For nearly 15 years I have been blessed to work as a lawyer in professional sports. From 2000 through 2010, I was a labor attorney for the Major League Baseball Players Association. In November 2010, I started my own consulting practice where I continue to work in sports in various capacities. In addition to working on contract issues and other matters for some of the top agents and players in Major League Baseball, I have also assisted the National Hockey League Players’ Association in grievance arbitration and salary arbitration and have worked on a number of high profile sports-related projects. I count myself fortunate for all of the opportunities and experiences that have and continue to come my way. Now, I’d like to help you and others fulfill their dream of building a career in sports.
What follows is the first installment of a five part series of a few tips that I believe will help you be more effective in finding the sports job of your dreams. Without question, working in the sports industry can be extremely exciting and rewarding. It also can be challenging and very competitive. With a little hard work, ingenuity and helpful guidance, you can break into and advance in the sports industry and build a successful career. These tips are designed to help you do just that.
Tip #1 : Expand Your Definition of Sports
When looking to break into the sports industry, it is important to be as expansive in your approach as possible. Nowhere is this more important than in determining what the industry of “sports” truly is. In the United States the tendency is to think of “sports” as the four major professional sports – baseball, football, basketball and hockey. Certainly, MLB, the NFL, NBA and NHL are extremely attractive and lucrative possibilities, but there is far more to sports than these four major leagues.
To begin to expand your definition, think about the games you played as a kid or that young kids play now. Also, think about the games that are played in the Summer and Winter Olympics, and games that you play or watch as an adult. When you do, a broad variety of games will immediately come to mind: soccer, lacrosse, track and field, gymnastics, swimming, volleyball, boxing, tennis, golf, bowling, horseracing, mixed martial arts, NASCAR, poker. We could go on, but you get the idea.
With your list expanding, now think of the levels at which many of these sports are played: professional, collegiate, scholastic, men’s, women’s, national, international. Next, consider the number of leagues or associations that exist under whose banner these games are played.
Now, in addition to the four major professional sports, you have a pretty impressive list – and we did not even mention that among baseball, football, basketball and hockey the games are played year-round by professionals and amateurs, men and women, both here and abroad in an increasing number of leagues and associations.
Take basketball, for example. You have the NBA and the WNBA. You also have a host of leagues and conferences at the collegiate level. You have lower level men’s and women’s professional leagues in the U.S., and some high-profile leagues overseas. Within this broad framework, opportunities abound: you can represent players, assist those who do, or you could work for a league, team or conference. You can work in the area of labor relations, marketing, public or community relations, sales, arena management, advanced media and others. And with so many corporations actively involved as sponsors, you can even work in-house for a major corporation and be a member of their sports sponsorship program. Working in “sports” can be as broad as you make it.
So, when looking to enter the sports field, expand your horizons by first expanding your concept of what “sports” really is.
Make sure to look out next week for part two of this series “Be More than a Fan”.
If you have a particular question on your mind that goes beyond the topics covered here, feel free to contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet me @JeffFannell.