Undergraduates Seeking a Career in Sports

Do you want a career in sports? If you are in college and are interested in pursuing sports management roles, there are many options beyond the bygone days when they did not go far beyond writing about local sports for the newspaper or selling tickets.

If you want to work in sports, there are opportunities in:

  • Business operations (e.g., sports administrators, bookkeepers, and accountants; athletic directors of high school teams; and general managers of pro teams);
  • PR & marketing (broad opportunities for sports professionals in this category);
  • Broadcasting & journalism (e.g., sports announcers, reporters, photojournalists, and producers);
  • Sports medicine (e.g., sports medicine doctors, physical therapists, licensed massage therapists, and chiropractors); and
  • Scouting & coaching (particularly of interest to those with on-the-field athletic experience since it is such an asset for these positions).

It’s an extraordinarily interesting time for the industry. So you can better understand the current state of the industry, we will first look at key points from an annual report that is one of the most important industry analyses released all year. Then we will review expert tips for fruitful sports careers and a specific networking option.

2021 Deloitte Report & Its Relevance To A Career In Sports

The Deloitte annual report 2021 outlook for the US sports industry [sic] centered on two primary broader-society factors that hugely influenced US sports in 2020:

  • the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • the social justice movement.

Deloitte notes that 2020 was tough on the industry, as it was for the general economy. However, the upsides are immediately clear as the report describes what the authors consider the three primary issues in the sports industry during 2021. As you read the list, consider how this evolution is opening up opportunities for new jobs in sports:

1. Building out and reshaping revenue generation models

Sports teams — and many other sports organizations — have had to brainstorm how to keep their revenue high since people are not coming out to games. In other words, innovation is needed since the traditional model was vulnerable to the pandemic. Organizations will be coming up with new ideas such as real estate strategies, integration of game-changing technologies to broaden relationships with fans, incorporation of sports betting, and introduction of creative predictive analytics (on team and player performance data, as well as fan data). All these new directions introduce opportunities for those who want to work in sports.

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2. Changing the social role of sports

Social justice has become a key value across a spectrum in the industry (i.e., it has become important for players to maintain relationships with fans and to get positive media coverage). The increasing need to understand how to navigate the current cultural climate will initiate new sports careers for those with expertise on the topic.

3. Transformation of fan relationships

Interactive relationships have become critically important as the stadiums have emptied during the pandemic. Tight interconnection of digital assets (websites, mobile apps, and social profiles) is increasingly pivotal, as is the development of compelling and engaging multi-channel environments:

  • Virtual fan platforms
  • Bots and other AI technologies
  • Virtual and augmented reality apps
  • Live streaming platforms.

Your career in sports could launch because of these new ways the industry is going.

4 Tips: What To Do In College To Jumpstart Your Career In Sports

Tips for Undergrads

Here is how you can get started building toward a great sports job while you are still an undergrad working toward your degree:

1. Take advantage of school opportunities.

Get experience in a sports information department or other areas within the athletic department’s business offices at your school. Often entry-level roles will be available in sports information, through which you will be interacting with media outlets related to players and teams. Another option is to become an athletic trainer for one of the teams if you are studying sports medicine. Your college may also have a TV station, radio station, or newspaper that is run by students, through which you could announce games and write features.

2. Build trust.

To further your career in sports, gain rapport with people who can hire or recommend you. Remember that general managers, coaches, and other leaders get hired just like virtually everyone else in the organization. When a team changes its leadership, there is often a lot of turnovers: people want to hire those they trust. You want to be one of those trusted people and have that rapport. Meet whomever you can, asking for referrals if you meet someone who knows an insider.

(Networking takes savvy, but some steps are straightforward. Following the rest of our tips, we will note how to rapidly expand your network today.)

3. Get an internship.

Internships are great ways to get your first experience and build your resume. These roles are typically offered by minor league sports teams. You can get sports media internships at broadcasting affiliates or news organizations. Bear in mind that your school wants its students to succeed with jobs in sports, so they may have internship programs with teams in the area.

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4. Go to conferences.

Here are a couple of key ones:

  • National Sports Forum — This event is important for anyone who wants to get a sports job. You will see people from the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, NCAA, racing, and the minor leagues there. These individuals will include executives with specialties in sales, marketing, and event entertainment. The National Sports Forum Virtual Winter Summit is held February 17-18, 2021.
  • Michigan Sports Business Conference – Expect the next running of this annual event to occur in October 2021. More than two dozen sports industry leaders speak at the event, which is run by University of Michigan students. A strength of this conference is that, like the networking strategy suggested below, it is FREE.

Quick Networking Step To Advance Your Career In Sports

What can you do as an undergrad to stand out in the sports industry? Join our premier sports network to connect with industry professionals and get noticed.