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How to Start Your Career in the Sports Industry

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By Brian Freeland
Program Director, Sports and Health Sciences & Sports Management at APU

The sports industry continues to be one of the largest growing industries, even in today’s economy. However, a common term used to describe breaking into the industry is “challenging.” Even though sites like teamworkonline.com and ncaa.org advertise hundreds (even thousands) of jobs, there is the perception that a career in sports is tough to come by. Although that may be somewhat true, future sport managers must understand how to leverage their skillsets, abilities, and networking opportunities to propel them into the sports industry.

[related: How to Find a Job in the Growing Sports Industry]

Bring your passion to the game

People who are truly passionate about sports and working in sports as their career understand what it takes to meet challenges head on and they develop a game plan that often includes these best practices:

  • Gaining experience anywhere they can
  • Networking with sports enthusiasts and industry officials
  • Volunteering
  • Shadowing
  • Continuous learning

Whether you are able to volunteer once a month or three times a week, the sports industry is full of organizations and leagues needing assistance. Most major cities also have local sports commissions which need volunteers to assist with event management, game day operations, organizational planning, and facility management. Volunteering as a sport manager will likely lead you to effective networking opportunities where current mangers and leaders in sports are able to recognize and appreciate your hard work, talents, and skills. It also positions someone to potentially become an advocate, mentor, and key reference for you as you continue to look for your big break. Other avenues for networking include joining local or national sports clubs and professional organizations. Be sure to take advantage of attending seminars, workshops, and conferences. Many professional organizations are in need of student volunteers.

Highlight your skills

Remember that when you’re gaining work experience that you demonstrate your skillsets, attributes, and ability to accomplish the key tasks that will make you viable to the sports industry. Functional skills such as sales, marketing, operations, human resources, marketing, community development, and communications are all essential for sport managers. Sport managers should also demonstrate responsibility, quality oral and written communication skills, good decision making, innovative and critical thinking, organization, and effective planning skills. Demonstrating these highly desired attributes may give you an edge.

Always be a student of the game

Knowledge is a valuable quality. A college degree in sports management gives managers the opportunity to further advance their knowledge in teaching skill development, motivating athletes, and providing strong leadership.  Today, many athletic administration positions require a specific degree as a condition for employment. Sports management positions have become highly specialized, complex, and even more regulated—so it’s important that sports managers take advantage of every resource available to prepare them to meet these challenges, including higher education.

[Learn more about online sports management degree and certificate options.] 

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