Entering the Sports World: Separating Fandom from Business

Growing up, a constant of family holiday gatherings was discussion of the 49ers- from basking in the Joe Montana/Steve Young days to the lows of the Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary eras, the team I would root for on Sundays was never in question.  It was from these conversations that my love of all sports developed.  Basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, rugby… as long as there was some sort of competition, I wanted to play it, watch it, learn more about it.

As I reached adulthood and began to consider careers, it seemed the only logical path was to look in the sports industry.  I spent time working with Basketball Australia, the Seattle University Athletic Department and Los Angeles Galaxy.  And while being a sports fan certainly wasn’t a disadvantage in the industry, it wasn’t until I realized the importance of separating fandom from the business aspect that I made my largest strides forward in the sports world.

For those of us looking to enter and advance in the sports world, this is perhaps the most important aspect of the job.  From applying for jobs, to the actual interviews, we must remember to approach sports business simply as business.  Remember- there are millions of sports fans in America (and around the world for that matter), but there are only so many positions within the sports world.  Being a sports fan offers no more of a value add for employers than “having a positive attitude” (however that is measured).

To succeed in the sports world, employers are most interested in tangible value adds.  Within our program, we’ve had the opportunity to study a wide variety of disciplines to pinpoint our strengths while adding experience in other areas.  For me, this has included building upon my real-world experience in marketing with new areas including marketing analytics and research, while also adding an managerial level of understanding of other departments, including finance, accounting and economics.

As you begin to look to enter the sports industry, take time to figure out what the value add you bring might be.  Are you an experienced accountant?  Maybe you are an excellent financial analyst.  Perhaps you are an operations whiz.  Once you understand what you can do for an organization, develop an understanding of it in a sports context.  And this will be what helps you become a sports executive.  Just remember, separate your fandom from the business aspect.  Eventually, it will allow you plenty of opportunities to “fan out”!

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