So You Want To Work In Sports…

woman runner running jumping  shouting silhouette

My primary focus is getting good sports sales reps and leaders to great. Along the way, I coach and mentor many who want to work in sports. It sounds like an amazing profession…a ‘fun’ job if you will. But for every one that reaches out to me, there are about 100 more out there who have the same thoughts. Many colleges now have sport management degrees, but it’s what you do while earning those degrees and how you prepare yourself and present yourself for that job in sports is what will set you apart from everyone else.

What are some key points to remember when wanting to work in sports?

  • Sports is a mobile profession.  Many of you want to stay in your hometown and work for your favorite team.  There are many teams who will not consider you. Why? Staying in your hometown because you love your team can cause more problems than success.  Passion for a sport is one thing. Passion for the particular team is another. Will you be able to separate success/failure on the field from your day to day job? Will you be able to talk about the experience of attending vs the win/loss records? Will a trade send you into a spin? Teams are looking for business professionals, not fans. Which leads me to why I encourage young reps to get out of their comfort zone and be mobile in selecting a team. Someone who has to pay rent, has just moved across country, doesn’t know anyone, is going to focus and try all the harder to make the cut. Their livelihood depends on their success, so often they will learn as much as they can and grow as much as they can. It’s a big sports world out there.  There’s more than one way to grow a team. Experience more than one…as you become a leader, base it on experiences not just one experience.
  • Set Yourself Apart. I’ve had students that contacted me that have interned all over the country…one even interned at the Rio games! And now he has been chosen by the Philadelphia 76ers to intern as a sales rep this summer. Very prestigous! You have worked hard Andrew Garnica and deserve this opportunity!  But what are some of the others doing to set themselves apart? Lifeguarding, though necessary, is not going to get you that sports job. Don’t just take one internship that you HAVE to…take multiple ones. Branch out. Experience. Build relationships with teams. Every internship is another opportunity to meet the leaders of a team. Make things happen. Don’t wait for them to happen.
  • What is networking to you?  Is it attending something and handing out resumes or is it actually meeting and talking?  Is it reaching out on Linkedin and asking if you could be introduced to someone? Is it reaching out to someone and asking if they could spare 10 minutes to talk to you about how they got to where they are? Is it building your network a person at a time? Or is it only attending events with hundreds of others and hoping you get picked? Building your network before hand is key.
  • Choose a program and work with a professor to help you maximize your efforts.  One of my favorite profs, Dr. Scott Grant at the University of Findlay will work with his students as long as they want to put forth the effort. He has sports marketing students competing in national competitions. He started an early morning club for those who want to set themselves apart and they set strategy, work with a team/business, build relationships, and execute a plan.  When he recommends a student to me, I know they are spectacular. How many of you attend classes and nothing else and expect to apply online and get a position?
  • Applying for positions.  You applied online.  Job done. Or is it? What will make you stand out from 400 others applying? Have you done your homework? Have you sent an additional resume/cover letter to the director of the department.  If chosen for an interview, are your prepared? Are you asking them about their business but finding it’s something that you should already know? Do you have the proper skill set they are asking for? Do you have solid questions prepared for an interview? Are YOU prepared to explain what you believe you can bring to the organization? Are you humble enough to know that you will continue your learning?
  • Develop your interest.  So many students just ‘want in’ and will figure it out later. It doesn’t work that way.  Nowadays, sales teams are looking for those who specifically want to be in sales.  Marketing teams often want 1-3 years of experience, which says get busy and work with an agency, a higher end college, a firm first.  Ops teams will sometimes bring you in from the bottom up and you will grow as people may leave.  Analytics teams look for those who took analytic courses and preferably held some internships in analytics.
  • Be open to growing and learning.  Sports is evolving. We are all continually learning and changing. As a sales consultant, I still sell so I know and understand current challenges and how best to overcome them. I read. I ask. I learn. As much as college works to prepare you, there is so much more to learn. Embrace it. When interviewing with a team, make sure you ask and know what their investment will be in your learning process.

By no means is this an all inclusive list.  Hopefully it gives you an idea as to how to start and develop your profession.  The most sought after people in sports aren’t recruited…they are truly sought after and contacted because of their accomplishments.  It’s a road that can have bumps and detours, but those who reach the next interstate are those who weather the storms, learn, and grow.  They make  a difference. They are positive people who want to excel and will put the effort in to make it happen. They will work smartly.  They will be mobile.  They will make things happen, not expect them to happen. They will continually build their network. They will have a prof as a strong mentor. They will not just apply for a position but will go the extra mile. They will have multiple internships and be ready to focus on one area. They will want to continually learn and grow.  These are the people who are choosing sports for a career, not just to work for their favorite team.

What are YOU doing to prepare yourself for this opportunity?

Kathy Burrows, Sold Out Seating

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“I just wanted to reach out and thank you again for all of your effort and the training you provided during my time with the Indians. I was very raw in the beginning, but the training you put us through prepared me to be successful at selling season tickets & become confident in myself. With my current company, I have been given the opportunity to lead the Business Development Team over the past two years. Recently, when I hired my two new reps, I decided to put a training binder together & found myself referring back to your materials & mirroring the setup. It has been great to develop their skillset & see the success they are having on the phones. I also wanted to thank you for forcing us to prospect the second half of our program. Although we all resisted and didn’t have immediate success, you always drilled in the same message. “You won’t be successful at sales if you can’t or don’t know how to prospect”. Not only has this helped me train my team, but it has also earned me respect from my management team. I really owe a lot of my success so far in my career due to your program.”  M. Stanek 



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