How to Get an Internship in Sports

Posted October 18, 2012 | By csponline

In 1981, a recent college graduate wrote letters to all the teams in the NFL seeking an internship. Every one of them rejected him, but the New York league office invited him to “stop by.” He did and managed to talk his way into an internship. By 1984 he was an assistant in the NFL’s PR department, and only three years later internship sportshe became assistant to the president of the AFC. Today, Roger Goodell is commissioner of the NFL and makes decisions that affect a huge swath of the sports world every day.

You may not end up as a league commissioner, but getting an internship is a huge step up in a steady sports career. It’s a chance for you to see the business of sports from the inside and learn more about the skills you’ll need. More importantly, an internship is also a chance for you to become known, start building a network of contacts, and (hopefully) start building a reputation as a good employee. Bosses tend to hire people they’re familiar with, and that’s especially true in sports. Even if you don’t stay with the same organization after you finish your internship, having references from someone who’s known in the sports world can be invaluable.

But make no mistake: competition for sports internships is fierce. For every opening, there are hundreds of people who want it. A letter-writing campaign might have worked for Roger Goodell, but you’ll need something more today — although writing lots of letters and e-mails never hurts, either. Here are some tips on how to increase your chances of getting the sports internship you want.

Start early. Many organizations choose their interns months in advance, or even a year or more. Don’t feel that you need to perfect your education and experience before you start hunting for an internship. Demonstrating a good attitude and getting your name recognized counts for something, even if you’re not seasoned enough yet.

Do research and contact specific people. Don’t just write a generic letter to the organization you want to intern for. Learn who has influence in the organization and write to them directly. Write to human resources, write to all the department heads, write to coaches and agents and sportswriters. The more people who see your name and pitch, the more chances you have.

Show them why they need you. Having a sports management degree or other relevant experience is a big help in getting an internship. But your skills and qualifications should be more than just lines on your resume — show them in practice. Include articles or research you’ve done with your internship application, or do a video or online presentation. See if your coaches or professors will write recommendations for you. You want to come across as someone who can already do a useful job without having to constantly be handheld.

Network. Sitting home writing letters isn’t everything. Go to all the sports events, seminars, and conventions you can. Many of these events offer student prices, so take advantage of that to get out there and get your face in front of people.

Don’t give up, but do have a fallback plan. If you can’t get an internship with the big-name organization you had your heart set on, maybe a smaller local team or organization has a place for you. Even small teams need managers, agents, and reporters to cover them.

And always remember, the real work starts when you get your internship!

For weekly updates, visit Sports Networker for more information on how to get Sports Internships.

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