Jobs in Sports Management: Finding Your Fit in the Sports Industry

Most of you in our audience are sports fans thinking to yourself, I love sports; this is something that does it for me, I should make this into a career.

This perspective makes sense, because lets be honest, working in sports, at least to me (I’m biased, I get it) is a lot cooler than working in a cubicle each day. 

Why not pursue the goal of working in the sports industry if you’ve identified that it’s your passion? 

Sports Career Options: Finding Your Sports Industry Fit:

Here’s the Deal: Sports Jobs Can Be Confusing 

Sports careers can be confusing because the sports industry is just that; it’s an industry, it’s not a job itself.

You can’t just say, “I want to work in sports” you have to be more specific. You must figure out what that means for you. 

The sports industry is a big business, there are sports jobs in: 

  • Finance
  • Human Resources 
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Event Management
  • Facility Management 
  • Media Relations
  • Public Relations
  • Journalism
  • Content Creation

Many sports career options, like those listed above, you’d find anywhere in any industry. Having strong business knowledge can positively affect your sports career prospects because they align with so many of the available sports jobs. 

All that said, there are certain roles in sports that are specific to the industry.

Coaches, scouting, player development, some of those careers are sports specific. You don’t see Microsoft having a coach or a scout on staff. I don’t think. Maybe they do, I have no idea, but it’s not the same as what we see in the sports industry.

How do you figure out what sector of the sports industry will work for you and make you feel satisfied, enthused, and excited about going to work? 

I’ve loved my career. I’ve enjoyed every step of it. I continue to enjoy everything I do in the sports industry, and I want you to find that as well. 

Finding Your Sports Career Passion

Part of the reason I wanted to have this conversation is that I keep thinking about one of our podcast episodes.

I interviewed Allison Bickford, the Director of Corporate Partnership Activation with the Seattle Kraken, and Alison said something that stood out to me. 

We were discussing how working in the sports industry changes you in a lot of ways. You see things differently, and you identify things that you wouldn’t usually if you were just watching as a fan. 

Allison works in Corporate Partnership Activation, and she shared that when she watches games now, she is staring at the dasher boards, she’s noticing what other corporate partners are buying space. 

She’s watching the game less, and noticing the business more.

And I kept thinking as she shared this story, Allison found something that not only she enjoys doing but is in her. She thinks about it. She wants to get better at it. She notices these little details out there in the world. 

Isn’t that what we’re all looking for out of our sports career? 

A career that motivates us to go a little bit deeper, know a little bit more, and be engaged with what we’re doing.

You don’t want to just go through the motions. You don’t want just to have a career. 

You want to do something you feel good about; that is our goal.

Here is the video of that question and answer:

So, Where Do You Fit in the Sports Industry?

That’s the big question: “I love sports. I know everything about sports. I’m a huge fan. I love this team. I love that team. What should I do with my career?” 

That’s not something I can answer or anybody else. That requires self-discovery, but let’s talk about how that can happen.

I’ll tell you a little bit of my backstory. (Quickly, I won’t bore you with it.) 

I started college, and I was a biology and chemistry double major, thinking I wanted to become a physical therapist. After my first two years, I was like, yup, this isn’t for me.

I had to figure out what my next step was, and I felt scared and confused. 

My Mom said to me, “Look, you watch sports when you don’t have to. It’s not a job for you. It’s just something you want to do all the time. You watch ESPN; you wait for Headline News to have sports updates. You’re always reading the newspaper and reading everything going on in sports. Figure out something there.” 

Thanks, Mom.

That was where the light bulb went on for me.

Oh yeah, I guess I could do that.

I had to go through that process of discovery. So do you, but we can give you some tips to kick start that process.

Let’s Get to the Actionable Sports Career Advice

Let’s get to the part where you can start putting this to work.

On our job board right now at WorkInSports.com we have over 20,000 active jobs. That’s a lot of opportunities.

You hear that number 22,967, and it sure sounds like a lot. You likely wonder aloud, “how am I ever going to figure out where my thing is?” 

It’s too much!

How do we boil it down to a more manageable number?

What I find most people do on a job board like ours is they start looking for terms that they can identify with, like marketing. They’ll look at some sports marketing jobs, see if that’s what does it for them. Or maybe they take a sports sales class in school, an operations class, or an economics class, and they try these things out and see what sticks.

That’s fine. 

That is a tried and true methodology; a lot of people have utilized this technique over the years. 

What I would suggest, though, is a slightly different approach.

Let’s take that 20,000+ number and narrow it down just, but not by job vertical. Let’s do it by utilizing common terms for entry-level jobs. 

If you’re starting out and you trying to find your fit in the sports industry, you’re trying to find that glimmer of a sports career option that sounds interesting to you. You’re trying to find that sports career path that makes you feel passionate and excited.

You have to go through a process of discovery. 

Conduct the Right Type of Sports Job Search

So…what do you do? 

You go on a site like ours, WorkInSports.com, and instead of searching for a keyword like social media or operations, you search for a term associated with entry-level jobs, a term like coordinator.

If you search for coordinator on our job board right now, you’ll narrow our list down to 1,126 jobs. 

That’s still pretty large, but this refines your search to sports jobs within reach, entry-level roles.

