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  • Writer's pictureAisha Nazia

Working for Sports, WHY & why NOT?

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

A file photo from February 2020_The Hero Indian Super League Picture Courtesy: Ashik George

If you chose to read this, I am sure you will be one of these – a sports enthusiast, a management professional looking for some excited and adventurous work in a particular sport, a fanatic who always wondered what these guys walking around the field of play do in life, you have a sports management degree and haven’t discovered what to do in life now or you just want to know what is sports management all about because you think it’s fascinating to work in a stadium, run a game as a day job.

I hate to kill dreams, but today I might just burst the bubble for some of the sports fans reading this. Jobs in the so called “Sports Industry” is not always about knowing the game, it is very much like doing a project of which the game is one of the critical department or the reason why the project even exists, but yet there are other crucial departments associated that compliments it.

It’s all about the skillset one has, and unlike usual day jobs, there isn’t a pre-defined Job Description that you fit into, every new game or every new league, you never know what is coming and you go beyond what’s written.

People just assume that because they know the game well, the StarSports and the ESPNs of the world is going to hire them and get them live on the telecast, but the reality is that there is so much beyond it. Critical Thinking, Decision Making, Good Command over a Language and its usage are not just Must Haves you see on Corporate Expectation Lists, it’s the same when it comes to the kind of work the Sports Industry needs.

A file photo from October 2019_The NBA India Games Picture Courtesy: Maria Sanguiliano

For example, if you want to work for a team, knowing the owners, the team and the game are nowhere close, you need to know marketing, strategy, analytics, outreach and so on – why all of these not because of them being tangible but also because the industry has more demand and need when its comes to sales and marketing because the whole business revolves around the spectators and viewership.

Think of a scenario, if your favourite club decides to change it’s kit colours, or may be change the design of it’s merchandise, it might not even hit your head than getting excited to buy them. It is definitely one big marketing decision, they sell the new ones, you buy the new ones and they make more money. This definitely has nothing to do with the sport as such, it was all about the strategy set around it.

If you are still reading this, then possibly you were once, or is looking forward for a career in sports, but yeah you can still be a sucker of information too or maybe just someone who likes my writing. 😉

No matter where you work, being able to work in a group, complimenting each other, not playing the boss and respecting every individual is one of the biggest factor to why one is satisfied with what they do. Just to give you a sneak peak, there was this colleague of mine who assumes himself to be the boss where he is actually one among the five in the team. Inspite of getting things in place and working with a SPORTIVE spirit, he is on a run to prove that he is the “everything” and ends up being a pain to the rest of us. Such behaviors create a lot of unnecessary friction in work places especially sporting ones as work in this industry can be exciting yet very challenging.

A file photo from October 2017_The FIFA Under 17 Men’s World Cup Picture Courtesy: Rinish Valsan

This industry never gets you bored as every day is a new game, a new scenario and a new result. It keeps up the fuel for running you.

Another major hit on our head is the fact that career progression is super stunt, there are just few positions, very little conversion of executives, low pays and the disparity between supply and demand. Beyond all this, fools like the one I mentioned above overdoing things to prove who knows who.

You may hear many around you give you freebies “Do what you love”, I don’t think that is practical always, sometimes professional career might be something you love to do, in-spite of not in a mood to wake for the same that day morning.

Someone who had been a fan or a player of a particular sport, ends up assuming he/she is qualified to work for that sport. They feel this industry is going to be interesting and exciting to work for because of their background but it is mostly interspersed when hurdles hit their way and challenges burn them out.

I have always noticed people rolling eye balls the moment you tell them that you work for sports, but the relief is that work keeps you so busy that you don’t get to meet people much. 😂

Sports companies/organizations are usually not ranked high when it comes to the “best places to work” lists of the world because they don’t really give a thought mostly when it comes to employee engagement, wellness and welfare. They mostly fall well short of the usual HR practices. This still doesn’t affect them much due to the aforementioned disparity between supply and demand of resources. There is an over abundance of job seekers than what the industry needs, and hence this case puts sports organizations on a light note when it comes to competitive employee compensation policies.

Most sports organizations being of smaller size with fewer employees than usual corporates makes it difficult for career progression and also flexibility at work. Being a schedule constraint work at the core, it adds up to the whole scenario where employees have long work shifts and back to back assignments without break. Yet another reason making it complicated how to manage. Hence for anyone or everyone aspiring to be a sports professional someday soon, these are the attachments that come along.

This industry doesn’t have a leave policy, darling.

Here are few that really might bother one. To start off with, the lack of job security, especially when it’s professional sporting events. One can never predict when a team gets sold or change ownership and when would things go south.

