Not everyone who loves sports is able to play professionally, which is evidenced by the millions of rabid fans who keep teams going, even when a team is on a losing streak. Many people are fans because they once played the game themselves. But you can become more than a fan. As the world of sports continues growing, so does the world of sports-related careers.
Getting Started in a Sports Career
First, evaluate your strengths. Your strong points will determine what track you should take in the education process. This is very similar to the way an athlete, as they reach the high school and collegiate levels of competition, trains to specialize in a single position. By the time you graduate from high school, you’ll know you’re better at math, English, or science. Your SAT, ACT, and FAFSA will help you determine your strengths.
Next, keep going to a ton of games, read books, read newspaper articles, and watch games on TV. If you don’t already go to a ton of games, start. The best way you can educate yourself is through immersion. Become a constant, astute observer of what’s happening on and off the field. Talk to the people who are involved and ask them questions. You’re preparing yourself to be involved.
Now that you’ve thought about what you’re best at, write it down, and write a brief paragraph about how you can apply it to the world of sports. Affirm yourself. You may not know exactly how your strengths apply to sports—that’s good. You’re not limiting yourself. You’re beginning to think in a manner that will be valuable as you progress. Next, it’s time to narrow it down.
A Sports Education
You’ll be surprised how many jobs there are revolving around sports. A degree in sport management prepares you for a wide variety of careers, including:
- Facility director: Not just stadiums, but all manner of sports facilities need someone who is good with organization and logistics and knows how to manage operations
- Broadcaster: Sports broadcasting includes a wide variety of positions, including video production assistant, producer, communications assistant, and commentator
- Agent: As an agent you’ll work hand-in-hand with players to help them optimize their careers; the top agency of 2016 earned $132 million in commissions
- Program director: At all levels, including youth, college, and pro, program directors lead and ensure sporting programs are successful
- Journalist: Online and hard-copy, journalists are essential for the reading public, and programs depend on them to get the word out about games
- Coach: Particularly in the professional arena, coaching staffs are large and encompass a wide variety of specialists
As you continue making your way upward in a sport management program, you’ll gravitate toward a specialty. There are different tracks you can take, such as marketing, communications and media relations, law and athletic compliance, as well as athletic administration. This is your chance to apply your strengths. This is also your chance to gain some valuable experience.
Nothing will prepare you more than some form of involvement with your school’s athletic program. Find out about volunteer opportunities, get to know athletes, coaches, admins—any networking you do will be valuable in the future. And look for opportunities in the community. Many youth programs that aren’t school administered need volunteers to handle every aspect of the program.
Not sure what track you want to follow toward a career in sports? Want to be as close to the action as possible? For many of us who can’t pursue a career as a player, coaching is the next best thing.
The Coaching Path
The idea of coaching seems incredibly daunting—you’re responsible for imparting values, leading a team, and shaping lives. But in that respect, it’s rewarding. As a coach, you develop the type of character that can only come from empowering others to do their absolute best. On your way to becoming a coach, you learn what it means to persevere.
Keep at it, and the search for a coaching job will help build your own character. The steps toward landing a coaching job at the college level are a lot like the steps toward getting any good job:
- Think ahead: Learn from your mistakes in the job hunt and apply what you learn to your next move
- Be flexible: If something’s not working—your resume isn’t getting any bites, your interviews are flat—change it
- Keep learning: As you search for a coaching job, continue updating what you know about the profession
- Network: Meet coaches everywhere you can, attend clinics, camps, meetups, and seminars
Being flexible may very well mean being willing to relocate. It can also mean starting at a lower level than you’d like. Great pro players had great coaches when they were young. Everyone works as a team to nurture athletes on their way to big careers. Starting at a lower level is also a way to keep learning. By the time you’re done coaching young athletes, you’ll know more about the fundamentals of the game than ever before.
And finally, perhaps nothing is more important than networking when it comes to landing a big coaching job. Engage with other coaches and bond around your love of the game. Get references and show the coaching community you have character. In the end, a career in sports is a career working with people. The more you connect with people who are involved, the better prepared you are to win.