If you’re a young man who has dreamed of fame, fortune and stardom as an elite athlete, you’re not alone. But for every young man who reaches the pinnacle of athletic achievement and makes a career for himself as an athlete, there are thousands of other young men who didn’t make the cut. Maybe they were injured at a crucial time in their careers; maybe they were cut down by the birthday effect; maybe they didn’t get the opportunities they needed to succeed, or hey, maybe they just weren’t very good at sports. But while any one of those things could mean you’re not cut out for a career as an athlete, none of them has to mean you’re not destined for a career in sports.
Why? Well, professional sports is an industry that’s set to reach a value of $73.5 billion in North America alone by 2019, thanks to media rights deals, gate revenues, and other sources of income. The sports industry isn’t just about the athletes. It’s also about the agents, advertisers, managers, marketers, recruiters, corporate partnership managers, facility operators, event coordinators and others who work hard to make sporting events the cultural phenomenon they are.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the sports and entertainment field will grow by about 10 percent by 2026, a faster-than-average rate of growth. And even if you’re not blessed with natural athletic ability, you can use your other skills to make your dream of a career in sports come true. The sports industry needs professionals who are skilled in finance and economics, communications, operations, marketing and relationship management. Here’s how to get your piece of the pie.
Choose a Career Path
Want to work with, or in proximity to, athletes? Looking to build a career in a field you love? There are plenty of career paths in the sports industry that you can choose from, depending on where your strengths lie and what you’re looking for in a career.
For example, if you have strong communications skills, a career in sports reporting, sports public relations or sports marketing might be right for you. Many men who played a sport in college, but didn’t have the athletic prowess to go pro, become umpires or referees – the job requires someone who is physically fit and has a quick eye and strong decision-making skills, in addition to knowing a lot about the sport in question. Some other career paths you might be interested in include:
- Sports statistician or data analyst
- Scout or recruiter
- Sports psychologist
- Sports doctor
- Grounds staff
- Social media manager
- General manager
- Event planner
- Facility operations manager
- Performance director
- Corporate partnership manager
Obviously, these positions will require different levels of training. While you might be able to become a sports reporter or broadcast journalist with just a bachelor’s degree in journalism, you’re going to need to go to medical school to become a team doctor. Some positions may require you to play sports at the collegiate or professional level for some amount of time. Research what each position does and what the requirements are for the job, and then figure out which positions play to your strengths and what training you’ll need to qualify for them.
Get the Right Education
To build a career in sports as a non-athlete, you first need to get the right education. A degree in sports management will prepare you for many career paths in the industry. However, you may need to earn a bachelor’s degree in one field, such as communications, fitness management or sports psychology, and then go on to get a master’s in sports management. Online sports management master’s programs make it easy to earn your master’s degree in sports management while working your way up the ladder towards your dream job.
Land Your First Job
As with most career paths, you’re unlikely to land your glamorous dream job right out of school. As in any other field, you’ll have to work your way up from the bottom. You’ll need to pay your dues before you can land a coveted job as general manager of your favorite professional sports team. Set your sights on working for local minor league teams or collegiate teams first. Even youth and high school sports teams need coaches, trainers and other staff.
The good news is that there are ample jobs available in the sports industry right now. Put together a resume that showcases your time management and communication skills, creativity, attention to detail and other skills you’ve acquired during your education, training and internships. Be respectful of the time of hiring managers when applying to jobs; do enough research on each position to be sure you’re actually interested in taking it before applying. You don’t want to burn any bridges or make any enemies this early in your career. The sports industry is a small one, and you don’t want to alienate anyone by making them feel strung along. Talk to colleagues, contacts and recruiters for more information about each position before you apply.
Once you start getting interviews, remember, giving a successful interview is about showing who you are as a person and how you’ll mesh with the organization to which you’re applying. If you’ve been called in for an interview, the hiring manager already knows you have the necessary skills; now, they want to see if you’ll be a good match for the company and the position. The best way to show yourself as a good match for a position is to do research on the organization – lots of it.
You want to be able to discuss how their ongoing projects match your past experiences or align with your future goals. You want to show how your skills match up with the company’s goals and how their areas of projected growth will take you in the direction you want to go. You want to present yourself as someone who fits into their culture and replicates the voice of their brand. You want to present yourself as knowledgeable about their clients, their projects, what current staff says about working there and, of course, the background of the person who will be your supervisor.
With adequate research about the company under your belt, try to keep your nerves in check and be yourself. The more relaxed and confident you are, the more you’ll come across as someone worth hiring. Remember, the hiring manager is likely feeling just as drained by the interview process as you are. It’s not you against them; they’re hoping you’ll be a fit for the position, too! Keep that in mind and try to remember that the people interviewing you are also human beings.
If you’ve dreamed of a career in sports ever since you were a little boy, there’s hope for you yet – even if you don’t have the prowess to claw your way to the upper echelons of the athletic elite. You’ll find that there are plenty of career paths in the sports industry that allow you to play to your strengths – whatever they are. You, too, can enjoy a lucrative and fulfilling career in sports, even if you never score a single point.