A few years ago, my mother revealed to me that when I was a child, her dream was for me to become a backup quarterback in the NFL. (Why backup? Holders rarely get hit!) Unfortunately, one is not likely to find a 5-foot-8-inch quarterback on an NFL roster, yet alone one possessing a scant amount of athletic ability (like me!). While my own aspirations led me in a non-sports-related direction, I have always had interest in athletics, like the millions of other people who share the same interest.
Thankfully, one does not have to be LeBron James or Ronda Rousey to get involved with sports in a more than casual manner. From working for professional sports leagues to starting up a youth sports program in the community, combining your interest in nonprofit work with a love for the game can be an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding endeavor! Consider working with or starting one of these sports-related nonprofit organizations.
Professional Sports Leagues
Although the NFL has announced that it is giving up its nonprofit status, you may be surprised to find out that a number of professional sports leagues, notably the NHL and the PGA, are considered nonprofit organization. While coaches and athletes are the most visual representatives of these organizations, national headquarters and tertiary-site staff members are both numerous and diverse. Many of the same functions that are associated with any large nonprofit organization — communications and public relations, budgeting and finance, marketing and outreach, etc. — are performed by league staff members, creating a plethora of opportunities for interested job seekers. It is important to note that in many cases the leagues themselves are nonprofit organizations, but the individual teams or other entities that compete or participate in the leagues are not. (For example, the NFL itself was tax-exempt, but the 32 NFL individually-owned franchises were and still are not).
Amateur Sports Leagues and Sports Commissions
Although the athletes aren’t paid salaries and the names of organization personnel may not be as recognizable, don’t be fooled: The opportunities in amateur-sports leagues and working with sports commissions are numerous, as these organizations are firmly entrenched in the third sector. While the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) receives massive amounts of media attention and general exposure, a number of other college and university athletic associations — such as the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), as well as non-college-affiliated leagues like the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) — operate as nonprofit organizations. Additionally, sports commissions work to promote athletic events and related ventures within particular areas or among certain populations. These organizations operate at the national level (think the National Association of Sports Commissions) and at state and local levels (for example, Rhode Island Sports Commission). The beauty of these organizations is that their work directly benefits the communities that they represent in both economic and non-economic ways.
Youth Sports Leagues
The organizations presented in the previous two sections present both professional and volunteer opportunities for those who are interested in getting involved with sports. However, if a paid professional position is not your goal and the recreational aspects are your focus, consider working with or establishing a youth sports league in the community. Establishing this kind of league is much less complicated than one might imagine, and the associated fees of incorporating the organization are relatively nominal. Additionally since most of these organizations are smaller outfits, governing boards are normally exclusively comprised of volunteers. By keeping expenses low and enjoying the associated tax benefits, participating in these leagues can be enjoyable to the youth athletes and adult volunteers alike.
Maybe you can’t hit a chip shot to save your life, or perhaps your job and other life circumstances altered your focus from your own sports career. Thankfully for those interested in working in and with sports, the opportunities are there! Whether you want to help develop a sport league’s policies on player eligibility, market an upcoming tournament throughout your community, or coach your son’s junior hockey team (“The Wildcats,” of course!) to another championship, consider joining any number of nonprofit organizations that will entertain and enrich participants and spectators alike!
P.S. My mother is perfectly happy with my career as an educator … even as she continues to gush over Eric Crouch and Joey Harrington!