Even more importantly, you’re going to get a cross-section of all the available opportunities out there:

  • Social Media Coordinator 
  • Operations Coordinator 
  • Marketing Coordinator
  • Sales Operations Coordinator
  • Partnership Activation Coordinator
  • Event Management Coordinator
  • Facilities Coordinator
  • Athletic Department Coordinator
  • Production Coordinator

These are various entry-level jobs across the entire spectrum of sports career options.

You will find jobs with:

  • Sports teams
  • Sports agencies
  • Sports organizations
  • Sports non-profits
  • College athletic departments
  • Sports media companies
  • Sports technology firms

All different types of sports career opportunities and sports employers.

When you search that term coordinator, you’re going to see all the different entry-level sports jobs, and you can start to read through these specific job descriptions.

Read Through Sports Job Descriptions?!

I know it sounds boring to read through sports job descriptions, but let’s play this out.

You begin to go through opportunities and see an Operations Coordinator, and being the curious sort, you try to figure out what it means and what they do. If you read through this sports job description and start to think, “that sounds kind of cool,” lean in a little deeper!

Search for more jobs in operations, and ask yourself, does this feel like something that’s a match for me? 

Take some notes on this sports career option, do some research, connect with people doing this job and ask questions.

DIG!  

Give yourself a more profound knowledge of the position and get a deeper view of what this sports job means.  

Maybe you discover it’s not your match, that is okay, that is a win too. Better to know now than after you graduate!

I’ll give you some other keyword search terms too, and you can choose to use these as you see fit 

Specialist. Specialist is another perfect one. 

You’ll see results for:

  • Email marketing specialists. 
  • Social media specialists 

It’s a good term for an entry-level job. 

Associate is another one.

Assistant is another one.

Use these terms to narrow down your search to entry-level opportunities that will help you discover your sports career options. 

Discovering Sports Career Options You Had No Knowledge Of Prior

I interviewed Chelsea Zahn, who is the Partnership Activation Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, about a year ago for our podcast. 

partnership activation pittsburgh steelers

I asked her about discovering this sports career path, and she said she didn’t even know what a Partnership Activation Coordinator was when she was in college. 

My point in bringing this up is that unless you get out there and see what those opportunities are in entry-level sports jobs, you’re never going to know what could happen for you in the sports industry. 

Next Level Sports Career Advice

When you start to put in the work to know more about your sports career options, and you start to identify an area that sounds interesting to you, now you need to go next level. You’ve got to raise your game. 

Here’s what I mean. 

Now that you have started to find some sports industry career focus find ten jobs anywhere across the country in that discipline. 

I’ll use marketing as an example. Lots of sports marketing jobs out there; find 10 of them.

Every sports marketing job you see will be slightly different because every organization has different needs and demands for what they expect out of a marketing coordinator.

Now is where you’re doing the next level of research. 

Go through these ten jobs that you pulled up. Read through the job descriptions and pull out the skills that they’re saying they want. 

One job may say:

  • I want somebody with Photoshop experience 
  • I want somebody that knows Microsoft Dynamics 
  • I want somebody that has done email marketing
  • I want somebody that’s done HTML coding  

I’m just throwing things out here, right? 

Another job opportunity lists five other skills. Another one says three different skills. Line all these things up on a spreadsheet—lineup all the skills. 

You are now identifying the handful of 15 to 20 skills in demand for an entry-level person in sports marketing. 

That is now your game plan.

Once you identify the skills in demand, in the next column over on your spreadsheet, write down a number from one to 10 of your comfort level. 

finding your sports career match

Your goal in this process is to identify the gaps in your knowledge that don’t line up with what the sports industry needs. 

The industry is telling you: if I’m hiring a marketing coordinator right now, no matter where I am in the country, these are the skills I want them to have. 

It’s an open-book test. Sports employers are telling you the answers. 

Your job now is to say, “I’ve identified what I need. I know what’s in demand. Now I’m going to go get those skills and make sure I master them.” 

You want to build these in-demand skills so that you have the RIGHT skills to make you stand out for sports jobs by the time you hit the job marketplace.

Your Overall Strategy for Sports Career Fit

Ours is a two-level technique. 

Start with broad keyword searches, remember the terms:

  • Coordinator
  • Specialist
  • Associate
  • Assistant

Start to narrow down your list by looking through sports career options out there and seeing what feels right. 

Picture yourself in various roles, visualize what your sports career would be like. 

“Oh, I want to work on game night.” 

Okay. Maybe operations is a good match for you. 

“I like being on the phone, and I’m a relational” 

Maybe it’s sports sales for you.

“I’m super creative, I like to design, I like to build campaigns, and I like to push out these ideas.” 

Maybe it’s sports marketing for you. 

The more sports job descriptions you read and these answers are going to become very clear to you. 

Once you identify, then you have to maximize. 

That’s where the study of what skills are in demand for the marketplace comes in. 

Understand what skills are in demand, put a plan together to learn them, and then when you hit the marketplace to start applying for jobs, you will be a stand-out applicant. 

It is that simple.

You Will Be Ahead of 95% of the Competition for Sports Jobs

I’m telling you right now because I speak in colleges all across the country. 

Not enough people are doing this. 

Not enough people are being intentional, learning in this fashion, discovering themselves and what skills are in demand in the marketplace. 

Most sports career-focused people are taking their courses, they’re doing their internships, they’re checking the boxes, and thinking, all right, come to me now. Give me jobs. 

It doesn’t work that way. 

You have to be more active and more intentional in this process. 

If you do these steps, you will find your fit and take the steps necessary to stand out in your sports career.

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.

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