Mahaley Gann isn’t afraid to take life by the reins and gallop. The South Carolina equestrian freshman from the small town of Krum, Texas, isn’t wasting any time in going after opportunities surrounding her Sport and Entertainment Management major.
“I have an interest in working with the PGA or working with different sports teams in securing sponsorships,” said Gann, who made the Athletics Director Honor Roll and President’s List after posting a 4.0 grade point average last semester. “I also have a significant interest in sport and the law, especially now with all the changes the NCAA has implemented with NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness).
“I really like that the program here has such a great relationship with The Master’s and The President’s Cup. We have the opportunity to go work the different events, and there are a lot of great professors here, so I have the chance to develop lots of connections that I can take with me.”
Unfortunately, South Carolina’s equestrian schedule with the SEC Championships and the national tournament don’t fit in well for those golf tournaments this year, but Gann is looking into how she can work those events in the future.
Balancing athletics and academics can be a difficult adjustment, but Gann is already getting great experience for her future career, even if it’s not in the sports industry. She’ll do a couple of required internships following her sophomore year, but she recently took a big step forward in her academic career by tying in her love of competition. Last semester, a professor recommended her for a case study competition where she and a team of three others travelled to Charlotte for the Sport Marketing Association Conference as well as another competition in Columbia for the SPTE convention.
“We created Canva presentations where we’re given a case study three days before the event, and we had to work together as a team to help develop marketing strategies that different management companies would be able to implement” Gann said. “We presented those three days later with those marketing strategies and how the brands could better connect with their target audiences.
“For the case study we presented in Charlotte, we worked with the metaverse. We were working with the Charlotte Hornets, and they were looking to incorporate different virtual reality into their online platform so customers could select their seats and be able to see what the view of the court would actually look like from where they were sitting. It was really cool.
“For the SPTE convention, we worked with Sprouts (grocery chain) to expand their brand and have a stronger social media presence. We were trying to work with them to connect with a younger audience and use platforms such as TikTok for them to connect with college students. We were really excited that we won the competition here at SPTE! That was a huge accomplishment! It was a great experience because we worked as a group and came up with a whole business and marketing strategy. We had to learn how to work under pressure and work as a team.”
“The University of South Carolina has the largest sport and entertainment management program in the country, so I was thrilled to come here and not only get a chance to ride, but to be involved with a major that I knew I would enjoy.”
Competing is nothing new for Gann. She started riding horses at a very young age, and never looked back.
“I went on a little pony ride when I was five, and from that point on I was hooked,” Gann said. “My dad let me go on a trail ride for my sixth birthday, and from then on, I was talking them into sending me to summer camps, and I started taking lessons consistently by the time I was nine. I started traveling on the ‘A circuit’ when I was 13. I would travel with my trainer around two weeks out of every month. We travelled around the country. I was just always on the show circuit and always at the barn.
“I really like to have a connection with the horses. I enjoy the training element of riding. That’s taking a horse and helping them reach their full potential while still learning and being able to compete in the show ring.”
She did online high school for four years so that she could travel to competitions. While her hometown of Krum has a population of a little more than just 4,000 people, Gann has no problems branching out. That includes her choice to come to the University of South Carolina instead of staying closer to home.
“I would have been a sixth generation from my family at Baylor, but I wanted to come here to South Carolina,” Gann said. “My family wanted me to go to school where I would be happiest, and I chose to be here. The University of South Carolina has the largest sport and entertainment management program in the country, so I was thrilled to come here and not only get a chance to ride, but to be involved with a major that I knew I would enjoy.
“I’ve learned a lot already, even if some of the things I’ve done haven’t been in sports, I’ve learned some essential business skills so I can go and work almost anywhere.”
While she enjoyed competing individually growing up, she is all in when it comes to being part of the team at South Carolina.
“I love getting to be a part of such a great team,” Gann said. “The team is really like a family. It’s great to take such an individual sport and make it a team event. Even though I’m far from Texas, it’s nice to have a team family in Columbia.”