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If you love sports, at some point you’ve probably thought about turning it into a career. But if you’re not trying to be a pro athlete, it’s hard to know what else is out there. Luckily, a career in sports isn’t limited to hitting home runs and kicking field goals. Sports management is a fast-growing field, thanks to evolving technology and global opportunities.
Want to know how to get started? Vince Gennaro is your man. As Director of the Graduate Sports Management program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies, he knows better than anyone how to get into the field. We sat down with him to get his advice.
Studio@GMG: What does a career in sports management entail?
Vince Gennaro: People might be surprised by the variety of career paths available in sports today. One of the roles that some people might gravitate towards is event management. Whether it’s producing a soccer game in a stadium or a basketball game in an arena, or any other one-time event that is coming through town, a lot goes on behind the scenes to produce a great fan experience. This entails everything from understanding the needs for security and how that’s treated in today’s environment, to making sure there is easy access to the arena or stadium, to ensuring that concessions will satisfy fan needs.
Alternatively, there are roles in marketing, ranging from digital marketer and social media manager, to advertising manager and brand marketer. Many young people also aspire to work on the player side of sports, in basketball or baseball operations, or even on the sports agent side, working directly with athletes.
SG: What do Columbia’s online Sports Industry Essentials courses teach? What kind of skills do they hone? And what careers could they lead to?
VG: This program is geared towards young people who have a passion for sports and are trying to chart their path into the sports industry, as well as young professionals who are career-changers. We give people an overview of some of the key career pathways in the industry, including the opportunity to participate in the dramatic growth in sports around the globe. We also discuss the digital transformation and how that’s impacting sports and creating career opportunities related to digital media, digital marketing, and sports analytics.
We want young people to understand everything on the horizon, and how they can connect their passion for sports with careers on the business side of the industry. Yes, they could be the athlete, but let’s face it, very few are going to succeed at that level. But there’s abundant opportunity to be connected to sports, make a living, and have a fulfilling career in an area you’re passionate about.
SG: What other benefits will a student get from this course?
VG: They will be so much more informed about how the sports industry operates. They’ll be hearing from industry professionals and experts who are forces in the sports industry today. And, of course, many of our graduate faculty in our Sports Management Master’s program at Columbia University are involved in this program.
SG: What are the next steps for students after they have completed the courses?
VG: They should feel much more empowered and much better qualified to pursue their career choices within the sports industry. Current college students or recent graduates might even choose to go on and get a graduate degree to further jumpstart their prospects. But if they choose to leap directly into the sports industry, they will be considerably more informed.
SG: What advice would you give someone who is frustrated with their job and looking to pursue a career that connects with their passions?
VG: I have 20 years of experience with PepsiCo. I ran a billion-dollar division. But I always had a burning desire to be in sports. I think if you’re in a career today that is not inspiring you and doesn’t align with your passions, you should look for opportunities that can fuel that passion.It’s remarkable how much you can achieve when you are passionate about your work.
Think you’ve got what it takes, and want to explore the field more? You can start the first course in the Sports Industry Essentials series for free and get the opportunity to receive an official statement of completion certificate from Columbia’s School of Professional Studies. Sign up here.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.