From the field to the boardroom: Unlocking the path to a successful sports management career for athletes 

Launch of GISB
Launch of GISB's Executive Post-Graduate Program in Sports Management

Global Institute of Sports Business (GISB), Mumbai, recently launched its Executive Post-Graduate Program in Sports Management. The objective of the program is to empower working professionals from any field to transition into sports management, support fresh graduates by giving them a first look into the sports business, and support former athletes and coaches in transitioning to management.

Launch of GISB's Executive Post-Graduate Program in Sports Management in Mumbai
Launch of GISB's Executive Post-Graduate Program in Sports Management in Mumbai

The program has attracted plenty of attention, as active national-level professional athletes have enrolled in the pilot batch. Their goal is to learn the nuances of sports management to enable a non-playing career for them post-retirement.

Athletes are often caught in a bind, having spent the first few decades of their lives mastering skills that have a relatively short shelf life. By their mid-thirties, when professionals in other disciplines are reaching the peak of their prowess, sportspersons have to hang up their boots.

GISB’s new program seeks to address this need gap through a flexible, online cum hybrid course that allows star players to pursue their education alongside their on-field responsibilities.

10 steps to a successful sports management career

Here are 10 steps for athletes towards transitioning into a successful sports management career:

1) Understanding the sports management industry

Just like any other industry, the sports management sector, too, is vast, with its own unique benefits and challenges. The first step is to study the contours of this field and get a bird’s eye view of the many roles and responsibilities within this vast domain.

2) Assessing personal skills and interests

Once you have a broad understanding of the size and scale of the sports industry, the next step is to understand how you fit into this large framework. Just like how every player is different, performing a role suited to his/her skill set, a sports management career, too, starts with identifying your area of interest, be it operations, marketing, sales, finance, or media, to name just a few.

3) Pursuing education and professional development


Once you’ve selected your macro area of interest, the next step is to zero in on formal education programs in sports management. Depending on your budget and time availability, these could range from full-time courses to shorter online certification courses, besides weekend workshops and even one-day conferences.

4) Gaining practical experience

Perhaps the most important aspect of any learning process is hands-on experience through internships and part-time job opportunities. Volunteering is another excellent choice to highlight your commitment to a particular vocation. Such practical exposure also adds tremendous value towards building a portfolio of your work and ought to be included in your CV.

5) Building a personal brand

This may sound presumptuous – and you may wonder, ‘why do I need to build a personal brand when I haven’t learned anything about sports management yet?’ But, in fact, the reverse is true. Personal branding is absolutely essential in this day and age of digital media. We are each tasked with being our own personal marketing managers – no one is going to know us as well as we know ourselves.

Personal branding allows you to dictate the narrative of your story and highlight those aspects of your professional (and personal) selves that can attract the best employment opportunities.

6) Leveraging athletic networks and relationships

Continuing from the previous point, while developing a personal brand can enable wider recall among those not already within your network, it is equally important to harness your existing relationships. You are a star athlete, so why not leverage those contacts who are already familiar with your personality, skills, work ethic, and interests? More often than not, such networks are the ones most likely to pass on timely job leads, make positive recommendations, and give you unbiased feedback on prospective employers.

7) Navigating the job search and interview process

Okay, you’ve built a solid personal brand and spread the word among your network that you are searching for suitable work opportunities. Now, what’s in your control is crafting an excellent resume and cover letter tailored to specific sports management roles. It will be vital for you to prepare for prospective interviews, similar to how you would strategize before an on-field match. Study interview tips and strategies, and specifically, be clear in articulating why and how you are the right person to successfully transition from a playing career to life in the boardroom.

8) Overcoming challenges and transitioning successfully

It is time to walk the talk. There are many common challenges faced by athletes entering sports management. The shift from sportswear to suits can be an adjustment that takes some getting used to, more so the need to work indoors rather than outdoors. Speak to others who have navigated a similar course, and evolve personally-tailored strategies for overcoming obstacles and achieving success.

9) Mentorship and networking opportunities

Mentorship is a two-way street. As an active sportsperson, you have had the benefit of a support staff of coaches and trainers. They are specially hired to bring out your very best while identifying your flaws and correcting them in a constructive manner. Corporate boardrooms are often the opposite.

The same behavioral skills of teamwork and team-first mentality that are lauded on the sports field can get tested in a cut-throat professional environment. In such a scenario, well-meaning mentors are worth their weight in gold, guiding you in your second career. In case you are not fortunate enough to have prior access to mentors, it is vital to participate in networking events. These mixing opportunities are hosted by organizations specifically curated for athletes in sports management.

10) Case studies: Successful athletes-turned-sports managers

Lastly, it is important to know that you are not alone in your journey. There are been countless others before you who have traversed and overcome the same challenges and questions you may be faced with now. Pore over case studies of other athletes who have successfully navigated management roles. There are lessons to be learned from their journeys, and key takeaways for other aspiring sports managers, including yourself!

So to summarize, a life off-field can be just as exciting as life on it. Sure, there will not be stadia full of fans chanting your name, but the rewards of a post-retirement sports industry career can be just as sweet. Remember: As a player, you impact your winning, or at best, your team’s success, but as a sports management professional, you can positively contribute towards the growth of an entire sector.

To know more about GISB’s Executive Post-Graduate Program in Sports management, visit their website -

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Edited by Sandeep Banerjee