According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 11,800 professional athletes in the United States. Even if you play college sports, your chances of becoming a professional athlete are slim.
But the sports industry remains a lucrative industry; Forbes reports that it’ll be worth $73.5 billion by 2019. That means there’s plenty of room to carve out your own career niche, even if you’re not athletic enough to go pro — or athletic at all, really. Starting your own sports agency or other sports-related business is one way to make a career in sports. You just need to have the right background in sports management or a related field, find the right niche and then work hard to make it happen.
Get the right education
Just as with any other field, succeeding as a sports business owner requires the right knowledge and education. What degree will you need? That depends on what you want to ultimately do, but for the most part, a master’s degree in a relevant field is essential.
Perhaps you want to run your own sports psychology practice; you’ll need a master’s in sports psychology or a closely related counseling degree with a specialization in sports psychology. Maybe you want to start a sports camp for kids; a sports management degree and even a degree in child development might be useful. Or maybe you want to run a bait shop or a sports equipment store — an MBA could give you the right intellectual tools to make your business a success.
Find your niche
Before you enroll in a degree program, start your sports management career by deciding what niche you’d like to fill in the sports industry. Perhaps you’d like to start your own sports agency, or you have an idea for how to improve existing sports equipment. Maybe you want to make it easier and more convenient for athletes, either professional or amateur, to get the tools and equipment they need to enjoy their sports.
For example, maybe you’d like to sell bait, tackle and other angling supplies, but you have an idea to make your business more convenient for customers — you’ll put your wares on a cart and sell them right off the dock or riverside, so customers don’t have to drive several miles or more to the nearest bait and tackle shop or even get off their boats if they don’t want to. Or maybe you’re nowhere near athletic enough to play sports on a professional or even collegiate level, but you have the skills to teach kids the basics of a sport, such as how to dribble, shoot and pass a basketball. It’s time to start your own youth basketball camp!
In identifying your niche, it’s important to figure out what the market needs. Are there a lot of bait shops lining the docks? Are all the kids in your neighborhood already going to an inexpensive youth basketball camp? Maybe you need to go back to the drawing board — unless you can figure out how your competition fails to meet customer needs or manage their expectations and find a way to stay competitive, whether that’s through prices, service or both.
Get to work
Once you’ve figured out what kind of business you want to start and how you’ll compete in the marketplace, it’s time to get to work. You might need to enlist the help of professional marketers to create advertising and social media campaigns that can help get the word out about your business. You’ll need to start pilot-testing products and services with focus groups, engaging users on social media and learning how to structure your business.
You’ll need to take care to hire the right employees and get the right help as you get your business off the ground. Draw on your own social and professional networks to find people with the skills and experience you need, whether that’s marketing and PR, social media, management or athletics. The right people can make or break your budding business.
If you want to dig into a big, juicy slice of the sports industry pie, starting your own sports business can be a great way to go about it. You’ll get to spend your career in an industry you love, doing things that matter to you, and there’s nothing more fulfilling than that.