Noah Vinik is 90 percent sure he is not related to Tampa titan Jeff Vinik.
“But I’m still holding out hope,” the Steinbrenner High School senior joked about the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The younger Vinik is charting a course to be a force in the sports world just like the person his family calls “Cousin Jeff.” Noah is learning in Steinbrenner’s popular sports marketing program, part of the Lutz school’s Kinsman Academy of related career and technical courses.
Noah and his classmates say the course certainly exemplifies the “preparing students for life” mission of Hillsborough County Public Schools.
“The class helps your confidence as a person and raises your professionalism,” said senior Seth Hibel. He used a resume he made in the first year of the program to help him land a part-time gig with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kyle Mann made one of those resumes, too. He wants to be a sports agent one day and said the course caught his eye a few years ago and has kept him engaged with activities such as debating, creating his own expansion team’s identity and pitching products in a Shark Tank-style showdown.
Teacher Allison Ennis-Szponar said the course isn’t just about sports, as it hones interviewing skills, public speaking and much more.
“It offers everything you need to be a successful adult, but it does it in a fun fashion,” she said.
Students collaborate with Steinbrenner athletic teams to produce promotional videos and keep track of scores on a dedicated sports Twitter page (@GSHSESPN). They also serve as in-game announcers.
“That’s a very humbling experience,” said junior Emma Labossiere, “trying to keep an eye on the players, calling the right names and knowing when to speak.”
The class incorporates business principles, law, ethics, management and more. Students compete in DECA, an international student organization for students in marketing and related business fields. That has meant unforgettable trips to Orlando, Nashville and Anaheim for these students, where they compete against students from around the world but, more so, bond with each other and make new friends from other schools.
Noah put some of his sports marketing acumen to a real-life test recently, tossing his hat into the ring to become the new president of U.S. Soccer. It led to some interactions, he said, with brass leading the search and helped him forge some new connections, but alas, he could not find any states to sponsor his candidacy. One was close, he said.
And he’ll be back, he promises.
“Ideally,” he said, “I’d like to be the president of U.S. Soccer at some point.”