Effective Leadership of Sports Programs

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Football coach showing plays to football player

Sports management is an occupation that requires excellence in leadership in order to perform the job successfully. There are several aspects involved in being a good sports manager that demand motivation, direction, organization, planning, patience, flexibility, vision, energy, integrity, and people skills. These traits are absolutely essential in becoming one of the best in the industry of sport management.

Responsibilities of Sport Managers

Sports managers deal with many different people from diverse backgrounds including agents, athletes, scouts, media, and medical professionals. They work in both casual and professional settings that consist of college sports, amateur sports, professional sports, community sport organizations, private sports clubs, sports marketing and management firms, media and communications, arenas and civic centers, social service organizations, and military sports.

Working with so many different people in different setting demands excellent people skills and communication skills. Being able to not only talk with clients but being an effective listener is immensely important. Finding the balance between being the boss and being a friend is a large part of successful management. A sports manager should be able to communicate well through writing contracts as well as understanding legal documents. This profession involves plenty of negotiating with many organizations and athletes making good communication a top priority.

Excellent people skills are a trait that great sport managers possess. Interacting and speaking to a large group of people, as well as to individuals is required quite frequently in this profession. Being tactful, considerate, and making people feel comfortable is necessary and certainly plays a large part in success in management.

Leadership in Sport Management

Creating teamwork among athletes, organizations, and clients are something that a leader should be able to do well. Sports managers must be leaders, motivators, and organizers. They should be able to inspire people to work together to reach shared goals and experience success as a team. Boosting morale and encouraging teamwork by approaching tasks with confidence, passion, and enthusiasm is the way to set an example as a leader and a team to work together at a level of excellence. Building relationships, empowering team members, creating a common vision, and having fun are all important aspects that nurture teamwork. Be visible and open with your team. Create clear and common goals that can be focused on by all. Interaction and meetings should occur frequently. Listen to concerns and feedback from the team members. Encourage cooperation and regular team building activities and events. Being an excellent leader comes more naturally to some personalities than others, but can be learned over time by practicing and implementing these leadership skills.

Problem-solving, decision making, and critical thinking are necessary skills in the field of sport management. These are highly valued qualities that contribute to the success of a manager and his team. Decisions often need to be made quickly and wisely. The information must be critically analyzed to determine the advantages or disadvantages of different situations and the actions to be taken. A sports manager should be very knowledgeable about the sports industry, general management, sports law, sales, promotion, negotiation, and planning.

Multitasking is a requirement for a person working in this career field. There are often many things to do and keep track of. The job is often unpredictable, making good time management skills, quick thinking, and organization extremely important. A sports manager should have the ability to work under stress and be confident with the ability to work well independently.

Ethics in Sport Management

Often in the sports industry, today ethics are questionable. Corruption and scandal are certainly not unheard of in the world of sports. It can be tempting for many managers and athletes to make unethical decisions in search of personal gain. A good and successful sports manager should make sound judgments and keep high ethical standards. This should be a top priority of the job. A person with strong values will be an asset to any team or organization.

There are clearly many different aspects of the job of being a sports manager. It takes a person that can display all of the qualities and skills that make a great leader be able to handle all that’s involved in working in the sports industry. It can be a very rewarding career for a person that is motivated, knowledgeable, flexible, personable, organized, hard-working, and with high moral standards. There are a wide variety of opportunities for sport managers in the $200 billion a year sports industry.

Professional sport managers can be found working in community programs, business, sports medicine, private sports organizations, professional and amateur organizations, health departments, schools, public relations, and even broadcasting. The competition in this field of work is certainly tough. For a person with the desire and drive it is possible to be highly successful by having realistic expectations, good and thorough planning, and the willingness to work very hard.

Learn More

The Ohio University online Master’s in Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is a pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.

Additional Reading

Student-Athlete Code of Conduct: Guide for Coaches, Parents, and Students
A High School Athletic Director’s Guide to Pay-to-Play Sports
Including Parents in Interscholastic Sports
Compare & Contrast: Masters in Athletic Administration vs. Masters in Educational Leadership


The Australian College of Physical Education, “Skills Needed for Successfully Managing Athletes”