Sports Jobs Q&A: Creating a Sports Career Game Plan

sports jobs crafting a sports career game plan

Going from High School to College starts a list of questions that need answering….eventually

As High School graduates prepare for their entry into College, a big part of that personal development is figuring out what the heck to do with the rest of their life.  It’s a tough question for most of us, one that deserves deep thought, robust discussion and a serious game plan.  As a personal example, I began college as a Biology and Chemistry  double major – I wanted to go into Physical Therapy and thought this was similar to a Pre-Med plan of attack. Seemed logical, but there was a problem; after a year of school I realized I wasn’t happy. I did fine, my grades were in the B+ range, but I couldn’t see myself doing this for the rest of my life. The summer after my freshman year at school my mother, sensing I was confused, asked me  a simple question: “What do you really love?” My answer: Sports. Her response: Then figure that out. It wasn’t some long, drawn out conversation about “doing anything you want” or “being whoever you want to be” but it gave me clarity. All of a sudden instead of being focused on the entire universe of potential careers, I had narrowed my focus and began to breathe a sign of relief. I didn’t have it all figured out, but I had some direction which I desperately needed. The point is, don’t try to figure out every last detail of who you want to be right now, just begin with a large focus and use your schooling to find a more intense direction. You may start out in sports management and discover you love sales…or marketing…or analytics. Start with a wide lens and then develop focus. This weeks Sports Jobs Q&A comes to us from a concerned parent, which is always kind of cool. If you have questions for our Sports Jobs Q&A that you’d like me to take a deep dive into, just add it to the comments below and I’ll make it my mission to answer you!

sports jobs in sports managment

This is how exasperated Mark Cuban was after our debate on sports management degrees. (OK, that’s not true)

The Q:

Hi Brian, I read and listened to your video blog, transcript and comments on Work In Sports re: Mark Cuban’s comments on a Sports Management degree. I shared it with my daughter, who is entering East Stroudsburg University (Pennsylvania) this fall as a Sports Management major, with a minor in Business and Marketing. Her initial reaction, thanking me for bursting her bubble, led to a more serious discussion about the pros and cons of her chosen field of study. Was hoping you could weigh-in and offer some advice. Thanks and best regards, Warren Sidosky

The A:

I’d be happy to Warren – and thanks for reading/listening to my video perspective. Many people seem to think I was bashing on Mark Cuban,  but the truth is I just questioned his logic and research – isn’t that what this is all about? Questioning others and sharing a differing perspective? Anyway on with the answer. In my experience success isn’t tied to the name of the school or the major you graduate with, it’s tied to the person and the effort they put into what they do. I strongly believe these should be her three biggest priorities while in school: 1: Do as many internships as she possibly can. Pro teams. College athletics, sports business firms – do it all. If you can’t get an internship because of a requirement for credits, volunteer. Is there a PGA Tour event in town? Maybe a college basketball showcase? A niche sporting event? Volunteer! Do anything you can to make yourself unavoidable in the industry while gaining practical experience. People get hired for sports jobs based on experience; not GPA, not the name of your school, not the undergrad group you were on the board of. It’s always a simple question for hiring managers: what can this person do to help move our business forward? If a person can’t answer that question about themselves they better go back to the drawing board. sports management jobs 2: Network every step of the way. And I don’t mean the cheesy mixers, or forced conversations (sorry to all those people who invite me to their cheesy mixers for forced conversations). I mean talk to important people like professors and start building deeper relationships, especially with those who have prior experience in the field she wants to get into. Seek out people on LinkedIn doing what you want to do and reach out to them, ask them questions about how they got where they are. DON’T ask for jobs or be a pest, if you inquire and want to learn that is great, but if you beg or sound desperate for someone to solve your problems – that’s a problem. Also always be specific – I can’t stand it when people ask “can you give me advice about sports careers?” —um, that’s kind of a wide ranging question! But if someone asked me, “how did you break into the sports industry and does that technique still work today?” I would answer. You should walk out of every internship experience with a growing network of contacts and a follow up plan to make sure you stay in touch while continuing to add value. 3: Start studying job descriptions now. If you want to work in sports marketing find job openings, study what they require out of their candidates and then make a plan to master all of those skills. Skills and experience get people hired – internships cover the experience part, now you need to identify the skills employers want and obtain them. What you can do is your great differentiator. I graduated from the University of Delaware – not exactly Harvard or Syracuse – and was hired by CNN Sports right after graduation. By 27 years old I was the sports director for a regional sports network in a top ten TV market (Seattle), Why? Because in college I learned skills that I knew CNN needed. That got my foot in the door and the rest was up to me. Hope this helps – if you have other advice for Warren and his daughter please add it to the comments below, along with any questions you’d like us to cover in our next Sports Jobs Q&A!  

