How to get started in the sports field
Posted: 8:44 a.m. Monday, Sept. 9, 2013
By Laura Raines
For EDU Atlanta
When Carlos Sanchez says he’s “living his dream,” he’s not talking about playing ball. He’s referring to working in the highly competitive field of sports management.
A sports fan all his life, Sanchez grew up in Puerto Rico and watched the Atlanta Braves play on TV. When his family moved to Atlanta, he played football and baseball in high school, and planned to major in business administration in college.
His interests meshed at Kennesaw State University when he took an introduction to sports management course his freshman year and switched his major to sports management.
“There are so many career opportunities in this field. The field is a lot broader than most people think,” Sanchez said.
Atlanta has hosted the Olympics, Super Bowls, Final Fours, major golf tournaments, college bowl games, college conference championships and is the home of three professional sports teams, as well as numerous venues and recreational parks.
Sanchez has learned both in the classroom and through practical experience.
“If you’re interested in this field, you should always volunteer with your school’s athletic department. It’s a great way to meet people and get your foot in the door,” he said.
For four years, he’s worked as a volunteer, a part-time employee and an intern with the Atlanta Braves.
“Starting with your own home team is as good as it gets,” said Sanchez, whose concentration is in marketing. “You’re working in a big office and meeting people you’ve always heard about. Then you walk outside and you’re in this big, beautiful ballpark. You get so much energy from the players and the fans. You realize that when you work, people get to play.”
Last spring Sanchez used his experience and connections to land an internship with the office of the commissioner of Major League Baseball in New York City. He finished his internship this past summer by helping to plan MLB’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) World Series in Minnesota.
“Working with interns from Harvard, Columbia and Yale was a big accomplishment and I was thrilled,” he said. “I was the only person representing Kennesaw State and the Braves organization, and I woke up every morning ready to go.
“You have to have a good-looking résumé, a passion for what you’re doing and be able to form relationships to work in this industry. You have to always be on the top of your game, because there are so many others who would love to take your place.”
Sanchez graduated in July and is searching for a job.
A growing discipline
Sports management is a relatively young academic discipline that has grown quickly, said J.C. Bradbury, chairman and professor with Kennesaw State University’s department of exercise science and sports management.
“Think about what ESPN was 20 years ago; it was a channel. Now it’s central to every cable negotiation,” Bradbury said.
Kennesaw State started its bachelor of science program in sports management in 1999. Enrollment has grown by about 15 percent per year, and there are now more than 400 students in the program. Students are required to have a minimum GPA of 2.75 in core courses to be accepted and to stay in the program.
Approved by the North American Society for Sports Management, the 123-credit-hour program includes an overview of sports management and the history of sports, as well as courses in finance, economics, management, fundraising, facility design and management, and psychology and sociology as they pertain to the sports industry.
Students also take electives in coaching, communications or professional selling, depending on their career interest. An internship is required during their senior year, and it often opens doors.
Sports management graduates find jobs with professional sports teams, college or high school sports departments, sports venues, radio and TV stations, marketing firms, parks and recreation departments, or sports governing bodies like MLB or the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“Atlanta is a great sports market with all its college teams, major league sports, big venues and Turner Sports. It’s also a business hub. Many major corporations advertise through sport because they know people are watching,” Bradbury said.
One of the challenges of finding a job in the industry is that many people want to work in sports, so competition is keen.
“Passion isn’t enough. You have to have commitment, skills, smarts and be willing to work hard to show what you can do,” Bradbury said.
It’s also important to build a network. A job may come through volunteering, an internship or from someone you meet.
Entry-level employees begin at the bottom and starting salaries generally are low, “but if you show that you’re capable, you can get handed responsibility fairly quickly and move up,” Bradbury said.
Some of the top jobs in the field — college athletic directors and professional sports team general managers — make in the six and seven-figure range.
“The best part about this field is that you get to work at something you’re passionate about,” Bradbury said. “Employers are looking for people with degrees and skills. We’ve been lucky to be in on the ground floor and grow with the business of sport.”