Business and pleasure: The intertwined world of sports management

Despite what grandpa might say at the dinner table, professional sports have been and continue to be a business, with management roles that span from athlete representation to brand marketing. Founded in 2018, the McGill Sports Management Club (MSMC) aims to bridge the gap between business skills learned in the classroom and those found in the world of athletics. 

Sports management, as the name suggests, deals with the business aspects of sports and recreation, professional or not. Thomas Atchison, U2 Management, serves as the MSMC’s senior director of speaker relations. In an interview with The McGill Tribune, he spoke to the wide range of positions possible within the sports management industry. 

“A lot of people think of sports management as being the general manager of a team, but it’s much broader than that,” Atchison said. “It relates to anything where you have to manage the resources, the people [….] it can be marketing, it can be many different channels.”

Indeed, sports management encompasses countless professions, including analysts, agents, lawyers, and specialists in marketing, health, and athletic development.

MSMC co-president Wyatt Gilbert, U3 Management, further emphasized that those who pursue careers in sports management do not need the impressive abilities of the athletes they manage. 

“The word ‘sport’ [in sports management] does not necessarily imply that those entrusted with manager roles have the same athletic ability,” Gilbert said. “Managers in accounting firms or marketing firms can be just as effective in a sports management position.”

Since McGill lacks a sports management program or specialization, the MSMC team hopes to provide their peers with a comprehensive introduction to the sports business world. The club acts as a touchpoint for students looking to penetrate the field. 

“As a club, we do not take a general membership fee,” Gilbert said. “Other clubs will take a fee and provide services only for students who paid that fee, which is a bit exclusive.”

In contrast to other Management Undergraduate Society (MUS) groups that require a membership fee, the MSMC’s funding is event-based: Students from all faculties pay to attend events of their choosing. All events focus on educating attendees on how to grow one’s network of professionals in their specific field of interest.

Last year, the MSMC started a mentorship program that pairs applicants one-on-one with a host of industry professionals, including Trevor Timmins, former assistant general manager of the Montreal Canadiens.

“It isn’t just that you sign up and get paired randomly, there is a little method to the madness,” Gilbert said. “It’s about connecting people with [professionals with] aligned interests and aligned goals […] to tangibly help a student wanting to break into their industry of interest.”

Additionally, the program aims to provide a wide range of options for students to choose from, including athlete representation and analytics. 

“We are trying [to diversify] as much as we can,” Atchison said. “We try to have someone from every field, so anyone interested in sports management in general can work with someone in their preferred field.”

Both Atchison and Gilbert know and understand the daunting nature of management, which is typically characterized by stern, go-getting businesspeople defined by their net worth. Though Gilbert emphasized that the MSMC and the professionals they work with all started off in university, it is important to recognize that one’s background and opportunities can impact one’s network starting out. Atchison further explained that a passion for the sports management industry and an equal dedication to improving your skills are what matters most. 

“Regardless of your network, [when you enter a field] they’re going to look at your skills either way,” Atchison said. “So, if something interests you, start with the simple stuff. You don’t need to go to the biggest person you see, you can start small. The main priority should be to hone your skills.”

Sports management is a unique and developing field, where the tasks lie less in trying to beat out the competition and more in seizing your passions. The MSMC holds the door to the athletic industry wide open for any McGillian interested in stepping in.

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