Dreaming of a Sports Career? Better Master These Skills

sports career jobs in sports

It takes more than being a sports fan to have a sports career – or else you’d have a lot of competition

Job seekers are on a quest for the magic bullet – the only problem is, it doesn’t exist.

There is no one answer or one skill or one major that will guarantee you a sports career. OK, I take that back, Tom Bradys skill set will always get him a job, but for the rest of us not blessed with contract-worthy athletic prowess, there is a much different path to employment.

WorkinSports.com was a sponsoring partner of the Sports Industry Networking and Career (SINC) conference in Washington D.C. and I was amazed by how many young, eager people came to our booth expecting a simple answer for launching their sports career.

It’s not simple. If it was simple, every sports fan would work in sports. But they don’t.

Dreaming of a Sports Career? Better Master These Skills #sportsbiz Click To Tweet

During one early morning panel on the “State of the Sports Industry” three executives from Monumental Sports & Entertainment – the ownership group of the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics – discussed the skills they look for when hiring staff.

Their answers are no magic bullet, but help outline a plan you can follow and an attitude you can nurture within yourself.

1: Entrepreneurial Spirit:

“We all want to hire people with an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Kurt Kehl SVP, Corporate Communications/Chief Communications Officer, Monumental Sports & Entertainment. “As a business we are all always changing, adapting and looking for new ideas. What are the ideas? Where is the entrepreneurialism that you can bring to our organization, our meetings and our thought process that really makes you a much more valuable employee?”

Master this skill: A mentor of mine once told me, ‘We all have good ideas, the difference is some of us know how to develop them and present them, while others lack the confidence and preparation to make an idea seem possible.’

sports career requires communication skills

“Know this, all of us are going to make a judgement on you based on how well you communicate,” Kurt Kehl, SVP Corporate Communications & Chief Communications Officer Monumental Sports & Entertainment

This advice has stuck with me, primarily because early in my sports career my ideas intimidated me. I self-censored, afraid no one would want to listen to an intern or entry-level employee.

Over time, I gained more confidence, learned how to present an idea properly, and watched the respect of my superiors and peers grow.

How do you convey this skill on a resume?: Draw from the groups or activities you contributed to in college. If you worked at the radio or TV station, mention a program you developed, or a sales technique you mastered. If you interned in sports marketing, be specific about how you impacted a campaign you were part of.

Don’t just list your accomplishments, present what you did that was unique and helped refine a project or assignment.

2: Communicator

“You have to be a strong communicator especially on the verbal and written side,” concludes Jim Van Stone, Chief Revenue Officer of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. “A lot of our business and a lot of our lead generation  are developed through email marketing opportunities – we have a lot of customers that don’t want to talk to us anymore, but they would like to receive an email and clearly understand what the buying opportunity is. Written and verbal communication skills are vital for us.”

“You have to communicate to us when you want a job,” adds Kehl. “Your first communication may be a cover letter, it may be an email, it may be some other method but know this, all of us are going to make a judgement on you based on how you communicate. The skill of communicating is very important.”

Master this Skill: Write daily. It’s that simple, the more you write the better you get. It’s a muscle that needs to be worked out.

Once you write something, let it sit for a few hours and then return to it and analyze it.  I tweak like crazy – changing words and/or entire phrases – and each time I edit my own work I feel like I become stronger as a writer.

Write daily. It's the only way you'll become a better communicator in the workplace Click To Tweet

Take public speaking classes in college.

Get over your fears because the necessity to speak in front of groups isn’t going away after college, it will only grow. If you want to advance in any career you have to be able to speak well in a group.

How do you convey this skill on a resume?: As Kehl mentions, your first impression is lasting, so take the time to customize each resume and cover letter to the specific employer you are reaching out to. Sports executives are savvy, they can tell when all you did was [insert employer name] on a cover letter.

Make each one special and unique, targeted towards that specific employer and you will show an ability to communicate.

3: Versatility:

“I think the broader skill set you can have the better that will be for you,” says Joe Dupriest, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer, Monumental Sports and Entertainment. “You have to understand the impact of everything you do, because in your sports career you are going to cross over into every single area of the business.”

Most of my team have never sold anything, but you have to understand the sales process and how revenue is generated and how sponsorship fits in. Even on the creative, graphics design side you need to understand the sales process because your design is about assisting sales and driving revenue, it’s not just about creating a pretty piece. Understanding the short and long term goals of the business helps you do your job better.”

“The more you can understand what everyone else does and how it relates to the business, the better off your sports career will be.”

Master this Skill: Be open to everything and take a wide range of classes. Of course, you need to have focus and a goal, you don’t want to become the master of none, but every course you take in college should have a purpose.

I remember taking a History of Civil Rights course as an elective. I took it because I thought the subject matter was interesting and it was…but it did nothing to help me in my career. I would have been better off taking a marketing or economics or statistics class.

