Recreational sport — Genuine love and joy
Many students want to work for professional franchises like the Seattle Seahawks or the Portland Trailblazers. A segment of sport management that is often overlooked is recreation. With recreation opportunities in every college and city, there are many jobs to be claimed by sport management graduates. Careers in recreation offer a good work-life balance, opportunities to spend time outdoors and doing something good for one’s community.
We asked some alumni of our Sport Management program to share their experiences working in recreation.
Jeff Girmus, ’16
Jeff Girmus found his passion for recreational sport after working with the Seattle Seahawks, his hometown team.
“When you graduate, you have a preconceived idea of what working in sports look like, but it is not always what it seems,” Jeff says. “I really enjoyed the people that I worked with, but there is an energy and enthusiasm with recreational sports that you don’t always get in the professional side.”
After realizing wearing the logo was not what truly mattered to him, Jeff soon found himself at the place where he felt he could make a difference, Kent Youth and Family Services. It was there Jeff saw the true impact of sport.
In Kent, Jeff is an Afterschool Site Supervisor. He mostly works with children from low-income families and helps them find ways to play sports and obtain the necessary equipment or simply be active. Jeff would gather equipment and invite all of the children from the families in the program to play a little “backyard” football.
“The first few times we played, some of them came out in jeans and whatever shoes they could find. Not having the equipment didn’t matter to them,” says Jeff. “Seeing them come out with that passion for playing the game reminds me of the reasons that I wanted to work in sport in the first place.”
Positions in recreation can be found even in small towns, as long as that have parks and recreation departments. They operate at city playfields and community pools. They help people embrace and stay involved in sport.
“It is meaningful. The genuine love and joy for sports is right here,” Jeff says.
Megan Vining ’98
Recreation Supervisor for Pullman Parks & Recreation, Megan Vining, says the whole point of working in recreation is to make a difference in a kid’s life. To the left, she answers our question, “what is your favorite part of working in recreational sport?”
Listen to more of Megan Vining in her episode of the COUGS in Sport Management podcast.
DJ Mackie, ’12, ’16
The Coordinator of Competitive Sports and Youth Programs at Washington State University Recreation DJ Mackie calls recreational sport the truest form of sport. DJ enrolled to WSU hoping to land a position in professional baseball. After getting a taste of what entry-level jobs in pro sports entail, he started looking elsewhere.
“A lot of cold calling,” DJ says. “For some people that is great, but I knew it wouldn’t be for me.”
He then started officiating sports for University Recreation and soon became a supervisor. He enjoyed it so much DJ thought it he could make it his career.
“It had everything that I loved doing, from event management, teaching, officiating, and student development in a very hands-on role,” says DJ.
He approached his boss at the time to discuss employment opportunities in the world of recreational sport. DJ listened to the potential career options and it he started climbing the ladder in University recreation. Today, he is that boss. Students now go to him to learn about the importance of recreational sports. In the meantime, he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sport management.
“You’re not worried about winning championships year after year,” DJ says. “It’s all about keeping people healthy.”
While some students are on a mission to win the coveted “Intramural Champion” t-shirt, many others participate for the fun it brings. David Markland and David Ingledew, two British psychologists, identified 14 motivations for physical exercise ranging from the need for affiliation through enjoyment and health to stress and weight management.
COVID-19 has forced recreational programs and facilities to adapt to relevant health guidelines, which sadly means many of these programs have been altered or shut down for a period of time.
“A lot of people were not happy that they could not go work out or play sports in our facilities. Recreational sports showed itself as a need during those times for mental and physical health for everyone. People needed a way to be active,” DJ says.
With this “need” and want for recreational sports and exercise opportunities, recreation will remain a viable career path for many sport management graduates. Job descriptions are rarely focused specifically on marketing or sales, as each position requires well-rounded individuals.
“You wear all of the hats in recreation sport,” says DJ. “After working in it, you would be able to go to any sport job and have work experience in anything they ask about.”
Give it a try
There is recreation without professional sport but there probably wouldn’t be professional sport without the youth and amateur programming offered by recreation departments. Everyone’s favorite athletes started somewhere and often developed their talent in youth city leagues. There is a need for people working in recreation to provide youth and adults opportunities to be active.
“Try working in rec sport before you graduate. You may find out it’s not for you, but you may also find out it is exactly what you’ve been looking for,” says DJ.