When Mike Gursha ’10 was looking for talent to staff Rookie Road, a website providing sports tutorials for the novice fan, he looked to his Newhouse connections to get the word out.
Gursha says most students are hired as consultants or interns to create content, perform research or create graphics, and he finds that Newhouse students are adept at working in varied environments.
“One of the best things Newhouse does [is teach] people to have a flexible mindset and adapt [to] all different kinds of situations,” Gursha says. “The environment at the Newhouse School teaches you to how to figure things out, which is a huge skill in a startup environment. In addition, Newhouse Students have such a strong work ethic and are always willing to learn.”
At a breakfast with Newhouse in New York students, Gursha’s startup piqued the interest of broadcast and digital journalism senior Taylor Epps.
“I looked up the website and saw an incredible opportunity to enhance my writing and digital media skills,” says Epps. “I stayed in contact with Mike over that month, wrote a writing sample and joined the team.”
Epps, who is finishing up her undergraduate studies, is the company’s lead content manager. She developed volleyball content for Rookie Road last summer while also interning at CBS News, but says that balancing her activities never felt like work. It helps that Rookie Road allows her to telecommute from Syracuse, and she credits the high bar set at Newhouse for enabling her to transition so easily to a professional environment.
“Newhouse has conditioned me to always put forth my best effort and best work and that goes for my work at Rookie Road as well,” she says. “If I wouldn’t submit it to my toughest professor, I would never submit it to anyone else.”
Emma Comtois, a senior dual major in graphic design at Newhouse and finance at the Whitman School of Management, feels the same. After hearing about Rookie Road from colleagues at The Daily Orange, she got in touch and became involved soon after.
“Working with Rookie Road has taught me a lot about prioritization. My first few months working with them happened to be while I was abroad in Copenhagen, so I had to make sure I was taking time to check emails, keep up with graphics and maintain high quality work.”
Since the company’s beginnings, nearly a dozen students and alumni have been hired by the company. Gursha plans to hire five full-time interns this summer, along with additional part-time interns for the fall 2019 semester. The company also has multiple open full-time positions in content creation and graphic design.
Epps has enjoyed her time at Rookie Road. “It probably seems crazy to adopt more responsibility as a senior, but it’s been such an amazing opportunity and worthwhile experience.”
Comtois says the Newhouse alumni network continues to help her find internships and experiences, including the opportunity with Rookie Road.
Gursha, along with brother and Rookie Road co-founder Doug Gursha, is ready to expand the company this year. The plans include adding content on 20 new sports, including golf, tennis, volleyball, curling and many others. “We are excited about our traction and are looking forward to eventually covering all sports across the globe,” Gursha says.
Rookie Road adviser and Newhouse Advisory Board chair Tonia O’Conner ’92 has been excited about Rookie Road since the start.
“Unlike all the other sports media companies that are either commoditizing sports coverage or making huge, risky investments in broadcasting rights, Rookie Road serves a unique utility that is a powerful value proposition for both consumers and enterprises,” O’Connor says. “Mike and Doug are smartly fulfilling an unmet need in sports, which has great scalability—the perfect recipe for a startup success! Plus, I am very keen on learning the rules of dodgeball!”
Lianza Reyes is junior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.