June 2, 2022

Class of 2022: Grad turns lifelong interest in sportswear into fledgling career testing sports products

Marcus Smith’s studies in kinesiology and commerce ignite passion for developing new gear and learning how his ideas help people
Marcus Smith
Combined BKin/BComm degree-recipient Marcus Smith.

Supply chain and biomechanics. You couldn’t think of two more different topics of study. But, for Marcus Smith, BKin’22, BComm’22, a common thread pulled these two disparate subjects together in a combined degree from the Faculty of Kinesiology and the Haskayne School of Business. Smith’s love for product design, particularly for sports and technical apparel, drew him to the two areas.

With five years of study under his belt, the former Scholars Academy and International Business Students’ Association president is now hoping to make those merged areas of study into a career.

Why did you choose the combo of commerce and kinesiology?

Coming out of high school, I had interest in both programs. I’ve always had a business-oriented mind, but I’ve also always been interested in the human body and how humans move, as well. When I saw that U of C had a combined degree, and it was only five years, it seemed like a no-brainer. I got in, and it’s felt like the best choice I could have made.

What was your biggest area of interest during your studies?

Biomechanics on the kinesiology side. That’s what I ended up doing my honours thesis in. There are not that many people interested in it, but I found it fascinating.

You also had an interest in sportswear and technical apparel. How did that shape your studies?

I’ve worked at Sport Chek for seven years now, and when I was in high school that was the only place I wanted to work so I could buy as many shoes and pieces of technical apparel as I could. I’ve always been interested in product development and how products are conceived, and the process of them going from the drawing board to the retail floor. On the business side, supply chain and marketing are probably where you’re closest to the product, so that’s what drew me to study supply chain.

How has the university helped to further your interests in sportswear and biomechanics?

I think a lot of it is talking to profs and learning about their research, that’s how I ended up doing my honours project with Dr. Darren Stefanyshyn. He does a lot of work with Adidas, TaylorMade and other big sporting goods companies, and that’s what drew me to that realm. I knew I wanted to do an honours project and I knew I wanted to do it in biomechanics in the Faculty of Kinesiology, but I knew with a combined degree I couldn’t do the actual biomechanics stream. I still wanted to get my feet wet and work on a project. I reached out a couple of times and, when I had a class with Dr. Stefanyshyn, he was open to working together. 

What was the honours project about?

Our project was looking at the effect of increased stiffness on the ankle and resulting jump height. It gave me an insight into how the scientific method works in reality and how you can take an idea from the drawing board to the real world and test it. I ended up developing a prototype to augment ankle stiffness, so I found a knee brace from Amazon and flipped it around and placed it on the front of the ankle. I then added some heat-moulded plastic inserts to further increase stiffness. It looked a bit messy, but it got the job done.

What was the outcome of the project?

Our hypothesis was that increased stiffness would increase jump height, but we actually ended up seeing decreased jump height. However, I gained a lot of interesting insights during the project. In developing the prototype, I enjoyed trying out different solutions to make it work, and I learned a lot about dealing with failures and working around them while keeping the end goal in mind. It taught me a lot about product-development phases, for sure. Just having developed a prototype and seeing the subjects use it was really cool.

What’s next for you?

Right now, I’m working at a company called Sport Product Testing that works out of the Canadian Sport Institute at Canada Olympic Park. I’m doing similar stuff to what I’m interested in. We do a lot of product testing for companies like Under Armour and Lululemon, so that’s where I’ll be for the summer. After that, I’m still figuring it out. The dream would be to work in merchandising or product development for sportswear and technical apparel.

Entrepreneurial UCalgary grads make an impact in business, health care, culture, law, education and more. Read more stories about Class of 2022 students.