Touch ’Em All: Four Ways to Build Your Sports Career at School

By: Logan Bement, @brogan_24

We, as high school and college students, hear about it all the time: college is full of opportunities, make the most of those four years, don’t leave any stone unturned, etc. This is just as true for us students looking to break into the sports industry, as collegiate athletics are a huge part of the fabric of many schools. Midway through my junior semester, at a major athletic school, UConn, I definitely have seen how much is available to students, and how much more can be available, if you just look a little deeper. I want to share four ways students can help get their sports careers off the ground while still at school. I’ve found these really useful for either myself or some of my friends.

1. Join, or create, a club or organization.

Often schools will have involvement fairs at the beginning of every semester, where all the clubs will have a table and members present to discuss more, gauge interest, and collect emails. This is a great way to see what other students share interests with you and what are available to you. This was how I found UConn’s Sports Business Association, which routinely features career workshops, guest speakers, and field trips to places like Fenway Park and the NBA Hall of Fame. These clubs are great ways to meet students and professionals who share the same interests and make lasting connections. If your school doesn’t offer a club that fits your needs, starting one yourself could be the best decision you ever make. You are able to tailor it to what you would like to do and it demonstrates tremendous initiative and organization. For example, at Syracuse, the Baseball Statistics and Sabermetrics Club was founded only two years ago, but they just recently presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Conference featuring some of sports’ brightest minds, which shows how far your club or organization can take you if you put in the work.

2. Reach out to your school’s athletic department.

This may be easier for those at larger, Division 1 schools, but regardless of where you go there are opportunities available. Putting on a single collegiate athletic event requires a tremendous amount of work and execution, most of which happens behind the scenes. From facilities, to marketing, to operations, there are a million moving parts before, during, and after a game. That is where you come in; schools are often looking for volunteers (and sometimes even pay!) for student help at these games, not to mention getting to see games for free. Check out your athletic department’s website and reach out to some of the folks there, you may be surprised with what opportunities are available to you! My freshman year, I applied for a game-day operations job with our athletic department that I found online on a whim, a few weeks later I was sitting courtside at a UConn basketball game as a student assistant for the visiting team!

3. Be a student-manager for a team.

If you have a particularly strong interest in one sport or another, an incredible way to get your foot in the door is to manage a team. Being a manager doesn’t just mean washing the dirty laundry at practice, a lot of my friends who manage different teams here get to travel with the team, help with video sessions, handle a lot of office duties, and sometimes even practice. Not to mention, being a manager puts you in the shoes of what it’s like to be a student-athlete (minus the actual games) so you get a chance to work on things like time management, organization, nutrition, and more which are helpful for your career, not to mention yourself as an individual. While you might not get paid to do it, the experience you get could help you land that job or internship with your favorite team. Don’t be afraid to go knock on Coach’s door next time you walk by his or her office!

4. Don’t limit yourself to just sports.

The sports world is hyper-competitive and jobs pop up and get filled almost instantly these days. Even at the collegiate level this is true. There are a lot of students, like you, looking to get into sports anyway they can. While this might go against traditional advice, I really recommend taking a step back and outside of sports, maybe for a semester or a year. This is only applicable if you’re having trouble finding something in sports at your school. There are plenty of opportunities in addition to athletics. Last year, I took a job as a Marketing Assistant in our School of Business, totally unrelated to sports and something that seemed like a perfect opportunity to expand my skill set. Doing something like this is a great way to gain a fresh perspective and new skills that you can eventually bring with you when you find that great gig in sports.

This is hardly a comprehensive look at your options as a student, but hopefully some great places to get started. More than anything, having the passion to work in sports will help you get to where you want to be. The one common thread tying the above list together is the value of networking and making as many connections as possible. I can’t stress that enough! Opportunities are like interceptions, never given away, rather, you have to be the one to take them. Now go make a play!