Sports managers spend their time behind the scenes coordinating all business-related activities for the team that employs them. During the playing season they may work seven days a week. When they work for college or professional teams they stay behind in their office at the team’s home facility while the team travels to away games. A few who have been in the business for many years travel with the team from city to city, but they are the exception.
During the off-season, the manager is busy negotiating trades and signing free agents. The sports manager or general manager, as he/she is sometimes called, signs all players to the professional team. According to one successful manager, “It is more important to know which deals not to make than which deals you should make.” This is often the most delicate aspect of the job, as a manager must make deals that satisfy the owners, without alienating any of the players. Managers who work for a professional sports team are involved in the yearly ritual of drafting college players. They work closely with the coach and scouts to determine which players are the most talented, economically feasible, and play positions the team needs. Managers must do this while keeping an eye on the team’s budget. They are in charge of everyone’s salary, from the coach and players down to the assistants. They also make financial arrangements for travel, equipment, and uniform purchases and must factor into their budgets player injury and the possible team success that leads to additional playing and travel costs.
Sports managers have to participate in press conferences and explain the reasons for their decisions to the media, without giving away their intentions for the future. They may be the subject of both complimentary and critical press reports which they must be able to ignore. When they sign a great player, they are considered heroes. When a respected player leaves the team or slides into a losing streak, managers are often seen as contributing to the team’s downfall. Managers should expect to be fired and forced to relocate a number of times during their careers. For all of these reasons, this is a highly stressful job.
There is no one ideal background for a sports manager. Sports managers should, of course, love the game they are managing and should have experience playing or coaching it. Most managers have spent time as an assistant to a manager or coach while in high school and college. Most managers begin managing local school teams, work their way up to the college level and eventually work with professional athletes. Some may have a degree in physical education, with a business minor, which allows them to handle the business aspects of their work. For managers of professional teams, a business degree is recommended. The manager should be familiar with contract laws, economics, and accounting. There are no licensing requirements for managers. They may belong to an organization or association of managers in their particular sport.
The general manager is usually promoted from the position of head coach or head of scouting. A coach organizes practice schedules and develops playing strategies for the team. The scout visits teams in lower divisions of the sport to find new talent: For example, College Team scouts attend high school events. They meet with exceptional players and watch them play. When they find a player that they think would be an asset to their team, they generally work out a scholarship plan to entice the player to attend their employer’s school.