Does Being a Student-Athlete Help You Land a Job in Sports? Work in Sports Podcast e028

By Brian Clapp | December 11, 2017

Does Being a Student-Athlete Help You Land a Job in Sports?

Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, Director of Content for and this is the WorkinSports podcast – Monday QA session!

Before I get into this weeks question a quick promo for Wednesday’s sports industry interview – any hockey fans out there? Well, we’ve got NHL Director of Event Communication and Player Relations Chris Wojcik on the show Wednesday…we talk about planning huge events like the Winter Classic, All-star game and international games to expand the brand… all that goes into them and his efforts to manage the communication process. Plus we get into player relations, working as the conduit between the athlete and media… it was a really exciting interview that I hope you’ll listen to on Wednesday.

I’ll also be self-promotional by thanking Daniel Brunk who just posted one of the most flattering and humbling reviews of our podcast on iTunes. So thank you Daniel.Your Sports Career Questions Answered

So enough with the promotion – let’s get to the question already!

This question comes in from Tricia from Alabama:

She says – Hi Brian I am a student athlete at a division 2 college playing women’s basketball. I know I’m not good enough to make the pro’s but I feel like being a student-athlete has prepared me to work in the sports industry more than someone who hasn’t played college sports. How do I leverage all that I experienced as a student-athlete to help me get a job after I graduate?

Tricia there are so many thoughts running through my head right now… let me try to compose myself.

I feel I could give you about 30 reasons why being a student-athlete is a major advantage in the sports industry, and I know many people who are in charge of hiring for the sports industry who feel the same way. But I’ll try to narrow it down to my 3-4 best reasons and some advice.

First off, there are over 460,000 NCAA student athletes competing in 24 sports each year. That is a sick number. And if you ask me, a vast majority of these student athletes should work in the sports industry becausze they have an intimate knowledge of what it takes to be connected to sports.

But before I get on my passion plea…Let’s start with two major pieces of advice.

1: There are those who played sports in college and those who played, and learned the business of sports while in college. Who are you?

Here’s the difference – if you are someone who focused on practice and games, and didn’t look around much outside of game film, didn’t talk to coaches about managing players, didn’t talk to trainerd about how they learned their craft, didn’t talk to the Athletic Director and learn more about what goes into their job, didn’t talk to the operations staff, the sales staff, the marketing staff… sure there are skills you learned, but you didn’t get the major benefit of being a student-athlete.

You said it best, you knew you weren’t going to be a pro, so my advice to anyone who is in the game just for the love, is to use that all access pass to learn things other regular students, don’t even have access to. Talk to the AD. Talk to the staff. Learn how things operate!

Don’t just play…learn the business.

2: You have to leverage who you have learned. I’ve seen too many resumes that just have a line item that says “2-year starter on Women’s Basketball team”. You need to sell the story. Tell me more. Tell me what you learned, the skills you bring to the workforce that differentiate you…not just awards and titles, I want to hear how this affected you.

Student athletes are leaders, they know how to work as part of a team, they know how to manage their time, they know how to take a loss and rebound from it, to learn from mistakes and correct.

I can go on and on… but I’m not there when you apply for a job to tell someone why you should be hired. You are. Don’t undersell yourself. If you’ve done it the right way, being a student athlete isn’t just a piece of your employment story… it’s near the whole damn thing!

One sports recruiter I spoke with said…and I quote:

“When I see a resume that mentions the candidate has been a student-athlete it absolutely helps tell the character of a person, but some of the acquired skills need to be spelled out. One thing that student-athletes have to deal with his time management. That is, balancing very strong and competing priorities – studying and passing classes while also knowing your playbook, working out, practicing, travelling and competing. I think that you have to demonstrate the skills you have acquired as a student-athlete to an employer, you can’t assume how they will interpret your intercollegiate athletics participation. Remember, it’s not just the fact you were an athlete, you have to spell out the skills your learned and how that experience helps make you a better candidate for employment.”

So basically this recruiter and I are 100% in lockstep. You have to sell your story, don’t assume someone in hiring just gets it.

You need to sell the fact that as a student athlete you are open to feedback, and willing to do what is best for a team. That you are more motivated to find success. That you are adaptable to different styles and changing on the fly. That you take to coaching and can be molded for the right scenario. That you have seen how the business of sports operates first hand. That you know preparation leads to success.

Now all of those things sound great on a hallmark card, but they are real attributes you have acquired from being a student-athlete. Mesh that with your school work, and the way you learned from coaches and trainers and AD’s and you can be unstoppable.

One last note – the other reason you need to leverage your experience as a student athlete  is because it helps explain why your resume might be a little light. When you were travelling, practicing, studying game tape, training and rehabbing – other aspiring sports business folk were doing internships and their resumes will show off what they learned.

You have to do the same – your internship was being part of the athletic department and learing the attributes we outlined above. Sell this in your cover letter, so that you don’t allow someone to scan your resume and think…feels a little light. Don’t give an employer the chance to discount you – sell your unique skills.

That should do it for you Trisha and any other student athlete out there…

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