1. What does “working in sports” mean?
While there are very few people who play professional sports as their “job,” there are many ways to work in sports. You can work for professional teams or leagues, amateur sports conferences or leagues, and much more. At the highest level, college sports are governed by the NCAA and have multiple conferences, with Wake Forest competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), a conference made up of NCAA Division I colleges and universities. Other colleges and universities that choose not to compete at this level may complete at the NCAA Division II or III, the NAIA or in other divisions or conferences.
In addition to working for teams or leagues, it’s important to remember that the media plays an important role in the world of sports. Professional teams and “big-time” college sports generate millions of dollars by selling media rights to networks like ESPN, Fox, and others. Television shows, magazines, and internet sites focus their attention on what teams and athletes are doing and offer a variety of opportunities if you have strong communication and/or technical skills. Beyond these roles, you can also “work in sports” by working with firms that create and sell sporting goods or by applying your skills on behalf of a firm that develops sports technology. There are Wake Forest graduates working in athletic departments, as writers for major sports media websites, as announcers for professional leagues, and in a variety of other roles.
When considering a career in sports, feedback from professionals that work in sports suggest that it is important for you to remember these 3 points:
- Working in sports looks exciting and challenging, and in many ways, it is. But because it looks exciting and challenging, there can be a lot of competition to land internships and jobs. It is common for hundreds of people to apply for a single position.
- Because so many people apply for these positions, it is hard to stand out. One former minor league GM said that he started his career in a wooden ticket booth in upstate New York and suggested that if you land a position, any position, in sports, you should accept the position as a way to get your foot in the door.
- If you are working for a team, league, or conference, the reality is that you are going to have a “normal” job every day and then you will be expected to attend sporting events themselves. Working in sports is not a 40 hour-a-week job!
There are a variety of “sports” employers for you to consider. While you can probably name the professional or college teams that you are familiar with, you should also consider athletic associations, athletic conferences, colleges and universities, country clubs and resorts, high schools, major leagues and associated teams, minor leagues and associated team, race tracks, sporting goods companies, arenas and stadiums, and sports marketing and management agencies.
Here are some common job titles you might see in sports. You can us this list as a way to generate ideas and possibilities.
- Athlete Representation/Agent – As an agent, you are responsible for the business and legal representation of your client.
- Athletic Director – On college campuses, there is a single head Athletic Director, but there are also Associate/Assistant Athletic Directors that focus on things like marketing, fundraising, academic performance, and other key functions.
- Athletic Equipment Manager – These are the people responsible for ensuring that equipment is ready for practices and game day.
- Athletic Trainer – Trainers often have Physical Therapy degrees and work with athletes to address physiological issues and to make sure that the athletes are ready to perform.
- Sports Marketer – These are the people that use sporting events as a mechanism to market their products, services, or companies. Sports marketing professionals can be found working for teams and leagues, but they can also be found working for the firms that pay to advertise at the events.
- Ticket Operations – While big-time sports generates a lot of revenue from television broadcast rights, many teams and leagues generate most of their revenue from selling tickets.
- Sponsorship Coordinator – Often working with external sports marketing professionals, the sponsorship coordinator ensures that firms that are paying to promote their products, services, or companies get the attention they deserve.
- Sports Information Director – Often the primary point of contact between the media and a college athletic department, SIDs publicize and promote their programs.
- Sports Broadcaster/Journalist – Although there are fewer sports journalists working for local stations and newspapers, there remain a variety of roles available for the professionals that write, report, and editorialize on sports teams, figures, and events.
Remember that in any career industry/field, a variety of job functions are needed for a business or organization to properly operate. Human resources professionals, accountants, financial analysts, operations managers, and legal professionals, among others, are needed in the sports field. Remember, even if your career path is not a “sports” career, you can still “work in sports”.