It takes much more than star athletes to make a sports franchise successful. Behind every win on the field, there’s a team of skilled sports management professionals keeping the organization’s basic operations moving, coordinating game day events, promoting ticket sales, supporting athletes, and filling a wide variety of other critical roles.
It’s no surprise that working in sports management as one of these “behind the scenes” leaders is a dream job for so many. Our connection to athletics runs deep, rooted in our love for the tension and drama of competition. Sports inspires immense passion, not just in aspiring athletes, but in the fans and audiences that follow their favorite team. To be a part of that in any capacity is wildly exciting, and can set the stage for some unique professional opportunities.
And best of all – it’s a dream that’s well within reach for those with the right set of skills and a bit of focus.
1. Find the area of sports management that interests you most
Sports management is a diverse field, encompassing everything from communications to overseeing maintenance of athletic facilities. Picture the many different skill-sets required to keep a large business running effectively. Running a professional, minor league, or collegiate team demands equally varied perspectives – sometimes even in familiar functional areas like finance or PR. With so many different ways to be a part of a sports organization, it’s helpful to know which specific role you’d like to serve as you start your search.
If you’re already working in a field like marketing or accounting – something with a skill-set that only requires some additional, specialized expertise to be relevant to sports management – then your choice of focus might be a pretty simple one. If you’re still getting started in your career, now’s the perfect time to start figuring out where you’d like to end up in the athletics industry. That means research, job shadowing, internships, and whatever else it takes to get a sense for daily life in sports management and find what works best for you.
2. Follow a franchise you admire closely
In any industry, when you’re looking to move into a new field or secure a new position, focusing in on a particular employer you’d like to work with can help you refine your job search. This is true in sports management as well. The more ways you can get to know your preferred organization and get involved with them, the better. Beyond that, you can learn a great deal about the industry by just watching what teams do effectively.
Does your favorite team do a particularly good job engaging with users on social media? Maybe their merchandising is strong, or the fan experience at their games is especially compelling. Look for impressive projects that you might like to get involved in and start thinking about how you could make a contribution, or what skills you need to develop to get there. Having that kind of guiding interest behind your job search can serve as a great motivator, and as a way of further determining what you’d like your role to be.
3. Network whenever possible
Even if you’re not currently working in sports management, there are a few great ways to make connections with leaders in the field. Programs like Sports Management World Wide conferences provide a useful venue to hear from and possibly interact with sports executives, taking place during major, active sporting events. The Sports Industry Networking and Career Conference is specifically tailored to aspiring sports professionals, even offering on-site interviews.
That said, conferences often require a somewhat substantial financial investment to attend, which may or may not make them a valuable use of your time and resources. Don’t underestimate what you can accomplish by just finding a team you admire, figuring out who their lead is for the work you’d like to be doing, and reaching out to them via email or Linkedin. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” is the motto of good networking — and that’s a free, quick step you can take towards meeting someone in the field.
4. Pursue an internship
An internship is certainly a great idea for students in college interested in pursuing sports management when they graduate. Job shadowing and hands-on experience can prove valuable not just as resume items, but also as helping shape your job search as you determine what you’d like to do in the field.
It isn’t just younger workers that benefit from internships. Recently, older professionals have found value in the on-the-job experience offered by internships, and some companies are taking notice. Whether this trend will continue into the world of athletics has yet to be seen, but don’t rule out the possibility of an internship just because your days in the dorm are over. They can provide a valuable trial period for professionals and employers, and if you can find one to pay a competitive salary, all the better.
5. Explore further education and training
While you may have a useful, existing skill-set, honing your abilities and specializing in sports management can be a powerful tool in your job search. It may seem like a major investment to make, but earning a master’s in sports management can help set you apart from other job candidates and give you a definite edge as you transition into the field. It also sets the stage nicely for career growth, giving you the opportunity to potentially move into leadership more quickly. A program offered by a school with a major collegiate athletics program can provide incredible connections to faculty and exciting opportunities as well, which can be immensely valuable.
With a wide variety of options available, it’s important to choose a program that works for you and your schedule. If your schedule doesn’t allow for time in the classroom, online programs have come a long way, and may even help you connect with future leaders that you wouldn’t have otherwise met.