Interning at the Happiest Place on Earth

Posted: October 1, 2013 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: October 2, 2013 at 6:40 am

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Kristen Zimmerman with Mickey

Kristen Zimmerman at Disney World. Photo courtesy of Kristen Zimmerman

Rubbing elbows with Mickey and Minnie Mouse is all in a day’s work for George Mason University graduate student Kristen Zimmerman. This past June, Zimmerman secured a coveted internship and will be working for the next year at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Zimmerman is pursuing an MS in Sport and Recreation Studies, which is part of the School of Recreation, Health and Tourism in George Mason’s College of Education and Human Development. Her concentration is in international sport management. The internship, she says, was a dream come true.

The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is the result of Disney-owned ESPN and Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex joining forces to “re-imagine” the complex. It is part of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and hosts approximately 200 events every year.

Zimmerman is a member of the Disney Created Events and Programming team and works specifically with events that Disney Sports creates and runs in-house. She focuses most of her time on events involving baseball, softball, volleyball and field hockey.

“Going into this internship, I had dreams of working in youth and international sport development. I have the opportunity to work at the happiest place on Earth every day and do what I love — work in sports,” says Zimmerman. “I really enjoy seeing the kids get excited about playing the sport they love, and it brings back memories of how playing competitive sports positively impacted my life.”

A large part of her role is interacting with teams before and during an event to ensure they enjoy the atmosphere not only at the complex, but also at the Walt Disney World Resort. She is also able to experiment with new computer software, help plan new and annual tournaments, and volunteer for other events held at the complex and around Walt Disney World.

So far, Zimmerman has spent most of her time working on two large events: the Disney Junior Field Hockey Showcase and the Disney International Salute to Baseball. For the field hockey event, she worked with field hockey’s national governing body, USA Field Hockey, and learned about its position on offering events for youth and promoting the sport as it grows on the East Coast. The event is the precursor to the Disney Field Hockey Showcase in February, which ranks as one of the best showcases in the country.

Zimmerman notes that her favorite part of the internship has been the Disney International Salute to Baseball. The tournament featured teams from all over the United States, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Aruba.

“As someone who loves baseball and has done research on the sport in other countries, seeing the young children from other countries playing and excelling at ‘America’s game’ was heartwarming,” says Zimmerman.

“At the end of the tournament, the kids would trade jerseys, hats or team pins with the teams from the United States. Some of the teams even gave us a team pin or brought gifts from their country.”

Write to Colleen Kearney Rich at ckearney@gmu.edu

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