Five Strategies for Effective Networking In College Sports

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

Networking is the most effective way for getting a job in nearly every industry.  Most industries are relatively small and people get to know one-another through various work-related activities.  This holds true for the world of college sports.  It is estimated that 65-70% of all jobs are secured through networking and personal recommendations.  But networking in the sports profession is a bit different than networking in many other industries.  This is due to the nature of the sports profession.

As a coach, we build relationships just by the very nature of the job.  A coach will meet other coaches when they are competing against them in a sporting event.  They will also meet coaches through recruiting, scouting, working camps, and attending clinics and conferences.  Athletic administrators also have these types of networking opportunities but to a lesser extent.  Administrators will have an opportunity to meet coaches and other administrators during home athletic contests, conference meetings, and regional/national conventions.  But effective networking takes effort.  Below are five principles you can use to effectively network in college sports.

  • Be Intentional in Building Relationships – One of your main focuses needs to be on building positive relationships with other coaches and administrators.  You will want to be purposeful in developing these relationships.  This means treating the opposing coaches and administrators with grace and having positive interactions prior to, and after, sporting events.  While we all want to win the upcoming contest, the outcome of the event is fleeting, but the relationships you make will last throughout your career.   It also means being very outgoing and friendly during the various events and activities where you have the opportunity to meet other professionals within the industry.  Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to other sport professionals while attending the various conferences and conventions.
  • Be Active in The Profession – In order to meet people within the industry, you will want to be very active within your profession.  This means being a member of your professional association and being active in the activities of the association. It also means attending clinics, conferences, seminars, and conventions.
  • Your Image Counts – People want to support and surround themselves with people who are the best within their industry.  This is no different in college sports.  If you have a poor reputation within the industry, other coaches and administrators will not respect you and will shy away from including you in their network.  Therefore, you need to have a positive and professional brand image so others will want to include you in their network.
  • Create a Plan – Who do you want to meet within the profession?  Who do you want to be associated with?  These are the people you need to meet and actively engage into your network.  Create a list of the people you want to network with and then create a plan of how you intend to meet them.  Once you meet the people you are strategically targeting for your network, how will you maintain and strengthen these relationships?  This needs to become a part of your strategic plan for networking within the profession.
  • Nurture Your Relationships – Meeting people within the industry is critically important, but nurturing and strengthening these relationships is also important.  This means having regular contact and interaction with them.  Is there a project you can work on together?  The more engaged you are with a person, the stronger your relationship will be.

To increase your chances of getting hired in the sports profession, you need to develop a strong and supportive network.  You do this by being active and engaged in the profession.  Networking is more than a “what’s in it for me” mentality.  To effectively network, you need to embrace the thought of trying to build friendships and strengthen relationships.  Remember, effective networking takes effort.  This includes being intentional in meeting people, being active in the profession, creating a strong brand image, creating a strong networking plan, and nurturing your relationships.

Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS!

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 9 books.  Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at


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