Should I Focus on Just One Sport for My Career? Work in Sports Podcast e124

Does it make sense to focus on one sport and become an "expert" or to branch out and work in any sport? That is today's question that we're tackling on the Work in Sports podcast

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

It’s Monday, it’s grey and rainy here in Pennsylvania… and I am super pumped for this week. I know, I’m not the type to say things like super pumped, because it sounds forced and inauthentic… but I am so I will.

Here’s why. I love booking great guests for our show. I love it. There is this sense of validation that comes from someone saying yes. And better yet, as our show grows and more and more people become connected to it, there is a huge ego boost that comes from someone saying, I love your podcast of course I will come on.

You aren’t supposed to admit things like ego boosts, you are supposed to have more chill than that… but come on, I’m human like all of you, I get excited and geeked up when important people in the industry know and respect what we are doing here!

You get excited right? Me too. I’m no different than you are.

So, why am I excited… Let me count the ways.

1: I just had an awesome, and I mean awesome interview with Christopher Flynn Oakland A’s Sales manager for the CORE. The CORE is their Sports Business Development Academy and it is cutting edge and super cool. I love it when an interview flows and is very natural… we crushed it.

2: This week I’m interviewing –

  • Katie Gillen, Atlanta FC’s Manager of Social Media and Analytics – Atlanta FC is crushing it in fan engagement and social, but there is so much more to social than just tweeting behind the scenes photos -we’re going to get into that with Katie.
  • Kristina Wedseltoft – Indiana Pacers Community Relations coordinator – so many of you have expressed interest in community relations, so pumped to have Kristina on right as the NBA season is getting underway.
  • Bill Guertin from Inspiration Sports Business Institute – Bill is the guy who teams hire to train their sales staff. He’s worked with over 40 professional teams, he knows the skills you need, what teams want and how to break in to sports.
  • And finally – Brian Killingsworth the Chief Marketing Officer of the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights are crushing it in Vegas, and Brian is behind so many of their great ideas. So excited for that interview.

So yeah, I’m pumped up. If you have any question you want me to ask any of those guests, post them in our private facebook group! Go to the Work in Sports podcast on facebook, join the group and post your question as a new thread. I will pick the best questions, incorporate them in the interview and give you a shout out for asking it.

Pretty cool right?

Justin Collier:

Just wanted to connect and say thank you for the work you do. I just recently found your podcast and when I did I was wondering if I needed to relocate to succeed in the sports industry. I randomly scrolled down through the episodes, and amazingly the one I stopped on was “Do I really need to relocate for a sports career?” This was a sign to me that the podcast was what I needed in my sports career.  (Thanks Justin!)

I am currently a seasonal Account Executive with the Tennessee Titans and as my time with the Titans comes to an end, my job search is kicking back into gear. So the one main question I have: Is it a good idea to stay in one sport so that you can master that specific industry, or is it a good idea to branch out and try multiple sports so that you can be well versed in every industry? Thanks again Brian!

Justin it’s a good question and I’m going to be very very assertive with my answer.

Branch out.

With one exception that I’ll get to later.

Why branch out? First lets just work through some examples. You know how I mentioned I’m interviewing Brian Killingsworth CMO of the Vegas Golden Knights later this week?

Check his resume:

10 years with the Tampa Bay Rays – that’s baseball.

3 years with the LA (then St. Louis) Rams (that’s the NFL)

1 year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1 year with the Golden Knights (that’s hockey)

Give him a few more years and he’ll probably be president of the Denver Nuggets.

That’s just one example but this plays out all over the sports world, if your interest is on the business side of sports – so sales, marketing, operations, public relations etc etc -- don’t get too locked into a specific sport, because the job itself isn’t that sport specific.

Sure there is lingo to learn and subtleties of each sport, but you’ll be trained, and you’ll get up to speed.

Bottom line, don’t pass up opportunities. If you have a shot at a job and it is the right direction for your career, a promotion, a bump in pay a change from seasonal to full-time… go for it, and don’t worry about sport.

I know people who are huge baseball fans and ended up in NASCAR. They knew nothing about NASCAR, but they knew how to do their job well and how to fit their role. You know what…now they love NASCAR.

You’ll find no matter where you go in the sports industry it’s a unique culture and experience, you will find parts of the job and the sport you absolutely love.

I’ll give one personal example too – I started out my career covering sports on the national scale when I was at CNN/Sports Illustrated. We were a national sports network, so all games, all sports, all athletes, all news was in play.

When I left CNN and started at Fox Sports Northwest, I was a bit nervous because now I was just focused in on one region of the country, I place I had never even visited before.

But the opportunity was great and I couldn’t pass it up.

I spent weeks worried that I wouldn’t know enough about the specific history of the Seattle market, and that my employees would think I was a fraud because I didn’t know that in 1989 Randy Johnson was acquired as part of a trade with the Expos for Mark Langston…or some random historical fact about the University of Washington.

So you may worry, like I did, that you don’t have enough knowledge of another sport or in my case another region, and therefore you should stay in one silo, doing what you do. But that would be wrong.

Here’s the problem – you’re bypassing a huge number of opportunities and waiting for something in your lane. Sorry, none of us have time to wait for the perfect opportunity, you have to strike when the iron is hot.

And, when you work in various segments of the industry you increase you overall value. You’ve proven you can do it, so it becomes less of a question or concern for someone hiring.

Think back to Brian Killingsworth… if he had stayed at the Tampa Bay Rays for 15 years and never worked anywhere but baseball…when the Golden knights job came up, they might have thought… eh, this is jyst a baseball guy, can he bring it to Hockey?

But since he worked in the NFL, increased his experience level, proved himself in a different but related arena… he was a great candidate for a great opportunity.

Going back to my case, my worries were kind of stupid. I knew how to run a production department, I knew journalism and storytelling and content creation on all levels… that’s what I needed to perform my job. And as I was in the environment, I picked up all the local knowledge I needed over time.

So bottom line, diversify! Take opportunities where and when they come no matter what the sport.

Ok, I did tease one area earlier that it makes sense to stay in your lane and stay in a specific sport…

  1. if you want to be a scout or a coach. Stay in a singular sport.
  2. If you are a student-athlete – I think you have such great knowledge and insight into the game, it makes sense in that scenario to stay in a singular sport.

Other than that…branch out!

That’ll do it for today – tune in for Christopher Flynn from the Oakland A’s on Wednesday… you are going to love it!

By Brian Clapp | October 15, 2018
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