As a final note, I’d recommend that anyone interested in a career in the sports industry check out the Sports Career Game Plan — a self-paced online course available right now.  Make your passion your career, Work In Sports! 

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 &

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

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  1. Unfortunately this advice no longer applies in the world today.

  2. Michael C says

    Mr. Clapp,
    I am going into my junior year of high school and I just discovered your blog while researching the Sports Management degree. I am very interested in this field, but need some advice. I realize that you said it doesn’t matter if you go to a big or small school for the degree, but would it be more beneficial to go to a larger university because you will have opportunities within that school’s sports programs? Also, does being a student athlete in college give you an advantage in the sports management field? Finally, do you suggest getting a bachelor’s degree and going back to school for a master’s immediately? I know that these are three different concepts completely, but any help that you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank You!

    • Michael – good to hear from you and I’m glad you stumbled on our blog, we have over 100 articles on our site so don’t stop at just this one! To answer your questions
      1: What I tell people is that it’s less about the school and more about how you approach school – and what I mean is, do you get involved, intern, volunteer, sell tickets, interact with professors, do informational interviews with local sports businesses etc. So to answer your question, a large university may have more programs, but they will also have more competition and could possibly assign you singular tasks – where a smaller school could in theory allow you to do more wide ranging tasks. Truth is, there is no right or wrong answer each has their benefits. All I stress is that you get involved because the nae of the school in and of itself won’t be enough.
      2: Student-athlete advantage? Maybe… it can add some perspective with things like media relations, PR, operations etc…but I think the advantage is minor unless you were competing at a top level.
      3: I do not suggest this (Matter of fact I just wrote about this in a blog post) ONLY go for yor masters if you know exactly what you want to do and know that a masters is necessary – too many people pursue a masters just to kill time while they figure out their career path, which is a waste of time and money. After graduating get in the workforce, gain experience, you can always go back and get your Masters.

      Hope this helps

    • Michael – I’ve decided your questions will the be included in our next Sports Job Q&A column – expect even more detail this Friday on our blog! – Brian

    • Michael C says

      Thank You so much! I’m sure I will have more questions in the future.

  3. David Shields says

    My comment was born more from frustration than anything. My apologies. However, it still stands. Your advice, while potentially useful, fails to address that it is not a “cure all solution” and is not wholly relevant to the market today. I went into college with these same strategies in mind, and followed them faithfully. Now after obtaining my B.S. I’m still living with my parents spending day after day sending out applications. I have applied only for entry-level positions that I was vastly overqualified for to make sure that my application wouldn’t just get tossed in the underqualified bin. And yet here I am, 9 months and more than 400 applications later. So tell me, if I did all of this that you advocate, have had my applications repeatedly reviewed by “experts” to make sure they would interest employers, and yet nobody is interested in hiring, what would you say? Clearly something must be wrong with what I’ve done if I have yet to receive an interview for even a basic internship, despite 8 years of experience and 7 internships under my belt.

    • David thanks so much for writing back in and sharing your personal experiences. I disagree that the advice lacks relevance, but agree that it lacks specificity – when you write for an audience of 100,000+ you can’t get into individual scenarios, you need to remain broad and applicable to the majority. Truth is, there is no one size fits all advice, there are principles, ideas and concepts that even if they work for 90% of the people, that means 10% may be left out. That is why I have written articles like: How to Get Jobs in Sports When Networking and Internships Aren’t Working ( because while networking and interning may be the perfect match for one person it may be a perfect failure for another.

      I’ve met people who have thanked me up and down for steering them to success and others like you, that have struggled to gain a foothold in the industry – and that is why I respond to each comment individually and give out my personal email, so that I can provide more targeted advice to specific situations like yours. It’s hard for me to get a complete picture of your situation from a paragraph at a time (your education, skills, degree, industry desire, willingness to relocate etc) so lets talk directly via email and I’ll see if I can be of any assistance to you – bclapp at

      And thanks again for responding –