Four Steps in Planning Your Sports Career

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

Jennifer and Rob are in their final semester of their master’s degree program in Sports Management. They are meeting regularly in an attempt to prepare themselves for their upcoming job searches. This will be their second meeting as they met earlier in the week and completed several questionnaires and inventories that helped them to understand their personal strengths, weaknesses, traits, and abilities.

In today’s meeting they are focusing on gaining a clear understanding of how they should plan for their sports careers. In preparation for today’s meeting, they assigned themselves the task of interviewing someone who’s currently working in the type of job they ultimately desire for their own career. Jennifer can see herself as an athletic director at the Division II level and Rob would like to become a Division I head men’s basketball coach. Therefore, Jennifer interviewed the AD at her school to find out how she should pursue a career in athletic administration and Rob interviewed the head men’s basketball coach.

As Jennifer and Rob shared the findings from their informational interviews, a common theme began to surface. What they both discovered was that you need to be very strategic and intentional in your career planning. The first step is that you need to identify your dream job. This includes defining the type of position you want, at what level, and in what part of the country. These parameters could change as you gain experience, but for now these criteria are a good starting place.

Once you have a fairly clear vision of what you ultimately want as a career, the second step is for you to determine how you are going to attain this goal. What type of education, experiences, and skills will you need in order to be hired for this position? You will want to prepare yourself by seeking these experiences and skills.

The third step to attaining your dream job is to properly position yourself along the way. Working backwards from your ultimate goal, you will want to identify the type of job(s) that will lead to your dream job.  For Rob, in order to be a Division I head coach, he will need to be a Division I assistant coach. For Jennifer to be a Division II athletic director, she will either need to be a Division I assistant athletic director or a Division II associate athletic director. These jobs would be their “One-Position Removed” jobs.

Based on this concept of working backwards, what type of job would lead to your one-position-removed job? For Rob, he needs to work as an entry level Division I assistant or a head coach at a lower level. He needs to gain experience recruiting and needs to network his way into that one-position-removed job. For Jennifer, since she wants to be an athletic director, and her one-position-removed job is as an assistant or associate AD, she will want to work in a position that can elevate her to one of these positions.

You will want to continue to work backwards in this manner until you reach your current position or situation. Once you reach your current position, you now have a clear path for your career. So what’s your next career move? This will be the fourth step in the career path process. What steps do you need to take to position yourself for that next job in your career plan? Do you need to gain additional formal education? Do you need to reposition yourself in the industry? Or maybe you need to get an entry-level job, a graduate assistantship, or even a volunteer position?   What skills do you need to develop? How is your networking going? You must have a networking plan that will help lead to your next job, and ultimately to your dream job. This four-step career-planning concept is one of the many strategies I outline in my book “Getting Hired in College Sports.” If you need help with your career, do what Jennifer and Rob did, schedule an informational interview and ask questions. Please let me know if I can help you in any way.


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 or his new book Execute for Success at


Best Selling Sports Careers Book

2nd edition Image


In Getting Hired In College Sports you will discover:

  • The types of jobs that exist in college sports
  • How to plan and navigate your career
  • How to create an effective job search campaign 
  • The proper way to create an effective resume, cover letter, and sales pitch
  • How to properly brand yourself
  • Techniques and strategies to prepare for your interview
  • How to properly prepare yourself for the five types of interview questions 
  • How to properly follow-up after the interview in order to influence the decision of the hiring manager

Click Here To Purchase Only $23.95

“This book is fantastic – it is very practical for people who want to get into (or advance) in the sports industry.”

 -Greg McDermott
Head Men’s Basketball Coach
Creighton University




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