Also, get involved in as many groups as you can that are relevant to the sports industry or business. Don’t confine yourself to the campus sports radio station, get involved in the marketing club, the stats geek club and others.

How do I convey this skill on my resume?: Versatility is harder to get across in a resume, but you can emphasize your various skill set in a cover letter. Make sure it comes across that you are fascinated by all aspects of the sports industry, that you involved yourself in numerous groups and classes to gain experience in many realms.

You can still get across that your true passion is in sports marketing, but make sure to show that isn’t your only skill.

4: Adaptable:

“You have to be adaptable,” says Kehl. “We have jobs that weren’t even professions a few years ago – you are going to have to adapt to a new skill, a new business unit, a new co-worker, a new manager you are going to need to adapt.

“All of us want to work with people that are able to adapt to new surroundings.”sports career adaptability

Master this skill: Adaptability is more of a personality trait or a state of mind, which means it’s totally up to you.

Are you the blaming type, whose immediate reaction when something changes or goes wrong is to huddle around the water cooler and complain to others? You will be labeled and minimized. You aren’t as subtle as you think you are, managers and executives notice.

If you have a ‘bring it on’ attitude, you will find more success and more happiness than the person who sees change as a personal attack.

How do I convey this skill on a resume?: Adaptability is a skill made for inclusion on your cover letter or any email communication. Demonstrate that you are current on sports industry trends and then connect it back to you.

We all want to work with people that are able to adapt to new surroundings #sportsbiz Click To Tweet

For example, you could mention how early in your college career you read the book Moneyball, believed the future was in sports analytics so decided to take additional classes in statistics.

That not only shows adaptability, it shows foresight and a plan, which is impressive to employers.

5: Leader

“You have to be a leader,” says Kehl. “There are leaders throughout the entire organization, not just with a high title, every one of us have different leaders within our groups. They may have the title of manager or even coordinator but in many ways, on a game night or at a corporate event, they are leading for us. So you have to have those leadership traits to be a valuable employee.”

Master this skill: Some people have natural leadership skills, and others have to work at it. Whether it is natural or not, the best way to improve leaderships skill is by watching great leaders in action.

Being a leader is not synonymous with being the loudest voice in the room Click To Tweet

Pay attention to Peyton Manning on the sidelines during a game, see how he interacts with his teammates and listen to him during press conferences.

Get out of the sports world and observe the President, watch videos of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs. Search TED talks on leadership.

The information is out there, you just have to process it.

And don’t interpret leadership as being the loudest voice in the room, that’s not necessarily a leadership quality (see: Incognito, Richie). There are plenty of quiet leaders, who understand there is a right moment to be heard.

How do I convey this skill on my resume?: Get involved. The more activities that you can be a part of – clubs, teams, charities – the more it shows you have a propensity to lead and take action.

What are your biggest roadblocks to getting hired? Have you struggled mastering any of these skills? Add your sports career thoughts to the comments below and we will answer!

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

And if you want to know where our privacy policy is before you submit your comments below, it's right here.

Comments

  1. William Thompson says:

    Want to ref pro football game

    • William, I responded to this comment on the other article page you posted it on… go check it out! I shared some good links that will help you get started. – Brian

  2. Ryan Whelan says:

    Great article, especially relevant to where I am in my career. I have been selected to be a participant of the Manhattan Sports Business Academy (www.gomsba.com). Amongst other things, the program sets you up with an internship based on your skill set and interests. I will take the tips given in this article to make a big impact during my internship and networking opportunities in the year ahead.

  3. Tyler Warriner says:

    Hello, Brian. My name is Tyler Warriner and I am very interested in working in the sports industry. However, I am not the strongest student. I am currently a senior in high school and will be graduating in roughly a month. I want to get an early step on an opportunity and thought you would be a good person to ask. Any advice on sports management/marketing, or becoming a scout/coach of some sort? Any advice would be much appreciated. You can also email me at twarriner8@gmail.com

    • Tyler – my advice, start reading our blog. We have over 100 articles covering just about every angle of the sports industry. To answer your question more specifically, becoming a scout/coach is a pretty long hard road. To start making a name for yourself, volunteer at a small local college athletics department, network with coaches, talk about scouting with them, learn the ins and out of the sport. Learn video editing, many coaches and scouts started out in the video department – research scouting software companies and get familiar with their tools (like xosdigital.com)..as for sports managment and marketing – here’s a post you should read: http://www.workinsports.com/blog/why-a-sports-management-degree-will-separate-you-from-the-competition/

      All the best, Brian

  4. Hello Brian,

    This was a very insightful article. A lot of good tools for success in here. I have read several of your articles and like many people out there, I too would like to break into the world of sports.. I received a bachelors degree in History from Florida State University in 2008. I worked at a law firm for about 2 years as a paralegal. However, the last 2 years I have played online poker professionally. I presently have done a lot of traveling with this career and it has enabled me to see a lot of fascinating places and things. However, my true love is sports. It always has been and always will be. I am a hard worker and when I set my mind to something I go into “tunnel vision” mode.

