CLAS Industry Spotlight: Careers in Sports

After witnessing all of the excitement of UConn’s Women’s Basketball team winning their tenth national championship last week, you might be thinking to yourself, “how can I pursue a career in the sports industry?” Well, there’s a great variety of career opportunities on and off the court to work with and support athletes. This post will share some sample job titles, interview an alumna in sports management, and share networking and job search resources!

In this post:

Alumni Insights

Ashley Combs
Communication Sciences ’09, Sports Management ’14
Executive Assistant to Senior VP of Basketball and Client Services Manager
Excel Sports Management (If your reach out to Ashley, make sure to include how you found her in your note)

Ashley’s background: Ashley Combs worked with the UConn men’s basketball team for over four years, including supporting the team and Hall of Fame Coach, Jim Calhoun, through the 2009 Final Four and 2011 National Championship seasons. She has held internships and student assistant positions with the UConn Athletic Department, Excel Sports Management, Legacy Venture Consulting, HuskySport, and Spurs Sports & Entertainment. Her fulltime work has included being a Community Responsibility Coordinator for Spurs Sports & Entertainment, and her current position with Excel Sports Management.

Interview with Ashley: I had the pleasure to meet Ashley Combs when she visited UConn to receive the Neag School of Education’s Outstanding Early Career Professional Award this March. During this visit I had the chance to sit down with Ashley and learn more about her career choice and her advice for current students. Ashley grew up in the world of sports since the age of three, and knew from a very young age that she wanted to work in basketball. Her activities and work experience with HuskySport and the men’s basketball team as an UConn undergraduate and graduate student, helped solidify those goals.

When asked what her favorite part of her job at Excel Sports Management, Ashley shared that she loves the opportunity to work directly with the athletes. Much of her role is focused on building relationships with her athletes, and on gaining their trust so that she can “help them shine off the court.” In a typical day as the Executive Assistant to Senior VP of Basketball and Client Services Manager, Ashley gets in around 7am to prepare administrative details for Sam Goldfeder. She then spends time communicating with her players and their parents to make sure everyone is doing okay. Ashley noted how they represent a lot of young athletes, and her role in supporting them ranges from ensuring all of the small details of their lives are organized to orchestrating community outreach and marketing opportunities. Ashley noted how despite being a mid-size agency, Excel Sports Management’s excellent reputation in client services has led them to be an extremely sought after agency by both new and veteran athletes.

Ashley had a lot of great advice for current students looking to enter sports management. She said the most important things are that you need to be willing to work hard, be extremely passionate about the job, be willing to make sacrifices, be willing to work for nothing, and be okay with the fact that the job won’t always be glamorous. She cited how her internships and the networking she did in school and since graduating helped her connect with every opportunity she has had. Ashley is a great example of an alumna who used networking to achieve her goals. Not only is she always making connections, and reaching out to new contacts through letters of inquiry, she stressed the importance of following up and offering a personal touch by sending hand written notes. She said “I didn’t have a network, but I built one.” She emphasized that everyone who knows her is aware of her passion for basketball, and encouraged students to always share their passions with others. Ashley stated that she owes much of her success to her roots at UConn and that having Justin Evanovich “take me under his wing” helped her to get her career started.

Ashley said that anyone can go into the sports industry, because there are so many different opportunities. She said she works with people with English B.A.’s, law degrees, and backgrounds in statistics. She even has a friend in the industry whose background is in geography. Ashley stressed that the most important factor in finding a job in this industry is getting experience, and she encouraged current students to develop their communication, organization, and multitasking skills. She stressed the importance of being able to talk to anyone and develop their trust, and being able to do things with short turnaround time while keeping everyone happy. According to Ashley one of the typical entry level jobs in this field is starting team-side with inside sales and then working hard and moving up. Again she emphasized that it’s all about your experience and who you know, stating that she “did everything she could to get on people’s radar.” She made a point to build relationships that weren’t transactional, so even if someone didn’t have an opening, she appreciated the insights they offered and stayed in touch with regular updates and by sending holiday cards.

Ashley’s last pieces of advice for current UConn students were to seek out opportunities at UConn, to volunteer your time, and to try different things. Ashley said that trying out different areas of sports, from marketing to development, all helped her figure out her specialization and build skills that she still uses in her current role.

Learn more about Ashley: Alumni “SportStory”: Ashley Combs & the Spurs’ Learn & Play Center

Relevant Articles

Forbes: The 10 Best Careers in Sports by Susan Adams
The Best Schools: The Top 10 Sports Careers for Non-Athletes

Industry Job Boards

Cool Works
Jobs in Sports
Major League Baseball Careers
NCAA Market
Outdoor Industry Jobs
Sports Career Finder
Sports Career Institute
Snow Sports
Team USA

Professional Associations

North American Society for Sports Management
Women’s Sports Foundation

Additional Resources

Explore Health Careers- Sports Medicine Overview

The UConn Center for Career Development does our best to share up to date, relevant resources; however the Center for Career Development does not specifically endorse any of these sites. Before joining an organization, investing in classes, or utilizing a placement agency be sure to check its credentials through additional sources.

By Emily Merritt
Emily Merritt Career Consultant, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences