About the Author
After working as an editor for several major children’s book publishers, Joanne Mattern became the author of numerous nonfiction books for children. She especially loves writing about animals, sports, and interesting people and places. She lives in New York State with her husband, four children, and assorted pets.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
So, You Want to Work in Sports? 1
I Want to Work in Sports! But How?
Close your eyes and imagine some fantastic moments in sports. For a sports fan, there are few things as exciting as hearing the powerful crack of a bat meeting a ball and watching the ball soar over the outfield wall for a home run. Or how about the sheer joy of a seeing a football player muscle his way through a line of defenders, shaking off tackles, the ball cradled in his hands as he runs toward the end zone and a touchdown? Perhaps you get your thrills watching sprinters fly down the track, their legs and arms pumping, or hearing the crash and clatter of skates and sticks as hockey players fight for the puck. Whatever your favorite sport, there are so many amazing emotions, feelings, sights, and sounds. It’s no wonder millions of people are rabid sports fans and players.
Many people love sports and are content to sit on the sidelines, cheering on their favorite team, wearing their favorite athlete’s jersey, sharing the thrill of victory—and the agony of defeat—with their friends and family. Other people want to go even further. For you, just watching isn’t enough. Participating is the key to your sports joy. For you sports lovers, actually participating in the sporting world is the key to your dreams.
If someone asks you to think of a career in sports, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If you’re like most people, you probably think of a professional athlete, like the Major League Baseball (MLB) or National Basketball Association (NBA) players you see on television. For a select few, becoming a superstar athlete on a nationally known professional team is a dream that comes true. However, that isn’t the only way to carve out a career in sports. In fact, there are many, many more people who make a living at sports and don’t appear on television. You can even have a career in sports without being particularly great at sports yourself!
Sports are played at every level in society. Stop and think about your own community. Your local high schools probably have athletic programs that feature everything from basketball to swimming to cross-country and track. Then there are college sports, local leagues, and sporting clubs. Youth leagues bring young athletes together. So do community organizations like the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs. Whatever your sport, there is probably a local or regional club or team that represents it.
REASONS YOU MAY WANT TO WORK IN SPORTS
A Passion for Playing the Game
Do you love playing a sport? Do you enjoy the challenges of regular practice and improving yourself with each one? Does the roar of the crowd exhilarate you? Are you agile, fast, or strong? The arena, field, or court may be your workplace. Most of you who participate in sports are never going to be big league professionals making millions of dollars and flashing your smiles on television. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a living playing sports. For every MLB team, there are multiple levels of minor league farm teams or independent teams. Players on these teams get to play ball every day, hone skills, and get a paycheck. Some of these players move up to the big leagues. Others stay in the minors. Either way, you still get to play ball for a living. Many people would consider that a pretty great lifestyle!
In riding a horse, we borrow freedom.
There are also professional sporting options away from home. Many NBA players get their start playing for teams in Europe. The same is true for athletes in other sports, such as soccer. These players get to live in a foreign country, travel a lot, and be part of a team with fans. Some of them make a pretty good living too. Best of all, those of you who do this are working at what you love and getting paid for it.
Names: Sisters Jodelle and Abigail Marx
Ages: 14 and 12
Job (when not studying!): Equestrians, Columbia Winds Pony Club, a part of the United States Pony Club, Portland, Oregon
Dream Job: (Jodelle) When I am sixteen, I hope to qualify to represent the United States in an international rally, or competition. By the time I turn twenty-five, I want to be a Graduate “A” Pony Clubber (the highest ranking in Pony Club). I would like to go into a career with horses, possibly a horse trainer/riding instructor. (Abigail) I don’t know what my career goals are because I am only twelve, and I have a lot of options to choose from. My goals include, however, becoming an A Pony Clubber, which means that you have completed all the levels of Pony Club—in other words, you are a professional horse person.
Passion is a huge prerequisite to winning. It makes you willing to jump through hoops, go through all the ups and downs and everything in between to reach your goal.
BEACH VOLLEYBALL PLAYER
What sports have you participated in and when?
Jodelle: I ride horses. Most people think of it as more of a hobby than a sport, so I always ask them, “It is part of the Olympics, isn’t it?” There are many different disciplines in horseback riding. I have dabbled in others, but I mainly do eventing, show jumping, and dressage. In elementary school, I played soccer, but I dropped out when I moved to my new school. I’ve always been an athletic kind of person.
Abigail: I played soccer when I was in kindergarten and a little in first grade, but I have always ridden horses. Even before I could walk, I rode horses. My mom would hold me on when I was about six months old and walk me around the arena on our pony named Rose.
What are you doing now in terms of education/sports participation?
Jodelle: I know that being a good horse owner is knowing as much as possible about horses. That’s why when I’m at school, and my teachers say, “Get out your books and read,” I don’t groan like my classmates. I take the chance to read about something that I know will further my career in the horse world. One time, I was reading a book about the anatomy of the horse, and my social studies teacher leaned over and commented that I always had the weirdest books; I just smiled and kept reading. I also take riding lessons every week and ride my horse at least four other days to keep us on track. During the summer I take my horse to camp to raise both of our experience levels.
Abigail: I am studying for Quiz rally next year. Quiz rally is a competition were Pony Clubbers work together on a team to earn points by answering questions about horses. This year my sister, Jodelle, went to the regional rally [Northwest Region] and qualified to go to championships in Lexington, Virginia; next year’s championships will be in Lexington, Kentucky, and I hope to attend it. I am also going to horse camps and riding lessons.
How did you get started in sports?
Jodelle: I have been riding horses since before I can remember. And before that my trainer, Joanne, would carry me around in a baby backpack while she gave my mom riding lessons. I joined Pony Club when I was five years old and am still in it.
