the week that David Beckham arrives to play for the L.A. Galaxy.

“We would like to continue interviewing Galaxy players and coaches, as well as top-level managers,” says Jenner, as he looks to future objectives for a winning relationship that continues to evolve. Jenner also plans to share the teamwork lessons and videos with other faculty members, departments and universities for broader use.

Jenner outlines key attributes of winning teamwork: 1) select players with different skill sets to play specific roles, 2) believe in each other’s ability and effort, and 3) believe that together they can achieve their shared goal. In soccer, as well as in business and life, Jenner points out that during most of the game, “you are running without the ball, always looking at how to get in the best position to move the ball toward its goal. The ball moves faster than anyone can run – so pass it, don’t hold it.”

- Brenda Knepper

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Last updated Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 3:42 p.m., by Joanie Harmon