The biggest sportmanagement mistake in small organizations
I am sure that you recognize this: A motivated group of people, most of the time headed by an amateur coach (=passionate sports lover), who runs a sports organization like a club, an after-school program or a community sports project. It always starts with just having fun, and then suddenly you want to enter a competition, travel abroad with your athletes, or perhaps affiliate to a national governing body to become eligible for funding.
You then realize that you need to have your documents (constitution, member administration, strategic plan) in order, and operate like a ‘real’ organization. The stress is reaching higher levels, because obviously there is a deadline (to travel, to enter a competition or to send your application for subsidy).
So what do you do?
What I see happening all the time, is that people reach to former athletes in that same sport. Athletes are asked to get on board, and assume the position of president, secretary or worst case the treasurer.
“It’s like asking a car mechanic to get in the board of a racecar team”
I am sure that majority of the car mechanics (with all respect) do not have a clue of management.
The fact that a former athlete had a good career on the field, does not mean that he/she has the ability to work with numbers, think strategically or do the marketing of your sports organization.
It would be of course tremendous if you can get an athlete who also have the most important characteristics of a sports administrator, but what are the chances?
There is one situation though, where it would be excellent to have a former athlete in your team. Situations where you need (public) attention for your sports or event, are ideal to attract former athletes. So you are not using any of his/her theoretical knowledge, but you are benefitting from his already established positive image. I consider this more as a temporary task, than a longterm decision in favor or the growth of your sports organization.
What do you think? Do you see any other big mistakes in sports management? I would appreciate it if you could share them in the comment section below.
Make your goals S.M.A.R.T !
If you are part of a sport organization, you are probably participating in meetings. I want to ask you to analyze the next couple of meetings you attend, and count the number of ideas that are being brought forward. We all have ideas about how the development of our athlete, team, club, association or federation should take place, but one idea is definitely better than the other.
Goals often start with brainstorming. This is not always necessary, but it stimulates the interaction between your colleagues. Basically there is only one rule with brainstorming, and that is that as long as everybody stays within the topic “there are no limitations to the ideas”. You just shoot off any idea, and do not allow small thinking taking over. It is fun, and one impossible idea will lead to another, which may seem more realistic to achieve.
But what is next? Your sports organization has a good idea, but how do you make it really happen?
What happens a lot is that a commission is installed to realize the goal or project. But then people get busy with their daily lives, don’t have the time for this idea or perhaps blame others for not having followed up on the goal…..does this looks familiar?
In my opinion this is lack of making the goals S.M.A.R.T. ( introduced by G. T. Doran 1981)
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-sensitive.
I will explain SMART goals with the example of a sport organization aiming to get a sponsor. Don’t make the common mistake by asking a student to make a marketing plan, or start sending sponsor requests immediately!
My advice to you is to start asking yourself the following questions:
Is your goal SPECIFIC?
What do you want to accomplish with a sponsor? What kind of sponsor do you want. Do you only aim for financial sponsoring, or would Value in Kind, give you the same benefits? What kind of business areas will you target for this sponsor and why? If you have specific answers on these questions you can move to the next aspect.
Is your goal MEASURABLE?
If you do not make your goal measurable, you will never know whether you are making progress towards the successful completion of your goal.
What sponsor budget are you aiming for? Would you also take two smaller sponsors for 50% of the budget? How big/popular should the sponsoring organization be? Regional, national or international orientated?
What time frame will you set to get appointments with potential sponsors? How many people from your sportorganization will be involved?
Is your goal ATTAINABLE?
For small sportorganizations with perhaps 20-30 young kids, it would not be attainable (realisitic) to aim for a million dollar sponsorship deal.
On the other hand, if that same small sportorganization, already has a couple of sponsors giving each one hundred thousand dollars, it may be much more realistic to get a one million dollar sponsor.
Another example is that if your sponsor commission consists out of business people with the right contacts, the goal of getting a sponsor is much closer.
So the context of your situation here is the key factor. Your most important question is “how can the goal be accomplished?”.
It is important to take some time and ask yourself how close you are to getting to your goal.
Is your goal RELEVANT?
Relevant goals are connected with other goals in your sport organization. This is of course always the case with money, but sometimes the time is simply not right to approach potential sponsors.
Or sometimes the people chosen within your organization to get the sponsors are not relevant? Don’t choose only the volunteers, who perhaps don’t have the slightest idea (or background) about sponsorships and marketing. They will organize the same dreadful carwash, fundraising barbeque or perhaps lottery.
Is your goal TIME-sensitive?
If you aim to win a medal at the Olympics with your team, you automatically have a deadline for the coming Olympic Games (RIO2016).
