Sports fans know how exciting it is to attend a game live in the stadium or arena, but very few actually think of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make these games possible. That’s where games operations comes in. Games operations is a unique sports management specialty area in which professionals are hired to manage the happenings of a sporting event from the time doors open until the final buzzer sounds. Working in games operations means handling virtually every aspect of the game, including the music, videos, mascots, sponsorships, cheerleaders, parking, security, and special events. Across all sports, organizations will hire coordinators, managers, assistant directors, and directors in game operations to ensure games go off without a hitch. Below we’ve created a detailed job profile to show what sports management graduates can expect from building a career in game operations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, operations managers currently employed in the United States earn an average annual salary of $117,200, which is equivalent to a mean hourly wage of $56.35. In particular, game operations managers who work in the spectator sports industry bring home slightly less than average at $112,200 annually.
When just starting out in game operations, individuals can expect to land in the bottom tenth percentile of the profession with a yearly salary around $45,130. However, it’s important to note that game operations managers who build years of experience and advance into director roles with senior-level responsibilities can eventually make upwards of $150,000 each year.
Game operations is a broad field that comes with responsibilities in planning, setting up for, and managing all game day events in a sporting facility. Game operations managers are involved in creating operational publications, such as inclement weather policies, emergency response plans, heat management plans, and visiting team guides. Many will also be responsible for establishing game day budgets, managing parking passes, coordinating staffing needs, assisting facility managers in upkeep, training interns, developing production sheets, timing special events, directing music selection, and booking half-time entertainment. In today’s digital world, game operations often includes maintaining a team’s websites, photo archives, and social media pages after games too.
In order to be successful, game operations managers need to have good people skills to effectively communicate game day plans and supervise lower-level technical staff. Being creative is important for game operations managers to coordinate events that will keep fans engaged and excited. Working in game operations requires that professionals have good teamwork, critical thinking, decision-making, problem-solving, analytical, and time management skills for producing under tight deadlines. Having a certain level of technical competency is a must for game operations managers to help coordinate lighting, video editing, and other tasks. Leadership skills are also important in game operations to coordinate policies, resources, and personnel appropriately.
Degree and Education Requirements
Before you can leap into the dynamic field of game operations, you’ll first likely need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited four-year college or university. Most aspiring game operations managers will earn a degree in sports management to fully understand the details that go into planning sporting events behind the scenes. Some may also find earning a major in business administration, communications, marketing, management, finance, or event management helpful. Earning a sports-based Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a master’s degree in sports management can also be valuable for gaining momentum towards more senior positions in game operations.
Pros and Cons of the Position
As with any other profession, having a career in game operations will have its fair share of rewards and challenges. First of all, game operations managers have a high salary potential that only rises with advancement into the role of director or general manager. Game operations provides a fast-paced work environment where boredom never has a chance to set in. Most game operations managers report feeling satisfied due to their involvement in a game they love. Always having a front row seat to watch your favorite team tackle opponents also is an upside. On the other hand, game operations can be a stressful job that comes with quick turnaround times and tight deadlines to put on great shows. Most games take place in evenings or on weekends, so there’s no such thing as a “9-to-5” workday in game operations.
While earning your degree, it’s essential that you immediately begin bulking up your resume with relevant work experience in game operations to have an edge after graduation. Even if they’re unpaid, internships are often the best route because they give you the chance to get your foot in the door with a team and put your learned skills to the test. You should then begin looking for entry-level game operations jobs as a coordinator. Some jobs may only be part-time, but they will help showcase your abilities, which will pay dividends later on. While you may want to work in the NBA, starting a job in the NHL can still help you with reach your goals. There aren’t any special licenses or certifications that can put you on the path to promotion, so you may want to consider returning to school for your master’s degree for advancement.
It’s predicted that the global sports market will reach a total revenue of $145 billion in 2015. Since a big portion of this revenue comes from game day ticket sales and corporate sponsorships, there willl continue to be a big demand in game operations to hire qualified managers who can coordinate their games. That being said, there’s a number of sports management schools that are becoming stronger and producing more graduates. This will likely lead to some heated competition for available opportunities in game operations. Newbies can start standing out by completing a degree and gaining intern experience. Job openings in game operations will be found in amateur, collegiate, and professional sporting facilities.
If you can no longer live out the dream of being a professional athlete, you may want to consider a career in game operations to still be involved in the game you love. Working in game operations will give you the rewarding opportunity to provide much-needed assistance in coordinating the excitement of game day. Even when you’re sidelined, game operations is a dynamic career path available to keep helping the big game turn into a win.