Abigail: My mom has always had a passion for horses and rode when she was a kid up into her adulthood. So I think I got a lot of my love for horses from her. I’m pretty lucky to have a parent who’s so into horses just like me. Now she couldn’t get me out if she tried.
Professional cowboys make the Pendleton Round-Up in Oregon a heart-pounding annual event. The Children’s Rodeo offers children with special needs, mental or physical, the opportunity to be cowboys and cowgirls for an hour of horseback riding, steer roping, and barrel racing inside the Round-Up Arena.
What do you like best about sports?
Jodelle: I love competing on a team with my friends—we become closer and have a lot of fun. Plus, my horse is sort of like a therapist, keeping me sane. When I’ve had a bad day and I need to just forget it all, I ride. It gives my mind something else to think about and puts me in a better mood.
Abigail: I like building a relationship between the horse and me, getting to know what my horse likes and doesn’t like. I also like how the sport teaches skills that I will be able to use in life, like teamwork and responsibility.
Technology is a big part of sports. Scientists and corporations conduct research and experiments to design clothing, shoes, and equipment that allow athletes to break speed records and perform better.
Do you plan to stay in sports for a long time?
Jodelle: I plan to continue riding for the rest of my life. I think it’s important to stay active, mentally and physically. Horses are a huge part of me, and if I just give them up, I would be giving up who I am.
Abigail: Yes, I do plan to stay in sports for a long time because I love riding and my horse. I plan to pass on riding to my kids, so they can enjoy it and pass it on to their kids. Riding is my life. I would go crazy if I couldn’t ride.
What advice or tips can you give young people thinking of a career in sports?
Jodelle: Work at it, get connected, and be true to yourself. You won’t be successful by just sitting around dreaming—you have to work toward what you want. Get connected with people who work in that career, find people who could be potential help when you are getting started. Don’t go for it unless it’s really what you want for yourself, not just what someone else wants for you.
Abigail: You have to love the sport and have a passion for it. If you don’t love it, then you will be unhappy and might not stick with it. You have to give it your best, and if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, then you won’t give it your best.
A Passion for Coaching
Do you love watching others succeed—and knowing you helped them? Do you enjoy problem solving, planning, and leading? Maybe you don’t have the chops to be a professional athlete in the big leagues—here or in Europe. That doesn’t mean you still can’t be part of a team. It takes an army of people to keep professional teams and athletes running. For every team, there is a coach—usually more than one. For example, professional baseball teams have hitting coaches and pitching coaches. All teams have strength and conditioning coaches who work with players to improve their speed, stamina, and other skills. Maybe your gift is helping others be great athletes by showing them how to play better. There’s an old saying that no man is an island. Well, no athlete is an island either. Everyone needs support to be the best. And that means more jobs in sports—maybe one of which is just right for you!
Leadership, like coaching, is fighting for the hearts and souls of men and getting them to believe in you.
Coaches aren’t only needed at the professional level. There are probably dozens of coaches in your own hometown. Each high school and community team needs someone to lead it, to get the players to work as a team, to make sure each athlete performs to the best of his or her ability. Coaches have a big responsibility. Without a coach, teams and athletes could not function, and they wouldn’t last very long. If you are good at motivating people, at getting them to work together, at finding each athlete’s strengths and helping that person develop them, then coaching could be an amazing way to work in the sports field.
You’ve got to look for tough competition. You’ve got to want to beat the best.
Many coaches also double as teachers. You could be a physical education (PE) teacher in a school or community organization. This could be a great career if you like working with children, playing games, and helping young people have fun and stay healthy. Many coaches treasure the moments they share working with children and teenagers, and feel like they are shaping lives, not just athletes and teams. Or you could be a personal trainer, working with people who want to build healthier bodies. Perhaps you could start your own gym or exercise studio and train lots of people to stay physically fit.
Name: Vince Louther
Job: Athletic Coordinator, Clarkstown South High School, New City, New York
Why do you love sports?
They motivated me as a young person.
Why do you think it’s important for young people to get involved in sports?
Involvement in sports teaches life lessons/skills.
What was your professional journey? How did you get to where you are today?
Collegiate sports led to physical education. My first teaching/coaching jobs led to lots of success and led me to believe I could do more for young people on a bigger stage.
What is a typical day like for you?
The day starts early and ends late with unanticipated challenges along the way.
What education did you pursue to get a job in this career? What classes were particularly helpful?
Physical/Health Education then Education Administration. The classes I took for my masters in counseling have been the most helpful when it comes to dealing with people.
What work or volunteer experiences helped you gain experience and contacts as you moved up in your career?
Several committee and community projects.
What is the best thing about your job?
Watching young people that I am familiar with compete.
What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Working with coaches, parents, and administration.
Who helped you the most in furthering your career and how?
A college professor/adviser had confidence in me to achieve more than I thought I could.
As a kid, did you think you would have this career when you grew up? Why or why not? What were your expectations?
I had no idea. I was living in the moment.
What advice or tips can you give young people thinking of a career in your field?
There is a solution to every challenge. If you cannot figure it out on your own, do not be embarrassed to ask for help.
Do you plan to stay in your career for a long time? If not, what do you think you will do after your career is over?
At least thirty years. I will get back into coaching, officiating, and enjoying hobbies.
What demands does your job put on your personal life? How do you deal with them?
It takes a lot of time. I deal with this by making the most of my time away from the job.
What is your salary or compensation?
To be honest, if you broke it down hourly, I would earn more working for McDonald’s. What keeps me going is my love for the sport and the reactions I get when an athlete sees success. To me, that’s what it’s all about. In coaching and sports, you learn life lessons not just about a given sport.
A Passion for Calling the Shots
Do you love helping things run smoothly? Do you have good judgment, the ability to work well ...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.