Coach in the Classroom
Sport Management professor Dominic Morais blends mentorship, critical thinking
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
dominic morais teaching

When professor Dominic Morais teaches Sport Management, he becomes part athletic coach, part motivational speaker. 

“I’m a coach in the classroom, I’m a mentor, I’m a guide,” says  Morais. “I feel like I’m a big brother to my students.” 

Morais pushes his students to apply critical thinking to their sport experience as they complete the 24-semester-hour Sport Management minor, which emphasizes sports studies, humanities, sociology and history. 

“Ultimately, I’m using sport and culture as a lens to study people,” says Morais, who was trained as a historian. “When I think about that in the classroom, really, it just comes down to experiential learning.”

The professor assigns regular, first-hand learning data collection projects in his Sport in Society class. In one such project, students observe a sporting event and consider elements of the experience that are commercialized, what cultural values are being communicated, and how participants behave. His students consult academic literature and finally make their own critical interpretation.

“You have to be able to think for yourself, look at all the data, and make your own decision,” says Morais, who earned his Ph.D. in Physical Culture and Sport Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. 

Morais believes when unpacking complex topics in the sport industry, doing means understanding.

“Experiential learning just means doing,” says Morais, who was a walk-on football player  for Vanderbilt University, earning a scholarship his senior year. “It’s not until we test ourselves that we understand ourselves.” 

A greater understanding of ourselves within our society is the key to our success in the sports world, which demands long hours, nights, weekends and holidays, says Morais.

“We make sure students understand what ‘grind’ means,” says Morais, referring to the long hours demanded of those working in the sports industry. “If you are going to work in this industry, you have to love it. The sports world is often as prestigious and glamorous as it looks from the outside. But when you’re inside, it can be more demanding than you ever imagined.” 

To that point, he emphasizes self-care in his classes and leads by example. Morais does not accept assignments between midnight and 8 a.m., a practice he adapted from Sheryl Tynes, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Life. Morais’ message to his students is, “You need to get your basics down, or else nothing else will flourish.”

He also encourages cultivating an optimistic spirit. “I like to start all of my class periods by asking students to share a "positive" thought, or something they are grateful for, as a way of beginning the session with a good attitude.”

Sport Management, the university’s third-largest minor, resides within the business school, Morais says, because it builds foundational skills in business administration, management, finance, and marketing. 

“It’s all about running and managing organizations,” says the Texas native who earned his master’s in Sports Administration from Eastern Illinois University.

Sport is a microcosm of society, say Morais and Jacob Tingle, Ed.D., the program’s creator and director. When students understand how ideologies embedded within the sport industry relate to larger trends in society, they are poised to be better employees, leaders, and athletes.

“Dr. Tingle wants to look at sport holistically,” says Morais.

This intersectional approach has proven popular: registration for foundational courses, such as “Sport in Society” have garnered massive student interest. This class looks at power dynamics within sport, as well as issues of race, politics, gender, and economics. 

Graduates from Trinity University with a minor in Sport Management have gone on to work in the sport industry with the Spurs, with nonprofit sports groups, recreational sports organizations, technology companies, marketing and communications teams, and others. 

“When students are aware of dominant ideologies in the sport industry, it can help them ‘do sport better’ for themselves, for their community, and for their children,” Morais says. 

Nicolette Good graduated from Trinity University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Music. In addition to being a traditional writer, she is a working singer/songwriter, as well as a staff musician for Home Street Music, a nonprofit that uses music to empower individuals who have experienced homelessness.

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