You should set deadlines for all projects, ideas and goals within your sport organization. If you want to get a sponsor, you could set your deadline in 10 months, and then break this down in monthly subgoals.
There is of course much more to getting sponsors, but if you make it a habit, to start with making your goals/projects SMART, you will be ahead of 90% of the others in sports.
Readers Interview: Nahid Karimi (Iran)
In order to create an online platform to exchange information between our readers, we’ve started with interviews with our readers.
They all work in sports, and therefore have experience to share with all of us.
Name: Nahid Karimi
Function within your sport organization: Project Officer Development for Olympic Solidarity Programs
Current employer: Olympic Committee of Iran
Most practiced male sport for men: Football
for women:Martial Art,s Shooting, Archery and Football
1.How did you come involved in your sport organization, and what kind of tasks/functions do you have?
I got involved by my husband at first about 16 years ago. I worked in different NOC’s departments and for the past 12 years I have been working in Olympic Solidarity department.
2. What is the biggest challenge you currently have?
Changing the sports managerial positions repeatedly within a short period of time.
3. People often underestimate being a volunteer working in sports management. What do you think are the most important characteristics for a volunteer responsible for sports administration?
Necessary knowledge about that specific field in sport as well as enough motivation and interest.
4. Does your sport organization make use of facebook, social media and websites ?
We make use of social media and websites. Our public relations department is mainly involved. Our websites is linked with major sport bodies of the country.
5. Do you have any favorite sport management resources (books, films, magazines or websites?)
Yes, books, films, and websites. We have a rich Sport Library in the National Olympic Academy of IR.IRAN
6. What is your most memorable moment in Sports?
When I conducted an O.S. Sport Administration Course for NOC’s Tajikistan 1999.
7. How do companies and potential sponsors see your sport? And how does this affect your approach towards them?
They don’t have great interest to cooperate with us, because we have not made enough effort to present our products. We shall raise our knowledge in marketing and try harder to make known the values and benefits of our OSO.
8. What do you consider as biggest threat for your sport, and why?
Putting the sports officials who are not aware of sport management in key managerial position.
9. Where do you see your sport in 10 years? Will you still be part of the organization?
Considering the large number of knowledgeable interested persons who are active in sport area in our country, we can anticipate a bright future. Yes, I still be part of the organization
10. What else would you like to share with the online readers of www.sportmanagement.cc ?
I believe that threats and short-comings will often give rise to greater effort by those interested individual in sport this issue was experienced in women sport of our country.
10 Management lessons from the Olympics
During the beginning of August I attended the Olympic Games in London, which were my second Olympics. My first experience were four years ago in Beijing (China), which ended like a nightmare as our best athlete was disqualified on the 200m, and therefore lost his silver medal. After a week he got the medal from the USA runner who didn’t feel that he deserved the medal.
If you want to know more about this story you can watch this short video. It is an experience that I will never forget in my life.
Obviously there are millions invested in the Games, and as such it is one of the most professional events that you’ll ever see. My attendance at the London Games gave me the possibility to:
- analyze different aspects of the Olympic Games and
- compare it with other (inter)national events that I attended as part of my profession.
Looking back I would like to share the following 10 points, which are valuable for any sport organization to think about.
1. Re-evaluate your logo
You can divide the people taking pictures during the Olympics in three general groups:
- it is either with an athlete
- during a competition
- it is standing next to the Olympic Rings
I was wondering what exactly the reason is for people to take pictures with the brand. They were definitely not taking pictures with the Coca-Cola or McDonalds logos, so that got me thinking!
The following reasons are possible:
- People want to have proof that they were really at the Olympics
- People identify with the brand and the Olympic philosophy
- The scarcity of the visibility of the rings gives the Olympic logo more value compared to other logos
Without really knowing the reason, it is a fact that the rings are one of the most recognized brands in the world. At the Olympics of 1932 (Los Angeles) the rings were used for the first time. So this brand has been gaining popularity over the last 70 years!
Now what can you take from this for your own sport organization? Re-evaluate your logo (as part of your brand) and ask yourself whether it stands for something. Is it a lot of clutter with many colors, or is it simple and modern?
The most important aspect is that it should be recognizable, and you should use it everywhere……on your letters, in your emails, on your flyers, press releases…EVERYWHERE!
Can you imagine how powerful your sports and organization would be if people would feel so attracted to your logo, that they want to take their picture with it?
2. Educate your volunteers
As I already pointed out in this other article, Sports really cannot do without volunteers. This goes for every level, so also at the Olympic level. Everytime you work with volunteers, you should focus on
- Quantity (how many volunteers do you need to recruit?)
