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What Is the Role of Community Sports Organizations?

If you play in your local adult tennis league, swim at the municipal pool, bike in the local parks or have your child enrolled in little league baseball, you are a beneficiary of Community Sport Organizations (CSOs).

“CSOs are nonprofit, voluntary organizations whose essential goal is to provide a range of opportunities for people of various ages to participate in sport and physical activity,” as defined in a case study report from the Journal of Sport Management. Arkansas State University’s Online Master of Science in Sport Administration can open up career doors within these organizations.

Also known as parks and recreation departments, or park systems, these entities have three values that make their services essential to the communities they serve, according to the National Recreation and Park Association:

  1. Economic value: CSOs provide a variety of direct and indirect income streams to their communities. One of the ways is their help in attracting new business to an area. Quality parks and recreation are cited as one of the top three reasons businesses choose a community. By maintaining parks, CSOs also drive up property values and their corresponding tax revenues. Finally, these departments generate direct revenues through the fees they charge for participation in sports, recreation and related activities.
  2. Health and environmental benefits: CSOs influence the health of local residents of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), having places to be physically active can improve community health and result in a 25 percent increase of residents who exercise at least three times per week. Parks and public lands also improve the environment, having positive effects on water and air quality, as well as wildlife habitats.
  3. Social importance: Parks provide gathering places for people to socialize and enjoy activities together, and their services are usually at low cost or free. This enables access for people of all socioeconomic conditions. For this reason, parks rank among the most important factors in community livability surveys.


The functions of CSOs vary by community, depending on local demographics; citizen values, needs and lifestyles; and the type of environment and topography in the area. As you may imagine, the Parks and Recreation Department in New York City has a slightly different vision than the CSO in fitness-obsessed Boulder, Colorado. Of course, Boulder’s department differs just as much from the one in Naples, Florida, the happiest retirement community in America.

A look into the online profiles of these organizations exemplifies the diverse roles they play in their respective communities, and how each one addresses the three values:

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation: “Our vision is to create and sustain thriving parks and public spaces for New Yorkers. Our mission is to plan resilient and sustainable parks, public spaces, and recreational amenities, build a park system for present and future generations and care for parks and public spaces.”

Boulder Colorado Parks and Recreation Department: “Boulder Parks and Recreation promotes the health and well-being of the entire Boulder community by collaboratively providing high-quality parks, facilities and programs … Guiding principles include: sustainable practices, partnerships, health as our fundamental purpose, the common good, service excellence and continuous improvement.”

Naples Parks and Recreation Department: “As an agency dedicated to serving the community as a whole, the City welcomes all people regardless of gender, age, ability or socio-economic status. We encourage participation in programming to all community members in order to promote health, wellness, social skills, leadership training, discipline, personal welfare and special abilities. The City believes that recreation is essential to any well-rounded individual and can enhance the life of anyone that participates.”

Jobs in CSOs

Given the diversity of communities across America, one of the most rewarding aspects of working for a community sports organization is finding one that represents your values and lifestyle. A Master of Science in Sport Administration can prepare you for many of the positions in these organizations. Here’s a partial list of positions:

  • Parks and Recreation Director: Manages activities and oversees staff.
  • Parks Manager: Oversees the maintenance and operation of community parks.
  • Recreation Manager: Oversees the community recreation activities.
  • Recreation Coordinator: Facilitates the delivery of services to citizens.
  • Sports Leagues or Fitness Director: Manages sports leagues or fitness programs.
  • Aquatics Manager: Supervises operations at community aquatic centers.

Whether you care about creating urban oases for runners, raising a community’s life expectancy, or delivering a retirement experience worth saving for, you can find work that gives your career meaning in a CSO.

Learn more about the A-State online MS in Sport Administration program.


National Recreation and Park Association: Why Parks and Recreation Are Essential Public Services

Journal of Sport Management: A Case Study of Organizational Capacity in Nonprofit Community Sport

Centers for Disease Control: The CDC Guide to Strategies to Increase Physical Activity in the Community

NYC: About the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Boulder, Colorado: Parks and Recreation Department Profile

Naples, Florida: Parks and Recreation Overview

The Balance: Careers in a Parks and Recreation Department

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