With more than 15 years experience working in the sports venues and live events industry and a recent transition from institutional work to entrepreneurial, I’ve become very introspective.
Did I make the right choice?
Has this career been what I expected it to be?
Before I answer that, here are a few truths I wish I had known prior to embarking on this journey.
Work is Work
I think a lot of people get into the sports event business because they have heard the advice… “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” If this is your reason for working in the events industry, you are going to be disappointed. This job requires a ton of hard work… and most of it is not glamorous. There are days where it will feel like work. You need to enjoy the type of work and the tasks/ activities associated with it, rather than the industry itself. I have worked with a lot of interns. The ones who have experience in event operations and come to me with the specific goal of developing their craft, do well. The interns who get into event operations because they “want to work in sports,” very rarely stick in operations. It requires a pretty particular taste.
You are a Commodity
Lots of people want to work in sports. It’s hard to find an actual count, but seems there are more than 500 sports management programs (Bachelor & Masters) in the United States. For the most part, sports management grads are indistinguishable from each other at the entry level and there are relatively few full time jobs available (most sports events jobs are seasonal). As such, the demand for jobs keep salaries very low. The reality is that a very expensive master’s degree is going to fetch graduates a $35k/ year job if they are lucky. If the job is too hard or the pay too little, there is still a line out the door of equally qualified candidates who will happily jump at the opportunity. And it doesn’t get easier… I thought that once I got that entry level job and developed my skills, the candidate pool would thin and I would eventually be valued as I should be. The error in my thinking was that even though the candidate pool thins, there are even fewer management level jobs. For event venue operators, opportunity is often associated with relocation. There just aren’t that many stadia and arenas around, so staff has to go where the work is. Because of this and a little unlike other sports- related professions, event operations and venue management staff don’t move as frequently. Positions do not turn over often. New positions aren’t created like marketing and development positions are because senior management and administration often look at operations staff as a cost rather than a revenue generating position (this is false if a venue is aggressive with booking strategy). Something to be cost- engineered and managed. The secondary impact is that operations staff are often under- manned as a means of managing budget. The work still gets done, because that is what we do, but it is a frustrating cycle that is a root cause of some of the other items on this list.
Work- Life Balance Does Not Exist
The fact that event operations is labor intensive and that you are treated like a commodity means that life outside of work is hard. Sports have a demanding schedule and because they are recreation for most of the world, the work takes place at non- traditional work times. As a result, your work becomes your life. This is a young person’s game in some ways. I was willing to make this sacrifice before I had a wife and kids… Now, I have more perspective.
It’s Hard to Be a Fan
I loved being a sports fan a lot more before I started working in the industry. This sounds like a humble brag, but being around sports for my job everyday, makes sports less interesting for recreation. I am a lot more discerning in how I consume sports these days. In some ways, sports is theater. Seeing behind the curtain of the industry takes away some of the magic.
Being from San Diego, the entire community was exposed to this to some degree when the Chargers left town (I will never pass up on an opportunity to bash the Chargers for this bone- headed move as it ripped some of the last strands of sports mystique from my life). What the Chargers desertion revealed is that they are just a corporation running a business. Some corporations are well run and others aren’t. The Chargers brand means nothing more to me personally than Walmart, Exxon or General Electric. The value of a sports franchise is in the shared experiences it creates for its fans around the brand. As a sports professional, this translates to corporate culture and is a huge consideration for long- term success in the business. I think it is fair to say that success on the field is an indicator of how well run a sports organization is. As they say, winning cures all… but it is also indicative of a quality corporation with a strong culture and happier employees. The Chargers have a long history of failure and unfortunately, abandoning San Diego is yet another example of their mismanagement.
Despite all of this… I love what I do. I absolutely made the right choice in pursuing a career in event operations and sports venues. I have had the good fortune to work for some amazing organizations across Southern California. I found my niche. I am one of those event operations people. I enjoy the diversity of responsibility. I am inspired by the work environment. I am internally motivated. I have had my doubts over the years and more than my share of professional frustration but recognize that these challenges have led me to where I am today. Stylehawk Event Services is far from established, but we are getting there. I have been able to build the exact business I envisioned which allows me to provide great value to our clients but also which fulfills my personal goals and ambitions.
Stylehawk Event Services is a venue sourcing and event operations company. We locate venues and negotiate aggressive contracting terms on our clients’ behalf. We provide administrative support along the way and can take on full- scale event management responsibilities. Our event clients can focus their energies on higher priority activities like ticket sales, sponsorship negotiation, tournament management and event curation. We also provide tremendous value to our venue partners by creating marketing opportunities to book their venue space and can serve as contracted support staff to maximize revenue and eliminate dark days.
Contact us anytime to talk about how we can help support your event.