- Quality (what capacities do you need?)
In small sport organizations it tends to be very difficult to get enough volunteers, which is a guarantee. On the other hand the volunteers that you may get for your organization lack the skills or the motivation.
The London Olympics truly have done an excellent job with the recruitment of their volunteers (more than 12.000). Not only represented the volunteers a wide range of different cultures. They also showed sincere hospitality, and commitment to their (boring) jobs. Can you imagine standing hours in the subway (“the tube”), asking people to take the stairs? Or at night, standing on the side of the road with thousands of people passing by, and saying “thanks for coming, and safe trip back”.
The spirit of the volunteers was truly amazing, and it has already become a tradition that during the Olympic closing ceremony, there is a special segment dedicated to the volunteers.
Our lesson: Invest time in your volunteers. Organize informational workshops, where you get everybody on the same page, and also create a teamspirit. It doesn’t matter how big/small your sport event is. What matters is that your volunteers are of vital influence in the experience of your visitors/supporters.
3. Expect the unexpected
On two separate occasions I was witness of the police handcuffing somebody in the crowd and taking him away. You can imagine that all the Olympic venues are heavily secured with policemen, soldiers and also undercover security. Although you prepare for months or years in advance, there will always be incidents that you didn’t prepare for. You therefore need a calamity plan, and more important inform your volunteers that they should “Expect the unexpected!”
Whatever happens, the show must go on, so be prepared for rain, electricity loss, injuries, vandalism, aggressiveness, drugs/alcohol abuse etcetera…
4. People will always complain
One of the most important characteristics of a successful sports managers is the ability to deal with people. And wherever you are, people with their different characteristics will act differently.
During the Olympics, I was fortunate enough to have access to the VIP stands, together with high ranked Olympic officials and politicians. Surprisingly on numerous occasions I saw VIP’s acting like spoiled children, shouting at volunteers who were simply doing their job. You wouldn’t think that these were VIPs…simply embarrassing!
The lesson here for me is, that at my local sport events I am prepared that I will get complaints, and that I should instruct and educate my volunteers how to handle these. There are VIP’s though that I need to monitor closely (like my sponsors) …BUT ONLY TO A CERTAIN EXTENT.
If my sponsor expects me to treat him (or her) as a spoiled little brat, I will not do it! Even if this means that I will lose the sponsorship!
We need to stick to our standards, and can always use the words “Sorry Sir/Madam, I accept that our organization is not perfect but today this is the best we can do for you”
5. Do not over communicate only your own successes
As a spectator at the Olympics it if impossible to follow all 26 sports at the same time. That is the reason why I went to bed with the Olympic news on the TV, and also woke up with the same TV Channel.
One of the negative aspects of the local broadcasters was the fact that the focus was primarily on the “Team GB”, and now and then on the other countries. So in my personal opinion they over communicated their own athletes, and even only the winners. I saw the Men GB Basketball play, who lost 80% of their matches. Remarkably this team was never mentioned on the TV.
So my advise to you, whenever you host a sport event, is to give all participants a platform of communication. Every athlete, winners AND losers, should get a bit of the limelight.
6. Be flexible to adapt
One of the main problems during the Games were the sales of the event tickets. The organizers decided to only sell tickets online, and ONLY for the British !!
The fans from abroad were doomed to an official Ticket Reseller, who on it’s turn was depending again on the daily availability of tickets from the Organizers. There were no ticketboxes at the venues open for the public.
The result of this were empty seats at the competitions, and people complaining that they couldn’t purchase tickets.
I believe that the reason for this policy was to prevent illegal ticket sales, but it went over the top. If you had a spare ticket, you were not allowed to sell this at the gate, and people were not even allowed to hold up a sign saying “NEED 1 Ticket”.
Obviously the ticketing system is a huge and very complicated system, but I think that the wishes of the fans were not considered enough.
So the lesson here is, that you should run through your event from the view of a spectator. How would they experience the parking facilities, the bathrooms, the seats or the waiting lines at the bar?
7. Remember gender equity
It is hard to believe, but the 2012 Olympics were the first ones where women were allowed to participate in ALL sport events. Boxing for woman was the last one to be added to the program.
The statistics are amazing: Two thirds of the gold medals won by Team USA, were won by women. The American women did not stand alone in leading their countries to the top of the medal tables. Women from China and Russia (#2 and #3 behind the U.S. in the total medal count), also took home more medals than their male counterparts.
Take a look at your organization. Do you have female referees, administrators or security personnel?
You can read this article I wrote about woman in sports.
