Straight From the Source: How to Start in Sports

You've always wanted to start working in sports but didn't know how. We go "Straight to the Source" to show where to begin.

Straight from the Source: Hot to Start in Sports

"Straight From the Source" brings you opinions and advice from some of the most talented and experience professionals in sports tourism.

Having been an event producer for more than 20 years, I’ve found the best lessons are learned through firsthand experiences. But what do you do if you’re a new planner needing experience and looking to gain knowledge to eventually achieve long-term success? We posed that question to six experienced sports event producers in all segments of the industry. Take heed!

1. Believe in Your Vision.

“It’s imperative to stay the course,” says Lee Corrigan, owner of Corrigan Sports Enterprises. “The Under Armour All-American Lacrosse Tournament is a perfect example of this. Many told me that we should do it this way or that way. However, they didn’t understand the full picture. I was open to listening to their ideas, but we stayed strong in our original concept and made appropriate small tweaks along the way. Now, the Under Armour All-American event is one of  the best lacrosse events of the summer.”

2. Empower Great Staff.

“Having a strong event staff is, by far, the most important component of running a great sporting event,” says Tres LeTard, general manager of Varsity All Star. “You need to trust your staff and have your best people in positions where they can take ownership over sections or elements of the event. If you have a strong, empowered event staff, your event will run smoothly and be less stressful to you and your customers.”

3. Address Fears.

“I thought I was accomplished in overcoming challenges until I encountered the fear that permeated our country after 9/11,” shares Gwen Holtsclaw, creator and president of Cheer Ltd. “In the six months between 9/11 and our major event, schools placed a moratorium on travel, and parents kept children close. If our major event was to survive, I had to find a way to make it as safe and secure as possible.

My event team applied a what-if mentality to emergency planning—imagining scenarios like the airlines closing down again for three days (we contracted with a bus). Once we had done all we could do, the biggest challenge of my professional career was to speak to coaches and parents to assure them we were as prepared as anyone could be to respond to any threat. Parents and coaches said committing to our event marked a positive ‘return to normal.’ I realized our events represent anticipation, joy and moving forward.” 

4. Be Flexible.

“No matter what the event is or how many years you have hosted it, there will always be something that will change from your original plan,” says Kristy Cox, senior manager of events for USA Volleyball. “Mother Nature will wreak havoc; your original floor plan may not fit the way you planned; or you’ll find out your awards shipped to the wrong address. You must have an action plan. A Plan B will help you remain calm and flexible.”

5. Get it all in Writing.

“Make sure hotel and venue contracts are signed at the same time for an event or risk a breakdown, like not having enough accommodations for your attendees,” notes Christine Strong Simmons, senior director of operations and events for USA Fencing. “Also, make sure to build in growth for your event space and room contracts. We have seen 15 to 22 percent growth in our events and have to plan for this moving forward.”

6. Don't Take Your Clients for Granted.

“When you open registration for an event, never assume teams who came last year will return the following year. There will always be competition,” says Jeff Long, owner of Pattison Sports Group/Victory Event Series. “You need to treat each client as if they were your only client. The Victory Event Series continues to discuss new events that meet our clients’ needs.”

As for me, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is we have amazing jobs we should all enjoy and take pride in. We truly are creating lifetime memories for our participants. Sometimes, you need to step back and stop running all of the details a bit. Take it all in and make those moments your memories too.