By: Simone Kemler
"Everyone has their own story. What's yours?" When I 'snooped' around on frontofficesports.org I found this statement and I thought this could be a good way to start my personal contribution. To respond to this task, I have to take the readers back in time: I have always liked sports; I always watched whatever was on TV and especially enjoyed tennis. Some of my favorites include Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and of course Chris Evert. I say this to prove that I knew and loved sports, specifically tennis, since before July 7th, 1985, the day Boris Becker won his first Wimbledon title and brought Germany to a new era – not only in tennis, but in sports in general.
From then on, sports were heavily televised (tennis, in particular) and after my studies (Economics and International Marketing) I began to think about working in sports. However, in those days making a living within professional sports was unheard of and very rare in Europe. Frankly, I thought (and still think) that the US is much more open to the idea of sports being an industry; the US had national leagues in baseball, American Football and Basketball in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. These existed much earlier before Europe came up with something comparable – so to me it is no wonder that Würzburg's Dirk Nowitzki had to take the risk and move to another continent in order to pursue a career as a pro basketball player.
Consequently, Germans (and probably other European countries, too) had little to no special study opportunities and/or training courses to obtain a degree in sports, events, sports-economics, etc. However, a degree is something vital to have when working in Germany or other European countries as careers 'from rags to riches' are possible of course, but they do not typically fit with the German mentality.
However, since that time a lot of things have changed; when it comes to working in sports nowadays we have plenty of paths to follow – however what you always need are languages, spirit, skill and the guts to go and pursue what you want. Now there are many university courses and programs that deal with sports management and the number and variety of possible jobs to apply for is constantly increasing.
Another approach to find a job in sports is being active yourself – for example, I am a member of my local tennis club and volunteered to work for a couple of years as its press officer. This gave me an insight into how things work when it comes to administration and sports, it showed me the multitude of tasks a sports club has to face and made me aware of how the world of sports-officials and sports-associations ticks. So what you should do is form a network of your own contacts and keep in touch with your sport so you know where possible developments might lead – thanks to the web this has become fairly easy.
Something that you NEVER should underestimate is being in the right place at the right time and even this needs to be paired with the necessary bit of luck; this is how I got my first job in professional tennis. Since then, I have worked either in the organization of Sports Events or as a Freelancer writing in several Sports Events (mainly Tennis) and my idea is that the manner in how these events are staged does not vary significantly. This also has to do with the fact that the international associations (in Tennis: ATP, WTA, ITF) have a tight catalogue of necessities and obligations that have to be met in order to be allowed to organize said events.
If you would want to add European/International experience to your CV, why not try a placement that is widely offered to those that study Economics-Business, Studies/Sports Management/Sports-Economics or Communication. Recruiters would look for skills like basic experience in sports marketing and communication, proficiency in MS Office, as well as basic knowledge of Photoshop, Indesign or Standard Content-Management-Systems. In addition to this, Social Network skills are required. Possible candidates should be flexible, creative and show a high level of organization, skill and initiative. Also, a sound basic knowledge at large as well a highly professional approach within the contact and the communication to others is expected.
These placements usually last six months and, if chosen carefully, can lead to recruitment and/ strengthen one's own personal network of contacts. With regards to language skills: English is spoken in all Scandinavian countries, Holland and Germany as well as of course the UK, so lack of the home country language might not be so significant. Also, international sporting events usually have English as their first language – so it may not be impossible to find a place in a project where English is spoken. However, language skills in Spanish, Russian and/or Chinese, do give you major advantage, that is without a doubt.
Another way to 'conquer' the world of sports might be working for a global player like Adidas, Puma, Nike and so forth – here your motto should also be 'never give up', try again and again, because persistency might 'do the trick' and it helps you keep an eye on the what is going on in your desired sport/sport industry. These companies get a vast range of applications every day so make sure yours is spot-on so that it catches their eye from the start.
I myself am still in the middle of things in terms of finding partners, cooperations and projects that pay my bills, so it would be only fair to tell you that it is a lot of fun and exciting and you always meet interesting people. HOWEVER it is a full-time, life-time job that sometimes can bring you to the edge and make you ask yourself: 'why am I doing all this?' It has to fit in your personal environment and what is absolutely sure is that nothing is really sure – so bottomline: working in sports is highly recommendable.
We would like thanks Simone for her time and insight!
Simone writes free lance amongst others for Ubitennis.com/English Desk