Guest Star

Guest-services coordinators want you to have a good time!
By John Perritano
A man in a blue polo shirt with the Florida Gators football team logo poses in an empty stadium.
Casey Walker is a guest-services coordinator for the Florida Gators college football team.
MOLLY KAISER

Casey Walker comes from a family of sports fanatics. Mom, dad, uncles. You name it. His mother, Mary, worked as an athletic trainer for more than 30 years at colleges and high schools across northeast Florida. “I was always following my mom around to different basketball games, football games, baseball tournaments,” Walker told Your Hot Job.

Walker’s interest in sports spurred him to dream of a college baseball or football career (in high school, he tackled future Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry), but a shoulder injury sidelined him. With his playing days in the rearview mirror, Walker changed course. Instead of being on the field, he went behind the scenes. Today, Walker is a guest-services coordinator at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, home of the Gators. In that role, he supervises an army of people whose mission is to make sure each person that goes to a game or event has an enjoyable experience.

Florida Gators running back Trevor Etienne scores a touchdown against Arkansas at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Florida, on November 4, 2023.
WILLIE J. ALLEN JR.—ORLANDO SENTINEL/TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE/GETTY IMAGES

The job of guest-services coordinator is not just a career for those interested in the nitty-gritty of the gridiron. If you’ve ever been to a resort, a theme park, a concert, or a hotel, you’ve probably met one. Their job is to make sure you have a great experience.

What does a guest-services coordinator do? The question should be, what don’t they do? They need to be versatile. Duties can range from greeting clients and customers to helping people navigate off-site amenities, such as the best pizza in town or the coolest places to shop.

Guest-services coordinators also handle customer complaints, and help people with special needs. They often work with upper management on public relations and community outreach projects. They work alongside those in other departments, such as facilities, security, and marketing. “It’s a hodgepodge of whatever needs to be done,” Walker says. “If a job needs to be done, we’ll do it. We’ll figure out a way to get it done.”

Communication is perhaps the most important tool a guest-services coordinator can have. You might be tasked with guiding VIPs to an event, or directing people to their seats. You might take on a managerial role, guiding other employees. You might also be involved in planning and implementing various events, from spa days to museum tours. At the University of Florida, Walker and his team are constantly on the go. 

Walker, a Jacksonville native, began his career as a student game-day ambassador at the university. “If they needed someone to work the odd shift, or to stand at a certain gate, I always volunteered my time,” he says. Walker then landed an internship at the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, an annual bowl game held in his hometown. The game pits a team in the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference against a team from the Big 10 or the Atlantic Coast Conference. 

Walker’s mom was the athletic director at Fernandina Beach High School. The school offered its football field as a practice venue for the Gator Bowl. Walker agreed to help his mom, and when the pair got to the field, they saw it covered with Canadian geese. Where geese go, their droppings follow. Son and mom quickly cleared the field before the North Carolina State football team arrived. That undertaking led to the internship. The hiring manager thought that if Walker could clean up after a gaggle of geese, he could do anything the job required.

Today, Walker supervises 40 people during the fall sports season, and 80 in the spring. His undergraduate and graduate degrees in sports marketing were a plus. Guest-services coordinators might hold degrees in education, business, marketing, hospitality, and public relations, among others.  

While education is important, networking is essential. Networking forms relationships. It shows people you’re interested. It also opens doors to new career opportunities. “Networking is a huge, huge thing,” Walker says. “For example, if I want to get in touch with someone at Texas A&M, they’re one email away.”

Make no mistake. Working at a football game—or a theme park, or a concert—is fun, but it means making sacrifices. Game day means work, not tailgating with friends. “Realize the time commitment,” Walker says.