At face value, finding a job in the realm of professional sports seems like a daunting task. In the US and Canada, there are 141 professional sports franchises which cut across Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NFL, Major League Soccer and the NHL. That number certainly presents some employment options. But keep in mind that each one is run like a small – albeit lucrative – business where a small staff of people supports on-field entertainment. Each of these teams only has a handful of jobs open at a time due to desirous work environment. But working in sports business doesn’t mean a billionaire franchise owner is the one signing your paycheck. A host of industries support the product of sports the way parts manufacturers support Ford and General Motors. While you may not pass Kevin Durant or Ray Lewis in the halls of these sports vendors, you’ll achieve your goal of finding a career sports.

The application of statistical analysis in sports is an increasingly exciting growth industry. Sabermetrics and moneyball jump started the stats craze in baseball that is now an intricate part of all General Managers’ toolkits. As front offices in other leagues find more-and-more useful stats to quantify a player’s worth, the number of third party companies that collect, parse and analyze this data only continue to grow. STATS LLC leads the field but many other companies including Sports Reference, Sports Data Hub and Pointstreak Sports Technologies have helped spark a new industry. People that love math or statistics can now pursue a job in sports instead of using their knowledge solely for business or economic application.

Though it may not seem glamorous, working for a food and beverage vendor who supplies a sports team is a way to be close to the action. Stadiums across the country make large profits off hot dogs, nachos, sodas and beer. Often times, stadium owners outsource this work to outside vendors who know the business inside-and-out. If you enjoy the food services industry, start by identifying a vendor that supplies one of your local sports teams. Depending on your level of experience you may start on the front lines but, as with any job, a hard worker with leadership qualities can work his way into a management position.

A sports agent doesn’t support an organization, per se, but their role is a necessary part of how sports business operates. Agents represent anyone from players to coaches to upper level front office personnel. Most are lawyers with experience in contract law and the business side of sports. The best agents are voracious negotiators as larger contracts bring more money to themselves and their clients. Agents are more than just someone a player employees to negotiate their contract though. They often become confidants to their clients as well as mouthpieces for the athletes they represent. It’s an intense job with long hours but can be financially lucrative as well as emotionally thrilling.

While some franchises are bringing media coverage in-house, most sports media positions are still with the various media outlets who cover professional teams. Since before most of us can remember, the media has been a way for a team to communicate with its fans. Reporters still ask coaches about player injuries and game day strategy but also dig deeper for juicy stories about locker room rifts, performance enhancing drug use and off-the-field altercations. Sensational headlines draw page views meaning successful sports journalists are the ones who break news often. With the ubiquity of the internet, the term “media” has taken on a whole new meaning. Some people still find positions with television, radio and newspaper outlets but many are now finding their place with sports niche websites. Talented writers are either scooped up by high traffic websites or forge their own way, creating sites that eventually draw large readership. Media is likely the oldest third party sports business and still proves necessary as a way to keep fans informed on the latest-and-greatest news and analysis.

Professional sports organizations rely on various companies for their apparel and equipment needs. If you are a clothes designer, engineer or scientist, this may be an industry of interest to you. Companies like Nike, Reebok, Majestic Athletic and New Balance make high quality uniforms and shoes for professional athletes. Riddell manufactures football helmets, Louisville Slugger crafts baseball bats and Spalding provides leather basketballs to the NBA. Companies like these design the uniforms and create the tools professional athletes use to entertain the masses. Those interested in athletic apparel or the science and manufacturing behind equipment can contribute to the next wave of innovations in pro sports.

Some marketing is done within a sports organizations but the specialization and complexity of bringing the product to diverse groups has brought a wave of private companies to the space. As one of the pillars of business, marketing is nothing new to sports but companies like IMG continue to revolutionize how it’s done. Brand managers, marketing coordinators, account executives and more are needed in companies that handle promotions for sports teams. The need for outside help in this area will never dissipate because, though sports teams continue learning about how to reach their fans and sponsors, the time and money marketing vendors use can’t be matched. And, therefore, neither can their results.  

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