8. Everybody defines his or her own success
Were these Olympics a success? You bet they were!
But I say this based on my own criteria. If London expected a huge economic impact during the 3 weeks, than reports say that it was not a success.
So everybody will rate the Olympics differently. I am sure that there are many athletes who had a successful event, simply because they improved their personal record…or perhaps just because they were there !
My advise to you is to define your goals (performance indicators) as you are preparing your sports event. How can you satisfy the atletes? How many spectators do you want? Do you want to make a profit? What media do you want to cover your event? Do you want an increase on your website or facebook page?
9. Don’t underestimate the politics
During my work in sport management, I frequently heard that “Sports is the best school for politics”. Although I don’t consider myself a politician, I totally agree with this aspect. I know for a fact that in the same VIP box I spoke about above, many sport-political conversations took place, business deals were negotiated and political relationships were build.
It is a must that as a sports administrator you understand the rules of politics. Board decisions need to have support, and here and there you need to lobby to get decisions and policies approved.
In fact, before I left for the Olympics I found myself in a situation that I had to go on national television to contradict a declaration made by our Prime Minister.
Sports should basically not be mixed with politics, but that doesn’t mean that political games are no part of sport management!
I emailed our email subscribers about politics and sports, and some of them responded with the following tips/views:
Always take time to meticulously manage the relations between the government of the day and the broader national sport development process. (Keith J.)
Don’t be too friendly with any one politician as an athlete or be seen regularly with one. They will use this to their advantage and associate you with them. (Cheryl R.S.)
I believe as per theory: Sports and Politics should not be mixed. But in all practicality it will be next to impossible. Both Sports and Politics attracts the most attention every where as every one seems to understand and can relate to it more easily. (Devjeet C.)
“Do not mix sports with politics !”. Sports is based on respect and adherence to rules, as well as fair play, which unfortunately are quite alien in politics. (Kok C.)
Use politics techniques in order to promote your sport! (Lakis A.)
I agree that politics and sport must never mix. However, “who pays the piper calls the tune.” Only if Sports can become independent then the politician ill not get involved. These situations only happen in our third world countries where sport ministers look for opportunities to make press release since they do oohing to promote sports. (Mushtaque M.)
Restrictions to participate in political activities must be clearly spelled out in rules and regulations. This applies to any other anticipatory ‘unsporting’ actions. In Mauritius, politics is mentioned in our Athletics rules and regulations. (Raj M.)
I think small islands all try to use politics to control sports. (Andrew D.)
Your focus must always remain on your commitment to the delivery of your role and function as a Sport Manager/ Administrator. This should help you to avoid the trap of politics. (Catherine F.)
10. There is always room for improvement
Obviously I am not saying with this article that you should organize your local sport event as the Olympics! It would be (almost) impossible to organize a local sports event with such an impact, funding and exposure.
I’ve noticed some flaws in the Olympics, so there will always be room for improvement….in any sport event.
I therefore want to conclude this article with asking you to always self-criticize your work and projects, and if possible also evaluate your events so that you are aware of the way your audience and athletes perceived the event.
Your comments below in the box are appreciated
Characteristics of a Sports Manager
This Mastermind Sports Management is an online international group of professionals. On a monthly basis they will share their opinion on a certain topic. You can look at the background of each mastermind by going here.
This month’s topic: Characteristics of a Sports Manager
Greg Harney (USA)
Sports administrators in today’s society must possess a number of characteristics and skill sets particularly within the Olympic world that most of us live and work in every day.
To begin with, a good sports manager must be willing to work whatever hours it takes to complete a task or assignment. When I was Managing Director at the U.S. Olympic Committee, we use to preach that athletes rarely get a second chance to compete at optimal conditions so it’s critical that we as sports administrators do whatever is required to support our athletes including having to work evenings and weekends.
In addition, a good sports administrator has to be well organized. The organizational style doesn’t matter as long as the sports manager has a system that works and is effective. And since we operate within the multi-sport environment of Games, being able to multi-task (and delegate) is extremely critical.
In this regard, sports managers need to develop as many technological skills as possible particularly in today’s world of social media and the internet. The ability to communicate to athletes, team official and extended members of any delegation is so important.
But probably the most important characteristics a sports manager can have is what we refer to as the 5 Ps – Personality, Persistence, Patience, Pressure (or the ability to handle it) and being Politically Correct!
Dennis Miller (Fiji)
A few thoughts based on my experience with swim teams over the years – I have come to the conclusion in my sport that the Head Coach is probably the Team Manager.