To make sure, the organization needs you, your contributions should be above usual standards and you need to be prepared and alert for a highly competitive run for some scarcest job openings.

Done talking about the cons, here are some good feelers from my end. As the industry attracts talent who are passionate and highly energetic, one gets to work with a set of amazing human beings with shared passion. Also being around professional sportsmen, is definitely an unavoidable motivation to stay fit and healthy.

Beyond just professional work, it’s a new page to my book, the exposure I have. People of various origins, skills, races all work together like all languages spell the same. Have you ever wondered how a non-english speaking Team Head Coach trains the players ? He does and they do build a rapport very quick unlike any other industry.

And a major relief is that sports as a profession and an industry to work for has seen tremendous rise since 1990s. All thanks to the evolution in internet, media, technology and everything digital.

Here is a quick hack too, leaders and hiring managers from various other industries often tend to be inclined to hiring resources who’s got some professional sports management experience in their pedigree, mostly because they tend to be smarter and spontaneous even under high pressure. Also if you are a self starter then trust me, every other sports organization across the globe needs you as one among them.

Let’s get to what is sour and bitter sometimes at work, I don’t want to call it a pain point, yet long working hours, working nights, sometimes weekends and even holidays are part of the minimum work requirements when it comes to working for sports. But if you have learned the art of balancing work with your personal time, then it’s just about right by altering lifestyle and family arrangements to compliment your schedules. There has been events where I haven’t slept for 3-4 days in a single shot, but that’s on me totally though. I function weird.

But there is definitely a camaraderie realising that it isn’t just this industry; healthcare and hospitality are mates in this matter.

But the happy news is the fact that there is high demand for sports management professionals and also there is this huge sport hungry audience across the globe.

Here are some pointers I can list as my perks working for sports.

⁃ I feel encouraged to stay fit, sane and healthy with the kind of people around, it’s more of daily fitness and better mobility vibes

⁃ Being able to learn the ability to work on a spontaneous mode because you never know what will happen and when, the game is the most unpredictable! (though all of us sometimes get a feeling, the match can be fixed)

⁃ The whole sporting environment actually improves my mood, I just love being in there as I am free of stress, unwanted worries and all the other non-sense life throws at us

⁃ Wearing T-shirts, Polos, Track Pants, Sneakers,etc is not called Casual because that is my comfort zone when it comes to clothing

⁃ No Sirs and Madams, the structure is super flat and so much easy to collaborate and work, this reflects respect in a better way than portraying hierarchy otherwise

Some more Appetizers here

⁃ Access to great and inspiring talent

⁃ How much my work fascinates the people around me

I believe beyond all of this, what is the most important is the ability to work together with commitment towards the assurance of saying no to biases, being reliable and doing everything with all fairness, these are required no matter which sport it is or which industry you work for.

And yeah people who love a particular sports are usually pretty motivated in general. Exceptions may be many though.

Here are my last few cents on this and I am done.

Just like any other industry across the globe today, even the sports industry is known to attract all the cool dudes, but why not the dudettes, the so called obvious reasons everyone assumes, they can’t work with utmost flexibility, not sure if they’ll be able to manage the timings, travel, physical strain and what not. How can a woman be a team manager, will she be okay seeing all the male players walk around naked in the player room or will she enjoy that? A lot of women and men have asked this. Being naked is their choice in a room with 25 others, to see it or not is each individual’s choice. I know this is funny, but fact check, a one hundred percent.

The sports industry is trying their best to get progressive about sustainability, digitization, etc but haven’t paved their way out of the outdated thoughts on gender inclusion. Women are used more like click baits, overdone, polished, and made to look attractive to speak of sports on television, another taboo that needs to be broken. Why can’t one just wear a cool polo with a pair of smart pants and represent a football show, wouldn’t you be listening to what that woman is saying about the game because she hasn’t dressed the other way round. Ponder over this please!

Nike, Adidas, Puma, Under Armour, FIFA, NBA, NFL, etc are big names in the industry we are all familiar about and not a surprise that there are only few women in leadership roles of which I had the opportunity to work with two.

Hilary Krane, VP & Chief Administrative Officier

Karen Parking, CHRO, Addidas

Kerry D Chandler, CHRO, Under Armour

Fatma Samoura, Secretary General, FIFA

Kathy Behrens, President-Social Responsibility & Player Programs, NBA

Killeen Mullen, Associate Vice President, Global Events, NBA

Amy Brooks, Chief Innovation Officer, NBA

Dawn Aponte, Chief Football Administrative Officer, NFL

Tracy Perlman, Senior Vice President of Football Communications & Marketing, NFL

Now it’s up-to you to decide, because your choice is what matters!

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