The Labor Pool: Matt Patton
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
Today is part of an ongoing series we call “The Labor Pool.” Each month we talk to another swimmer who has entered the work force after a career of competitive swimming. We touch base with the swimmer, learn what he or she is up to these days, and perhaps some lessons they’ve learned from the swimming arena that translate to the workforce. If you know anyone with an interesting story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Patton always knew he wanted to be involved with sports. Once the Michigan graduate and finalist at the 2012 Olympic Trials hung up his suit, he knew it was only a matter of time before he’d be involved with athletics in some capacity.
“I had already decided if I hadn’t had made [the 2012 Olympic] team, I would not keep swimming,” Patton told me. “I studied for the GRE and completed applications and talked to coaches about becoming a graduate assistant. I emailed about 10 schools. Florida State had a position open. I applied and got into their sports management program.”
Patton acquired an internship for Sports Media Challenge, a company that monitors social media trends, sports management, and public relations. One of Patton’s responsibilities is that he specifically gets to monitor social media trends going on at the Big Ten Network, analyze what people are talking about in relation to BTN, and then let the BTN know what’s going on.
“I help monitor emerging trends and help be the eyes and ears of BTN in terms of what’s happening with their broadcast,” Patton said. “For example, some commentators have gotten good press. Some get bad press. We can give them a heads up to what the fans or customers essentially prefer in their broadcast.”
Patton is also knowledgeable about social media trends and how it relates to swimming. He says in the aftermath of the 2012 Olympics, many Olympians began to attract quite large amounts of social media followers – sometimes in the tens of thousands. Some of these Olympians should use social media as a tool to better enhance themselves professionally, Patton said.
“You should use [social media] to your advantage. It needs to be used as a tool for promotion and not as a tool just for fun.”
He specifically notes that Nathan Adrian and Ryan Lochte do great examples of interacting with fans on social media. He also agrees that, compared to 10 years ago, elite level swimmers have a great opportunity to connect to fans on these platforms.
“[Social media] can be a good thing if athletes use it wisely and keep personal things to themselves. If they are going to have these thousands of followers and be a face of the sport, I think it’s fantastic for fans to be able to communicate.”
Patton’s work ethic in the pool has directly resulted in quick success outside of the pool. He credits the same things you need to be successful in swimming – hard work and long hours – for some of his success in the workplace.
“It’s just like swimming: The more you put in the more you get out,” Patton points out. “That’s the attitude I took into this internship, and it’s gone really well.
For now, Patton looks forward to continuing to pursue his current professional trajectory. For a while, he wanted to be a swim coach. But after being exposed to some of the business side of sports, he wouldn’t mind continuing down that path to see where it goes. He will finish his degree at Florida State later next spring, and he has already been offered a full-time job at his current workplace after he graduates.
When I asked Patton some advice for swimmers entering the workforce, Patton said, “Just because you work hard in the pool, don’t be lazy outside of the pool.” He also says it is important to find a mentor just as you would find a swim coach. He specifically said his boss, Kathleen Hessert, is a mentor who has helped him.
Looking back, Patton credits his swimming background for teaching him hard work, but he is quick to point out that you have to continue that same hard work outside the pool to be successful.
“You have to go full steam out of the water, just as you do in the water. That’s what will set you up for success.”