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How to Become Successful in Sports Management

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Many people think that a career in sports management means watching people play sports all day. They're flat wrong.

Like any other business, there's a tremendous amount that goes into it, from marketing to event planning to strict accounting and legal procedures. Contrary to popular belief, the jobs generally pay less than their corporate counterparts due to high industry demand, and the hours are generally longer due to limited staffing budgets. Only those with a true passion for sports will manage to break in, let alone become successful in the field.

Start at the Bottom

In order to be successful in sports management, one must break into the field with an unpaid internship, a daunting task in and of itself. Competition is fierce; many organizations can field more than 1,000 resumes for a handful of summer slots, and generally these go to those with inside personal connections. One way to set an application apart from the herd is to tailor the cover letter and resume specifically to the job. Don't discuss a passion for sports; everyone claims this. Instead, an applicant should be very specific about how his past experience relates directly to the tasks in the job description.

Develop a Solid Industry Network

Throughout the internship process, those truly interested in a career in sports management will be doing two things: working extraordinarily hard at their tasks and meeting as many people in the industry as possible. The former will provide excellent material for the next job application process, and the latter will provide leads for paid positions. However, keep in mind that a well-developed industry network will also assist in getting your resume put in front of the right person when the time comes.

Be a Swiss Army Knife

No sports organization in the world has enough people to handle the assigned tasks. Even those working in the National Football League, Major League Baseball and other such organizations always seem to come up shorthanded. Therefore, those who can do more tend to stick around longer. There's always a new skill that will be valuable to someone in the organization. Learn Photoshop, or how to edit video or take compelling photographs. Become an expert in Powerpoint or Excel.

Know That the Industry Is Inherently Unstable

The sports management industry is unstable by nature. No matter how well you do your job, a new president or head coach might decide to hire his own people and show you the door. Those who remain in the industry can expect to change jobs every two to three years, many times crossing the country to do so. Flexibility is crucial for those looking to remain in sports management long term.

Don't Get Pigeon-Holed

Too often in sports management, if someone has been a public relations coordinator or video director for a long time or with a couple of different organizations, then those in the industry will see him being able to do only that particular job. Here, the instability of the industry can play to your advantage: When looking to make a move, those in the industry should try as much as possible to find positions slightly outside their comfort zone to develop a more diverse set of experiences.


Jack Gorman has been involved in many different areas in his professional career. He resides in the Washington DC area, though he consults with organizations nationwide. His specialties include film and video production, sports management, writing, graphic web design, marketing, communications, operations, human resources and photography.

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