Career Assessment: Jobs in College Athletics

March 27, 2009

I love working in sports. But sometimes I have to ask myself if I’m in the right field. Especially on occasions when virtually all the other areas of college athletics pack up shop and go boozing after a game, and I’m stuck still working.

So let’s break it down. Best job in college athletics:

Academic Services
Register kids for classes, get them tudors, make sure they are graduating, help them in tiffs with professors, get them out of class for road trips.
Job security: Solid, unless too many student athletes screw up.
Pros: 9-5, watching games like a fan
Cons: Too much like actual work, homework, dealing with whining students. Some athletes are borderline retarded.

This would not be a good move unless I was currently working as a high school guidance counselor. For them, it’s gotta be like the big leagues.

Business Office
Pay bills, handle budgets, reimburse people
Job security: Solid, unless too many people go over budget.
Pros: 9-5 hours, watching games like a fan
Cons: Too much like actual work, lots of paperwork, confusing paperwork, dealing with whining and irresponsible employees.

No way. I hate doing any kind of paperwork and I never save receipts. Filing and me are not friends.

Make sure coaches are obeying the rules, make sure student athletes are obeying the rules. Getting kids admitted to school
Dealing with financial aid stuff. Say “No” a lot. Be the fun police.
Job security: Solid, unless people break the rules
Pros: 9-5 hours, watching games like a fan
Cons: Too much like actual work, paperwork, dealing with whining coaches, have to know all kinds of stupid rules. Have to say “no” a lot.

Oddly, I could handle the rules part. I could memorize a lot of stupid rules and tell people what they can and can’t do. I could problem solve and find a way to accomplish the goal while obeying the rule. But the financial aid crap would just kill me.

Buying gear, issuing equipment, doing laundry, setting up and running football practice equipment. Buying stuff.
Job security: Very solid, but you’d want to quit first
Pros: Lots of free gear. Little office time.
Cons: Business side of budgeting purchases. Dealing with kids losing/wanting stuff. Really horrible hours, washing clothes all the time, intimate knowledge of student-athlete B.O.

I know what these guys go through daily and I’d want no part of it. Sure, the fringe benefit of free gear is awesome. You know what’s not awesome? Folding thousands of towels a week, touching clothes that reek of taint sweat and getting stains out of practice gear after female athletes get a monthly visitor.

Facility/Event Management/Operations
Setting up arenas, fixing broken things in the arena, getting facilities ready for game/practice, scheduling game-day workers
Job security: Very solid, but you’d want to quit first
Pros: Very little
Cons: Horrible hours, working all events, doing scheduling/budgeting paperwork. If your facility sucks, you have to do the impossible. Cleaning dirty venues.

Lots of heavy lifting and lots of cleaning.  Sure, you stand in the corner during games, right next to the action. But there’s also all the times you have to squeegee tennis court. And when someone’s kid vomits on the concourse, guess who’s grabbing the mop?

Strength & Conditioning
Getting student-athletes strong and agile for competition.
Job security: Not bad, but a coach will have serious influence. Injuries/weak play could harm you.
Pros: Get some gear, free Gatorade, free gym membership. Closer to 9-5 hours, watch games like fan.
Cons: dealing with whining athletes. Smelling sweat all day.

While I’d have the opportunity to get huge, we all know I wouldn’t. Plus you have to know all kinds of stuff about muscles and crap. Plus I’d probably get diabetes from drinking Gatorade all day.

Recruit athletes, train athletes, game plan for opponents, try to win, have to do media.
Job Security: You don’t win you can get fired.
Pros: Gear, thrill of game day/winning, higher salaries.
Cons: long hours, budgets, convincing recruits to come here, trusting your well-being to college kids (worse with girls).

Awesome if you’re winning. Sucks if you’re losing. And you’re trusting your livelihood to a bunch of immature college kids who might not be as dedicated as you. (Multiply the stupidity of that times 1000 if you’re coaching a women’s team).

Director of Operations
Handle road trip travel, get film for coaches, manage practice schedules, be bitch of coaches.
Job Security: Pretty good compared to coaches
Pros: Gear, possibly sit on bench during games.
Cons: Hours, bitch of coaches, thankless chores no one else on staff wants to do, contracts, paperwork and budget crap.

