A career in sports is highly sought after by many. The opportunity to spend a Saturday on press row and call it “work” is almost unfathomable. Though most of us who have spent some time in the biz know that’s hardly the case, there’s no denying that what we do is a pretty darn cool gig.
An aspect of the job that doesn’t get as much hype, however, is pay. It’s pretty well-known that most entry-level and lower management jobs in sports do not pay well -- especially if you break down your salary into an hourly rate, considering the number of overtime hours that go into most of these roles. It’s a fact that’s usually just taken with a grain of salt, but it’s also an issue that deserves more attention, serious dialogue, and significant change.
With that said, the intangibles that accompany a career in sports - the relationships, the experiences, the skills, the memories - are, in the opinion of many, unparallelled. In this post, a few members of the Sparkles & Sports staff weigh in on making a living while working in sports.
Pros vs. Cons
In most cases, a career in sports won’t bring you a big fat paycheck each month. What it will bring you, though, is unmatched work experience. The pace, nature of work, and overall essential responsibilities required in the sports business give you skills that better equip you to handle life (or other careers) beyond athletics. This kind of experience may take precedence over pay, especially if you are just kicking off your career.
On the flipside, this kind of hustle can also lead to burnout and high turnover rates. While some people view many hours and little pay as a right of passage in the sports realm, it’s not for everyone. This is especially true if you have other responsibilities, like raising a family, that you need to prioritize.
One of the bonuses of working so many hours in these kinds of roles is that you don’t really have time to spend your money on all the extra stuff. When the season is in full swing and we’re working events, one of the perks that oftentimes comes with this is food on the job! This can definitely help shrink those grocery bills. However, buying groceries is significantly cheaper than eating out, and something to keep in mind if you are working on a budget. When you do go to restaurants or bars, it is important to have a budgeted amount you will spend every month. Having this number in mind will keep you accountable while still allowing you to treat yourself every so often.
Depending on your organization, you may be fortunate enough to get overtime compensation for all these extra hours as well. While you might be worn out and in desperate need of some downtime, having this extra cash in your pocket can really offset some expenses.
There are also other ways to cut down on some of your expenses. Having multiple roommates can especially help reduce your rent expense each month. Taking it one step further, if your rent is split up by room size, consider taking the smaller room. And of course, if you are able to stay on your parent’s phone bill, use your sister’s Netflix account, or find other ways to chip away at your expenses, don’t be afraid to do so.
Yes, there are ways to make the most of your financial situation if a job in sports is the career path you choose. But at some point, the conversation needs to shift from “getting by” to “getting what you deserve.” If you feel that you should be better-compensated for the work you do, the time you give, and the value you bring, then advocate for yourself. Research jobs in your city with similar titles, responsibilities, and skill levels to see what they pay. Leverage your network to see what your counterparts at other organizations are compensated, if you have a relationship with those people in which you feel comfortable to ask those types of questions. Even if you only ask for a range, knowing that information can be helpful in building your case for a raise. Your human resources department *should* stay up-to-date with these industry standards, but if they don’t, you have the power to seek this information and bring it to them.
Tradeoffs are part of any decision in life. If your choice is a career in sports, understand that you may not be well-compensated at first. However, also consider that your role will pay dividends in the long run as long as you’re willing to put in the work.