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Youth, minor league and professional sports teams have become increasingly concerned with the personal well being of their players since the 1980s. Increased competition in youth leagues, the financial struggles of minor league players and the media scrutiny of pro players has led to the creation of player development departments. The director of player development is tasked with helping athletes handle their finances, develop careers after sports and deal with the media. Your career in player development can flourish when you become immersed in the nuances of your particular sport.
Accumulate experience as a player, trainer and coach in your favorite sport through high school and college. Your athletic experiences will help you relate to rookies and veterans as you work to advance their careers. For example, an intimate knowledge of baseball can help a major league baseball team's director of player development make smart choices when dealing with players.
Blend a sports-management degree from a four-year university with courses in business management and psychology to start your player development career. The North American Society for Sports Management (NASSM) offers a list of sports-management degrees throughout the United States for prospective front-office employees. Courses in finance and psychology will help you create development programs for players and handle players effectively in stressful situations.
Acclimate yourself to the sports world by taking jobs in the box office, marketing department or field crew of your local team. Spend summers and breaks from school with local minor league teams to get used to the day-to-day grind of the sports world. Take every opportunity to meet players and coaches during these temporary jobs to learn the shorthand language of your particular sport.
Create a resume that focuses on teamwork, communication and other skills needed as a director of player development. Your resume should view part-time and temporary jobs as well as internships from the lens of a pro sports team. For example, a summer job as a camp counselor may have required you to oversee development of relationships and skills by young campers.
Intern with the scouting or player development departments of the nearest pro sports team in your area after graduation. Scouting interns may be asked to edit tapes of prospective players and file reports from field scouts ahead of league drafts. Player development interns are tasked with administrative work like filing, data entry and answering phones for assistants to the director. In addition to the experience of working with a sports team, you will have the team's name on your resume for future employment.
Augment your experiences as an intern by reviewing scouting reports and games during your off hours. For baseball, use a scouting service, such as Perfect Game, bookmarked by MLB scouts to get the latest scoop on high school and college players about to reach the next level. Absorb as many games and programs on your sport as possible to become conversant in issues pertinent to player development.
Assess early in your career whether you want to rise slowly through the ranks of your first team or jump at entry-level jobs with other teams. Apply for paid positions outside of player development with your current organization if you want to stay with the organization and wait for player development openings. Research player development openings with other teams carefully to avoid positions opened due to management problems and frequent turnover.
Build a rapport with players, coaches and front-office personnel by taking a position in public relations if you cannot find a player development job. Public relations personnel work with players and coaches on photo shoots, public events and autograph sessions throughout the year. This exposure to pro personnel will increase your name recognition among staff members, thereby increasing chances for advancement in the future.
Produce a portfolio of your player development career before applying for assistant-level positions with a pro sports team. Your portfolio should include players you have scouted and development initiatives completed during your career to demonstrate your qualifications. Revise this portfolio each season to reflect new players and projects that can boost your advancement possibilities.
Define your goal of becoming a director of player development during off-season interviews with your supervisor. Your reviewer can offer a candid assessment of your job performance and skills to help you gauge where your career is heading. An off-season interview can help you determine if player development is right for your skill set and assess if the franchise is a good place to settle down.
Maintain a current list of phone numbers, e-mail addresses and names for player development personnel around the league. Keep in touch with these contacts to find out about job openings and stay in touch with colleagues in your field. This contact network can be mobilized as references during job interviews and partners in creating multiteam development programs.
Study the history, rules and trends in your sport as you rise through the player development ranks. Your appreciation for the struggles of past players with money, injuries and off-field issues will inform your choices as a director of player development. A player development professional can handle interviews during drafts and league meetings if he is familiar with the latest trends in sports.
Prepare yourself and your family for a career of traveling and moving as you become a director of player development. Scouts, personnel directors and other front-office professionals may travel with the team each game and get fired if a franchise is struggling. The stresses of traveling weeks at a time as a player, coach or scout are indicative of the challenges facing player development directors.
Nicholas Katers has been a freelance writer since 2006. He teaches American history at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. His past works include articles for "CCN Magazine," "The History Teacher" and "The Internationalist" magazine. Katers holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in American history from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, respectively.
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