JMUSports.com feature by Maya Waid
From the moment her uncle began teaching her to play volleyball, Elizabeth Helmich knew she had a future in sports. Now, as she explores opportunities in sports marketing and digital media while training for her junior season with the James Madison volleyball team, Helmich is completing an internship with the Harrisonburg Turks collegiate summer baseball team. Helmich connected with former director of broadcast services for JMU Athletics, Curt Dudley, to set up the internship.
“I’ve known Curt for a while and he ended up sending me a message and [asked if] I was interested in sitting in the press box to see what it’s like,” Helmich said. “We hung out during the game and he mentioned [the Turks were] looking for a marketing intern.”
Helmich first found her passion for graphic design when she was in high school as a way to foster her creative side. After realizing she did not want to pursue a career as a lawyer, she utilized opportunities at JMU to further explore graphic design.
“I’ve always been super creative and just loved art in general,” Helmich said. “I took AP graphic design in high school. I loved it, but I had never really considered it as a job. JMU happens to have an incredible [design] program, so it’s super cool that I’m able to combine my two loves of graphic design and sports.”
Since starting her role with the Turks in June, Helmich has traveled with the team and primarily assists with designing graphics for bigger events.
“I make a lot of personalized graphics such as game pictures,” she said. I made the draft picture for Nick Zona and made the all-star graphics along with any big time special graphics.”
One of Helmich’s biggest challenges over the summer has been learning to find the balance between maintaining two internship positions while working and being a student-athlete recovering from a major injury.
“I’ve been very overwhelmed at some points, but working for the Turks has been super rewarding,” Helmich said. “I’m interning for the JMU athletic marketing office while working as a lifeguard. I never have a spare minute, but I like being busy. Any opportunity that I can take I will, even if it means I’m insanely busy.”
As an athlete herself, Helmich has enjoyed staying in the sports atmosphere and being connected to the Turks in a similar manner that she is to her own volleyball team at JMU.
“I didn’t know a ton about baseball, I was just going to watch my friends play and I really became invested,” she said. “Now, some of these guys have become my really good friends. It’s just super fun to watch them and be part of the team atmosphere. There are so many opportunities that lie in athletics and the connections that people have.”
As Helmich begins to look into prospective job opportunities over the next few years, she is confident that whatever area she ends up in will involve athletics in some form.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to close the door, I absolutely love sports,” Helmich said. “I grew up playing sports and I just can’t lose that connection. I feel very lucky that the field that I’m going into is not one that’s going away. It’s [a field] that needs people like me which really excites me. There are a lot of opportunities out there and my dream can come true.”
In her own athletic career, Helmich is focusing on recovering from open hip surgery. The change of pace allowed her to improve the mental aspects of her game.
“I just had volleyball taken away from me, so I just want to go out there and show everyone that I’m going to be the best version of myself,” she said. I’ve come super far just in our spring season from observing and having to really take a step back from volleyball because I’ve never had this much time off. Being thrown into a new role during the spring was exactly what I needed to expand my volleyball IQ, dive deeper into the game and focus on building relationships with my teammates.”
Moving into her junior season, Helmich and her team are fully prepared to embrace playing in the Sun Belt Conference and take on new competition.
“One of the most important parts about being a JMU volleyball player to me is the relationships that I have built with my teammates, my coaching staff and our support staff,” Helmich said. “We want to win a Sun Belt championship, go in there guns ablazing and just absolutely fired up, which I have full confidence that we have the ability to do.”
Through her experience with the Turks, Helmich has learned that it is possible to find a job that caters to her passions.
“In just my experience with the Turks and with the JMU athletics office, I know that the job that I will eventually get is one that I will love and won’t feel like work because it is something that I will enjoy,” she said. “Keep pursuing your interests because you can make money doing things that you enjoy.”
Despite being busy and trying to balance all of her commitments, Helmich has learned the value of branching beyond her comfort zone to explore new opportunities.
“Find your comfort zone and then try to get out of it,” she said. “If I would have told myself, even four or five months ago, that I would be doing two internships, recovering from open hip surgery and working all at once and managing it, I would be shocked. However, I would regret it so much if I would have said no to any of the opportunities that I’ve been given this summer. Although it has been incredibly busy, it’s also been incredibly fulfilling.”