Volunteers keep sports alive

October 18, 2017 / by Jesse Ghiorzi

The phrase front office gets tossed around in sports-related conversations at the water cooler, the bar or the game. But most people only know a couple of roles outside of the players and field staff – the GM or AD, maybe the president. But what about all the other jobs? Most teams or collegiate athletic departments are filled with dozens or hundreds of staff.

A non-scientific study* conducted by one of our interns, showed that an average athletic department/team has a front office staff of 85. This is full time, year-round staff, to say nothing of the game operations group, interns, seasonal support staff or volunteers. Dig deeper and you’ll find millions of jobs in the sports industry that people never think of, and thousands of other roles filled by volunteers or interns. Many of the well paid executives started in an unpaid internship or volunteer role.

Most organizations, especially the smaller ones, like road race promotion companies, dirt tracks, minor league teams, little leagues and high schools depend on unpaid efforts to survive. When I coached little league, there were 3-5 volunteers per team (coaches, scorekeepers, others), and another dozen-plus who ran the league itself. In a former role, we’d count on volunteer groups – sometimes completely unpaid, other times a small donation – to fill customer service roles like ticket takers or ushers. Even major league teams often let groups volunteer at concession stands in exchange for donations. These roles are crucial, because this blog wouldn’t have been written without the help of an intern!

To wrap it up, the trillion-dollar sports industry relies on tens of thousands of volunteers to keep it moving. Their invaluable efforts are what keep this business alive and thriving. So, if you want to break into the industry, consider an unpaid role, it’s a great way to get a start, and how I got mine. Next time you see a volunteer putting in time at a game, race or other event, tell them “thank you.” I’ll start now, thanks to Clare Myers for editing this story and Kyle Teague for doing the research.

*According to the staff listed on the websites of the Vancouver Canucks, Miami Dolphins, Indiana Pacers, New York Yankees, Frisco RoughRiders, Miami University and University of Alabama.

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