Perhaps nothing illustrates America’s love affair with sports more effectively than a few statistics: In 2013, it was estimated that 111.3 million people watched Super Bowl XLVI. A 30-second TV ad in the 2014 Super Bowl broadcast is projected to cost $4 million – up from $2.9 million in 2010. A really good seat at the NCAA Final 4 averages $1,325. The University of Alabama’s football coach Nick Saban earns $5 million annually, and the University of Kentucky’s basketball coach, John Calipari, earns $4 million a year.
But the love of sports is about much more than money. In fact, it’s our obsession with sports that drives the price of tickets — and Super Bowl ads — so high. It’s why we wish our alma mater could hire a million dollar coach and lead our school to a national championship. It’s also why, apparently, we accept the fact that the average teacher, firefighter, or police officer earns an annual salary that is less than $60,000, while the average MLB player earns more than $3 million a year – make that $7 million if you play for the New York Yankees.
Our fascination with all things sports-related also leads us to buy T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps, key chains, bumper stickers, blankets, trash cans, and of all things, bobble-head dolls; all representing our favorite players and teams. While your cardiologist may have saved your life, you wouldn’t dream of walking around wearing a jersey with his name plastered on the back. And yet, collecting and wearing sports paraphernalia, or screaming at the TV screen during a sporting event — as though anyone on the court or field 1,000 miles away hears or cares what we thought of the last play – makes us feel like a part of the team.
For those sports junkies who want to be closer to the action, there are several career options that can help to feed your addiction.
Recreation Workers – Mean Annual Salary: $30,370
There are a variety of recreation workers who plan and lead leisure activities, including camp counselors, activity specialists, recreation leaders, and recreation supervisors. Recreation employees work at parks, camps, recreation centers, and cruise ships. They may be responsible for all of the sports activities or just one specific sport, but duties generally include designing and leading activities, explaining the rules of the game, and providing instruction.
They also enforce safety regulations to protect participants from getting injured, and oversee or set up sports equipment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), recreation workers usually need a bachelor’s degree in recreation or leisure studies, although public administration or a liberal arts degree is also acceptable.
Umpires and Referees – Mean Annual Salary: $32,600
Umpires and referees officiate athletic and other types of sporting events. They work in a variety of industries, and the DOL reports that local governments hire the largest number of umpires and referees. They also work in spectator sports, elementary and secondary schools, in the amusement and recreation industries, and for religious, civic, and professional organizations.
Presiding over sporting or athletic events includes enforcing rules and deciding penalties, starting or stopping play, and handling complaints. Every state and sport association establishes its own education requirements, which can range from no formal education to a high school diploma, and sometimes umpiring or refereeing classes are required.
Coaches – Mean Annual Salary: $36,680
Coaches develop and train either professional or amateur athletes, ensuring that they have the skills required to succeed in individual or team sports. Coaches devise game strategies and lead practice sessions, in addition to teaching sportsmanship, teamwork, suitable methods of play, and game rules and regulations. They also determine which athletes will play in each competition.
During games, coaches call plays and substitute players. They also work with scouts to find and recruit athletes. According to the DOL, coaches at the high school, university, or professional level usually have a bachelor’s degree in any field, although some choose to major in physical education, sports medicine, physiology, or a related subject. Many also have experience playing the sport, although this is not usually required.
Scouts – Mean Annual Salary: $36,680
Scouts search for professional or amateur players and evaluate their current athletic abilities, as well as their potential to play at a higher level. Scouts scour news sources, watch videotapes, attend games, and analyze statistics to evaluate potential players. They also interview athletes and their coaches to determine an athlete’s maturity level.
Afterwards, scouts communicate their findings to the coaches, managers and/or owners of their own team, and they handle incentives offered to the prospective players. The DOL reports that most scouts have a bachelor’s degree, and some choose to major in business, marketing, or sales.
Athletic Trainers – Mean Annual Salary: $44,010 and Exercise Physiologists: $47,610
Athletic trainers treat bone and muscle injuries in athletes, while exercise physiologists create programs to help athletes improve their fitness levels. Athletic trainers use braces, bandages, and tape to protect susceptible body parts. They also provide emergency care to injured athletes, evaluate the extent of injuries, and implement rehabilitative measures.
Exercise physiologists perform fitness tests, and analyze such data as blood pressure and body fat to develop effective exercise programs. Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists need a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology or a related field, according to the DOL; in some states, athletic trainers also need to be certified or licensed.
Sports Reporters, Correspondents, and Analysts – Mean Annual Salary: $45,120 – $78,380
Sports reporters, correspondents, and analysts cover local, regional, national, and international sporting events. They may work at newspaper, magazine, or website companies, or be employed at TV or radio stations. Reporters and correspondents usually work in the field, conducting interviews and reporting from the sidelines. They may also work in the studio with analysts who interpret data and make predictions.
Many reporters, correspondents and analysts are multimedia journalists, which means they may produce content for TV or radio stations in addition to writing columns and articles for websites and print media. The educational requirement is usually a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, communications, or a related subject. In addition, some journalism schools offer sports journalism degrees.
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