Posted November 27, 2013

Temple Made: Tarasai A. Karega

Video Production: Gina Benigno

Name: Tarasai A. Karega

Year: Master's candidate, second year

School: School of Tourism and Hospitality Management

Area of study: Sport business

From: Philadelphia (originally from Detroit)

Why I chose Temple: “I’ve been playing hockey since I was nine years old. After I graduated from college in 2009, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I was talking to a family friend who knew the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League. One day he said to me, ‘You know, Tarasai, you could own a sports team.’ I laughed, and then I thought, ‘Hey, Icould own a team.’ It got me interested in sport business and sport operations—not just the competitive aspect. I ended up moving to Philadelphia and started working with the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. I became close friends with Tina Sloan Green, who is a Temple legend and a former coach of both Temple lacrosse and Temple field hockey. She and I do a lot of work with the Black Women in Sport Foundation. She told me about the program here at Temple's School of Tourism and Hospitality Management and introduced me to some of the professors. I decided that in addition to working here at the foundation, I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in sport business at Temple.

Transformative moment: “When I was about seven, I saw the movie The Mighty Ducks. I thought it was really cool. There was one black kid on the team. I thought, ‘That could be me one day.’ I told my mom I wanted to play hockey, but my dad said no. The next year, my mom did some research. She looked in the phone book and found the Detroit Hockey Association. My dad let me play, my mom got equipment, and hockey has been part of my life ever since. I played in college. I’ve played all over North America and in Europe. I’ve been exposed to so many different opportunities because of hockey.

“I often heard—even from my own extended family—people saying ‘Black people don't play hockey,’ or, ‘Girls don't play hockey.’ I walk into the rink with my equipment and people still look at me like I’m an alien. But I don’t do stereotypes. It fueled me more than it discouraged me.

“I currently work for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. It falls under the NHL’s Hockey is For Everyone umbrella, a North-America-wide initiative to expose youth who traditionally aren’t associated with the sport to ice hockey. There are programs in cities throughout the country; I grew up playing for one in Detroit. Our foundation targets boys and girls ages 5 to 17 in Philadelphia and Camden who otherwise would not have the opportunity to play this sport. We’ve identified some of the challenges or barriers that prevent our target market from participating. One is cost. Our program is completely free. The other is access. In many of our facilities, we operate them seven days a week.

“My official title is hockey operations coordinator. I manage the facility in West Philadelphia at 63rd and Walnut. I’m also involved with a lot of community-relations opportunities. I’m out talking to schools and organizations, and marketing our program to get more kids involved—to create partnerships and get the word out there about the opportunities that we provide.

“I started working here because I knew that there were kids who could follow in my footsteps. I wanted to be a role model for them. There are a lot of great life skills they’ll learn from playing ice hockey and working together as a team. These kids need to see me on the ice—not just as a player, but as a leader and professional.

“Do I still want to own a team? I’m not sure if that's for me. But I want to mature into other positions of leadership. I want to grow. Taking classes at Temple has been a great experience. It opened my eyes to other opportunities within the sports industry. I want to get into corporate sales and corporate partnerships, and some of the classes that I’ve had have inspired me to want to go down a different path and experience some of the other aspects that the sport and entertainment industry have to offer.”