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Learn About Teamwork and Collaboration in Sports

When a football team wins the Super Bowl, the moment of victory is but a small portion of the game. That team’s success on the field was the culmination of a much more expansive effort. At the professional level, scouts, trainers, medical personnel, executives, sports licensing and marketing executives, the general manager, executives, an owner and so many more team players collaborate to accomplish the mission. At the college level, the structure and participants are slightly different; there are recruiters instead of scouts and athletic directors instead of general managers, but the organizations are nearly as complex.

Much more than the athletes themselves, the people at the top of the mountain are responsible for the sustained success of their organizations. Consider that in the National Football League, the average player tenure is around four years, while executives’ careers last for decades, and ownership is a trans-generational affair.

Those at the top of the hierarchy are charged with building the organization from the ground up. The concept of capital is just as prevalent in sports organizations as it is in the investment world. There is capital in young minor league prospects who can be traded for current MLB stars, and draft capital in slotted picks that NBA and NFL teams hold going into their draft of collegiate players.

General managers must accumulate capital, then find ways to make timely decisions when they’re in striking distance of a championship. For example, the Houston Astros have a heralded scouting organization that identifies prospects better than most other MLB teams, especially prospects from Latin America. After a few years of incubation, that talent was ready to compete for a championship in the mid-00s. The organization only had to trade some minor league capital for a few final pieces of the puzzle — proven major league talent — to win a championship (notwithstanding the cheating scandal that ultimately undermined all of the organization’s nobler efforts).

In Major League Baseball, teams have minor leagues at various levels. From their early teens, players all over the world are recruited. Scouts must be exceptional talent evaluators with enough experience in the game to spot extraordinary talent and also project how a player will develop in a particular system. Their recommendations inform which players get financial offers to make the minor leagues and which players are drafted from collegiate teams. Without talent evaluators, there are no titles for sports franchises.

The National Basketball Association operates similarly to MLB. Its scouts are more dispersed around the world, with a heavy concentration in Europe and, of course, the United States. The scouts look for college-age players with the skills to command the U.S. NBA game. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern was a brilliant marketer; his efforts to showcase stars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan turned what had been a uniquely American game into a global phenomenon. When modern international stars Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol and Hakeem Olajuwon won championships for their respective teams, they did so because of the work of David Stern and his executives set them up for those wins.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg in how today’s very complex sports organizations function. Many key contributors influence a sports organization’s success on the business side as well as on the field or court. If you see yourself in this arena, the Arkansas State University Master of Science in Sport Administration online provides excellent training for a variety of leadership and upper management roles in many types of sports organizations.

Learn more about A-State’s M.S. in Sport Administration online program.


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