Six Lesser Known Secrets To Sports Career Success
If you’re reading this blog or are a regular Work in Sports reader, you probably want to move up in your current role or break into the sports industry.
The good news is working in sports is fun, exciting, and rewarding; the bad news is it’s a highly-sought after, competitive profession.
Everyone who dreams of working in sports has two things in common: a love for sports and a working knowledge of the game(s).
So, what puts one candidate over the other when it comes to getting the job? If I’ve learned anything in my career, it’s that sometimes the little things make the biggest difference.
Here are some of the intangible things to focus on if you want to have a successful career in sports.
Network, Network, Network!
You have probably heard this from professors, family members and friends, and I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but when it comes to your career, who you know is more important than what you know.
It doesn’t matter if you want to be an agent, sports information director, or you want to cover the NBA Finals, this business is all about relationships.
My agent always tells me, when you apply to a job, there are hundreds of applicants. Then, they narrow it down to five people who are all qualified to do the job. So, something else will separate them: who they know, their age, their experience, etc.
If you have a strong network of sports professionals, it will help you get your foot in the door for a new position, or help you get to the next level in your career. Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people, and make sure you’re looking out for them just as they’re looking out for you.
Find a Mentor
Every great athlete has a coach so it makes perfect sense that people in the sports industry should also have someone to go to for guidance.
Early in my career at KGMB radio-TV in Honolulu, I met Earl McDaniel, a former big time disc jockey who became a top broadcast executive.
Without Earl, I would not have had a career.
He was my mentor and among the lessons he taught taught me was to just be myself on the air and not imitate someone else. The best advice I can give you, is to find a mentor, someone who can help guide you in your career.
Your mentor will have experience behind him and can help you make decisions and offer invaluable advice. Your mentor may also know some “big wigs” in the business, so if you’re sincere and hardworking, your mentor will speak to your positive attributes.
Don’t Be a Jerk
You may be shaking your head at this one, but I’m serious; no one wants to work for (or with) a jerk.
Do you think news directors hire sports anchors who look great on camera but are a pain in the neck behind the scenes?
Do you think NBA players want to do interviews for someone who is rude and doesn’t value their time?
Do you think a play-by-play announcer and color commentator can have great chemistry on the air if they hate each other?
People want to work with and for someone they like and respect. The sports industry is a collaborative environment, so be nice to the people you meet: your reputation will follow you.
While humans are naturally wired for kindness it can be easy to lose sight of this in such a competitive industry. According to a survey, 76 percent of respondents said the world is a less kind place than it was 10 to 20 years ago.
Don’t be another statistic, save the stats for your post-game show.
Don’t Lose Your Passion
Like most people, you probably set out to work in this industry because you love sports. That’s great, that will keep you motivated to work hard. Remember, however, that working in sports isn’t easy, and like any other industry, you have to pay your dues.
When you’re just starting out, you may have to move to a small market to gain experience. While you may miss your friends and family and wish you were already covering the big sporting events, trust the process and keep working on your craft.
You may have an opportunity to be creative or try something new you wouldn’t be able to do in a bigger, well-established market.
While your attitude and professionalism will get you far in this industry, if you want to be on camera, you have to be good. Find ways to work on your public speaking skills, and practice your voice, tone, and cadence.
I tutored former NFL star Junior Seau, prepping him to host a network television sports show.
He thought I was crazy when I had him look into a mirror and read out loud. With hard work, he improved by leaps and bounds and was a success on the air.
When it comes to jobs in sports, and especially on-camera jobs, there’s no finish line. There’s always someone waiting for their turn in the spotlight, and now that there are so many universities with broadcast programs, there are lots of young, talented applicants waiting to get their chance.
Enjoy Every Moment
Whether you’ve landed your dream gig calling games for you favorite baseball team, or you’re covering Triple-A ball in the middle of nowhere, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re getting paid to do something you love.
Work hard and keep that get-after-it attitude, but remember to be humble and grateful.
Mel Proctor has been a radio-TV sportscaster for over 40 years, working for networks including CBS, NBC, TNT and Fox. He has also been a play-by-play announcer for MLB, NBA and NFL. Proctor has authored three books including I Love the Work but I Hate the Business, a humorous look back at his career and a must read for any aspiring broadcaster. Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble stores.
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