    This leads me to my question to you. I am starting a blog. It is in the very early stages and I only have a few posts. I wanted to explain my game plan to you and see if you think it is a plausible way to land a job as a beat writer/ blogger type thing for a radio show, newspaper, sports team etc..

    Once I get 100-150 posts under my belt (20-25 a month) I am hoping this will act as a good “bump” to my resume. This is when I plan on applying for jobs. My question is this; is a blog with a good following something that will give me an edge on the competition?

    One thing that I have under my belt is that I am willing to go anywhere for a job. I plan on using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, discussion boards… basically as many tools as I can to get it out there. I recently befriended you on LinkedIn as well. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated sir.

    Thanks for your time,

    Sincerely,

    Mike (www.sportsinyourface.com)

    • Michael – I’ll give you a quick story. I worked for 13 years in sports television at both CNN/Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports, I left that career slightly burnt out and looking for change. I started my own blog and it took a few years, but it gained hold of a pretty good sized audience. Larger publications too noticed and I started getting some really good job offers. I decided to accept my current job as director of content for WorkinSports and WorkinEntertainment and have had a blast ever since. I write, I host videos, I engage with fans – it’s great, best job I’e ever had and it’s because of my blog.

      Now the real advice: Have a niche. Nobody cares about your sports opinion, you aren’t Rick Reilly or Bill Simmons, and before you tell me you want to be the next Bill Simmons I will tell you he started when there weren’t many other blogs…now there are millions of people espousing their sports opinions. You will get lost in that sea. Find your angle and lean into it. Don’t write quantity, write quality. And write daily. it’s a muscles that needs to be worked out. Respond and engage with everyone. I answer every comment, every tweet, every linkedin and it matters.

      Oh and keep reading what I write, I always need more of an audience!

      Brian

  5. Deb Temple says:

    Hello Brian,
    I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn. I can not request a connection without an email address. Is there another way?
    Thanks,
    Deb

    • Hey Deb – glad to connect with you on LinkedIn I actually think the email I use for linkedin is from an old site I used to run, try brian at sportstvjobs.com if that doesn’t work bclapp at workinsports.com should do it. – Brian

  6. Sabina Eschmann says:

    Hello Brian
    thumbs up for this article.
    just to quickly explain: i am a german living in Austria since 12 years, have a dregree in Sportsmanagement and worked with 2 semi professional Soccer Clubs here…but it was a wasted time…cause in this part of Austria People are so conservative and stubborn….they say they want to Change everything…but in the end…no Chance.
    For a while i was a bit( or more 😉 ) frustrated but in the end i told myself: it can`t get worth…cause in this past years i learned a lot and in the end..after reflecting everything I came to the decission: I want to work and live where Sport is a professional industry and where my knowledge, my abilities,….and my skills are wanted and needed….so: i set up a plan for myself and my Little Family( my 3 Kids)…and the plan is to move direction USA/Canada mid of next year. Until then i have to find an employer that assists me with the work Permit ;-)…but know what: I know I will …cause I want 🙂
    Hope to read more of your wise words 🙂
    Sabina

  7. Hey there!

    Great post and thanks for the insights! I have a potential opportunity in the next few months to join a new collegiate summer baseball team that’s starting up next year. The problem is, I want to come up with one of those ‘great ideas’ to spark some special interest in the VP to lean towards hiring me – I just have no idea where to start. I’m gearing toward the marketing end of things (based on my education & previous work), but without sports experience, I’m not sure where to start with this. We’ve chatted on the phone, and he’s offered for me to send him any ideas/advice in the meantime… Thoughts? Thanks for your help.

    • Jenny – don’t get hung up on the fact you don’t have prior sports experience – sports are a business so they function the same way as any Fortune 500 company would…great ideas work in any industry! – Brian

  8. Very good blog post. I certainly appreciate this website.
    Continue the good work!

  9. Hey Brian,
    I am from India and have been working in areas unrelated to sports. I have been a Marine Engineer for over two years and now run my own charitable organisation. Though I enjoy my work, I have always had a strong knack for football ( soccer ) and I have a good GMAT score as well to certify my aptitude.
    I really want to pursue a degree in Sports Management, but I am confused regarding the career opportunities offered later on.
    Please be kind enough to suggest which universities offer the hottest course for a Masters in Sports or Sports Management, and I have shortlisted university of Columbia and FIFA masters offered at University of CIES.
    I am very keen to enter the Soccer industry in Europe or the US. I will look forward for a response soon.

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