The Fundamentals of a Human Resource Department

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Human resource team shaking hands

Human resources departments are vital to the functioning of most large organizations.

Sports administration isn’t exempt from that: it needs HR so that it can focus on what it does best, without getting bogged down in logistical details.


Defining Human Resources

Human resources are human capital — which is to say, an organization’s employees. A human resources department manages employees and most everything around them. Let’s take a look at each function HR serves, and how it’s vital to a sports administrator.

Managing Human Capital

HR handles job postings, hiring, and even firing and other employee termination. They also typically take a role in reviewing (and in some cases writing) job descriptions, to make sure they’re updated and realistic. HR should know what everybody in the organization is doing, whether they’re administration or athletes, and should be able to find people who will be best able to function in these capacities.

Ironically, an organization that’s small, which may not be able to afford specialized HR, most needs HR functionality. If one of the administrative staffers in your small firm leaves, they were likely performing a number of functions, some of which may have not been properly outlined in the job description. Filling that role becomes a unique challenge — one for which dedicated HR staff is very important.

Resolving Conflicts

Nobody wants to think about it, but every organization’s members will come into conflict with each other at some point. Maybe there’s a labor dispute with some of your staffers. Maybe one of your athletes has a problem with how a coach treated her during practice. Maybe one of your administrative staff has been sexually harassed by another employee. In these kinds of conflicts — and countless others – HR is a neutral party that can come in to mediate.

Determining Wages and Salaries

Your HR staff likely won’t determine the overall budget of the organization. However, a certain fraction of that budget is given to them, for staff and athlete salaries. They help make determinations about how much of that lump sum is portioned out to each individual. In all of those high-profile discussions in the news about athlete salary negotiations, it’s a good bet that the administrators’ HR was involved.


No, your HR staff won’t be involved in training your players — that’s better left to coaches, obviously. But for new administrative staff your organization brings in, HR will work with current employees and the new staff’s bosses to develop the training materials they need to do their job best. HR also typically runs training seminars, to orient and educate new employees, and to help refresh their knowledge.

Why is HR important for sports administration in particular?

It’s easy, in sports administration, to get caught up in administrative details that relate directly to the athletes and the work they do. There’s an endless stream of practices, games, and other logistics to keep track of that relate solely to the organization’s basic functioning. It’s useful to delegate the meta-functions of dealing with human resources to dedicated HR people so that administrative staff can focus all their attention on making their team the best it can be.

Do sports administrators need dedicated HR people on staff?

The answer to this question depends primarily on how large the organization is. If you have only a few employees (whether they’re professional athletes or administrative staff), you can probably fold human resources functions into a staffer’s job. (If you’re currently in the field, you may have someone like that in your organization — may be without either one of you know that that’s the role being filled.)

You can also outsource HR functions to a separate company, which specializes in human resource management. This may be wise if your organization is of an intermediate size, where they need dedicated HR but can’t justify taking having one or a few dedicated people taking on those roles. But these people might not be on-site, so they may not have a complete perspective on how your organization works, and your employees and athletes may have a hard time connecting with them on an interpersonal level.

But if you have a lot of employees, need to regularly hire or fire, or have a lot of employee disputes for whatever reason, you’d be well-served getting a specialized HR person, or even a few individuals. This has a few extra bonuses, particularly because your employees will get to know the people in these HR positions. Often the matters HR deals with can be sensitive, and so your employees are more likely to approach HR with problems if the individual in the position is someone they’ve gotten to know over time.


Human resources is a vital aspect of sports administration. A good HR specialist, or a few, will help keep your organization running smoothly, avoid looming crises, and help your staff and athletes deal with conflicts when they arise. Hire a few ethical, responsible, level-headed individuals for your sports administration organization, or outsource this work to a reputable company, and watch your organization take off.

About Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration Program

Ohio University, a leader in athletic education, established the first specialized academic sports program in the United States in 1966.

Ohio University’s online Master of Athletic Administration program is designed for professionals looking to advance their careers in athletic administration. Graduates are eligible for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) certification. On average, students can complete the program in two years and develop the skills to run a successful interscholastic athletic department that meets the needs of student-athletes.

Recommended Reading

Ohio University, “Roles in High School Athletic Departments”
Ohio University, “What Skills Do Sports Coaches and Athletic Directors Need to be Successful”


Small Business, “Human Resources as Conflict Resolution”, “Human Resources as Conflict Resolution”