- Time Management Skills
- Empathy with athletes
- Ability to delegate where necessary
- Role model for athletes
- Crisis management skills
- Appreciation of the wider aspects of the sport – not just the event in question
- Report writing skills
Keith Joseph (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)
The sports manager in today’s fast-paced world of sport has to be in possession of some very important characteristics. Things in sport are never static. The stakeholders seem to keep growing. Global economic circumstances are no longer as stable as hitherto and therefore impact developments in sport as much as they do other aspects of life around the world. No one and nothing seems exempt from this.
First there must be a commitment to reading. This facilitates accessing the latest developments in the business of sport.
Secondly, there must be a sensitivity and openness to change. Things in sport change very rapidly and one must be able to assess very quickly the emerging trends in sport and determine their viability for one’s particular organisation with all its nuances.
Thirdly. there must be openness to the ideas of others and the sharing of one’s own ideas such that all benefit from the exchanges.
Finally, today’s sport manager must have the capacity to predict the future of sport given the foregoing characteristics. He/she must feel sufficiently confident with the analyses in which he/she is engaged to reliably predict the future and prepare for it.
Phil Bush (USA)
It all depends on how you define “Sports Manager.” So, if it is based on Successful Events, it is pretty straight forward: Organizational capabilities, the ability to run a team correctly, and the ability to work towards the Successful completion of the event. However, let’s take it a little broader:
• Understanding of the Competitive Structure of the event: How do you properly set the event up where it will be both exciting and Compelling for the Audience to see?
• How to Market the Event to a broad Audience: Are you bringing people in- not just because they like the sport? Some may not like the sport but want to be part of something that is bigger than just a sporting event!
• Ensuring that the Competitors are the Story, not the people behind the scenes: Too many Referees and Managers think the Story is about them. It is not. It is about the competitors. If it isn’t about them, then you really are not doing a good job of presenting the Story.
• Ensuring that the Competition if Fair for all competitors. Its fine to have a Home Court advantage, but you must allow both teams to compete equally. If not
• To make a profit or not: this depends a lot on what you are doing. To run a successful sport doesn’t mean that you do or don’t make money. It depends how big it is and what is going on. Many youth sports rely on unpaid Volunteers to make them work. So it does come down to what the expectations are for your Sport.
In sum, all of these are important. How import depends on the Sport, Level of Play, and what the Expectations are:
- Venue Management
- Sport Understanding
- Competition Playing Field
- Personnel Management
- Youth Sports Attraction
- Marketing Prowess
Remco Tevreden (Curacao)
Although the terminology of “Sports manager” and “Sports administrator” may be confusing and also used differently, for me anybody working with athletes should be a PEOPLE’S MANAGER.
What I mean with this is that it doesn’t matter if you work with athletes as a volunteer or a professional. An important characteristic should be how one deals with people having big dreams. You should know that all athletes dream about being the best, traveling around the world and of course making (lots of) money. As a manager you should have the ability to dream together with your athletes, but at the same time stay realistic. All sports managers should be aware that they operate in a multidimensional network of non-profit and commercial organizations, politicians, different cultures and international networks. This makes working in sports very interesting and at the same time complex.
The skills of a people’s manager include diplomacy, leadership, commitment and emotion. Sports are about emotion, not only on the field but also off the field. Certain rules and policies put sports managers in situations where tough decisions with enormous emotional impact need to be taken. One should be aware that sports helps you make friends…and in some cases even enemies.
Eline Andersen (Denmark)
Important discipline: Managing
Managing is the important verb. A sports manager must be able to manage and organize the various tasks within his or her area at the specific level where he or she is placed. Managing major sports events for example requires a lot of insight: from the very first start: to set up and efficient organization and to recruit volunteers or employees for the different areas in order to run a smooth organization/operation/event.
For the last years Sport Event Denmark has conducted a course targeted sports and event managers as some of the most frequent feedback was that sport event managers needed upgrading and also the possibility to network. The course runs over 3 modules containing business concept and development, bidding strategies, event communication, media and TV-rights, funding and partners, sponsors, effect analysis, evaluation and implementation.
As a sport event manager it is important to know about all there areas in order to organize and find relevant persons to manage the different areas.
Bottom line: Managing on the level where the sports manager is placed and obtaining the full picture of the job, knowing which jobs and tasks, collaborators and co-workers it requires to get the jobs well done – to the benefit of the athletes, officials, national and international federation, spectators, sponsors, partners etc.
In order to succeed the first step would be to get the expectations in relations to tasks and other people/organizations involved clear and not at least to learn from others via for example networking and benchmarking.
Previous topic: Characteristics of a Sports Manager.
Did they miss some characteristics? Leave your input in the comment box below.