Love Your Sport? Make It a Career!

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I was the fastest runner in my state when I was nine years old, but I was female and my desire to play sports was squashed by gender discrimination. Not only that, but any desire to play a part in
off-the-field sports was dashed, too. All because I was a girl.

Times have changed, thanks to Title IX legislation, which forbids gender discrimination in athletics. Today, the field is wide open for a woman who wants a career in sports, on the field or off. So, if you see that you probably won’t make it as a professional athlete in your particular sport, yet you still hold great passion for it, there are ways of channeling that passion into a career off the field.
There are more than six million jobs in sports-related careers, and they are just waiting for women to grab them. The opportunities are endless, from health services to sales to marketing to sports media. There are fitness directors, coaches, managers, journalists, marketing gurus, sports medicine and sports psychology careers.

One of the best ways to break into a sports career is with an internship from college. Most college programs weave internships within their curriculum components. Working as an intern gives you a chance to earn practical experience while learning a specialty.

Above that, interns get an opportunity to network with players, coaches and managers. When it comes time to land a permanent position, these contacts can prove invaluable. In fact, the current National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell began his career as an intern. It’s a good idea to apply as early as a year in advance since these spots are coveted. Sell yourself and network your way into one! A few careers offer a bit more opportunity for women right now:

Athletic trainers provide prevention, care, diagnosis and rehabilitation for sports teams. Women made up slightly over half of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association about five years ago. They serve medical teams on the sidelines of almost every sport. You will need a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree to work at the college level. There are licenses to obtain as well, and ongoing course work.

College athletics directors oversee the coaches and their staff’s work within the athletic programs. This requires a graduate degree, along with administrative experience in business. The mission of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators, or NACWAA, is to “promote the growth, leadership, success and advancement of women as athletic administrators, professional staff and coaches.” According to the NACWAA, the trend is to hire women from significant business backgrounds rather than strictly sports administration.

College coaching is another growing field for women. The Alliance of Women Coaches is working to increase the number of female coaches in all sports. The first step to becoming a college coach is earning an undergraduate degree, since there is considerable competition for these jobs. Most coaches enter this field because they want to combine their passion for education and developing athletes with the love of the sport they once played. If you want to coach at the secondary or college level, you will need a bachelor’s degree.

Sports writing and broadcast journalism jobs offer the widest range of opportunities for women. Audiences are demanding new voices and faces, and there are seemingly endless sports teams and leagues to report on through features, game broadcasting and even injury updates. Organizations need professionals who know how to write, report, produce and engage with growing audiences. These jobs are best gained through internships and volunteer positions, although the Association of Women in Sports Media works to increase diversity in sports media and has placed female college students into paid internships. They also developed mentoring and career-enhancement initiatives for women.

Sports executives are the top management of sports teams. There are executives hired to oversee everything and every department: marketing and public relations; ticket sales and advertising; accounting and general management; broadcasting and more.

Sporting event planners organize, plan and promote sporting events. It’s often called an event coordinator; in this position, you will address all the event’s needs, including transportation, schedules, security, accommodations, audio-visual equipment and any other detail to be sure the event goes off without any glitches. You may negotiate contracts and act as a liaison with vendors hired for the event. A bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and some experience will usually land you a job. And if you go the extra mile and obtain a Certified Meeting Planner certificate offered through the Convention Industry Council, you will shine brighter on the interview.

While many women may still believe a sports career is an elusive dream, it is becoming more attainable as females move into many of the once-male-dominated areas. ■

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