Sports Jobs Q&A: Does Being a Student-Athlete Help my Sports Career?

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One of the many benefits of WorkinSports - job searching from the beach
I just watched an interview with a career coach on the Today show (this is the point where you call me a dork) and she spent her entire segment trying to convince the audience how harmful it is to take the Summer off from a job search.

I'll admit, I've fallen into some lazy patterns over the Summer too, but I can't stress to you enough, this is the time of the year to be contrarian, and to push harder while others spend their time at the beach. Truth is you can do both, a membership to is the most effective and efficient manner to find and apply for sports jobs, so you can be really productive in a short time... and then head back to the pool.

I call that a win-win.

Now on to this weeks Sports Jobs Q&A - Michael has three great questions and we answer all of them in great detail. If you have a question for our Sports Jobs Q&A column just add it the comments and we'll dig into it.

The Q:

I am going into my junior year of high school and I just discovered your blog while researching Sports Management degrees. 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!


The A:

Well Michael, you've got three really good questions here, which is exactly why we do this Sports Jobs Q&A column! Let’s go through your questions one by one, and try to help lead you down the right path.

Big School or Small School?

What I always tell people is that it’s less about the school you go to and more about your approach to school.

What I mean by that is:

  • Do you get involved?

  • Intern?

  • Volunteer?

  • Sell tickets at the stadium?

  • Interact with professors?

  • Do informational interviews with local sports businesses?

But your question is a different angle and I like it. Are there more opportunities in the sports programs at bigger schools? Logic would say yes, but I think that is overly simplistic.

A large university will have more teams that need help, better technology and quite possibly more experienced employees to learn from (not definitely, but possibly)... BUT, they can also have much greater competition for open spots and place you in singular roles where you do one thing, rather than many.

sports management jobs sports careers

Now let’s talk about smaller schools.

There will be less potential teams for you to work with, they won’t have the same quality of facilities and their employees may lack some big world experience from which to learn from... BUT, chances are you will have less competition for the roles, and will be tasked with doing just about everything under the sun, gaining incredible experience.

As an employer, if I had to decide between someone who went to the University of Alabama, interned with the football team and whose only experience was doing the team laundry, versus someone who went to Washington University in St.Louis interned with the Track & Field, Swimming, Soccer and Tennis team while gaining experience in marketing, business development, sponsorship, sales and equipment managing…well, for me the choice would be easy.

I realize that is an extreme comparison, but you get the drift.

If in the end you choose to go to a large school take this suggestion to heart – don’t just focus on the high-profile Football team, that looks sparkly on a resume but can lack substance, look at the smaller teams that need help and will put you in multiple roles.   Or better yet, do a year with the Football team and then the rest of your time with the smaller programs that will make you more well-rounded - and have that sparkly football glow on your resume. 

Truth is, there is no right or wrong answer ,each has their benefits. All I stress is that you get involved because the name of the school in and of itself won’t be enough.

Does Being a Student-Athlete Help in Sports Management?

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Being a student-athlete can be an advantage if you pay attention to everything
There is a survey done every year where baseball players are asked: who among you would make a good manager in the future?

The answers highlight who approaches the game differently - some players show up and hit, run and field – other players pick the brains of the manager, study the opposition, research history and understand how everything influences everything else.

I bring this up because whether or not being a student-athlete helps you depends on your approach to your craft. If you become a true student of not just the game, but the operation – learn how sales and marketing influence decision making, how relationships affect sponsorship's and things of that nature, then yes, being a student athlete can help you understand the big picture of sports.

You have an advantage of being in the thick of the operation; it’s up to you to learn something from it.

Should I go Back for My Masters Immediately?

Arggh! You've hit on a big pet peeve of mine. (Matter of fact I just wrote about whether you should get your Masters or accept a job offer here)

I do not suggest this unless you know exactly what you want to do and know that a Masters is necessary. Many sports jobs don't require a Masters so getting one is non-essential, only pursue if you know for a fact it is necessary.

Too many people go for a Master’s degree 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.

And you may be lucky enough to have an employer who will subsidize the expense. Another win-win!

Hope this helps Michael, if anyone has any other suggestions for Michael please add them to the comments along with your questions for an upcoming Sports Jobs Q&A column! 
By Brian Clapp | July 22, 2014
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