Management, Scouting, Administration – Which Sports Management Career Is Right For You?

Sports managers handle the business aspects of sports teams, and can also act as agents or managers for individual athletes. Someone with a degree in sports management is prepared for an administrative position in the mid to upper echelons of any professional or collegiate athletic organization. Sports managers make financial decisions for sports teams, from equipment purchases to player compensation, and the decisions of a manager can directly affect the quality of a team and its reputation within the sport. Sports managers are praised for a team’s good performances and excoriated when they have an off season, so anyone on this career path needs thick skin and a love of the game.

Niches in Sports Management

Not all sports managers need the same skills. Managing a bunch of elementary or high school sports teams takes a different ability set than being Derrick Rose’s personal agent. If you’re looking into a degree in sports management, check out the possibilities for specialization before committing to a general program. Below is a list of options for specialization in the field of sports management:

  • Coaching: If you love the nuances of strategy in your sport, but prefer not to get your heart-rate up, coaching a team gives you the opportunity to participate in games at a higher level. Designing plays, running practices and workouts, and inspiring players are standard activities for a team coach at any age brackets. Many coaches in national leagues like the NFL or MLB started out as players themselves, but coaching college or high-school teams doesn’t necessarily require playing experience.
  • Agency: Being an agent doesn’t get you super close to the game, but it does let you participate in the world of sports business in a unique way. Athletes’ agents help them manage their time, public image, and other aspects of their career. An agent might help a player negotiate a higher salary, transition between teams, or do damage control on a prickly PR situation. While agents don’t typically write contracts, they can certainly push for changes to legal documents, and an agent may work closely with a lawyer who specializes in sports.
  • Recruiting/Scouting: Recruiters and scouts usually work at the high school level or above, and their primary duty is to find promising players and convince them to play for one team instead of another. Scouts do significant traveling to the games of rival teams to find and woo talented players. Scouting is a sports-watcher’s and stat-tracker’s dream job because so much of the job involves evaluating players by watching them play and keeping track of their achievements.
  • Athletic Training: If physical fitness is your passion and you want to work with athletes to keep them in shape in both on and off seasons. Athletic trainers may also work with sports physicians and physical therapists so that injured players receive the best, fastest treatment possible and can get back in the game quickly. An athletic trainer needs a combination of fitness knowledge, nutritional know-how, and sports business and strategy knowledge, all of which can be attained while studying for a sports management degree.

Steps Towards Getting a Sports Management Degree Online

Sports management degrees are available either online or at campus colleges, or you can combine the two for a customized experience. Here are some steps you can take to get the most out of the online components of your sports management education.

  1. Figure out which aspect of sports management interests you most. Do you want to be a coach? Event planner? Recruiter? General manager? Trainer? Does the business aspect or the athletic aspect inspire you more?
  2. When you know where you want to specialize, it is time to start looking at degree programs. The list at the end of this article includes many accredited online schools with sports management programs that you can consider.
  3. Once you’ve picked a program, you should apply for scholarships and figure out your education budget. How long is it going to take you to finish this degree? Can you afford it without getting into debt, or will you need to take out loans? Apply for government loans, grants, and scholarships, as discussed later in this article, if you need financial assistance.
  4. Finally, you can apply for school! The application process will take at least a few weeks, if not longer, but with online schools, you might apply, get accepted, and start classes within the space of a month. Make sure you’re ready to start working hard, because a sports management degree from an online college or university is rigorous and time consuming, even if it does offer extra flexibility over a solely campus based education.

Grants, Scholarships, Loans, and Other Financing Options

Most students finance their educations with a combination of governmental loans, grants, and private scholarships. Taking on debt as part of a long term financial plan can be a wise choice, but avoiding credit card debt and stewarding your borrowed money carefully are crucial skills for anyone using loans to pay for college. The following is a list of loan and scholarship sources, along with useful money-saving tips for students of all stripes, including sports management students.

  • Stafford and Perkins Loans from the U.S. Government are available to most students, and their amount increases based on your financial need. These loans come in subsidized and unsubsidized versions, and the difference is mainly in how they accumulate interest. Subsidized loans don’t start accruing interest until after you graduate, but unsubsidized ones start immediately. If you can afford to pay the interest on these loans as soon as it accumulates, rather than letting it become “capitalized” so that you have to start paying interest on the interest, you’ll save money during your college years. If you can get subsidized loans, though, you don’t have to worry about that.
  • Pell Grants are governmental money that doesn’t need to be paid back. Students with demonstrable financial need can get these grants for more than $5,000 each school year. Other restrictions apply, so check out the official government web page about Pell Grants to see whether you qualify.
  • There are two major tax breaks for those pursuing higher education in the U.S., the HOPE tax credit and the Lifelong Learning credit. These give you money in a roundabout way by allowing you to not pay taxes on a portion of your income that is being used for education. This can save you around $2,000 per year.
  • Private scholarships are one of the biggest sources of almost-free money for students. Your school might have money set aside specifically for sports management students, or there might be merit based scholarships available to you if you got good grades in high school or were quarterback of the football team.

Famous Sports Managers You Might Have Heard Of

Sports management can be a high profile career if you’re working in a national league or for a team with celebrity players on it. Here’s a list of a few famous sports managers whose names and work you might recognize:

  • Leigh Steinberg is the sports agent who inspired the character Jerry Maguire, played by Tom Cruise in the movie of the same name. His real life clients include Troy Aikman and Ben Roethlisberger.
  • Eugene Parker was another NFL player agent who inspired a character, Rod Tidwell, in the movie Jerry Maguire. Parker negotiated contracts for Emmitt Smith and Deion Sanders.
  • Vince Lombardi is a household name for football fans who played football in high school and college, and coached college ball before leading the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowl victories. Lombardi’s oratorical style was famed, and the motivational speeches he gave to his teams contributed to his reputation as a stellar coach.
  • George Steinbrenner, famed owner and manager of the New York Yankees, earned his Master of Arts in physical education. The Yankees won seven World Series’ while Steinbrenner was a managing partner in the organization.
  • Billy Beane is part owner and manager of the Oakland Athletics, and has had wild success as a manager of the team. He started his career as an amateur, then professional baseball player, and quit to pursue management before he was thirty. In 2003, Michael Lewis’ book “Moneyball” chronicled Beane’s baseball career, and in 2011 a film of the same name was adapted from the book.

Many Paths to a Sports Management Career

As illustrated by the array of sports management professionals above, many paths can lead to careers in sports management, and many types of sports management careers can lead to money and fame. Earning a degree in sports management, especially if you have athletic experience and aspirations, will give you the well-rounded skills to launch yourself on a thrilling career trajectory.

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