[Editor’s Note: Since this story was published, Mitch MacDonald ’17 has been promoted to a business development account executive for the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. “In this position I am now responsible for a mixture of both B2C (Business to customer) and B2B (Business to Business) selling,” MacDonald said. “I work with some of the larger businesses in south Florida to help them retain clients, entertain new clients, and reward employees through our luxury seating options here at Hard Rock Stadium.”]
Mitch MacDonald ’17 vividly remembers standing in awe the first time he entered the Washington Redskin’s locker room last fall. The burgundy and gold room was empty, except for the jerseys, helmets, and shoulder pads lining the walls, but MacDonald had no trouble envisioning his favorite players suiting up and getting ready to take the field.
What he couldn’t believe was that his dream of working for the Redskins had finally come true.
A lifelong fan, MacDonald attended plenty of games and even witnessed some of the team’s greatest moments growing up. But no season has been more memorable for MacDonald than 2016-17, when he got to attend every Redskins home game as a game day intern for the team’s public relations office.
“The first item of clothing I ever wore on this earth was a Redskins onesie,” he laughed. “Now, after getting to work for the team, I feel like the world is truly my oyster, and there’s nothing else I could see myself doing than working in professional sports.”
During the internship, MacDonald had multiple opportunities to meet his favorite players, like Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. One of his favorite responsibilities was working at media events, where he was in the presence of some of the Redskins’ as well as other NFL teams’ biggest stars. As part of his duties as an intern, MacDonald recorded and transcribed interviews from each postgame press conference, then shared them with local and national sports reporters.
“It’s one of the coolest experiences working a press conference and being close to all these larger-than-life beings,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald also compiled and managed live statistics in the Redskins’ press box during games. And because he had one of the best views of the action, he admitted that one of the biggest challenges was not getting distracted by the energy of the game.
“When it came time to do a task, sometimes it was hard to take my eyes off the field,” MacDonald said. “But as the internship continued, I got better at multitasking. I had to remind myself that I may or may not have a job with this organization one day, and that’s why I’m here.”
MacDonald was also charged with distributing media credentials to reporters and photographers before each game. He was manning the table before the Redskins’ Monday night matchup versus the Carolina Panthers when he had one of his proudest moments.
“My supervisor was walking by and she introduced me to like five different NFL executives and told them, ‘This is Mitch MacDonald, one of our rock star interns and the type of guy we like to hire,’” he said. “That was one of those moments where I was like, wow, this is pretty great that someone’s acknowledging all my hard work and I’m on the right track.”
Working 12-hour days at the FedEx Field the day before a full week of classes, combined with the five-hour drive each way from Lynchburg to Landover, Maryland, took determination and a lot of energy. Yet, MacDonald was usually one of the first interns to arrive and one of the last to leave each Sunday.
“The great thing was whenever I would get there and step inside the stadium and meet with the other interns, I just felt so blessed to be there,” MacDonald said. “It didn’t even feel like work because it’s my favorite team, and I was chasing my dream.”
That persistence is what helped MacDonald get the position in the first place. He was actually rejected for another position with the Redskins’ public relations team. But he refused to give up, and continued to apply for other positions within the organization as well as ESPN, NBC, and even the Jerry Springer Show. In the end, his tenacity paid off with a position as a marketing intern for the Redskins’ training camp.
For the two-week camp, MacDonald helped organize and implement several events for fan outreach programs like the Women of Washington, Redskins Salute, and NFL Play 60. His hard work and professionalism did not go unnoticed by his supervisors, and at the conclusion of training camp he was offered the game day intern position for the 2016-17 season.
“It’s the greatest feeling when you try for something like this and it works out,” he said. “I’ve never felt the way I’ve felt this past year. I feel more confident in myself and my skillset, and I feel like I’m headed in the right direction with a great goal to work towards, and that’s probably the most exciting thing for me about this whole experience.”
MacDonald’s professors were not surprised to learn he had gotten the position. “Mitch was highly motivated in his internship search, and he was passionate about working for the organization,” said Jennifer Gauthier, a Randolph communication studies professor. “This passion, plus his work ethic, helped him secure this coveted opportunity. From what I understand, it has been a very valuable learning experience for him.”
Communication studies majors like MacDonald are encouraged to seek opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the field. “In an internship, students can put into practice ideas they have learned in the classroom, adapt their skills to a specific task, and also gain additional skills that will help them in the future,” Gauthier said. “Internships are a great way to see if what you thought you wanted to do really meets your expectations and is a good fit for your talents.”
MacDonald was a standout on Randolph’s men’s lacrosse team and co-hosted, along with sports information director Ryan Killilea, the weekly ‘Cat Chat video series about the College’s athletics department. This spring, he wrote his senior research paper about ESPN’s 30 for 30 series and how it has set a new standard in the sports documentary genre.
“It looks at their productions, aesthetic features, and subject material and how they tie into real world issues,” MacDonald said. “It also looks at the way they’ve created kind of a new product and format, and how other companies are now following their lead.”
The Redskins will always be MacDonald’s favorite team, but ironically, it was thanks in part to his experience with them that he will now get a chance to help another NFL team. This spring, he was offered a job as a membership development associate for the Miami Dolphins. After graduation, he plans to move to Miami, Florida, where part of his responsibilities will involve handling premium seating and luxury box suites for season ticket holders. He’s also been accepted into Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management graduate program.
“I am looking forward to learning as much as possible about the organization and the membership development department,” MacDonald said. “Working in professional sports has been a dream of mine for some time now, and I’m over the moon about this new opportunity and the chance to start my career with the Miami Dolphins.”