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Sports Management Careers: 7 Traits for Success

Got the right stuff to make the team? See what sports management career star players have in common.

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Sports Management Careers 101

Sports and recreation are big business, and the number of sports management degree programs at colleges and universities has mushroomed since 1980. All are focused on preparing students for the various types of sports management career fields that are popping up along with focused degree programs.

There's much more to the industry than the NBA or NFL. Sporting types are at work in a huge range of enterprises, including:

  • Media and marketing
  • Business and analytics
  • Fitness and pro sports clubs
  • Parks and recreation departments
  • Sports arenas, ski areas, golf clubs
  • Equipment manufacturers
  • Intercollegiate athletics

What's it take to make it in this highlight competitive arena? A successful player in a sports management career is a well-rounded pro, combining business savvy and interpersonal skills. Here are the top traits for victory, both on and off the field:

  1. Business acumen: Get ready for a round of moneyball. Whether they're managing payroll or sizing up potential business partnerships, sports managers always have an eye on the bottom line.
  2. Street smarts: Savvy managers need more than book learning to make it in this game. When push comes to shove, the ability to read people and act on instinct are often crucial to getting a business win.
  3. Communication skills: Strong, silent types need not apply. Whether they're working in marketing or selling tickets to fans, sports managers need to communicate their enthusiasm and get their ideas across effectively.
  4. Passion for the game: Rookies in sports management often start at the bottom, working their way up from internships or ticketing positions. A true love of sports, fitness and recreation is key to long-term success.
  5. Entrepreneurism: In this fast-moving field, innovation and an eye for new opportunity are crucial. The best sports managers are always looking for ways to improve their game and set new personal bests.
  6. Collaboration skills: Sports is about more than getting the win. From growing community partnerships to teaching kids a new game, good sports managers know that their success rests on a foundation of trust.
  7. Customer focus: From professional bloggers to teens with Twitter accounts, consumers wield enormous power. Savvy sports managers focus relentlessly on delivering the best possible customer experience.

9 Ways to Put a Sports Management Degree to Work

Does a sports management career have your name all over it? There are plenty of ways to put a degree into play, including roles in:

  • Marketing and communications: Spread the love! Inform and inspire customers with marketing campaigns and promotions.
  • Events management: Whether it's a 5K run or a fundraising auction, work behind the scenes to make sure everything comes off without a hitch.
  • Business operations: From payroll to IT systems, sports managers in the back office are keeping everything on track.
  • Sports analytics: Create statistical models to evaluate player and team success as well as potential team match-ups.
  • Community relations: Maintain positive relations with customers and local businesses, coordinating charity drives, player appearances and more.
  • Facility management: From tending the greens to grooming the ski runs to maintaining the HVAC, these pros keep everything in good working order.
  • Ticketing and sales: Using sophisticated computerized systems, ticketing and sales agents aren't just selling seats—they're selling good times.
  • Recruiting: Got an eye for talent? Savvy players can work their way up to evaluate potential players and decide who's ready for the show.
  • Compliance management: Is the team or university complying with ever-more-complicated sports law? Harness your business savvy to make sure it's a level playing field.

Next steps for your sports management career

With a sports management degree, you can share in the glory of the game without breaking a sweat. There are hundreds of degree programs in the U.S., including part-time online options designed for busy working adults. Start exploring and discover the sports management degree program that's a perfect fit.