Sports Career Preparation Starts in School
Extracurricular activities can help you break into the industry
A career in sports can be an option for people with several different types of backgrounds, even those who are not athletes. Regardless of the pathway into a sports career, strong education and experience through internships and part-time jobs will be necessary.
Some colleges and universities offer sports management programs, but your undergraduate studies don't need to be so specific to a sports career. Sports teams and leagues need business and finance professionals who can help manage operations. Marketing and public relations professionals are necessary to generate interest, and trainers and physical therapists are needed to keep athletes healthy and in top condition. Even a law degree can lead to a career as an agent representing athletes or as counsel to franchises and leagues.
Some careers involve working directly for sports teams, while others involve working for separate businesses that also support athletes or teams. For example, a physical therapy clinic might specialize in working with athletes and see players from professional, college, or high school teams in the area. Journalists are likely to work for local news organizations that cover sports teams.
Many students interested in sports careers play sports at the high school and college levels. Obviously, on-the-field experience can be valuable preparation for future coaches, athletic trainers, athletic directors, and others. In fact, the teamwork learned in playing sports and the commitment required can help a person advance in many careers.
But if you’re not athletically inclined, there are still plenty of opportunities. Like other departments on campus, the athletic department often has part-time jobs available for students. Even if it's just a job answering phones, it still is an opportunity to gain experience and establish connections in the field where you want to work.
The sports information department typically needs students to assist in tracking statistics and writing news releases. The school paper may need a sports reporter. Consider any department on campus that interacts with athletics, and there likely are opportunities available.
If you’re still in high school, ask a teacher, coach, or counselor about opportunities that are available.
Extracurricular experiences will help you learn more about your own strengths, likes and dislikes, and motivations. In many ways, they are perhaps as important as your schooling.
Internships and Part-Time Jobs
Many sports management programs will help connect students to excellent internship opportunities. Students majoring in something other than sports management still can find sports-related internships with help from advisers or counselors. A school's athletic department or sports information department might offer internships for a variety of positions. Professional sports teams and semi-professional sports teams also offer internships, as do businesses affiliated with the sports industry.
Unlike internships, jobs will not get you college credit, but they can provide you with experience. Professional sports teams often need part-time or seasonal help, and school athletic and sports information departments hire students part-time even if internships are not available.
Whether they be jobs or internships, opportunities can be found directly through employers or through dedicated job search sites like TeamworkOnline.com.
While not all sports-related jobs involve participating as an athlete, it is a good foundation to have and an excellent way to get a foot in the door. Pretty much any job related to coaching or scouting is only realistically available to someone with experience playing the sport. Even jobs that don't require direct experience as an athlete will be easier to get if you have the athletic experience to be able to relate on some level to those at the center of your chosen profession.
This does not mean you need to be a highly skilled or highly successful athlete. A benchwarmer with a reputation for working hard in practices often exhibits the kinds of traits employers in any profession will value. And the recommendations you can get from a coach who appreciates your work ethic despite a lack of playing time can be the thing that gets you a foot in the door for a job or internship.
Not just for athletes
Many career paths—finance, law, marketing, health care, and more—support the business of sports.
School athletic and sports information departments commonly hire students.
Professional sports teams and leagues offer internships in a variety of areas.