Use your passion for sports to prepare for a career in the field by taking advantage of a variety of ways to gain important skills and knowledge. Opportunities are numerous for high school students who know where to look and how to employ the right strategy. By participating in the right activities in school and in the community, you can gain valuable experience for when you land on a college campus. Six activities all present pathways to careers in sports, so position yourself for success by involving yourself in as many of them as possible.
1. Play on Sports Teams
Leverage your athletic experiences by joining a team and staying in contact with coaches and other leaders who 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 many other life lessons that will inform your professional career.
Even if you are pursuing a career in an area such as sports marketing, you'll have a better chance for success if you have your own experiences as an athlete to draw from.
If your true passion is coaching or scouting, advance as far as you can as an athlete. Coaches and scouts are almost exclusively always former players—especially at the highest levels.
2. Be a Student Manager
Not every student who wants to play high school sports has the ability to make a team, but there are other ways to launch a sports career. A student manager in high school can gain valuable knowledge and experience and possibly parlay that into a student manager role in college or another sports-related opportunity.
Regardless of the type of sports career you pursue, the experience you gain working with and supporting athletes and coaches provides you with industry knowledge and experience to help you get a foot in the door.
3. Follow the Business
Move beyond rooting for teams to start studying the business of sports. Being knowledgeable about a particular sport or sports, in general, is about more than being able to recite statistics or break down game film. Teach yourself about contracts, salary caps, and collective bargaining agreements involves players' associations and team owners.
High-profile elements of the business of sports are regularly covered by major news organizations such as ESPN but dig deeper to learn how minor league franchises generate revenue and make themselves a part of their local communities. The more business knowledge you possess, the more impressive you'll be when you get an interview.
Many high schools require community service hours for graduation, so use the opportunity to coach kids, organize a fundraiser for a team or league, or volunteer at a community sports event like a 10K run. These activities mirror much of the work that is involved in sports-related careers and provide valuable industry experience for when it is time to apply for that first job.
Entry-level jobs in sports often involve college teams or minor league teams in small communities where budgets are tight. Strategies volunteers use to generate revenue and draw interest serve as good starting points for these lower-level jobs.
5. Connect Other Careers
A job in sports does not have to be connected directly to a sports team. Almost any field connects to the sports industry, so apply your knowledge and experience in another area to your passion for sports.
Professional sports teams or leagues and college or university athletic departments all need professionals to run business operations or conduct marketing initiatives. You could work for an independent marketing firm, for example, that caters to sports franchises.
Medical students can specialize in sports medicine and work directly for teams or work independently to treat or consult with teams or athletes. Physical therapists operate similarly.
Sports agencies hire lawyers, and many agents also have their law degrees. Teams also regularly hire lawyers to handle contract details. Careers in print or broadcast journalism put reporters and photographers close to action covering sports.
Umpires and referees are viewed as leadership positions and always look good on a resume. Officials run the game, have to make quick decisions under pressure, and need the people skills to navigate disagreements with coaches or players. 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.
Those who find they have a knack for calling games even can pursue careers as officials by training to work college or professional games.