Sports executives, sometimes known as team presidents, CEOs, and general managers, manage professional, collegiate, and minor league sports teams. They are responsible for the teams’ finances, as well as overseeing the other departments within the organization, such as marketing, public relations, accounting, ticket sales, advertising, sponsorship, and community relations. Sports executives also work on establishing long-term contacts and support within the communities where the teams play.
History of Sports Executive Career
The sports industry has matured into one of the largest industries in the United States. Professional teams are the most widely recognized industry segment in sports. Professional teams include all of the various sports teams, leagues, and governing bodies for which individuals get paid for their performance. Some of the most notable organizations include the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball. These are commonly known as the four majors. During recent decades, more professional leagues have started, such as the Women’s National Basketball League, the Arena Football League, and Major League Soccer. There are also many minor league and collegiate organizations.
The Job of Sports Executives
The two top positions in most sports organizations are team president and general manager. Depending on the size of the franchise, these two positions might be blended together and held by one person.
Team presidents are the chief executive officers of the club. They are responsible for the overall financial success of the team. Presidents oversee several departments within the organization, including marketing, public relations, broadcasting, sales, advertising, ticket sales, community relations, and accounting. Since team presidents must develop strategies to encourage fans to attend games, it is good if they have some experience in public relations or marketing. Along with the public relations manager, team presidents create give-away programs, such as cap days or poster nights.
Another one of the team president’s responsibilities is encouraging community relations by courting season ticket holders, as well as those who purchase luxury box seats, known as skyboxes. Usually, this involves selling these seats to corporations.
General managers handle the daily business activities of the teams, such as hiring and firing, promotions, supervising scouting, making trades, and negotiating player contracts. All sports teams have general managers, and usually the main functions of the job are the same regardless of the team’s professional level. However, some general managers that work with minor league teams might also deal with additional job duties, including managing the souvenir booths or organizing the ticket offices. The most important asset the general manager brings to an organization is knowledge of business practices.
Sports Executive Career Requirements
High school courses that will help you to become a sports executive include business, mathematics, and computer science. English, speech, and physical education courses will also be beneficial. Managing a school club or other organization will give you a general idea of the responsibilities and demands that this career involves.
To become a sports executive, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree. Remember, even though this is a sportrelated position, presidents and general managers are expected to have the same backgrounds as corporate executives. Most have master’s degrees in sports administration, and some have master’s degrees in business administration.
Sports executives must create a positive image for their teams. In this age of extensive media coverage (including the frequent public speaking engagements that are required of sports executives), excellent communications skills are a must. Sports executives need to be dynamic public speakers. They also need a keen business sense and an intimate knowledge of how to forge a good relationship with their communities. They also should have excellent organizational skills, be detail oriented, and be sound decision-makers.
Exploring Sports Executive Career
One way to start exploring this field is to volunteer to do something for your school’s sports teams, for example, chart statistics or take on the duties of equipment manager. This is a way to begin learning how athletic departments work. Talk to the general manager of your local minor league baseball club, and try to get a part-time job with the team during the summer. When you are in college, try to get an internship within the athletic department to supplement your course of study. Any experience you gain in any area of sports administration will be valuable to you in your career as a sports executive. You may also find it helpful to read publications such as Sports Business Journal.
Employers include professional, collegiate, and minor-league football, hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer, and other sports teams. They are located across the United States and the world. About 11 percent of all athletes, coaches, and sports officials and related workers are employed in the commercial sports industry.
A majority of all sports executives begin their careers as interns. Interning offers the opportunity to gain recognition in an otherwise extremely competitive industry. Internships vary in length and generally include college credits. They are available in hundreds of sports categories and are offered by more than 90 percent of existing sports organizations. If you are serious about working in the sports industry, an internship is the most effective method of achieving your goals.
Entry-level positions in the sports industry are generally reserved for individuals with intern or volunteer experience. Once you have obtained this experience, you are eligible for thousands of entry-level positions in hundreds of fields. Qualified employees are hard to find in any industry, so the experience you have gained through internships will prove invaluable at this stage of your career.
The experience prerequisite to qualify for a management- level position is generally three to five years in a specific field within the sports industry. At this level, an applicant should have experience managing a small to medium-sized staff and possess specific skills, including marketing, public relations, broadcasting, sales, advertising, publications, sports medicine, licensing, and specific sport player development.
The minimum experience to qualify for an executive position is generally seven years. Executives with proven track records in the minors can be promoted to positions in the majors. Major league executives might receive promotions in the form of job offers from more prestigious teams.
General managers, team presidents, and other sports executives earn salaries that range from $20,000 to $50,000 per year in the minor leagues to more than $1 million in the majors. Most sports executives are eligible for typical fringe benefits including medical and dental insurance, paid sick days and vacation time, and access to retirement savings plans.
Sports team management is a fickle industry. When a team is winning, everyone loves the general manager or team president. When the team is losing, fans and the media often take out their frustrations on the team’s executives. Sports executives must be able to handle that pressure. This industry is extremely competitive, and executives might find themselves without a job several times in their careers. Sports executives sleep, eat, and breathe their jobs, and definitely love the sports they manage.
Sports Executive Career Outlook
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment in amusement and recreation services (a category that includes sports-related careers) will grow by about 25 percent through 2014, which is higher than the 14 percent growth predicted for all industries.
Although there are more sports executive positions available due to league expansion and the creation of new leagues, such as the Women’s National Basketball Association, there still remain only a limited number of positions, and the competition for these jobs is very fierce. Being a sports executive demands both aboveaverage business and leadership skills, in addition to a solid understanding of the demands and intricacies of a professional sports team. Those who obtain these jobs usually do so after many years of hard work. For that same reason, the rate of turnover in this field is low.