Current Issue 13thFebruary 2016 - 19 February 2016, i.e. No. 45

Alternative Careers In Sports


Thankfully being a sports-person is not the only career available to those with a zeal and passion for sports and looking to build a career in it.

From the early Roman days when sports in the Olympics was a glorious spectacle to today’s ultra managed events like modern Olympics sport has come a long way in terms of both scale and management. To give an example, the organizing committee of the Beijing Olympics put an advertisement to recruit as many as one lakh volunteers to work in various centres.

And this is just the number of volunteers, we are not talking about the actual administrators and managers and workers required for the event, the coaches and the support staffs attached with the various contingents, referees and umpires, medical support staff, journalists who covered the event, the public relations managers and other media staff and so on.

And unlike the temporary volunteers, these are full time professionals who enjoy the intricacies of their respective trades.

The vast exercise of Olympics is an epitome example of sports requirements and as said earlier, it’s not once-in-four-years opportunity only but requires year around preparation and full time devotion.

Let’s have another example to understand the various aspects of sports as a profession. When the Indian cricket team toured Australia recently, other than the players there was a huge retinue of sport professionals on the tour.

With the team there was a main coach, (Duncan Fletcher), manager, bowling coach, physiotherapist, physical trainers, mental conditioning coach (another word for sports psychologist), masseur, video  analyst (to record video footage of players and analyse the problem areas etc), liaison officer, media manager and a selector to help in team selection. And of course there was a huge contingent of Indian media travelling with the team that included correspondents, photographers and video journalists.

So let’s have a look at the alternative career available in sport.

Coaching / Training
Coaching is a well respected and a much needed profession. Coaching at the top level, national and international, usually requires a lot of experience. Such coaches themselves have long and rich experience as players themselves. Thus coaching at the top is a viable option for retired sportspersons. This also helps a top level athlete to prolong his or her career as a sportsperson's life as a player is limited.
It is important to note here that one doesn’t have to be a world record holder himself to produce a new world champion. It is usually the deep understanding of the game, its finesse and man management that qualifies a good coach.
However coaching also is not limited to top professionals only and with the emergence of sports and fitness, a wide number of jobs are available as trainers that cannot be ignored.

For one the educational institutes, schools and colleges employ physical trainers who are usually referred to as PGTs and TGTs. Parents nowadays are preferring schools that offer a lot of physical activities like yoga, swimming, horse riding, etc. other than regular games and sports. All these activities require trained coaches and trainers.

Other than that a large number of trainers are employed by fitness centres and institutes. Also there is a growing demand for skilled trainers to work on personal basis as well.

Umpiring / Refereeing

Games and sports are rule specific and need a judge to oversee that the game runs in its true laws and spirit. Other than having solid judgement for the game, a referee needs to be physically and mentally fit as well. He or she needs to be in control of the game and while being strict also has to show reserves of calm and patience. It is often said that umpiring is a thankless job as an umpire or referee is not judged by their right decisions but by their mistakes. Often a mistake ruins all the good work done through the course of the game. It is important to accept that mistake is only human error and one cannot be perfect. But within the realms of these heavy expectations, if one excels under stress and enjoys challenges, few careers can be a rewarding as judging the game.

It helps if one has played the game, but it isn’t essential to be a top umpire. There are a number of training academies for coaches usually run by their respective sport federations. Usually the coaches are graded level 1, 2, 3 and 4 according to their skills and experience. State and national sports organisations employ umpires and referees. They also work as freelancers, having a full time job and working in their spare time as referees.

Sports medicine

It is one aspect where there is acute shortage of trained personnel.
Doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians, nutritionists, etc. are very much required to build, maintain and monitor optimum physical fitness.
During the course of play also physios are needed to treat minor injuries, sprains etc.

Doctors are also needed to train athletes on list of banned substances and to educate them on avoiding illegal drugs intake. Sometimes even common medicines may interfere with blood samples hence a sportsperson has to be well educated on what to take and what to avoid according to the WADA guidelines. All these and more are the roles of a sports medicine expert.
Sports medicine experts are also employed by rehabilitation centres, health clubs etc.

Sports media
Media has grown manifold in sports and even its role and functions have grown with time.
Earlier while a few reporters and one or two still cameraperson were enough to cover an event, now their numbers have gone to hundreds. Media is a fast growing industry in India and huge spurt in number of newspapers and television channels have only grown the need for trained media persons.

Sports Journalism

Most of the newspapers and TV channels have strong sports team nowadays. Normal strength of a sports desk is around 10 people that include sports editor, correspondents on various beats, sub-editors, anchors, page designers etc.
Usually the entry into sports journalism is as a trainee reporter or trainee sub-editor and one moves up from there. Journalists are given fixed beats to cover, like cricket, football, tennis, athletics, Olympic sports, hockey etc. Sometimes these are rolling beats and everyone gets to cover all in a cycle. A sport journalist is expected to be hands on the intricacies of the game and to be in good contact with the sportspersons and administrators of his particular beat.

There is growing trend to adopt sports journalism as a career and to sum it up in the words of a colleague who covers cricket, “People pay to watch cricket matches, I get paid to watch them.”

Other than reporting, there is also option of becoming sports commentator which is a highly paying job but the requirements for live commentators are only a few.

Sports Photo Journalist

Action photographs are lifeline for a sports story and brilliant photographers are worth their weight in gold in media houses. They try to tell the story in pictures and other than being at their creative best, they also need to be at the right place in the right time.

With the advent of TV and sports channels, sports camerapersons are in huge demand. They cover for news bulletins and programmes and also are required for live coverage. Once again live coverage is a very responsible job and requires great experience and expertise.

Sports PR Professionals

A number of Public Relations agencies have sprung up in the field of sports which require PR professionals with a passion for sports. Sports federations need PR managers, event organisers need PR managers and even sportspersons themselves need PR experts to guide them in the media field. Events like IPL and F1 have opened doors for a huge number of PR managers who work exclusively for sports.

Sports Administrators and Managers

Able sports administrators are required for maintaining and running sport federations and organisations. As sport becomes increasingly professional, the requirement for trained managers and administrators is only bound to increase. Right now job opportunities exist in both public and private sector.
This is not an exhaustive list of careers available in sport, just an indicator of current professional trends. Besides if one gets creative, other avenues like sports tourism, academies, manufacturing equipments etc. are also available for those with entrepreneur bend of mind.

(The author is a sports journalist with reporting experience of well known sports events including Olympics and Cricket World Cup. e-mail: vidhanshu@ hotmail. com)

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