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Sports administrators in today’s society must possess a number of characteristics and skill sets particularly within the Olympic world that most of us live and work in every day.
To begin with, a good sports manager must be willing to work whatever hours it takes to complete a task or assignment. When I was Managing Director at the U.S. Olympic Committee, we use to preach that athletes rarely get a second chance to compete at optimal conditions so it’s critical that we as sports administrators do whatever is required to support our athletes including having to work evenings and weekends.
In addition, a good sports administrator has to be well organized. The organizational style doesn’t matter as long as the sports manager has a system that works and is effective. And since we operate within the multi-sport environment of Games, being able to multi-task (and delegate) is extremely critical.
In this regard, sports managers need to develop as many technological skills as possible particularly in today’s world of social media and the internet. The ability to communicate to athletes, team official and extended members of any delegation is so important.
But probably the most important characteristics a sports manager can have is what we refer to as the 5 Ps – Personality, Persistence, Patience, Pressure (or the ability to handle it) and being Politically Correct!
A few thoughts based on my experience with swim teams over the years – I have come to the conclusion in my sport that the Head Coach is probably the Team Manager.
- Time Management Skills
- Empathy with athletes
- Ability to delegate where necessary
- Role model for athletes
- Crisis management skills
- Appreciation of the wider aspects of the sport – not just the event in question
- Report writing skills
The sports manager in today’s fast-paced world of sport has to be in possession of some very important characteristics. Things in sport are never static. The stakeholders seem to keep growing. Global economic circumstances are no longer as stable as hitherto and therefore impact developments in sport as much as they do other aspects of life around the world. No one and nothing seems exempt from this.
First there must be a commitment to reading. This facilitates accessing the latest developments in the business of sport.
Secondly, there must be a sensitivity and openness to change. Things in sport change very rapidly and one must be able to assess very quickly the emerging trends in sport and determine their viability for one’s particular organisation with all its nuances.
Thirdly. there must be openness to the ideas of others and the sharing of one’s own ideas such that all benefit from the exchanges.
Finally, today’s sport manager must have the capacity to predict the future of sport given the foregoing characteristics. He/she must feel sufficiently confident with the analyses in which he/she is engaged to reliably predict the future and prepare for it.
It all depends on how you define “Sports Manager.” So, if it is based on Successful Events, it is pretty straight forward: Organizational capabilities, the ability to run a team correctly, and the ability to work towards the Successful completion of the event. However, let’s take it a little broader:
• Understanding of the Competitive Structure of the event: How do you properly set the event up where it will be both exciting and Compelling for the Audience to see?
• How to Market the Event to a broad Audience: Are you bringing people in- not just because they like the sport? Some may not like the sport but want to be part of something that is bigger than just a sporting event!
• Ensuring that the Competitors are the Story, not the people behind the scenes: Too many Referees and Managers think the Story is about them. It is not. It is about the competitors. If it isn’t about them, then you really are not doing a good job of presenting the Story.
• Ensuring that the Competition if Fair for all competitors. Its fine to have a Home Court advantage, but you must allow both teams to compete equally. If not
• To make a profit or not: this depends a lot on what you are doing. To run a successful sport doesn’t mean that you do or don’t make money. It depends how big it is and what is going on. Many youth sports rely on unpaid Volunteers to make them work. So it does come down to what the expectations are for your Sport.
In sum, all of these are important. How import depends on the Sport, Level of Play, and what the Expectations are:
- Venue Management
- Sport Understanding
- Competition Playing Field
- Personnel Management
- Youth Sports Attraction
- Marketing Prowess
Although the terminology of “Sports manager” and “Sports administrator” may be confusing and also used differently, for me anybody working with athletes should be a PEOPLE’S MANAGER.
What I mean with this is that it doesn’t matter if you work with athletes as a volunteer or a professional. An important characteristic should be how one deals with people having big dreams. You should know that all athletes dream about being the best, traveling around the world and of course making (lots of) money. As a manager you should have the ability to dream together with your athletes, but at the same time stay realistic. All sports managers should be aware that they operate in a multidimensional network of non-profit and commercial organizations, politicians, different cultures and international networks. This makes working in sports very interesting and at the same time complex.
The skills of a people’s manager include diplomacy, leadership, commitment and emotion. Sports are about emotion, not only on the field but also off the field. Certain rules and policies put sports managers in situations where tough decisions with enormous emotional impact need to be taken. One should be aware that sports helps you make friends…and in some cases even enemies.
Important discipline: Managing
Managing is the important verb. A sports manager must be able to manage and organize the various tasks within his or her area at the specific level where he or she is placed. Managing major sports events for example requires a lot of insight: from the very first start: to set up and efficient organization and to recruit volunteers or employees for the different areas in order to run a smooth organization/operation/event.
For the last years Sport Event Denmark has conducted a course targeted sports and event managers as some of the most frequent feedback was that sport event managers needed upgrading and also the possibility to network. The course runs over 3 modules containing business concept and development, bidding strategies, event communication, media and TV-rights, funding and partners, sponsors, effect analysis, evaluation and implementation.
As a sport event manager it is important to know about all there areas in order to organize and find relevant persons to manage the different areas.
Bottom line: Managing on the level where the sports manager is placed and obtaining the full picture of the job, knowing which jobs and tasks, collaborators and co-workers it requires to get the jobs well done – to the benefit of the athletes, officials, national and international federation, spectators, sponsors, partners etc.
In order to succeed the first step would be to get the expectations in relations to tasks and other people/organizations involved clear and not at least to learn from others via for example networking and benchmarking.
Did they miss some characteristics? Leave your input in the comment box below.
Published with permission from Sponsorship in Sports.