During a sports game, the pace is fast, the stakes are high, and the competition is fierce. And the broader sports industry, which encompasses far more than what happens during playing hours, is just the same.
For every professional involved in the game — from the players who make the moves to the coaches who plan them to the reporters who talk about them — the field of sports is high excitement and high tension. It is no surprise that those drawn to sports management tend to be goal-oriented people who desire challenge in their professional life.
What do sports managers do?
While the success of any great sports team depends on the performance of its players during game time, no throw, kick, or sprint can take a team very far without a great sports manager behind the scenes. The sports manager handles the business side of a sports team, including the signing of new players, working out the team budget, and arranging for essentials like training, uniforms, and travel for the team.
Sports managers must work closely with coaches, trainers, and scouts to make executive decisions that will benefit the team throughout the season and beyond. As the top administrator, the general manager oversees the large group of personnel that comprises the team. They play the chief role in signing new players and appointing their salaries, so they often have to present their decisions to the media, which can be a delicate task as they aim to please the team's owners as well as its fans.
Juggling so many different priorities is not for the faint of heart — especially when it is difficult to predict exactly how each season will turn out. So a good sports manager needs to have a mind for the game on top of a mind for business. They will often have extensive background in playing or coaching their given sport.
Although most of sports managers' time is spent in the office, and they don't generally travel to away games with their team, during the playing season they are likely to be spotted at home games, intently watching their team's performance on the field, court, or rink. So while a sports manager's work environment during the off-season might resemble a standard nine-to-five office job, the playing season can turn this into an extremely high-pressure, seven-day work week.
What personality traits are found in the best sports managers?
Sports managers need to be able to handle pressure and conflicting interests. They may need to make important decisions in a short amount of time. Therefore, the most successful sports managers will be good communicators who can think on their feet and take the brunt of criticism if the team performs below expectations. For day-to-day tasks, they should be good with numbers, in touch with what's happening in the sports world, and have strong negotiation skills.
Where might you work as a sports manager?
Sports managers work at every level of the game, from local high school or community teams to college and Olympics teams all the way up to professional leagues. Most sports managers will start their careers as assistants to managers or coaches and work their way up through the ranks. Usually, sports managers need to have paid their dues working for amateur sports teams before being hired to a professional sports team, which is the most prestigious and lucrative.
Other possible routes for people with degrees in sports management are to own and manage a sport-related business, like a fitness center or health club or to run municipal recreation programs.
What sort of academic background is best for sports management?
Besides experience, the best background for an aspiring sports manager is an education in business and/or sport administration at the secondary school level. Many colleges and universities offer an associate's or bachelor's degree in sport management. A sport management curriculum will usually include courses in economics, business, law, physical education, and current issues in sport. Top general managers may possess an advanced degree, such as a master's in business administration.
Because the nature of the sports field concentrates on real-world performance, a good college curriculum will allow the student to work with the sports teams on campus to gain experience. Internships can often be arranged through the school for credit or on the student's own time outside of the school, at both the amateur and professional level.
How much do sports managers make?
It's worth it for the aspiring sports manager to prove he or she has what it takes to take a team to victory. According to 2012 stats from the BLS, sports managers have an annual mean wage of $67,370. 
Like the CEO of a company, the sports manager handles the business of a sports team and all of its moving parts. Only when you're talking about sports, certain parts can be moving at literally 100 miles an hour — and that's serious business.
What are some benefits of working in sports management?
- Can be very lucrative
- It's a fast-moving, exciting field
- An excellent outlet if you have passion for sports and talent for business
- Great competitive energy
- Knowing your decisions help your team
- Especially fun if you are skilled at strategy
What courses can I expect to take to get a degree in sports management?
- Introduction to Sports Management
- Fundamentals of Sport Marketing
- Sports Promotion and Sales Management
- Media Relations and Sport
- Leisure Planning & Programming
- Facility Design and Event Management
- Theory of Coaching
- Financial Applications to Sport
- Economics of Sport
- Sport and Recreational Management
- Sport Marketing Management
- Risk Management in Sport and Exercise Science
- Social Aspects of Sport Management
- Recreational Leadership
- Managing the Sport Enterprise
- Ethics and Social Issues in Sport
- Issues in Sports Management
- Sports Governance
- Legal Aspects of Sport Management