Glorified manager/secretary. The key phrase is “be the bitch of coaches.”

Fund Raising
Raise money for athletic department, hobnob with the rich.
Job Security: High, unless you’re well short of financial goals without an excuse or caught embezzling.
Pros: 9-5 hours plus most events involve booze, hobnobbing with rich, can watch games like fan
Cons: Sounds like work, asking people for money, getting told to raise more money, badgering people for money.
Need to wear a tie a lot. Have to go to events you might not want to go to. Donors calling you with stupid requests. Lots of meetings

I’m not a good mingler, although I’m better in a sports environment. But there’s no way I could raise the money to build all the stuff I’d want to build. My tactics of getting people to donate would consist of peer pressure and the phrase “c’monnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.”

A lot like fundraising, only with more decisions. Work with marketing to trying make athletics an economic success
Job Security: High, unless you’re well short of financial goals without an excuse or caught embezzling.
Pros: 9-5 hours, plus events involve booze, hobnobbing with rich, can watch games like fan. You get all the free stuff athletics hands out.
Cons: Way too many meetings, Have to ruin fun of athletics often, stupid fundraising events. Donors calling you with stupid requests.

Could be in my wheelhouse if I was solely on the creative side and could order people to make my dreams a reality. But the meetings and office politics would be my downfall. I could wear a tie, but acting all professional would really suck.

Sports Medicine
Go to practice, provide medical treatment for injuries, make Gatorade for practice games, deal with anyone coming in with a boo-boo, sickness.
Job Security: Very good
Pros: Spot on bench for games, part of team, free Gatorade and medical supplies. Lots of time off in summer.
Cons: Ridiculous long hours before and after games, Insurance paperwork, setting up doctor’s appointments, whining athletes. Too much knowledge of intimate details of athletes-coworkers, dealing with sweaty/smelly athletes. Hosting visiting teams (more boring hours)

Considering I’d have to have medical training and I got a D in biology, this would never be an option. Plus there’s a lot of taping of stinky feet, and I hear that stretching out female athletes can give you a whiff of even worse odors.

Film games/practices for coaches, cut and edit clips for football coaches, assist with tech issues for whole building, make cool videos for jumbotron/website, acquire film on opponents. Set up football meeting rooms for film
Job Security: Pretty high.
Pros: Better hours than sports info. Some goof off time. Use of technology for personal gain.
Cons: Stuff breaks, having to film rainy, hot, or cold practices, more stuff breaks, coaches think you can do everything in two minutes. Have to help people with anything tech related. Marketing always wants you to do stuff even though you’re understaffed and need to just take care of coaches.

I’ve seen how these guys are treated, and there’s simply not enough time in the day to do everything you’d want to do in this position. Plus the burden of coaches wanting the impossible and having to explain technical things to those less intelligent than you can be extremely tiresome. Good opportunity to play video games and watch sports during the day, though.

Try to get people to come to games, try to get sponsors to give money, run in game promotions.
Job Security: Fantastic.
Pros: Hours are great compared to sports info. No quantifiable measure if you’re incompetent. Free stuff. Use of creativity.
Cons: Meddling from everyone who thinks they know how to market, dealing with fans and people bitching about the music. Lots of stupid meetings

I could never go to the dark side. I’ve never heard anyone say ‘our marketing department is awesome.’ No matter what you do, people would always meddle in your business. Too many stupid things to do, too many meetings, too much ‘busy work.’ Most awesome ideas are not feasible. Everyone complains about music. I’d probably end up mailing it in and working as little as possible if I was in marketing. Then again, I could probably get away with it.

Sports Info
Make media guides, write on website, keep stats.
Job security: high.
Pro: Free gear, internet time, road trips get you out of the office, comfy seat at games.
Cons: long hours, people asking you to do stuff like jumbotron, website, camp brochures, etc. Media guide deadlines. Some meetings.

I get the best of a lot of worlds here. The hours suck, but I have a great seat, free gear, can use the internet all day. I write about sports for a living. We go on road trips. I don’t have to go to all the practices and can sleep in late a lot. Busy as hell post-game, but experience the joy of winning and feel like part of the team. Plus, with my communications degree and with newspapers a dying medium, this is still the gig for me… until Supreme Dictator of Sports becomes available.