Finding the Right Fit For Your Sports Career - Work in Sports Podcast e091

Dr. Samuel Todd researches the human resources side of the sports industry and shares his vast experience crunching the data regarding sports careers. Lots to learn in this episode!

Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast.

Data, Data, Data!

For those of you born in the 1970’s or fans of old reruns you probably recognized that was an awful rendition of a classic moment in Brady Bunch history.

I hated the Brady Bunch so I’m not sure why I did that, other than to focus in on the truth of today’s sports world.finding the right fit for your sports career

We are finally a data driven industry.

For decades the business world has relied on data to inform their decision making, vast spreadsheets with forecasts and projections and ROI, AOV and EBITDA …but in the world of sports we so often rely on instincts, gut reactions and experience to forge our path.

Sometimes this works magic.

As the clock wound down on Super Bowl 49 between the Seahawks and Patriots – with the Seahawks driving for what would be a game-clinching touchdown, data said “Coach Belichick, call a timeout to preserve as much time as you can, allowing tom brady a chance to return serve.”

But he didn’t.

He says he saw panic, indecisiveness on the Seahawks sideline, so he forced them into action rather than giving them time to relax. His gut told him their frantic condition may result in a bad decision.

It did. You probably remember the rest. Russell Wilson to Malcolm Butler… game over, it what I still think to this day was the best super bowl I’ve ever watched. We can debate that later if you dare.

Then again, look at the data world. Teams like the Astros, Spurs, Red Sox and Falcons have used it masterfully to help put their teams in position to win more often than not.

Actual results used to project future occurrences.

Every team in sports employs analytics staff to help them find that hidden formula of success. Marketing teams pour through data to find out why a campaign worked or didn’t. Sales teams use dynamic ticket pricing to maximize revenue…again by manipulating and understanding data.

The quest to collect and manipulate data is all around us.

But you know where it isn’t used enough? In human resources. What if there was data to understand where you fit in the sports industry. Or how an employer could quickly and efficiently find the right match for their job opening. Or find out exactly why one person succeeds in a role and another fails.

This, in a roundabout way is the plight of our guest this week. Dr. Samuel Todd studies the HR side of the sport industry; in particular, exploring the way in which the job searches of sport industry hopefuls are different than those for non-sport industry jobs. 

His findings thus far are fascinating, and will help you form your perspective and expectations and you dive deep into your sports industry career. You’ll notice I geek out a little in this interview because his concepts and analysis are exciting and I know will help you understand yourself a little better. It put many things in focus for me.

So let’s get to it – here is Dr. Samuel Todd Associate Dean at the University of South Carolina!


Questions for Dr. Samuel Todd About Your Fit in the Sports Industry


1: We live in a much more data driven world than ever before, or at least it appears that way ever since Moneyball, analytics and Brad Pitt made it cool – as a researcher you focus on the way in which job searches of sports industry hopefuls differ from those in non-sports industry jobs.

We’ll get into the weeds, but just as an overview in an over-arching sense, what has the data told you about this difference between sports jobs seekers and non—sports industry job seekers?

2: About 10 times a week I get emails from people saying “I am passionate about working in sports” Have you ever looked into this passion for the sports industry? Does it change the way people look for jobs and is this passion and approach unique to sports?

3: Piggy backing on that – when people tell me they love sports, they generally follow up with “so what should I do?” There seems to be a disconnect for many between love/passion/excitement and how that translates into a job that suits them.  You’ve explored HR themes as a researcher, and taught over 4,000 sports management students – what tips would you give someone trying to figure out what jobs are the best fit for them?

4: Since you study job seekers at large across all industries and then compare them to the specifics of the sports industry – are applicants to sports jobs looking for the same types of work components as you see in other industry segments?

5: You have written a lot about “realistic job previews” can you explain what those are as they relate to sports?

6: I tend to oversimplify things based on my own personal experience. I grew up a huge sports fan, played sports every season and then began college as a chemistry and biology double major. I always tell people it took me a while to realize my passion could be a career, and I’ve been thrilled with that choice ever since.

Is this the norm – when people say they “love sports” does that necessarily mean they would love working in sports?

7: Let’s flip this around to the employer side – there is no shortage of applicants for sports jobs, in fact, when I spoke to Colleen Scoles Talent Acquisition Manager for the Philadelphia Eagles on this podcast she said she’ll get a thousand applicants for some jobs.

With that in mind. In what ways have you helped industry practitioners screen applicants better, or quicker, so they arrive at a qualified pool?

8: In your research you claim that job hunters in sport are often attracted to jobs based on a belief that holding that job would meet certain psychological needs for them, but often, those beliefs are not based on real facts. Can you explain?

9: If you were talking to someone in high school who loved sports, is smart, excited, enthusiastic and ready to take on the challenge of finding their right career path – how would your research guide the advice you give them?


Finishing Up With Dr. Samuel Todd on the Fit for Your Sports Career


See I told you you’d get a lot out of this interview.

One of my main takeaways was regarding the psychological expectations of working in sports, it’s something we want so bad to identify ourselves with that we are willing to look past red flags, or negotiating for salary, or relocation money – just to get our foot in the door.

Now, maybe you hear that and say – you’re darn right I’m willing to do whatever it takes. And that would be fair. In fact, I’d label myself that way.

I am the living embodiment of Dr. Todd’s research – I identify myself as a sports guy, I flaunt my credentials as often as I can… when my kid struggles in baseball and the coach tries to give me some tips to help him out, I think…doesn’t he know that I used to cover Ichiro! How dare he tell me about baseball!

I was also the guy who didn’t always negotiate for top dollar, because I was excited about the jobs in front of me, and didn’t want to risk losing them. I moved to Atlanta sight unseen to take one job, and then to Seattle over a weekend to take another.

I am the guy he speaks of – and yet I have zero regrets of any of it.

Many people that came up just like me might have tons of regret…who knows. This data and this conversation is out there to help you figure out who you are in this whole equation, so I hope you absorb it and enjoy learning about yourself and asking some pressing questions about your intentions!

That’s it for this week – I’ll be back on Friday with another episode. If you like what we are doing here please subscribe – keep getting our content! And share with a friend or ten.

We’d really like that!

By Brian Clapp | June 13, 2018
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