6 Ways High School Students Can Prepare for Careers in Sports

It Is Never Too Early to Start!

••• Rich Campbell

Each summer, I work Freshmen Orientations on my college campus.  It is an interesting experience,  to interact with high school seniors and their parents, which are not groups I meet with regularly.  In my role as Marketing Professor all of my in semester contact is with students who are either upper division or in the school's MBA programs. .

When I mentioned that I'm the advisor for the Sports Business Club on campus, several parents volunteered that their child is passionate about sports and asked what should their son/daughter be doing if interested in potentially pursuing a career in sports business.

I've even been asked this question by parents of kids as young as twelve.  Each year when I attend the Sloan Sports Conference there is a small army of high school kids (and younger) aspiring to break into the sports industry.

This combination of observations inspired this look at how high school students can prepare for sports careers:

Play on Sports Teams This one was so obvious, it almost did not make the cut.  But the important point is to leverage your athletic experiences by staying in contact with coaches and other leaders that may be able to boost your career later.

Plus you will learn all about winning, losing, teamwork, overcoming adversity, the value of practice habits and lots of other life lessons that will inform your professional career.

Be a Student Manager Not every kid who wants to play high school sports has the ability to make the team.  But playing is not the only way to use high school experience to launch a sports career.  As a personal example, my brother was a student manager in high school and was able to parlay that experience into a student manager role in college.

While he did not choose to pursue a career in sports, his fellow managers from his college years are now a Division II basketball coach, an NBA assistant coach and USA Basketball's Men's National Team Director.  An impressive list of accomplishments for starting as college student managers.

Become a "Fan" of Sports Business, Not Just Sports  My interview with Lou Imbriano emphasized this idea. If a career in sports is a goal, it is helpful to move beyond rooting for teams and to start "studying" the business of sports.  Many media outlets present information on the business elements of sports.  As an example,  ESPN Sports Business reporter Darren Rovell writes regularly about the business aspects of sports.

Volunteer Volunteering is a great way to gain experience - and many high schools require community service hours for graduation.  So why not use this opportunity to coach kids or organize a fundraiser or volunteer at a community sports event like a 10K?  Working in this role can be a valuable experience for high schoolers, as they get to engage in activities that may mirror their career aspirations of working in sports.  And when it is time to apply for that first job, they will already have some industry experience.

Get a Job It does not have to be in sports, but the process of applying, interviewing and starting a job teaches lots of life lessons.  Jobs in retail, customer service or sales can be good starting points for developing skills that are valued by employers in the highly competitive sports jobs market place.

Become a Referee or Umpire Officiating sports is a positive on any student's resume. An umpire or referee is viewed as a leadership position - after all officials "run " the game.   Whether it is a volunteer or paid position really does not matter, just focus on gaining experience.  Work hard at the craft of officiating and try to move up the ladder to higher level leagues as you gain experience.  Another bonus is that when you get to college you can put your skills to use as an official at your university's intramural sports program.

Each of these suggested activities will give a high school student valuable experience and an opportunity to leverage that experience when they land on a college campus.