What's the best way to stay on top of the proverbial game? There are several strategies that come to mind: Stay ahead of the trends. Keep your website current. Network.
The best? Go back to school.
Higher education is probably the most effective way to increase your presence in the sports world.
Sports management is a relatively new industry, but also extremely competitive. The best way to rise to the top and ensure that you stay there is, simply, education.
In response to growth, colleges and universities all over the country have included Sport Management or Sport and Recreation Management as part of their curriculum.
According to North American Society for Sport Management, 299 schools of higher education have sports programs. Many offer BBA or BBS degrees with a concentration in sports management while others offer a Bachelors or Master degree. Students are typically required to complete an internship or experiential opportunity within their chosen field. You can see a complete list on their website - nassm.com.
Auburn University has been an industry leader in Sports Management and Dr. Katie Brock, director of MBA Admissions and Operations, has seen how the interest in sports management has grown.
"We have a very strong assistantship program here which allows them to work 10-15ours per week to work in the business school," explained Brock. "Students with the sport management concentration are working in our sports administration. We try and place students based on their interests for experiential opportunities. That helps them gain the experience for their future."
"We also launched the Office of Professional and Career Development," continued Brock. "With that we do not only career fairs but also, for example, corporate recruiters and students have an opportunity to practice meet and network in both casual and formal environments."
In 1983, the United States Sports Academy was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, becoming the nation's first accredited institution dedicated to professional graduate studies in sport.
Dr. T.J. Rosandich, vice president of USSA, is not only a graduate of the academy, with both masters and doctoral degrees, but returned to the academy after extensive travels overseas developing sports programs. Rosandich agrees that experiential learning is an excellent tool when pursuing a career in Sport Management.
"I recommend to our students to go for the experiential option," said Rosandich. "More than one-third get a job offer from the folks that took them on as interns. That's an excellent way to get into the sports industry right out of the shoot but if nothing else you've already begun to build contacts."
"I think it certainly serves as a point of differentiation," said Coyte Cooper, PhD, assistant professor of sport administration, Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at the University of North Carolina. "What employers are looking for is students coming from a quality program. But it's also about having an internship in place. We talk about theory and practice in the classroom but the internship provides the opportunity to learn. That's one thing you constantly hear is that they want quality education, but also experience. Now it's not just one internship, but rather two or three, and that's a big challenge but that's the way it is now."
To Degree Or Not To Degree
Despite long hours and less traditional time frames in which to work, people are clamoring for these sometimes high profile jobs and it is fast becoming a requirement to have a degree within the sports management field.
"More and more employers are looking for a Masters degree," said Cooper. "One thing is that the graduate level is being more specialized. For example our program is for students that want to work in college athletics. We can give them an excellent education as well as great experience in real practical environment. It gets you to the point where you are more marketable than other students."
So what's the best way to stand out?
"It's like any other profession, you have to earn your spurs," said Rosandich. "You have to go in with your eyes open and be willing to make the commitment. And what I mean is that working in sports usually takes place outside of the usual 9-5 and the hours can be long."
"Build a Rolodex," he recommends. "It's not always what you know, but who you know. You have to work hard at networking, at the end of the day if you come out of an education program with degree in hand you will have gotten a base line of skills and hopefully the education experience has taught you where to look for answers if you don't already have them."
But what if you've been working in your chosen field and the idea of going back on campus scares you into a corner?
Utilizing resources for continuing education is an excellent way to further your knowledge and stay on top of industry trends.
The National Association of Sports Commissions offers the Certified Sports Event Executive program that is open only to NASC members. The program offers up to date knowledge and information from relevant topics within the sports industry.
Beth Hecquet is not only a Certified Meeting Planner, but also the director of meetings and events with NASC and heads up the CSEE program.
"We are the only certification program for the sports event travel industry," said Hecquet. "The certification itself and the modules that make that up are strictly and deliberately for sports event planners."
With over 100 graduates, the majority include representatives of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, Sports Commissions and host groups as well as some event planners.
"It gives them the recognition within the industry and their peers across the country," continued Hecquet. "They have invested in their jobs and have taken extra steps to be successful in the sports event industry."
USSA recognizes the importance of industry related recognition. "The academy has worked for a long time with the National Association of College Athletic Directors to put together a certification program that took those core skills that had sport marketing, personnel management, facility and event management," said Rosandich. "Certifications and continuing educations can be modified to meet specific needs of a market."
In this ever changing world, the same applies to the sports industry. Jobs evolve, roles of individuals change and it is imperative to stay current.
In the wake of 9/11, security has been an issue of heightened awareness at sports events. Studies in that area are becoming more relevant than prior to the terrorist attacks.
"There has been an evolution since 9/11," said Rosandich. "How do you plan for ‘control' at an event where a mass bomber attends a game? That is a whole new thing in event management, not only a terrorist threat but also weather related safety. Educators need to be aware of recent trends and provide proper resources."
Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we view networking. Players have their own pages and both professional and collegiate sports organizations are taking steps to educate their player, staff and personnel the 'right' way to utilize these online tools.
But on the other hand, it's a brand new shiny marketing tool that doesn't affect the budget.
"We find that Facebook marketing initiatives are more successful than traditional marketing like electronic newsletters," said Rosandich.
Brock agrees, "We are further developing what we have established here at Auburn and utilize both Twitter and FB on recruiting(students)," she said. "We have a graduate program Association of Graduate Business Students and they do networking tailgate events at our football games. That brings alumni back and corporate sponsors, it's something we've always done but now we are more business focused with it."
So with all of that ever changing information combined with the rich traditions of sports that we love, there is ample room for growth and continued education.