Fields of Study - Sport Management


Definition and Nature of the Field

Sport management involves any combination of skills related to planning, organizing, directing, controlling, budgeting, leading, and evaluating within the context of an organization or department whose primary product or service is related to sport or physical activity (DeSensi, Kelley, Blanton and Beitel, 20003). Sport managers carry out these skills in a variety of organizational settings (for example): college sports; professional sports; amateur sports (Olympics); sport marketing and management firms; sport communications and news media firms; corporate sponsorship and advertising firms; sporting goods firms; arenas, stadium, and civic centers; community recreation sports programs; social service agency sports programs (YMCA, YWCA, JCC); private club sports programs; and military sports programs. According to Parkhouse (2005), the most recent research on the economic impact of sport identifies it as a $213 billion-a-year industry, making it the sixth largest industry in the United States (“The answer is,” SportsBusiness Journal, p.23, December 1999). The wide range of organizational settings where sports occur means that individuals can select and pursue careers in the kind of work environment of their choice and for which they are best suited (public/private organization; profit/non-profit organization; professional/amateur sports; participation/spectator sports). Besides traditional sports, the sports industry now involves new alternative, action, and extreme sports (skateboarding, boogie boarding, ice climbing, snow kayaking, etc) and new professional sports, especially for women. An upsurge in the numbers and variety of sports publications, sports related internet sites, and enhanced mass media presentation and exposure of sports events and activities is resulting in an increase in the need for individuals with special qualifications in sport communications/media. Hence, some sport management programs now offer courses in sport communications/media and there are a few programs of study (majors) now being offered in sport communications/media. Likewise, growth in the number and variety of specialized sports facilities, an increase in sports tourism and adventure travel, the rapid progression of the globalization of sports, and the provision of sport related goods and services for diverse market segments, is contributing to the continued growth of the sports industry. These developments ensure that the sports industry will continue to rank among the largest and most diverse industries in the nation, thereby, sustaining career opportunities for the future.

Education Requirements

Individuals who want to pursue a sport management career should pursue an academic degree program that provides them with a thorough understanding of sport, business/management, and significant and meaningful practical work experiences related to managing sport organizations/events. A “major” in sport management is preferable to completing a “minor” or “concentration” in sport management where the degree is actually earned by fulfilling academic requirements in a related academic discipline, for example: physical education, human movement, business administration; management; communications. Since the sports industry is so large and diverse, it is possible to pursue some specialized degree programs for specific segments of the sports industry, for example: golf management; sport communications/media; sports tourism/travel/hospitality.

High school courses in the area of business, (sport) marketing, economics, (sport) sociology, (sport) psychology, (sport) history, mathematics, and (business) statistics are useful to complete in preparing to study sport management in college. Likewise, playing varsity sports, participating in school sports organizations/clubs and assisting with school sports events or clinics is highly valued since it provides individuals with strong sports backgrounds and leadership experiences.

Related Work Experiences

Other work experiences that individuals can obtain to strengthen their backgrounds in preparing to study sport management in college include: officiating sports; coaching youth sports camps/clinics, assisting with the management and operations of sport camps/clinics; serving as a volunteer worker with professional sport teams/events; serving as a volunteer worker with college/amateur sports teams, camps, clinics, or events.

Career Opportunities

Since the sports industry is so large and diverse, a wide range of career opportunities exist in a wide range of organizational settings as mentioned in the section titled “Definition and Nature of Field.” Some examples of career opportunities for some of the management function areas in the sports industry include:

  • Administration: Owner; General Manager; Executive Director; Vice President; President/Founder; Athletic Director.
  • Communications/Media: Vice President for Sports Communications; Media Relations Assistant; Sport Video Manager; Sports Video Production Assistant; Assistant Manager for Sports Web Page/Internet Site.
  • Facilities & Events: Executive Director of Facility Operations and Entertainment; Facility Manager; Special Events Director; Event Coordinator; Food and Beverage Manager; Special Events Promotion Manager; Customer Relations Manager; Guest Services Manager.
  • Finance: Vice President for Finance; Associate Athletic Director for Finance; Ticket Manager; Accounting Manager; Director of Corporate Sales; Manager of Group Sales.
  • Law: General Counsel; Assistant General Counsel; Sports Agent; Vice President for Labor Relations; Sports Arbitrator/Mediator; Special Events Contract Lawyer; International Sport Lawyer; Intellectual Properties Lawyer.
  • Marketing: Vice President for Marketing; Director of Marketing; Director of Special Events and Promotions; Director of New Business Development; Director of Fan Development; Corporate Sales Manager; Tournament Operations Manager.
  • Public Relations: Vice President for Public Relations; Director of Sports Information; Director of Sports Publicity; Director of Sports Media; Director of Community Relations; Corporate Communications Assistant.
  • Travel/Tourism: Tournament Planner; Guest Relations Specialist; Adventure Travel Coordinator; Travel/Tour Guide; Special Events Coordinator.