Four Tips To Help You Prepare For A Career In Sports

What you need to know if you want to work in sports

Working in sports really is like playing in the professional sandbox. The exhilaration when a team wins is remarkable. When it get it. There's drama, adrenaline, tears and tension.

I speak to classrooms full of aspiring sports and sports media professionals at least once a week. The college students I speak to see the excitement of running on the field after a championship or the shotgunning of beers after a franchise's first win (looking at you, Dallas Renegades).

What they don't see is the work. And believe me - it's work. Whether you're on the media side, team side, sponsorship, ticket sales or grounds crew the hustle is real.

Here are four things you need to know if you want to work in sports. This is from a presentation I share with college students across the U.S. If you'd like me to speak to your class, shoot me an email and we can set up a Skype session or in-person presentation.

Working on Halloween for a Dallas Mavericks postgame show. The key to working nights, weekends and holidays? Having fun with it. 
You would be shocked to learn how many aspiring sports and sports media professionals don't understand that working nights, weekends and holidays are nonnegotiable.

If you want to work in sports, you will work nights weekends and holidays for the rest of your life. If you're not willing to do that, look for another industry in which to showcase your talent. 

Think about it: when is the majority of NFL games? Sunday. What holiday showcases marquee matchups? Thanksgiving Day. What's the NBA's biggest day outside the playoffs? Christmas Day. MLS and MLB teams most popular games of the year are on July 4th when they program fireworks shows. NHL? They love a New Year's Eve or New Year's Day extravaganza. College football games, tennis tournaments, golf, you name it. It's all about nights, weekends and holidays. That is when you work. 

And, yes, here's the kicker: this is in addition to normal nine to five shifts.  

Talk about nimble! A drunk Houston Astros fan tried to grab me during a live shot on MLB Opening Day. That's my photographer, Bill Ellis, saving the day.

A career in sports is like a roller coaster: it has ups and downs. Big ones. Openings for great opportunities are scarce and competitive.

To have any tenure in the sports industry, you must be nimble and open to the journey on which your career take you.

I know a slew of professionals who have had multisport careers. Many tenured professionals wind up working for a variety of teams in a variety of cities around the country. I am one of them. I worked in the NBA for the Houston Rockets, the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and, now, MLS for FC Dallas. Every instance I worked in media, broadcasting or media operations.

The point here is: don't just be a baseball guy or basketball girl. Be open to the opportunities in other leagues, teams, universities and industries. There will be more available to you if you're willing to get out of your comfort zone and embrace something that you might not have originally set out to do.

Former Dallas Stars goalie is a master networker. He was always gracious and open as a player. He's leveraged those relationships he build during his playing days that has benefitted him multiple ways, including media appearances to promote one of his events.
No matter what do you for a living, networking is a critical part of your success. Your professional network is particularly important in the sports industry.


Because while it's a massive, multi-billion dollar industry, the sports industry is a small one. People know people. They've worked with them, gone to college with them, covered them, met them at a conference or a game.

Those people in your network help you get internships, entry-level jobs, mid-level opportunities and C-suite roles. Personally, I'm averse to hiring someone I haven't worked with, don't know or don't have a mutual colleague.

In my case, every career opportunity I've gotten, except for my very first job as the Sports Director at KUAM-TV in Guam came through a personal connection or referral. 

The great thing about our ├╝ber-connected world is that you connect with virtually anyone. Tweet someone you admire. Connect with a group of executives on LinkedIn. Attend a conference, grab a stack of business cards and send a follow-up email thanking someone for her time. Write a thank you note. Stay in touch. Congratulate a connection on a big win whether it's on or off the playing field.

If you're currently in school - start now. Make those connections and begin developing those valuable soft skills. All these things go a long way in developing valuable professional relationships that throughout your career.

Bonus tip: at the end of your internship, send a thank you note to your supervisor and keep in touch a few times a year. Not enough interns do this. The few who do remain on the radar and grow their network.

This is after an FC Dallas game where I grabbed one of our players, Zdenek "Kobra" Ondrasek, for a postgame interview. I went from being the reporter doing the interviews to being the wrangler grabbing players for media. A learning process that me a few things, including how to yell, apparently.
I hear it all the time when I speak with students: "I can't wait to be done with school so I can be done with homework."

Oh Lord. 

The homework, research, whatever you want to call is just beginning when you're done with school. 

When I was a full-time sportscaster, I did more homework preparing for a pre- or post-game show than I ever did studying for exams. Why? Because you need to have an in-depth knowledge about a game, its players and coaches along with context surrounding all those things. You need to know the story. The thing is, you will probably only use about 10% of what you study. That's fine. It's part of the process.

Beyond sports media, you need to evolve with your industry. Technology changes. You must grow with it, be adaptable and be open to learning and pivoting within your industry. 

I am living proof of that. I made a bit of a career pivot after the age of 40 to work on the team side for FC Dallas. I went from a salty, fast-paced newsroom life to a more corporate environment working for a sports franchise. Not only were their professional nuances to learn and homework to do but there were also cultural adaptations to make. Being open to learning about new technologies, software and industries has enabled me to stay in the industry I love, sports media, albeit in a slightly different capacity than I original started. 

A growth mindset is critical to longevity in the sports industry. 

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This really just scratches the surface. We can cover so much more in person. If you're interested in learning more, shoot me an email or tweet me (DMs are open). I'm happy to speak to your class or students.