Professional Sports Jobs and Careers: Player Personnel Jobs
In professional sports and athletics, Player Personnel are the professionals who support the athletes, teach them, take care of them and hold everything together. They’re the people who give our champions the opportunity to excel. They’re the ones who make a team a team.
Team sports such as soccer (football to most of the world), baseball, football, volleyball and the rest, have coaches to train, motivate and play the team, helping them to be the best they can be. Here’s the team of coaches for one successful American football team, the Seattle Seahawks:
- Offensive Coordinator
- Wide Receivers
- Offensive Line
- Tight Ends
- Running Backs
- Quality Control/Offense
- Assistant Offensive Line
- Defensive Coordinator
- Special Projects/Defense
- Defensive Line
- Defensive Backs
- Defensive Assistant/Secondary
- Quality Control/Defense
Other Coaching Staff
- Special Teams
- Strength and Conditioning
- Assistant Strength & Conditioning
- Special Teams Assistant
Of course, there are 32 professional, NFL teams plus Arena Football League teams, which have smaller staffs, plus the Canadian Football League.
And beyond football there are player personnel jobs in baseball and every other professional sport!
Seahawks head coach, Mike Holmgren, started his climb up the sports career ladder in San Francisco at Lincoln High, as a coach and history teacher. His next job was assistant coach and teacher at Sacred Heart High, then coach at Oak Grove High. The next step was Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator at San Francisco State University; then Quarterbacks Coach at Brigham Young University. Mike moved up to professional sports as Quarterbacks Coach for the San Francisco 49ers, stepping up then to Offensive Coordinator.
Holmgren’s first job as Head Coach was with the Green Bay Packers. They went to the Superbowl two years in a row, and won in one of those Superbowl games. In Seattle, Holmgren led the Seahawks to their second NFC West title in two years, and their first-ever Super Bowl, in 2005. In the seven football seasons he’s been there, the team has had five winning seasons.
Most every coach at the professional level has played his or her sport through college and probably at the pro level too. While it’s not unheard of for someone’s first coaching job to be in the pros, it’s more typical for one to work his or her way up through the ranks. Once you’ve proven yourself at the college level, for instance, then a pro job will be easier to get.
Make no mistake though: landing a pro sports coaching job is TOUGH. The competition for what few jobs are available is fierce. A key to getting a player personnel job is networking. Get to know as many people in your targeted league — or targeted team — as you can. Stay in touch with them. Follow the news so that you are aware of job turnover before or when it happens so yours is the first phone call the hiring manager receives.
Sports Scouting Jobs
The Professional Scout works for a pro team, finding them the best athletes they can get. This person travels the country or even the world in search of that excellent athlete who can contribute what the team needs and who can also play well with the others. There isn’t a curriculum for the education and experience this job takes, but a Bachelor’s Degree helps. Physical Education, Sports Administration or Sports Studies are good majors for a four-year degree. Knowing the sport, getting to know contacts and a well-rounded education are factors, and experience builds on that, along with constant networking. Athlete, Coach, Trainer and Assistant Scout are all viable steps to the job of Scout.
The pay for professional scouts can be up to $85,000 in the major leagues. The top Scouts can make $90,000 to $150,000 and more per year.
Tony Softli was a linebacker for the University of Washington Huskies. He later joined the Washington coaching staff.
When the Carolina Panthers joined the National Football League, Softli became a scout, and was their Director of College Scouting.
Softli was recently selected by the St. Louis Rams as Vice President for Player Personnel. He’ll work with a Vice President for Pro Personnel, the two positions replacing the former General Manager Position. The Rams also have a President of Pro Football Operations and a Director of Player Personnel for College Scouting.
Pete Prisco, writing for Sportsline.com, says “The worst thing a scout can do is not stand by his convictions, backing down to the powers that make the drafting decisions.” He quotes an anonymous AFC Scout: “If you don’t stand up for what you believe in, then you are not doing your job. Of course, it happens all the time where a coach will say he doesn’t see the same thing a scout does, and that scout will back down. The scout would not say he’s right and they’re wrong, but he should stand up for what he believes.”
Scouting jobs, like all professional sports jobs, are very desirable. NFL teams usually have regional scouts watching college or high school talent in a specific area. Landing a scouting job could mean a lifelong career in pro sports, so the competition for such jobs is enormous. Again, it’s who you know, timing, and how aggressively you network that will determine whether you get an interview. It’s a given that you need knowledge of the sport and of scouting in order to land these jobs.
Most turnover occurs right after the season ends. For instance, with the NFL you’ll see scouting jobs open up in the winter months and into spring.