3 keys to learning and growing in the sports industry

by spencer wilson - Associate, the core at the oakland a's | February 08, 2019

Whether you’re a freshman in college, or you’ve been in the industry for decades, it’s important to maximize every opportunity to learn while in your role. I remember when I was a freshman at Ohio University and knew about the 15-20 odd people from my high school that also chose the same place to spend their next four years. I walked into my Learning Community class, and knew no one else in my cohort. Throughout the next 15 weeks in my fall semester, I made great friends and learned from my fellow Sport Management freshmen. Now, in my current role, I was essentially tasked with the same situation. New faces, new places. Below are some ways to continuously learn in whatever opportunity you may be in.

Learn Horizontally, and Vertically

When you’re getting to know the people around you, the people in similar roles to you, it’s easy to find those commonalities between each other. The school you went to, your hometown, interests, you name it. These friends and contacts are important in helping you grow on a day-to-day basis. You will be challenging each other frequently to be better, and learning how their style differs from yours, and how you all can achieve a common goal. This can be applied to students trying to achieve a degree or post-grad job, to an inside sales class wanting that next promotion. You can learn from the people around you in whatever way you find best. Getting lunch, watching a game on the weekend, or my personal favorite, grabbing coffee, are just a few ways to continue to learn and grow with the people around you.

For the people that are in roles you may aspire to be in, who have been in the industry for many years or decades more than you, the process is the same. As a student, I would find myself talking with various professors, engaging in conversations about the many possibilities sports has to offer, and then being offered a connection with upperclassmen, or other professors that would help continue those discussions. Now in the industry, those people that are at the top of a vertical may be harder to reach, but if you can't reach them, you can always utilize your direct manager, or someone above you who may have a better connection. Never assume that a door is closed when it comes to learning from someone else. Every doorway is open, some may be wide-open, and others may have a crack of light showing through. It’s your job to walk through the door.

Get Outside the Usual

While an organization or school will have an abundance of educational resources, it's essential to go beyond your usual comfort zone. During my time in college, I frequently went to different sports business organizations, where I would learn about anything from being a sports agent to working with our graduate program. You can always learn in the classroom, but what you learn outside the classroom during college will help set you apart in the industry.

As most people are aware, LinkedIn is such a valuable resource to use for networking, prospecting, and more. When starting in the industry, use LinkedIn and other social tools to your advantage to learn from others across the world. From #YPSportsChat on Twitter, to the various Facebook and LinkedIn groups that want to help you grow, there are countless groups around that have the primary focus of helping you succeed. Find people in other organizations and in other industries who are doing similar work to you, and see where you can share ideas to make each other better. Nowadays, going to places that foster face-to-face interaction like Chamber of Commerce luncheons, or other networking events will help you grow even further. Go beyond the usual.

Be a Resource to Others

While you are searching outside the usual, or learning from people horizontal and vertical to you, be a resource to those that are doing the same thing as you. We all learn from each other, and that is what continues to build our industry. While climbing your vertical, remember when you started as a freshman in school, or at your first job with the organization. During this continuous learning process, you may find a mentor or mentee, and that’s what sports is all about. We’re only as great as the people around us, so why not continue to help fuel the cycle that is working in sports?

I’m always looking to connect with people and learn from others, let's talk!


Spencer, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, is a current member of the inaugural CORE class with the Oakland Athletics. Spencer graduated in 2018 with a Bachelors of Sport Management from Ohio University, and interned with the Southern Ohio Copperheads, Columbus Crew SC, and was involved on campus with Sports Business Association. Feel free to follow him on Twitter, @Spencer_Wilson4 or connect on LinkedIn.