Sports managers are among the most important professionals in sports today. While you might ooh and ahh over the physical feats of your favorite athletes, successes and failures are more often thanks to the work of sports managers – months or years in advance – than to the competitors on TV.
If this makes you interested in becoming a sports manager, you aren’t alone. The sports industry in general is growing at a significant clip, and available sports management positions are expected to expand in the next decade or so. Now is a good time to invest in sports management education, perhaps by pursuing a sports management online master’s degree while you gain internships and entry-level work in the field.
It’s not a good idea to rush into sports management without taking this step. There are several mistakes you can make when building a career in sports management, and most of them will cripple your ability to find the success you crave. Here are a few of the biggest mistakes to avoid in these early stages of your career.
1. Forgetting to Think Long-term
You might want to get into sports management now, while your passion for sports is burning its hottest, but the truth is rushing into this field without developing a long-term career plan is a major blunder. You need to equip yourself with the right skills and knowledge to excel in sports management by earning first a bachelor’s in a related field like business administration.
Later, you should return to school for a sports management online master’s degree, which will hone your existing abilities for use in the athletics industry. Both of these educational experiences will give you credentials that your competitors in the field might lack, and they introduce you to valuable contacts who will help you climb the career ladder.
Additionally, once you begin working as a sports manager, you should think long-term in your workplace decisions. For instance, it might not be wise to trade a handful of high-performing players for one untested first-round draft pick. When the future of an athletic franchise depends on these kinds of calls, you must work with your team (of athletes and administrators) to determine the best long-term strategy.
2. Ignoring Big Risks While Chasing Big Rewards
Sports as a whole is built on the excitement of risk. What are the risks of the QB throwing the ball as opposed to handing it off? What are the risks of sprinting at the beginning of the race to develop a lead as opposed to sprinting at the end to close any gaps? What are the risks of a splitter, a curveball, a changeup or a slider?
It isn’t a good idea to ignore risk as a sports manager – not only because one’s career is devoted to the risky field of sports but also because rolling the dice without calculating the risk is a good way to get fired from this position. Sports managers should chase big rewards, but only if they have the data to back up their decisions.
Thus, as you begin to build your sports management career, you should recognize and use risk to your advantage – without plunging your athletes or team into such great risk that the rewards are few.
3. Taking Every Little Thing Personally
Ultimately, sports is a business. In your personal life, you can live and die by the successes and failures of your favorite athletes and teams, but as a sports manager, you must recognize that not every move you or those around you make is personal.
A good example of this mistake comes from the legend of sports management himself, Billy Beane. Though Beane is known as one of the most talented executives in sports – he was even commemorated in “Moneyball” and played by Brad Pitt – he has made some questionable trades for the Oakland Athletics, some of which seem to be led by his personal feelings instead of his professional skill.
To avoid this behavior, you should surround yourself with experts in data and sports who can weigh in on potential moves. This way, you will be better equipped to avoid acting rashly on human emotion and in the end make a decision that will truly benefit your athlete, team, or franchise.