In the executive search business, we often begin conversations by asking prospective candidates how they got their start in the industry. There are many different ways to break into sports, but all of them have a few common themes: hard work, long hours and minimum pay are almost guaranteed rites of passage. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my experience breaking into the industry, which involved working for three different organizations in the Florida State League.
While in school in Southwest Florida, I got my first internship with the Minnesota Twins’ Single A affiliate, the Ft. Myers Miracle. As an intern, my main responsibility was to make sure the guests were having a great experience at the ballpark. This included manning the merchandise table, signing fans up for (and participating in) on-field promotions, dressing up as mascots (a bee, buffalo, monkey and – really – a cockroach), dancing on the dugout during the 7th inning stretch and wishing the fans well on their way home from the game. The role was definitely not glamorous, but it was a chance to be on the front lines, and gain an understanding of all the hard work that goes into creating an atmosphere that fans enjoy and come back to.
My second role in the FSL was in Dunedin, FL with the Toronto Blue Jays during Spring Training. I was able to get my first real taste of ticket sales in this opportunity as a sales associate in the box office. It was a great learning experience, and allowed me to cut my teeth on what is probably the most common way to break into sports: ticket sales.
My last position was with the Tampa Yankees, the Single A affiliate of the New York Yankees. I participated in the game experience/production phase, like I did with the Miracle, and also sold tickets through cold-calling and walk ups, as I did during my time with the Blue Jays. I was also hands-on with marketing, sponsorship, and activation, which helped give me a complete perspective on how a sports organization is run from top to bottom.
I share this because my experience actually isn’t that uncommon. In fact, many team Presidents and Chief Marketing Officers started out at the bottom of the totem pole. Everyone has to put in their dues, and those who make the most of these opportunities are the ones who advance. Embrace the hard work and long hours, get outside your comfort zone and try to take in everything that you can. While the compensation may be low financially, the experiences and knowledge you can gain in these types of roles is invaluable.