May 17, 2017

Finding Your Future in Athletics Administration

By Dr. Doug Kuhlmann, Part-Time M.S.A.A. Program Director | Athletics Administration

The industry of athletics administration is an ultra-competitive field—and it’s a common misconception that breaking into the field of athletics administration is easily done with on-the-job training and knowing the right people. However, a degree in athletics administration will certainly help to propel you into a future career in the field of sport. An advanced degree, coupled with training, hard work, and networking, can provide you with the tools necessary to find your dream job. At Concordia University, Nebraska, our online M.S. in Athletic Administration program will provide you with a basic understanding and appreciation of the business of sports and how to be successful in—and on—the field.

According to author David Watt, sports administrators should be qualified in sports management, sports development, facility management and operations and coaching, while placing an increased emphasis on leadership to direct a successful program. While this is a baseline for effective leadership in the realm of sport, there remains a specific (non-exhaustive) listing of tasks and abilities that will allow for execution of an excellent program.

1. Leadership
There are certain attributes that enable an individual to establish relationships and develop characteristics necessary to succeed as a leader. When I think of the values for successful administrators, I believe they should host the following: listening skills, empathy, input drive and objectivity.

2. Vision
Shared vision is a key concept in allowing for greater buy-in from stakeholders. When pressure groups participate in decisions, there is a democratic sense of ownership and the constituency will be supportive of the overall vision. Successful leaders develop and communicate an inspiring vision for the program. When the administrator has the ambition to set high goals for the department, and the enthusiasm and dedication to pursue them, they will inspire others. Author and leadership expert Jeff Janssen notes that this type of vision gives all programs a clear goal to shoot for and is motivating for coaches to achieve an elite status.

3. Delegation
It is imperative for the athletic administrator to develop a team of leaders in order to share leadership of the various programs offered. Everyone has their “favorites.” Administrators must play an active role in all programs and treat everyone fairly. No coaching staff or parent group likes to feel as if they receive the short end of the stick due to lack of respect. By engaging all members of each program, team learning and goal setting will occur. The program will become more important than the sum of its parts. By breaking down barriers and being overly insightful about reaching the organization’s collective goals, the administrator will garner respect and become more successful. Teamwork becomes essential towards establishing true leadership.

4. Program Development
A successful athletic administrator provides a program with responsible coaches and volunteer assistants. Janssen posits most people crave feedback on their performance; administrators need to give insights on what coaches are doing well and when they might need help. By encouraging coaches to develop their skills via clinics and addressing poor performances via mentoring, administrators can create more conviction and better hold people accountable. Most communities have not devoted enough necessary time and attention to implement and enforce policies that serve and protect the best interests of children. It is up to the qualified sports administrator to educate and train those individuals who work with youth. Failure to do so will result in the loss of athletes in a program.

5. Rules and Regulations
Author Lyle Patzkowsky acknowledges that the successful administrator must be able to manage a myriad of issues ranging from mundane administrative tasks to sensitive and complex issues involving the emotional and psychological well-being of coaches, students and parents. In our culture of instant communication, it is essential that technology is used to correspond with parents and coaches. For the sports administrator, it is the little things that make the difference in the overall program. Much like the official in a sporting contest, the best administrator is rarely noticed—unless there is a mistake. Miscommunication will result in the loss of credibility; one can rarely regain this once lost.

Sports administration is a rapidly emerging field, with a constantly changing landscape. At Concordia University, Nebraska, our online Masters of Science in Athletic Administration program will prepare you to meet this challenge.

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