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Volunteering is the best way into sports business

Building a network and resume is key when wanting to work in sports business.

Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Around this time of year, people in the sports business begin receiving requests from friends, relatives and colleagues about internship opportunities for their high school/college-aged children. My response is always the same: “Let me see what I can do. The job will pay next to nothing and internships are difficult to get due enormous competition for them. Also, they can require long hours, and just as a heads up, sometimes delicate young egos can get bruised.”

Helping kids start building their resume and getting them exposure to high-level sports executives, sports agents and athletes is key to a successful future for anyone interested in a career in sports and entertainment.

The best opportunities for young students looking for internships in sports can be found through volunteering at sporting events.  In Los Angeles, for example, there are numerous opportunities and they all give back to the community: Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club, Special Olympics World Games in July, LPGA Tour (Palm Springs), Northern Trust at Rivera Country Club, BNP Open (Indian Wells), L.A. Marathon, Toyota GrandPrix of Long Beach, Auto Club 400, Surf Nationals at Huntington, X Games, Body Surfing Championships, and so on.

Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

If you think your son or daughter is too good to volunteer, he/she isn’t. Roger Goodell started as Pete Rozelle’s driver. He made $44 million last year. Not bad for a guy who started out wearing a driver’s cap at work.

The Newport Beach Country Club golf tournament, where Fred Couples beat Colin Montgomery by a stroke on the last hole last year, gave $1 million to charity and $17 million since its inception. There are also numerous smaller tournaments that feed into big tournaments like the Men’s and Women’s PGA Championship and U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur Championship.  Feeder tournaments always need volunteers. The College World Series for baseball and softball need volunteers. Colleges and athletes that give back to underprivileged youth have sports camps that always need volunteers. The overall experience will be valuable, but it will also look good on a young person’s resume. Plus, there is also the intrinsic value of doing something that gives back to the community.

 Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

If they’re lucky, volunteer interns may be able to network with sports executives.  High schools have youth camps such as the Mission Viejo Passing Camp (perhaps the best in the nation), where you see and work with Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Fusion Football in Ventura for quarterbacks and receivers is run by pros and produces more all-league high school players per capita than any other program. At any camp, an intern will have the chance to meet sports professionals.  Most cities have such opportunities.

Success in the sports industry is about hard work and networking. For aspiring Jerry McGuire’s, Dickie Fox’s, Bob Sugar’s, Arte Moreno’s, Ed Goren’s or Jerry Buss’s, they might as well start this summer by volunteering and networking at sporting events. Importantly, you never know when or at what age you will make that connection that starts you on a path for a big career in sports.

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